Read all posts from June 2011

  • More and more, Americans understand the critical role that earning a college degree plays in their lives, with prospects for higher earnings and further advancements that extend throughout their careers. However, one of the greatest challenges Americans face is the rising cost of higher education.

    To help students make informed decisions about their choice for higher education, today the Department of Education launched an online College Affordability and Transparency Center on the Department of Education’s College Navigator website. As part of this Center, the Department posted lists that highlight institutions with the highest tuition prices, highest net prices, and institutions whose prices are rising at the fastest rates. Institutions whose prices are rising the fastest will report why costs have gone up and how the institution will address rising prices. The Department will summarize these reports and make them publicly available to parents and students.

    The President has been committed to making higher education more affordable, and today’s announcement complements our ongoing efforts. Since taking office, we have worked to expand student aid, improve options to repay student loans, and give more students access to higher education. We have also enhanced consumer information on the FAFSA and on the College Navigator portal, a resource that can provide information on thousands of institutions of higher education across the nation. These existing tools will complement the informative resources newly available today.

    But colleges also have a role to play as we work to ease the financial burden of higher education. In his State of the Union address last year, the President called on colleges to do a better job of keeping costs down. Additionally, state budget constraints present increasing challenges for affordability. Too often the answer has been to cut aid to public colleges and increase tuition, pushing the financial burden on families already struggling to make ends meet.

    Ultimately, better information alone will not cure the problem of college affordability. However, it will enhance the choices and decisions made by families as they pursue higher education. The new College Transparency and Affordability Center is just a first step in helping students better understand their path in postsecondary education; the Administration will continue to promote transparency in educational costs that will help all current and prospective students of higher education make a smart investment in their postsecondary studies.

    Melody Barnes is Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

  • Our nation’s military spouses possess the hard work ethic, the skills, the education and the dedication that make them ideal employees in a competitive workforce.  However, they also face challenges and demands as they juggle households, children and jobs alongside frequent moves and deployments. Recognizing this challenge, one of the priorities of the Joining Forces initiative that the First Lady and Dr. Biden are leading is to develop career and educational opportunities for military spouses. Yesterday we took a major step forward in achieving that goal with the launch of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.
     
    Dr. Jill Biden at Military Partnership

    Dr. Jill Biden greets audience members at the Military Spouse Employment Partnership kick-off at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., June 29, 2011. The partnership promotes meaningful, long-term employment opportunities between America's employers and military spouses. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

  • The White House is all a-Twitter about an exciting event that's happening next week. On Wednesday, July 6th at 2pm ET, President Obama will answer your questions in the first ever Twitter Town Hall at the White House, and you're invited. Starting today, you can tweet your questions about jobs and the economy using the hashtag #AskObama and follow @townhall for the latest updates. Then, come back to watch the President respond to your questions in a live event moderated by Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder and Executive Chairman.

    Today, we're also kicking off White House Tweetups (h/t NASA). For our first Tweetup, a portion of the town hall’s live audience will be drawn from people who follow @whitehouse and register online. We look forward to hosting future Tweetups that will give @whitehouse followers the opportunity to attend events, engage with Administration officials, and share their ideas with other @whitehouse followers. Visit WhiteHouse.gov/tweetup to sign up and learn more. (Ed. Note: Registration for the Tweetup has closed.)

    The White House uses Twitter to share breaking news, provide updates and engage with the people across the country. Join the 2.25 million @whitehouse followers, and be sure to check out our other official accounts:

  • Yesterday, the WNBA champion Seattle Storm visited the White House to be honored by President Obama and to host a basketball clinic for young people on the White House basketball court as part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move Initiative and the WNBA fit program. 

    While they were here, Storm players Sue Bird and Krystal Thomas took a few moments to say thank you to our facebook fans and Twitter followers for doing what they can to help kids stay healthy.

