Read all posts from May 2011

  • Editor’s Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and help our country rise to the many challenges of the 21st century.

    Download Video: mp4 (14MB) | mp3 (1MB)

    Last month, I had the distinct honor of participating in a round table discussion with fellow teachers as a nominee for a White House “Champions of Change” award.  U. S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach, Peter Cunningham, and Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy, Roberto Rodriguez, led our lively conversation.  Assistant Secretary Cunningham stressed the Department’s initiative to, “strengthen and honor teachers.”  Mr. Rodriguez expressed the Administration’s goals of advancing American education as an economic imperative and providing federal support for achievement at all levels.

    As passionate educators, we took advantage of the opportunity to give suggestions and information to senior Administration officials who were eager to hear our ideas.  We discussed the desire for more effective communication and partnerships with parents, differentiated professional development opportunities, and improved evaluation and accountability systems.  As my colleague, Kristine Woleck put it, “Evaluations should be seen as part of a professional growth system…feedback should be timely and specific.”

    Eric Kehn pointed out, the challenge we face as educators, at all levels, is how to balance “vision and support” with accountability in our interactions with each other.  This is a good reminder that whether we are Department of Education officials or teachers talking to our students, our goals are to encourage and inspire in addition to measuring performance through tests and grades.

  • The President and First Lady are welcoming accomplished poets, musicians, artists and students from across the country to the White House today for a celebration of American poetry and prose. Mrs. Obama kicked off the White House Music Series in 2009 with a Jazz Studio, and has since hosted events to promote music and arts education through the celebration of Country, Classical, Motown, a Fiesta Latina, a salute to Broadway, Music of the Civil Rights Movement and a dance tribute to Judith Jamison

  • On Monday, I had the pleasure of travelling to Boulder, CO, to participate, along with a number of other Administration officials, in the seventh of eight stops that are a part of the Startup America Roadshow.  The local newspaper captured some of the high points in this article.  Before touching on my observations from the event, let me first answer the question, “Why Boulder?”

    Fifteen years ago, Boulder was considered a sleepy college town known mostly for its great rock-climbing. Today, Boulder is home to one of the strongest entrepreneurial communities in the country, with close to 200 fledgling tech companies and a city campaign that proclaims “Boulder is for startups.” In fact, last year BusinessWeek named Boulder America’s best town for startups, and it was featured in The New York Times for its entrepreneurial scene.  Part of its success rests on the fact that Boulder has the highest U.S. concentration of software engineers and PhDs per capita.  It is second only to Silicon Valley in percentage of workers employed in the technology sector.

  • Editor's Note: Join the conversation on how we can fix our immigration system for America's 21st century economy.

    Watch the President's full remarks here.

    In a debate where the participants on all sides are too often portrayed as caricatures, the President sought to break through the stalemate by reminding us all that it is a debate about real people.  Speaking in El Paso, Texas, he talked about the graduates from 181 countries at Miami Dade Community College, who erupted with applause as the American flag came out before the President’s commencement address there recently.  He talked about a Marine who came from Papua New Guinea and deployed to Iraq three times – when asked about becoming an American citizen, he said, “I might as well.  I love this country already.” 

    He was also up front about the legitimate frustrations that American citizens, including those who immigrated legally, can feel:

    Others avoid immigration laws by overstaying their visas.  Regardless of how they came, the overwhelming majority of these folks are just trying to earn a living and provide for their families.  (Applause.)   But we have to acknowledge they’ve broken the rules.  They’ve cut in front of the line.  And what is also true is that the presence of so many illegal immigrants makes a mockery of all those who are trying to immigrate legally.

    President Barack Obama Shakes Hands in El Paso, Texas

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with people in the crowd following remarks on immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Perhaps his central argument for fixing an immigration system that we all know is broken, however, was that it’s an integral part of America winning the future and creating a stronger economy for our kids:

  • Today, Vice President Joe Biden called Principal Alisha Kiner of Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis Tennessee to tell her that her school had won the 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge!  President Obama will travel to Memphis on Monday, May 16th to deliver the commencement for the class of 2011.

    Check out Booker T. Washington High School’s finalist video:

    Download Video: mp4 (30MB) | mp3 (3MB)

    The Race to the Top Commencement Challenge invited the nation’s public high schools to submit applications that demonstrate their commitment to preparing students for college and a career. Hundreds of applications were received and were judged based on the schools’ performance, essay questions and supplemental data. The six finalists were selected for their creativity in engaging and supporting students, academic results, and progress in preparing students to graduate college and career ready.

    Congratulations to Booker T. Washington High School and all the finalists in the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge!


