Read all posts from August 2011
Nikki SuttonAugust 20, 2011
05:30 AM EST
Colleen CurtisAugust 19, 2011
03:51 PM EST
This week most of the action took place far away from the West Wing, as the President and many of his senior advisors hit the road to talk with Americans in rural towns and communities in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.
Rural Road Trip: From August 15-18, President Obama traveled through the Midwest, meeting with Americans in rural towns and communities in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The purpose of his trip, dubbed the Economic Rural Tour 2011, was to have conversations with people from different walks of life about what is happening in our country right now. The President was there to talk, but also to listen. His message at the end of his trip? There’s nothing wrong with our country that can’t be fixed.
Summer Tour: The President was not the only member of the Administration on the road this week. In fact, this summer there are more than 100 events being held across the country in support of the White House’s Rural Economic Council, which this week released a Jobs and Economic Security report. The Council held a Rural Economic Forum in Iowa, where the President announced several new initiatives to help create jobs and grow the economy in rural communities.
VP in Asia: Vice President Joe Biden logged even more miles than the President this week, as he headed to China for the first stop on his three country trip through Asia. In addition to meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing, the VP also attended a U.S.-China business roundtable and chatted with locals at a snack shop in the city. You can follow his travels live on Twitter – #VPin Asia.
Historic Appointments, Historic Delays: The President’s nominations for federal judges embody an unprecedented commitment to expanding the racial, gender and experiential diversity of the men and women who enforce our laws and deliver justice. Unfortunately, the delays these nominees are encountering on Capitol Hill are equally unprecedented. Check out this infographic to understand what this means for Americans seeking justice.
Immigration Update: The Department of Homeland Security announced a new strategy that focuses immigration resources in a way that puts public safety and national security first. Cecilia Muñoz, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, held Office Hours via Twitter to explain the change and what it means.
Super Bowl Champs in the House: On August 12, the Green Bay Packers paid a visit to the President, where he congratulated the team on their championship season. Team members took a tour of the White House and gave a shout out to the First Lady, whose work with Let’s Move inspires their own Fit Kids program, which helps educate Wisconsin children about good health and smart eating habits.
August 19, 2011
03:20 PM EST
Ed. Note: The White House Internship Program is currently accepting applications for the Spring, 2012. Applicants have until September 11, 2011 to apply for a Spring, 2012 White House Internship.
I first met President Obama during the primaries on the campaign trail at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, while he was filming a comedy skit for the Late Show with David Letterman. At the time, I was student body president and somehow convinced the Secret Service agents, with the help of our campus security officials, to give me five to ten minutes with the inspiring U.S. Senator. During our brief conversation, I told him that he would become President of the United States and that when it happened, I would come to the White House to work for him. On July 4th of 2009, on the South Lawn of the White House during the Independence Day festivities, I personally delivered the message to inform the newly elected President and First Lady that I had made good on my promise and was serving as an inaugural class White House Intern in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Born and raised in Alexander City, a small town in Alabama with a population of less than 15,000 people, I was ecstatic to learn that I had been selected to serve a President who had inspired me to pursue my dreams. Prior to attending college, I served as a Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman in the U.S. Navy and fought in the Middle East. My unique background and the internship experience made my time in the White House Internship Program one of the most transformational experiences of my entire life.
Colleen CurtisAugust 19, 2011
02:31 PM EST
Vice President Joe Biden joined Chinese Vice President Xi and business leaders from both countries at a roundtable today in Beijing to discuss the business relationship between both countries. The Vice President reflected on the changes that have taken place since his first trip to the country more than 30 years ago, when he was part of the first Senate delegation that met withDeng Xiaoping, and expressed his great optimism about what the next 30 years hold. He also addressed the “real and perceived barriers that exist in both countries that have to be dealt with” and praised the “straightforward” conversations he has had with Vice President Xi throughout this visit.