    We asked what you were doing to help, and we got some great responses:

    @Scouted we run @JayDocClinic
    Melodie Sivadon Reader: Provides healthy meals to kids summer school program in our area

    Ivan Jokain-Witcha: I work with a group of teachers and community members in creating a school garden

    In between basketball drills, the Storm players thanked facebook fans Melodie Sivadon Reader, Colleen Rain, Susan Marie, Ivan Jokain-Witcha, Stephanie Anna Cochran, Carla Roundtree and Elizabeth Sims and Twitter followers including @scouted who are doing great work in their communities.

    Don’t forget to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and you might be the next to get a shout-out!

    Watch the video of the Seattle Storm's Sue Bird.

    .

    Watch the video of the Seattle Storm's Krystal Thomas.

  • Through the summer, we’ll be rolling out events based on your feedback during the “Your Future, Your Solutions” 100 Roundtables Initiative in a series called How to Make Change. We’ll update the schedule with emails and on our website with specifics on timing of the events below and for added events here at the White House, and around the country.

    Kickoff Conference Call with President Obama and Administration Officials
    Obama Administration Officials conference call de-briefing the President’s commitment to youth issues and initiatives. President Obama will also hop-on the call at 12 noon on Friday, July 1, 2011. Please note that capacity has been reached by those who RSVP’d, but we will provide a read-out after this call.

    Civic Engagement: Youth Incarceration, Environment, and LGBT Issues
    Not something we see in the mainstream media, but check out President Obama hearing real-life examples from young Americans on how specific policies he supported such as second chance programs, social work, health and human services, the environment, energy independence, national security, Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, and LGBT issues have made an impact in the lives of young Americans.

  • Watch the President's full remarks here.

    This morning, President Obama and Vice President Biden travelled to the Pentagon to attend the Armed Services farewell tribute in honor of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, one of the longest serving Secretaries of Defense in U.S. history. The President also presented Secretary Gates with the Medal of Freedom – the highest honor the President can bestow on a civilian.

    During his remarks at the ceremony, President Obama reflected on Secretary Gates long history of public service – serving under eight different Presidents – and on his commitment to serving our troops as well as they serve us:

  • Recently, the White House hosted 200 young elected officials from 40 states for a series of briefings and a reception where the President stopped by. Afterwards, many young officials took to Twitter to talk about their day at the White House. Throughout the day, we spoke with a few of the elected officials about what it meant to hear directly from the President and why they would encourage other young people to run for office. Here is what Oregon State Representative Jefferson Smith, Colorado City Councilman Chris Herndon, and Nebraska State Senator Amanda McGill had to say.

    Download Video: mp4 (18MB)

  • On Tuesday, June 28th, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, and Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, answered your questions from Facebook and WhiteHouse.gov on President Obama’s plan for implementing his strategy to draw down troops in Afghanistan and our plan to focus on investments here at home.

    Watch Open for Questions here.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (82MB) | mp3 (8MB)

    This evening, President Obama spoke to LGBT grassroots and community leaders, youth champions and advocates from around the country at a White House event to observe LGBT Pride Month.  Gay, Lesbian, bisexual, Transgender and allies that have been working in their neighborhoods, towns and states to bring about equality. 

    As the President said:

    But I think it's important for us to note the progress that's been made just in the last two and a half years.  I just want everybody to think about this.  (Applause.)  It was here, in the East Room, at our first Pride reception, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a few months after I took office, that I made a pledge, I made a commitment.  I said that I would never counsel patience; it wasn’t right for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for folks to tell African Americans to be patient in terms of their freedoms.  I said it might take time to get everything we wanted done.  But I also expected to be judged not by the promises I made, but the promises I kept.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (63MB) | mp3 (6MB)

    Today President Obama welcomed the WNBA Champion Seattle Storm to the White House. He congratulated the team on its 2010 season and its championship title. The President took the opportunity to pay tribute to the WNBA, which in just fifteen years has become the most successful women’s professional sports league in the world. He also observed that the Storm’s championship was a historic victory: “Three years ago, when this team’s future in Seattle was uncertain, four season ticket holders joined forces to become co-owners. Now they’re also the first all-female ownership group in American history to win a championship.”