  • Today brings word of more good news for the American auto industry. GM announced that it would hire 4,200 workers at seventeen of its plants around the country.

    President Obama took office amidst the worst recession in a generation and nowhere was this devastion felt harder than in the American auto industry and the communities it has supported for decades. In the year before GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, the auto industry shed over 400,000 jobs. 

    Facing this situation head on, the President made a bold and, at the time, politically unpopular choice: Despite calls from critics to simply let these companies – and the entire American auto industry – crumble, he refused to allow these companies to fail. Had the Administration failed to intervene, conservative estimates suggest that it would have cost at least an additional one million jobs and devastated vast parts of our nation’s industrial heartland. 

  • Editor's Note: Join the conversation to fix the immigration system for America's 21st century economy.

    Today, the President travels to El Paso, Texas – a historic, thriving and diverse border community – to discuss his commitment to fixing our broken immigration system and the importance of building a new one for the 21st century. He believes we need to reform our immigration laws so that they address our economic and security needs while also honoring our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. 

    Over the last several weeks, the President has met with and heard from leaders and stakeholders from a variety of sectors, including faith, business and law enforcement officials, as well as current and former elected officials and others. Like many Americans, these leaders know that the generations of immigrants who have braved hardship and great risk to reach our shores have made America what it is today – a strong and prosperous nation, engine of the global economy and a beacon of hope around the world.

    We have already made significant progress securing the borders, enforcing the law, and improving the legal immigration system. Over the last two years, the Obama Administration has dedicated unprecedented resources to these efforts. There are more boots on the ground on the Southwest border than at any time in our history. The buildup began under the previous administration, and has continued. We have also tripled the number of intelligence analysts, deployed unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, and nearly completed the fence that was demanded back in 2007. These efforts have helped to make our country more secure. But we cannot solve the problems of our broken immigration system through enforcement alone.

  • Today, David Plouffe sent an email to the White House email list about the President's speech on immigration in El Paso, Texas at 3:30 p.m. EDT (1:30 p.m. CDT) and the ways you can get involved in a national dialogue on this issue.

    Check out the email below, and if you didn't get it, be sure to sign up for the White House email list.

    Today, President Obama is traveling to El Paso, Texas to discuss the need to fix our broken immigration system.  You can watch his speech live at starting at 3:30 p.m. EDT (1:30 p.m. MDT):

    Our nation is the leader of the global economy in part because of the steady stream of hardworking and talented people who have come to our country in search of a better life for themselves and their families.  As we continue to strengthen our economy, we need an immigration system that demands responsibility and accountability from government, businesses and immigrants themselves.

    In his speech today, the President will lay out his vision for an immigration system for America's 21st century economy and will call on Americans across the country to join a constructive conversation on this issue. We know that folks are already discussing this issue around their dinner tables, with their friends and neighbors and through social media communities like Twitter. 

    Here are just a few ways you can get involved in the conversation, and tell us here at the White House what you think:

    1. Twitter. During the President's speech today, I'll have a screen up next to my TV to watch the conversation on Twitter using the #immigration hashtag, so make sure to use #immigration to share your thoughts.
    2. Advise the Advisor. Cecilia Muñoz, one of the President's senior advisors on immigration issues, just posted a new Advise the Advisor video asking for your feedback on this important issue. Visit to see the video and tell us what you think.
    3. Roundtable Discussions. In addition to all the ways you can join the conversation online, we're encouraging Americans to host roundtable discussions in your own communities over the next few months, and let us know what you talked about and what issues matter the most in your community. Visit to get started.

    Most Americans agree that our immigration system is broken: it hamstrings our economy, it hurts families who play by the rules, and it leaves millions living in the shadows without a path to get right with the law. 

    We can't out-educate, out-innovate and out-build our competitors without an immigration system that works for our economy. That's why this conversation on immigration reform is so important.  We need voices from across the country to help us elevate the debate and move forward.

    We're looking forward to hearing what you have to say.


    David Plouffe
    Senior Advisor to the President

  • Today, I’m traveling with the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in Dayton, Ohio.  We are at a small company called Hooven-Dayton that prints the labels for products like Tide and Mr. Clean.  Our purpose is to hear from the executives of small companies like these, which are often referred to as “suppliers” because most of their products and services are sold to larger companies.

    Why is this important?

    A recent study showed that after a small supplier lands a big purchase order or a contract from a bigger company, the small company’s revenues go up 250% and they create about 150% more jobs in just two or three years.  Therefore, at this critical time in our economic recovery, the small businesses in these supply chains are an important area for us to focus and build on.