“You have legitimate concerns about access to America. And I would argue we have legitimate concerns in reverse. But the trajectory -- the trajectory of the relationship is nothing but positive, and it’s overwhelmingly in the mutual interest of both our countries. And it’s presumptuous to say this, but I think it’s in the interest of the world. It’s in the interest of the world that we increase -- increase -- the interaction between not only our business community, but our economies writ large.
Obviously, economic issues have been a particular focus of the growing cooperation between the United States and China. Our governments are committed to and working hard to promote economic growth. It’s strong. It’s sustainable, and it is balanced, fair and open. Bilateral trade and investment between the United States and China, as is pointed out, is growing rapidly in both directions. We’d like it to go even more rapidly in terms of investment in the United States because it creates jobs and it creates economic opportunities in both countries.
Colleen CurtisAugust 19, 2011
12:00 PM EST
Vice President Joe Biden's stop at a local lunch spot near the Drum and Bell Tower neighborhood in Old Beijing on the first day of his official visit has all of China talking. Embassy Beijing’s post about the traditional lunch fare he ordered – pork buns, zhajiang noodles and cucumbers -- on one of the most popular Chinese microblogs, Sina, received over 6,400 retweets and 3,000 comments in less than an hour. Joining the Vice President at lunch were newly installed U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke and his wife Mona, plus Vice President’s daughter-in-law Kathleen and granddaughter Naomi, who are traveling with him through Asia.
For more information about the Vice President's trip to Asia, check out these photo galleries from day one and day two and watch his first travelogue from the road. You can follow the Vice President's trip in real time on Twitter, #VPinAsia.
Colleen CurtisAugust 19, 2011
10:56 AM EST
In his first travelogue, sent from Beijing, Vice President Joe Biden talks about meetings with his counterpart, Vice President Xi of China, focused on how we can grow our economy and create jobs.
Secretary Tom VilsackAugust 19, 2011
09:39 AM EST
Today, I am hosting a forum focused on the rural economy at the Iowa State Fair. But, Rural America has been in the spotlight all this week as I joined President Obama to travel across parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, visiting rural communities to discuss his Administration’s efforts to create jobs and drive economic growth. From investments in rural broadband to efforts to support small-business innovation, the President talked about his commitment to rural America – and he listened to what local residents had to say.
The centerpiece of his trip was the Rural Economic Forum, held Tuesday at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta. There, 200 small business owners, farmers, retirees, elected officials and others came together to discuss their ideas for a revitalized rural economy. I was pleased to participate in that forum, along with my Cabinet colleagues Housing and Urban Development Secretary Donovan, Transportation Secretary LaHood, and Administrator Mills of the Small Business Administration.
After opening remarks by the President, the participants broke into a series of small discussion groups – with topics ranging from agricultural innovation and energy opportunities to small business to infrastructure. Each group developed a series of ideas and recommendations, which will become part of a larger report to the White House Rural Council that I chair.
I had the opportunity to facilitate the Ag Innovation and Energy break-out session, with about 20 farmers, ranchers, and other officials. Our discussion – which the President joined for a few minutes – touched on the importance of the renewable energy sector and new markets, as well as particular barriers to growing the rural economy through agricultural innovation.
August 19, 2011
12:00 AM EST
Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. This week, the President welcomed the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers to the White House before heading out on a three day bus tour across the midwestern states of Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. During his tour through the heartland, the President heard directly from Americans including small business owners, local families and private sector leaders who talked about the need for faster economic growth, strengthening the middle class and accelerating hiring in communities and towns across the nation. That's August 12th to August 18th or "Get on the Bus."
Amy DudleyAugust 18, 2011
10:08 PM EST
It was a busy and productive day in Beijing for Vice President Biden – one that began and ended at the Great Hall of the People. An elaborate welcome ceremony in the Northern Hall served as the official kickoff to Vice President Biden’s visit to China. Bilateral meetings with Vice President Xi and National People’s Congress Chair Wu Bangguo followed in the Eastern and Fujian Rooms. Finally, a banquet dinner in the Western Room capped the evening, complete with a cultural performance that included traditional Chinese song and dance.