    In addition to winning basketball games, the Storm is active in a wide variety of service projects. These include promoting childhood literacy, as well as encouraging local organizations to work toward reducing their environmental footprint. During the Storm’s visit to DC, the team held a clinic for young people on the White House basketball court. As the President said today, “the Storm family understands that being a champion doesn’t stop when you step off the court.”

    President Barack Obama with the Seattle Storm

    President Barack Obama shows the championship ring he received as a gift with Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird, left, and Swin Cash, right, during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House to honor the team’s 2010 championship season, June 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    Kyle Lierman is White House Liaison to the Sports Community.

  • America’s commitment to its veterans must be an enduring one. After the service they’ve given us and the sacrifices they have made, we have a responsibility to make sure our service members receive the benefits and the opportunities they have earned. That’s why I was so happy last week to participate in the first Veterans on Wall Street Conference.

  • Watch the President's full remarks here.

    In his press conference this morning, the President took questions on anything the White House press corps could think of, but his primary argument was on the economy, the deficits, and the consequences of Congress not acting and allowing America to default on its debt.  He made clear that while he continues to work on everything from streamlining regulations to getting capital to small business, there are things Congress can do right now to grow the economy and create jobs – including putting construction workers back to work rebuilding our country, passing into law trade agreements that will increase exports and create jobs and coming to an agreement to reduce the deficit. As he explained, reducing our deficits has to be done in a fair and balanced way, and that means those in Congress who are looking only at cutting core priorities like education and medical research and cutting Medicare benefits for seniors while excluding even the most egregious tax loopholes for special interests and the very wealthiest Americans need to come to the table:

    On Closing Tax Loopholes for Millionaires and Billionaires: 

    There’s been a lot of discussion about revenues and raising taxes in recent weeks, so I want to be clear about what we’re proposing here.  I spent the last two years cutting taxes for ordinary Americans, and I want to extend those middle-class tax cuts.  The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners. 

    It would be nice if we could keep every tax break there is, but we’ve got to make some tough choices here if we want to reduce our deficit.  And if we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship.  That means we’ve got to stop funding certain grants for medical research.  That means that food safety may be compromised.  That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden.  Those are the choices we have to make.

    So the bottom line is this:  Any agreement to reduce our deficit is going to require tough decisions and balanced solutions.  And before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children’s education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys.  I don’t think that’s real radical.  I think the majority of Americans agree with that. 

    On Addressing Debt Limit: 

  • Today, the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau announced the first realignment of its national field office structure in 50 years and management reforms that will improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance data quality. The changes will take place gradually over the next 18 months and reduce the number of regional offices from 12 to six, saving an estimated $15 million to $18 million annually beginning in 2014. 

    Increasing efficiency, cutting waste and reforming Washington has been a priority for the Obama Administration since day one, and this consolidation supports the administration’s ongoing effort to make government more efficient, effective and accountable to the American people. It also builds on the work of Census Bureau Director Robert Groves and his management team in bringing in the 2010 Census on time and 25 percent under budget, saving nearly $1.9 billion.

  • Today, the Affordable Care Act, and the millions of Americans and small businesses benefitting from it scored another victory when the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law is constitutional. Today’s ruling in the case of Thomas More Law Center v. Obama is the first time an Appeals Court has ruled on the constitutionality of the law.

    We’re gratified by today’s ruling, which came from judges appointed by Democratic and Republican Presidents who agreed that the law’s individual responsibility provision (sometimes called the minimum coverage provision) is constitutional. In today’s ruling, the court held that:

    …the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause...