    So, throughout the day, we’re talking with small suppliers themselves about how to make America’s supply chains as dynamic and innovative as possible.   I’m sure that we will talk about a range of issues, from access to capital, to creating new partnerships, to exporting, and more.  These are areas where the SBA and our federal partners – as well as an increasing number of large U.S. firms – offer important tools that can help suppliers grow and create jobs.

  • Today, judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Virginia will hear arguments in two cases challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. In the first case – Liberty University v. Geithner – a district judge previously found that the law was constitutional. In the second case – Commonwealth of Virginia v. Kathleen Sebelius – a different district judge issued a very narrow ruling on the constitutionality of the health reform law’s “individual responsibility” provision but upheld the rest of the law.  Both cases are today being argued on appeal.  

    We’re confident that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Already, two additional judges have found the law to be constitutional. And the facts are on our side.

    • Those who claim that the “individual responsibility” provision exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce because it penalizes “inactivity” are simply wrong. Individuals who choose to go without health insurance are actively making an economic decision that affects all of us.
    • A new report released today from the Department of Health and Human Services makes clear that those without insurance struggle to pay for health care. According to the report, uninsured people cannot pay the full cost of 88 percent of their hospital bills.  Even the uninsured with the greatest income and assets cannot fully pay for half of their hospital bills. 

    When people without insurance obtain health care they cannot pay for, those with insurance and taxpayers are often left to pick up the tab.

    The Affordable Care Act requires everyone who can afford it to carry some form of health insurance.

    • For the 83% of Americans who have coverage and who are already taking responsibility for their health care, the Affordable Care Act will help insurance premiums to decrease over time.
    • Only those who are able to pay for health insurance will be responsible for obtaining it.
    • The Congressional Budget Office estimated that only 1 percent of all Americans would pay a penalty for not having health insurance in 2016. 

    To lower the cost of health care for everyone, we have to stop making those who act responsibly pick up the health care tab for those who don’t – and that means we need everyone to be a part of the health insurance marketplace. Bringing everyone into the system will also enable us to finally ban discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions. Without the individual responsibility provision, people could wait until they’re sick or injured to apply for coverage since insurance companies could no longer say no or charge more.  That would lead to double digit premiums increases – up to 20% – for everyone in the individual insurance market.

    We are confident the various cases regarding the law will be decided quickly, long before the law is scheduled to be fully implemented. And we are confident we will prevail.

  • Cross-posted from the Let's Move! blog.

    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama announced new collaborations to support our military families and ensure that everyone can get out and get moving.

    Starting June 1, service members and their families will be able to visit the websites of the organizations to sign up for free sportsclub memberships and personal training.

  • On Wednesday, CBS News will conduct a special town hall on the economy with President Obama.  CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer and The Early Show Co-Anchor Erica Hill will join the President before a live audience at the Newseum in Washington, DC. 

    Submit your questions for the President in any of the following ways: 
    (CBS asks that you include your age, hometown and occupation with your question).

    On Thursday, tune in to watch the Town Hall on The Early Show during the 8:00 - 9:00am hour.

  • Cross-posted from the Department of Transportation's blog.

    This is a big day for the Department of Transportation, for the Obama Administration, and for the American people.  We are bringing President Obama's vision of American high-speed rail one step closer to reality with $2.02 billion in targeted investments.

    And I am thrilled.

    Today we are advancing President Obama's historic high-speed rail blueprint through 22 carefully selected projects that will create jobs, boost manufacturing, and spur development while laying the foundation for our future economic competitiveness. We are providing two billion dollars to 15 states and Amtrak to help build out America's high-speed rail network, enabling people and goods to travel more quickly, safely and energy-efficiently than ever before.

    When DOT announced the competition for these awards in March, we were inundated with 98 applications seeking more than $10 billion.  Americans heard the President's plan to connect 80 percent of the nation to high-speed rail in the next 25 years, and they responded with a loud and clear, "Yes!"

  • Pregnant women and new mothers deserve more than just flowers this Mother’s Day. They deserve the precious gift of good health for themselves and their babies. That’s why today I’d like to celebrate the benefits of text4baby, a free, mobile health information service that offers useful tips timed to a woman’s due date or baby’s date of birth.

    The beauty of text4baby is its simplicity. Text BABY (or BEBE in Spanish) to 511411, and receive three free SMS messages every week on important issues like nutrition, oral health, and immunization schedules. Text4baby also connects women to public clinics and support services for prenatal and infant care in their area.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (215MB) | mp3 (21MB)

    For a group of military spouses, this Mother's Day will be one they never forget. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a special Mother's Day tea to show their appreciation and thanks.

  • Cross-posted from the Veterans Affairs blog VAntage Point. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden welcomed military spouses, mothers and grandmothers to the White House for a Mother's Day tea this week. Watch the video.