Following the official ceremony, the Vice Presidents and their delegations gathered for their first formal meeting, where Vice President Biden reiterated the economic importance of a strong U.S.-China relationship. “I’m absolutely confident that the economic stability of the world rests in no small part on the cooperation between the United States and China. …It is the key, in my view, to global economic stability,” said Vice President Biden.
But it was the Vice President’s visit to a local lunch spot near the Drum and Bell Tower neighborhood in Old Beijing that had China talking. Embassy Beijing’s post about the traditional lunch fare he ordered – pork buns, zhajiang noodles and cucumbers -- on one of the most popular Chinese microblogs, Sina, received over 6400 retweets and 3000 comments in less than an hour. Joining the Vice President at lunch were newly installed U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke and his wife Mona, as well as the Vice President’s daughter-in-law Kathleen and granddaughter Naomi who are traveling with him through Asia.
Kori SchulmanAugust 18, 2011
06:39 PM EST
Today, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new strategy that focuses immigration resources in a way that puts public safety and national security first. Following the announcement, Cecilia Muñoz, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, answered your questions on Twitter, submitted with the hashtag #WHChat. See the archive of today's Office Hours below, or on Storify.
Follow @Whitehouse for the latest from the Administration and upcoming opportunities to engage. We're always looking for ways to improve. If you have feedback on Office Hours or our online program, let us know. Share your feedback with the hashtag #WHWeb on Twitter or through this web form.
Colleen CurtisAugust 18, 2011
06:33 PM EST
Ed note: The information on this graphic was updated on March 13, 2012
Creating a judicial pool for the 21st Century, one with intellect, fair-mindedness and integrity that resembles the nation that it serves, is a top priority for President Obama and his administration. In fact, the President’s nominations for federal judges embody an unprecedented commitment to expanding the racial, gender and experiential diversity of the men and women who enforce our laws and deliver justice.
Unfortunately, the delays these nominees are encountering on Capitol Hill are equally unprecedented: earlier this month, the Senate left for its August recess without considering 20 eminently qualified candidates, 16 of whom had passed through the bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee completely unopposed, a development the Washington Post called “not only frustrating but also destructive” in an editorial published yesterday.
The victims of these delays, of course, are the American citizens who are being denied the fair and timely judicial proceedings they deserve because of the chronic shortage of federal judges on the bench. Stephen Zack, president of the American Bar Association, told Senate leaders in a recent letter that the abundance of vacant federal judgeships “create strains that will inevitably reduce the quality of our justice system and erode public confidence in the ability of the courts to vindicate constitutional rights or render fair and timely decisions.”
To better understand how the Senate delays are impacting American families and businesses, take a look at our infographic that explains the confirmation process and highlights the bottleneck.
Colleen CurtisAugust 18, 2011
04:32 PM EST
This week President Obama traveled to the Midwest where he met with Americans in rural towns and communities in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The purpose of his trip, dubbed the Economic Rural Tour 2011, was to talk to people from different walks of life about what is happening in our country right now. The President was there to talk, but also to listen.
And in town halls, county fairs and an economic forum, Americans shared their hopes for the future and their concerns about the economy and what it means for their businesses and their families. On Wednesday, the President told a crowd of 250 people gathered for a town hall meeting on a farm in Alpha, Ill that he will soon be putting out new proposals designed to put people back to work right away. He said that some of the plans will cost money, and that we will pay for them by doing more on deficit reduction than is required by the Budget Control Act he signed earlier this month.
Stephanie ValenciaAugust 18, 2011
02:02 PM EST
In July the White House Office of Public Engagement and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics partnered to host the first ever White House Hispanic Policy Conference. Over a two day period, 160 Hispanic leaders from 25 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico joined over 100 Administration officials to discuss the President's agenda and its impact on the Hispanic community and more importantly, to strategize on how we best move forward together to improve outcomes and access for the Hispanic community.
At the end of the two day conference, several Latino leaders who participated asked us to come to their communities and hold similar gatherings in their cities and states to have the important conversation about how the Administration’s agenda impacts the Hispanic community across the country.