    Judge Martin also addressed the claim that the individual responsibility provision somehow regulates “inactivity.” He wrote:

    Furthermore, far from regulating inactivity, the minimum coverage provision regulates individuals who are, in the aggregate, active in the health care market…The vast majority of individuals are active in the market for health care delivery because of two unique characteristics of this market: (1) virtually everyone requires health care services at some unpredictable point; and (2) individuals receive health care services regardless of ability to pay. Virtually everyone will need health care services at some point, including, in the aggregate, those without health insurance. Even dramatic attempts to protect one’s health and minimize the need for health care will not always be successful, and the health care market is characterized by unpredictable and unavoidable needs for care.

    Judge Sutton agreed that the individual responsibility provision is constitutional and wrote:

    In choosing how to regulate [people who choose to self-insure], Congress also did not exceed its power.

    There are a number of cases regarding the Affordable Care Act that will continue to be heard in courts nationwide, and at the end of the day, we are confident the constitutionality of these landmark reforms will be upheld.   For more information about the individual responsibility provision, check out this post I wrote in May that outlines the importance of this provision.

    Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor

  • Here is President Obama’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism, which was presented today by John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism in a speech at SAIS named “Ensuring al-Qa’ida’s Demise”. The strategy articulates the United States’ broad, sustained and integrated campaign against al-Qa’ida, its affiliates and its adherents, consistent with the President’s enduring commitment to protect the American people.

    Watch the speech or read his prepared remarks.


    Learn more from the fact sheet here.

  • Last week at their annual meeting, the United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution among their members calling for comprehensive immigration reform. The sponsors of that resolution, Los Angeles, California Mayor and U.S. Conference of Mayors President Antonio Villaraigosa and Laredo, Texas Mayor Raul Salinas explain why immigration reform cannot wait.

    Los Angeles, California Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

    Last week, the nation’s mayors gathered in Baltimore to discuss the issues that matter most to Americans. Together, we resolved that one of the best ways to achieve our collective goals of strengthening the economy, ensuring our global competitiveness, and securing our homeland, is through comprehensive immigration reform.

    The United States has always been enriched by the economic and cultural contributions of immigrants. Immigrants have spurred innovation, made major financial contributions to our nation, and bravely served our country in the armed forces. Yet our current, broken system turns a blind eye to their countless contributions.

    Today’s immigration law lacks accountability and responsibility, exploits undocumented workers, and undermines the American workforce.

    The system must be reformed now. We must embrace the DREAM Act and the millions of young people who would be given a pathway to citizenship with it.  We must embrace AgJobs to ensure that agricultural workers can earn residency and stabilize their workforce.  And we must provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented persons who meet strict requirements.

    As Mayors of cities that are home to millions of immigrants, we know that comprehensive immigration reform is a key to prosperity for all Americans. For the sake of our economy, security, and competitiveness, comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do.

  • Watch the President's full remarks here.

    Today, the President traveled to Bettendorf, Iowa to tour the Alcoa Davenport Works plant and deliver remarks on the critical role the manufacturing sector plays in the American economy. The Davenport factory serves as the manufacturing hub for Alcoa's $3 billion aerospace business, producing an aluminum-lithium alloy that makes Airbus and Boeing airplanes lighter and more corrosion resistant at a lower cost. 

    Alcoa, as a leader in manufacturing innovation, is participating in the President’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) announced last week in Pittsburgh, PA.  The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership is national effort to bring together industry, universities and the federal government to invest in emerging technologies that will create high quality manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.   

    In his remarks, the President stressed the importance of having a strong and growing manufacturing sector as part of the continuing economic recovery:

    A big part of our future has to be a robust and growing manufacturing sector.  We’ve got to make things right here in America. We’ve always made things here in America.  It’s in our blood.  This plant has been in operation for 60 years.  And what you’ve learned is that if you want to beat the competition, then you’ve got to innovate.  You’ve got to invest in new skills, you’ve got to invest in new processes, and you’ve got to invest in new products.  I was just learning that some of the equipment right behind us -- this was a huge investment.  How much did you guys -- $90 million.  Think about that.  That’s what made you guys competitive, having the best workers but also having the best equipment.  You had to up your game.  And that’s what we’ve got to do as a country as a whole.  I want the cars and planes and wind turbines of the future to bear the proud stamp that says “Made in America.”  That’s what I want. 