    In honor of Mother’s Day, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is celebrating the women who have served our country and taken on one of the greatest roles in life: motherhood. In doing so, we reached out to mom Veterans and their family members for photographs and stories. We’ve received photographs and stories that stretch beyond the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan back to World War II. Each mother has a unique story, united by their service. Below are photos and excerpts of stories of mothers who served in World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan. Happy Mother’s Day!

    Submitted by Thallassa M. Gunelius, MSgt, USAF (Ret), son
    Judith Gunelius (above), enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1958. After a break in service to have four children, she became the first woman in the Minnesota Air National Guard in 1972 and the first enlisted female aeromedevac technician to fly on C-130s. . .I’m grateful for my mother and all the other courageous ladies who paved the way for those of us who followed in their footsteps. The example that both of my parents set during their enlistments resulted in all four of their kids carrying on the tradition in the US Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force. Collectively, our family has proudly served this great country for a total of 68 years!

    Submitted by Joyce C. Leneave, U.S. Army Veteran, 1989-1993, mother
    While serving in the Army at the European Command Center, Patch Barracks, Germany, I became pregnant with my eldest child. I was a single mother and my female Commander was supportive of my decision to stay in the military. On May 26, 1992, my daughter Vanessa was born at Bad Constadtt Hospital. Now she is a freshman at NKU, studying music education. She hopes to be a high school music teacher. I am taking courses that were awarded to me by Military to Medicine. I am proud of my service to my Nation and it is all the more precious to me to know that my daughter shares part of that with me.

    Submitted by Margo Trueman, sister-in-law
    I would like to honor my sister-in-law, AMS3 (AW) Robyn Roche-Paull (left), who served in the U.S. Navy from 1991 to 1997. Robyn served on the USS Eisenhower when it first deployed with women on board. She is also one of the first women in the U.S. Navy to be qualified to launch aircraft. During her time in the Navy, she became a mother for the first time. In fact, she was on duty the night she went into labor so she literally worked right up to the day she gave birth. She continued her service for over a year following her son’s birth before receiving an honorable discharge in 1997. Robyn’s experience as a mother in the Navy prompted her to do what she could to help other mothers overcome these hurdles with more information and support than she had. She graduated from University with a degree in Maternal Child Health and went on to become a Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

    Submitted by Jeffrey Wollberg, son
    This is a picture of my mom (left) taken on her 90th birthday. She is now 92. She was a WAVE during World War II and did secretarial work for the Navy. After her Navy enlistment was ended she continued in secretarial work and personnel management until she retired from her position as the president’s secretary from US Checkbook. Her services and my father’s service must have had some influence on our family. . .My two sons shown in this picture are in the Air Force, one in the Air Guard and the other active duty. They both graduated the same day from basic. I served in the Army Reserve 1986–1992 and Active Reserve 1992–2002.

    Submitted by Kathryn Peacock, daughter-in-law
    I’m writing to honor my mother-in-law. She has supported her son even when everyone else doubted his decisions to join the Army after college. Her family business could have made her encourage her son to travel a different route, but she knew he had to fulfill his goals to lead soldiers in battle. This February he was injured in battle. She was there at his side a day after his surgery at Walter Reed. She didn’t care he was heavily sedated, because she was able to share the moment with her son. As the wife of her son, she is an honest whole-hearted role model.

    Submitted by SMSgt Katrina McIntosh, daughter
    My Mom is Karin Winward, a retired SMSgt (Air Force E-8). She served 23 years and retired in 1992. She is my hero. We moved a lot as I grew up, I went to five elementary schools, two junior high schools, and two high schools, and enjoyed every minute of it. I was able to see new places and make new friends. She was the first WAF (Women in the Air Force) stationed at Tainan Air Base in Taiwan making great strides for women in the Air Force. My Mom is also my friend and my mentor. She is the reason I have served 23 years in the Air Force and am still serving. I believe that time apart just made us closer, made us appreciate each other more. She has been there every step of my career, even if we were across the world we were together in our hearts.

    View the slideshow of over two dozen more photos of mothers who’ve served in uniform.

    Kate Hoit is the New Media Specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is also an Iraq War Veteran.

  • Speaking from a hybrid vehicle transmission company in Indiana, the President explains how investments in a clean energy economy are the only solution to high gas prices in the long term.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

    Check out an infographic below on the President's approach to gas prices, or download the full size version.

    Download Full Size.