Over the course of the next few months, the White House Office of Public Engagement and the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics will partner to take this same format and conversation to several communities across the country. We will be holding over two dozen 1 ½ – 2 day “White House Hispanic Community Action Summits” in cities ranging from Phoenix, Arizona to Miami, Florida, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Cecilia MuñozAugust 18, 2011
02:00 PM EST
Ed. Note: Cecilia Muñoz will be answering your questions on today's announcement during Office Hours on Twitter. Use the hashtag #whchat to ask questions, then join us @whitehouse at 4:15 pm EDT to follow the question and answer session.
President Obama is deeply committed to fixing our immigration laws and has been aggressively searching for partners in Congress who are willing to work with him to pass a new law. As he focuses on building a new 21st century immigration system that meets our nation’s economic and security needs, the President has a responsibility to enforce the existing laws in a smart and effective manner. This means making decisions that best focus the resources that Congress gives the Executive Branch to do this work. There are more than 10 million people who are in the U.S. illegally; it’s clear that we can’t deport such a large number. So the Administration has developed a strategy to make sure we use those resources in a way that puts public safety and national security first. If you were running a law enforcement agency anywhere in the world, you would target those who pose the greatest harm before those who do not. Our immigration enforcement work is focused the same way.
Under the President’s direction, for the first time ever the Department of Homeland Security has prioritized the removal of people who have been convicted of crimes in the United States. And they have succeeded; in 2010 DHS removed 79,000 more people who had been convicted of a crime compared to 2008. Today, they announced that they are strengthening their ability to target criminals even further by making sure they are not focusing our resources on deporting people who are low priorities for deportation. This includes individuals such as young people who were brought to this country as small children, and who know no other home. It also includes individuals such as military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel. It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low-priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes.
August 18, 2011
01:08 PM EST
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.
Champions of Change isn’t just an initiative to highlight innovative achievements and stellar performers, it’s a chance to recognize that, across the country, the dedication and commitment of a single individual or organization can affect huge positive change. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with a handful of these dedicated individuals and celebrating the progress they are making to reduce the devastating effects of drug use and make American communities healthier and stronger.
Today’s news is often dominated by talk of the economy and jobs. And now, more than ever, it’s important to recognize that drug use harms every sector of this country. From keeping individual families together, creating a healthy and strong workforce, reducing the economic strain on the criminal justice system, and fostering a safe environment in local communities, tackling America’s substance abuse issues is vital for winning the future – and that’s exactly what this group of Champions of Change is doing.
August 18, 2011
12:12 PM EST
President Obama headed to Decorah, IA on Monday afternoon, where he joined a crowd of 500 locals for a town hall meeting. Topics covered ranged from the difference between divided government and dysfunctional government, America's proud history as a nation of innovation and the importance of agriculture in the American economy. The next day, he was in Peosta for the White House Rural Economic Forum. Along the way, he enjoyed some of the state's beautiful scenery.
Go behind the scenes with the President as he meets with the people of Decorah and Peosta, attends the Rural Economic Forum, and travels through rural Iowa.
Interested in seeing more of the President's rural road trip? Take a look at how he spent his morning in Minnesota.
August 18, 2011
12:00 PM EST
On Monday, President Obama visited Cannon Falls, Minnesota where he talked with a crowd of 500 locals at Hannah’s Bend Park. During the town hall meeting, the President discussed the challenges that Americans have faced over the past year and reiterated his belief that there is “nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed; what’s broken is our politics.” Later, the President traveled to the Old Market Deli where he had lunch with a group of veterans and was welcomed to the state by a local cowboy.
Go behind the scenes with the President as he meets with the people of Cannon Falls, eats at the Old Market Deli and travels through rural Minnesota.
Interested in more White House video? Take a look at the highlights of the President's trip through Iowa.