    That’s why two years ago, we stood by the auto industry and kept some of our nation’s largest automakers from being sold for parts.  And today, for the first time in years, the Big Three automakers are adding jobs and turning a profit and putting steel workers to work. 

    That’s also why I announced last week a new partnership between our top engineering schools, our most innovative manufacturers, and the federal government to get American products from the drawing board to the factory floor to the marketplace as quickly as possible.  And today, I’m proud to announce that Alcoa is joining that partnership.  The idea is to create jobs now, and to make sure America stays on the cutting edge of manufacturing for years to come. 

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

    Earlier this year, I had the privilege of traveling to Florida’s ‘Space Coast,’ home of Cape Canaveral and the legendary Kennedy Space Center, to meet with industry and business leaders whose work is at the cutting edge of space exploration and technology. I was there as part of the Administration’s Champions of Change Series, to highlight the work people are doing every day to win the future through innovation and education. 

    I had a very lively discussion with nearly 20 area residents about their work. These are visionary leaders both within the government and the private sector who are working to tap the exceptional skills and resources of the Space Coast to ensure the area’s economy continues to prosper and diversify, as NASA ends the Space Shuttle program and proceeds with efforts to develop new crew transportation and space exploration systems. We discussed creative, hands-on learning programs for young students inspired by NASA’s missions. We met business owners who are transforming technology and capabilities developed for the Shuttle program into good jobs for Florida workers. We met an entrepreneur who is hiring former NASA engineers and trying to revolutionize how we build cars in America. We met NASA contractors and private launch companies, who all are doing incredible work to adapt and grow their businesses in an uncertain environment. 

    We also heard really good ideas about how government and industry can work together to utilize the immense brain-power, and unique capabilities and infrastructure that exists across the I-4 corridor to spur further development and growth of this important economy. 

    If my one hour conversation with one room of people is any indication of the creativity and potential of the space industry to continue to pioneer new frontiers in technology and innovation, I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with next.

    Carlos Monje is Special Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

  • Last year I visited Spokane, Washington, for a listening session on housing discrimination issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) individuals and families.  After hearing a number of compelling stories, I met Mitch and Michelle, a couple with children, a family like any other.  But Mitch had been denied the opportunity to add Michelle to his public housing voucher for the sole reason that he was transgender and therefore Mitch and Michelle did not fit into the public housing authority’s definition of family.

    Mitch and Michelle are not alone.  A recent study demonstrates how severe the problem of housing discrimination is for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.  19 percent of the 6,450 respondents reported having been refused a home or apartment and 11 percent reported being evicted because of their gender identity/expression.  Extraordinarily, 19 percent reported experiencing homelessness as a result of their gender identity/expression with the majority of them reporting either harassment, difficulty in access, or sexual assault when attempting to access homeless shelters.  Other numbers show that up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

  • Yesterday, the MLS champion Colorado Rapids visited the White House to be honored by President Obama and to host a soccer clinic for the kids of military families. While they were here, the Rapids took some time to thank you -- our fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter for supporting our troops and military families.

    We asked you how you're giving back and we got some great responses:

    In between coaching kids on how to up their soccer game, the Rapids thanked our facebook fans Julia Martin, Rebecca Denham and Sherry Peters and followers @whitelight71 and @HollieSeven who are doing great work. Like us facebook and follow us on Twitter and you just might get a shout-out next!

    Watch the first video of the Colorado Rapids thanking our followers for their service to military families.

     

    Watch the second video of the Colorado Rapids thanking our followers for their service to military families.

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