  • The President and Vice President at Fort Campbell

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks to troops at Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011. Vice President Joe Biden stands at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    It was an emotional week, from the relief of the President's announcement that Osama bin Laden was dead to the somber rememberance of the victims in New York City.  It ended on a note of gratitude, as the President and Vice President went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky to welcome troops home from a deployment in Afghanistan after a private meeting honoring the military and intelligence professionals involved in the operation against bin Laden.

    The Vice President:

    I know many of you have just gotten home in the past few weeks -- so welcome home.  And I know from experience that your families want more than anything to spend time with you.  And so, every time I show up at a welcome home ceremony, I’m always worried about getting in the way.  Because I remember when my son came back home from Iraq after a year, there were all these ceremonies.  And I kept saying, hell, man, stop, I want to see my kid.  (Laughter.)

    So, anyway, I get it.  So let me just say how much gratitude the President and I have, and all Americans do, for you all.  You guys have been in the fight from the beginning.  And the risk you’ve taken, the incredible sacrifices you’ve made, the comrades you’ve lost, the losses you’ve personally endured -- you’ve been in some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world.

    I’ve been there a number of times, back up those damn mountains.  I’d get a helicopter to go down 9,800 feet, and all I got on is a vest -- a bulletproof vest and a helmet and I’m out of breath climbing up about 40 clicks -- 40 feet.  And you guys are up there, 60 to 80-pound packs running around.  God, you’re amazing.  You just are amazing.  I’m in awe of the job you do, in awe of the job you do.  (Applause.)

    As I said back in February, I want to also thank your families.  They made sacrifices as well, those intangible sacrifices -- those missed births and those missed birthdays, those missed graduations, those missed -- an occasional funeral. Perhaps more than anything else, just being missed, just not having you home.

    The President:

    They’re America’s “quiet professionals” -- because success demands secrecy.  But I will say this.  Like all of you, they could have chosen a life of ease.  But like you, they volunteered.  They chose to serve in a time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm’s way.  They trained for years.  They’re battle-hardened.  They practiced tirelessly for this mission.  And when I gave the order, they were ready.

    Now, in recent days, the whole world has learned just how ready they were.  These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence military operations in our nation’s history.  But so does every person who wears America’s uniform, the finest military the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  And that includes all of you men and women of 101st.  (Applause.)

    You have been on the frontlines of this fight for nearly 10 years.  You were there in those early days, driving the Taliban from power, pushing al Qaeda out of its safe havens.  Over time, as the insurgency grew, you went back for, in some cases, a second time, a third time, a fourth time.

    When the decision was made to go into Iraq, you were there, too, making the longest air assault in history, defeating a vicious insurgency, ultimately giving Iraqis the chance to secure their democracy.  And you’ve been at the forefront of our new strategy in Afghanistan.

    Sending you -- more of you -- into harm’s way is the toughest decision that I’ve made as Commander-in-Chief.  I don’t make it lightly.  Every time I visit Walter Reed, every time I visit Bethesda, I’m reminded of the wages of war.  But I made that decision because I know that this mission was vital to the security of the nation that we all love.

  • This week, the White House was host to some truly inspiring guests: wounded veterans who are participating in the Wounded Warrior's Soldier Ride Program to raise money and awareness for other veterans struggling to recover from their injuries. Take a look at a video that aims to capture the spirit of the event; we hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed having these heroes come inspire us.

    Download Video: mp4 (16.3MB)

    Darienne Page is the Assistant Director of Public Engagement at the White House.

  • Speaking at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Atlantic Council on Tuesday night, Vice President Biden discussed the continued importance of a strong partnership with our European allies and partners, as well as the enduring relevance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in protecting against new and evolving threats around the world.

    ‪From the European Union’s role as our largest trading partner, to the significant role of NATO in Afghanistan and elsewhere, “Europe is the cornerstone of our engagement with the world and a catalyst for global cooperation,” Vice President Biden said, quoting President Obama.

    Vice President Biden Speaks at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Atlantic Council

    Vice President Biden speaks at the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Atlantic Council, May 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    ‪The Vice President stressed that while NATO’s membership and mission have evolved in response to the profound changes of the last two decades, our transatlantic relationship remains essential, as we move from “confrontation to cooperation with Russia” and “navigate the transformation that’s taking place in the Middle East.”

    ‪Vice President Biden lauded Russia’s emergence as a key partner in the greater European community, highlighting the “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations that led to a new START treaty and close cooperation on counterterrorism and nuclear nonproliferation. “Missile defense cooperation could be the next big step forward,” the Vice President said.

    ‪In closing, the Vice President asserted that in the next half century, one he predicted “will be just as consequential as the last,” the “lot of humanity is going to continue to depend upon…the solidarity of the Atlantic Community.”

    Elizabeth Alexander is Press Secretary for the Vice President