August 18, 2011
11:59 AM EST
From the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has been a champion for the wise stewardship of America’s natural treasures, understanding the strong connection between the health of our lands and waters and the health of our economy. Smart, community-led conservation presents a tremendous opportunity to improve quality of life across America, and to build and grow local jobs in industries like recreation and tourism. In fact, one in every 20 jobs is related to outdoor recreation, making conservation integral to a thriving American economy.
Beginning very early in 2009 with the President’s historic signing of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, this Administration has invested in land and water protection by creating the most important conservation initiative in more than a generation. Through his America’s Great Outdoors initiative, the President has announced an action plan, built with ideas from the American people, to achieve lasting conservation of the outdoor spaces that communities care about, and to reconnect people – especially children – to the outdoors.
In our most recent travels throughout the Northwest and the Northeast, we saw firsthand the intersection of conservation and economic growth in rural communities. Below are just a few of the highlights from our trips:
Colleen CurtisAugust 18, 2011
09:58 AM EST
President Obama ended his three day tour of the Midwest at a town hall meeting on a farm in rural Illinois, where he took questions on topics that ranged from enhanced protection for law enforcement officers to the shrinking size of local county fairs. The President’s last day was filled with opportunities to enjoy the rural landscape and attractions of his home state, and included stops at the Whiteside County Fair and a Galesburg High School football practice, in addition to an earlier town hall meeting in Atkinson.
The President told the crowd of 250 people gathered at Alpha’s Country Corner Farm that they can expect to hear about new proposals that will put Americans back to work in the next few weeks.
When folks tell you that we’ve got a choice between jobs now or dealing with our debt crisis, they’re wrong. They’re wrong. We can’t afford to just do one or the other. We’ve got to do both. And the way to do it is to make some -- reform the tax code, close loopholes, make some modest modifications in programs like Medicare and Social Security so they’re there for the next generation, stabilize those systems. And you could actually save so much money that you could actually pay for some of the things like additional infrastructure right now.
We can close the deficit and put people to work, but what’s required is that folks work together. That’s the big challenge. That’s the big challenge.
And over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to be putting out more proposals to put people to work right now. And some of them -- yes, some of them cost money. And the way we pay for it is by doing more on deficit reduction than the plan that we had to come up with right at the last minute in order to avoid default. We didn’t do as much as we could have.
Macon PhillipsAugust 18, 2011
09:37 AM EST
Today, President Obama called for the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, to step aside and took the strongest financial action action against the Syrian regime thus far. Here is President Obama's full statement on the situation in Syria:The United States has been inspired by the Syrian peoples’ pursuit of a peaceful transition to democracy. They have braved ferocious brutality at the hands of their government. They have spoken with their peaceful marches, their silent shaming of the Syrian regime, and their courageous persistence in the face of brutality – day after day, week after week. The Syrian government has responded with a sustained onslaught. I strongly condemn this brutality, including the disgraceful attacks on Syrian civilians in cities like Hama and Deir al Zour, and the arrests of opposition figures who have been denied justice and subjected to torture at the hands of the regime. These violations of the universal rights of the Syrian people have revealed to Syria, the region, and the world the Assad government’s flagrant disrespect for the dignity of the Syrian people.The United States opposes the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Syria, and we support the universal rights of the Syrian people. We have imposed sanctions on President Assad and his government. The European Union has imposed sanctions as well. We helped lead an effort at the UN Security Council to condemn Syria’s actions. We have coordinated closely with allies and partners from the region and around the world. The Assad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the globe, and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition, and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others in the international community.As a part of that effort, my Administration is announcing unprecedented sanctions to deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime and further disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people. I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria. This E.O. also bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products; prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria’s petroleum or petroleum products; and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria. We expect today’s actions to be amplified by others.We recognize that it will take time for the Syrian people to achieve the justice they deserve. There will be more struggle and sacrifice. It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past. But he is wrong. As we have learned these last several months, sometimes the way things have been is not the way that they will be. It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.
- blocks the property of the Syrian government,
- bans U.S. persons from new investments in or exporting services to Syria, and
- bans U.S. imports of, and other transactions or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products.