Joshua DuBoisAugust 24, 2012
02:32 PM EDT
On Sunday, August 5, a gunman tore into the Sikh Gudwrara in Oak Creek, turning that temple, and the lives of community members within it, upside down. Six people were killed and others wounded, some severely. There’s no explanation for why that gunman did what he did. But what we do know is this: this horrible tragedy has revealed the courageous story of the Sikh community, and it reminds us that their story is an American story.
Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama visited with the Sikh American families affected by the tragedy in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. It was a time for condolences and for healing, and a day that the First Lady and the families of the victims will never forget.
As she hugged grieving husbands and wives, comforted granddaughters and grandsons, and embraced sons and daughters, the First Lady lifted up the Sikh American story yesterday. She not only expressed her condolences but also underscored how strong those who died were, and how strong the Sikh community continues to be. Since the first Sikhs arrived at Angel Island in California almost 100 years ago, they have been woven into the fabric of our country. Doctors, artists and lawyers, politicians and priests, Sikh Americans have strengthened the United States in innumerable ways. The First Lady expressed her pride in the community yesterday, and looked into the eyes of the children in the room and said that she expects them to achieve ever greater things as well.
Kareem DaleAugust 24, 2012
11:59 AM EDT
As President Obama has so often said, change in America happens from the bottom up. It happens when people organize, speak out, and have a seat at the table.
Recently, President Obama met with some youth with disabilities. He wanted to hear their thoughts about the future of disability policy. So, he sat down with participants from the American Association of People with Disabilities internship program. These future leaders spent their summer in DC, interning with various organizations.
Today, we are pleased to release a video that recaps that meeting. Watch it on YouTube here.
These young people are passionate and strong representatives for millions of people with disabilities across the country. They represent a brighter future for America. President Obama is ready to stand and fight alongside them each and every day.
Adam GarberAugust 24, 2012
12:00 AM EDT
This week, The White House held an historic, first-ever Kids' State Dinner; hosted Americorps, School Improvement Grantees, and Presidential Innovation Fellows. The President held a news conference and spoke with regional reporters about the need for Congress to agree on a balanced deficit reduction plan; and the First Lady made a major veterans hiring announcement in Jacksonville, Florida.
Ari Isaacman AstlesAugust 23, 2012
07:28 PM EDT
Today, it was "go time" for the Presidential Innovation Fellows, top innovators who are working to create solutions that will innovate government for the American people - from improving access to the government procurement process to developing systems for mobile payments to increase transparency in international development.
US Chief Technology Officer Todd Park welcomed the inaugural class of Presidential Innovation Fellows to the White House at an event that overviewed the five projects that are working to innovate government and included a ceremonial swearing-in by Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry. To learn more about these projects you can check out wh.gov/innovationfellows, read Todd Park's blog post here, and see the full press release here.
Following the event, US CTO Todd Park and White House Director of Digital Strategy Macon Phillips answered your questions on Twitter. You can check out the full question and answer session below or on Storify.
And today is just the beginning. These 18 Fellows have six months to deliver results and they're looking for your feedback - whether it's providing your opinion on a new idea or "forking" code on Github. You can contribute to the ongoing conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #innovategov and follow the projects on Twitter as they work to deliver results over the next six months:
Macon PhillipsAugust 23, 2012
04:35 PM EDT
I'm thrilled to announce that we are publishing the source code for We the People, the online petitions system that has been a popular way for the public to connect with the White House over the past year.
Since We the People went live, thousands of petitions have gathered millions of signatures from people across the country. As those petitions have come in, the White House has posted responses about an open internet & SOPA/PIPA, puppy mills, reducing student load debt, working to fix our broken immigration system, reaffirming the President's opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, and more.
When President Obama talked about We the People at the Open Government Partnership last year, he promised to, "share that technology so any government in the world can enable its citizens to do the same." Now anybody, from other countries to the smallest organizations to civic hackers can take this code and put to their own use.
August 23, 2012
11:50 AM EDT
Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from commerce.gov.
Travel and tourism spending by international visitors is helping to boost the U.S. economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce released data yesterday showing that international visitors have spent an estimated $82.2 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services year to date, an increase of 11 percent when compared to the same period last year. Many people do not know that this boosts exports – when foreign citizens travel to America and buy goods and services from American companies, that counts as a U.S. export. The new data indicate that the first half of 2012 set a new record for U.S. travel and tourism exports, and, if these trends continue, international visitors could end up injecting close to $170 billion into the U.S. economy by year-end.
These increases help explain why the Obama administration is working hard to make the United States the top destination for international travelers. The U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior are implementing the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which they presented to the President in May. The National Strategy is a blueprint for expanding travel to and within the U.S., setting out the goal of attracting over 100 million international visitors annually by 2021, more than a 50 percent increase over the number expected this year. These international visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, creating jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.
Steve VanRoekelAugust 23, 2012
09:50 AM EDT
Today marks three months since we released the Digital Government Strategy (PDF/ HTML5) – as part of the President’s directive to build a 21st Century Government that delivers better services to the American people.
Executing on this vision of government cannot happen alone. To provide the highest value of services, we must rethink from step one how government builds and provides services for the American people. We must unlock rich government data, information and services so that everyone from citizen developers and private sector entrepreneurs, to our very own Federal agencies can help provide the American people with the access to these services “anywhere, anytime, on any device.”
Today agencies are making great strides towards putting a solid foundation for a 21st Century Digital Government in place.
For example, the Census Bureau recently released its first mobile app, called “America’s Economy,” and just today released an iOS version. The app mashes up Census data with economic statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics and provides the latest economic indicators that drive business hiring, sales, and production decisions throughout the nation in real time. Economists, planners, business owners, and the public can use the app to get a quick and easy snapshot of the health of the U.S. economy, look at trends, and receive notifications when indicators change. But as powerful as the app is, just as powerful is the way Census is releasing the underlying data through its first publicly available application programming interface (API).
The Census API, which pulls from the American Community Survey and the 2010 Census, has yielded an unprecedented level of interest from citizen developers. Over 800 external developers have already accessed the API since its release, and users have generated over 24 million data requests. And as an indication of how valuable and accessible this data is, it took only 24 hours for the first third-party app to be developed and we are excited to see the many more applications that will be developed using this data.
This is just one example of the power of unlocking rich government data sets and services to the public and is exactly what the Digital Government Strategy is trying to accomplish. But it is just the beginning.
Brad CooperAugust 22, 2012
04:55 PM EDT
Earlier today, I joined with First Lady Michelle Obama at Naval Station Mayport near Jacksonville, Florida as she announced that 2,000 companies had hired or trained an amazing 125,000 veterans and military spouses in the past year through Joining Forces.
This effort, combined with policies and legislation put in place by the President have resulted in a 20 percent decrease in veteran unemployment compared to this time last year.
It was an extraordinary event, set among several Navy Seahawk helicopters, that kicked off with a new Joining Forces video telling the story of how we got to today's announcement. Hundreds of Sailors from on Navy's premier warships and helicopter squadrons were in attendance along with their families.
The Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral Scott Van Buskirk, was there and delivered inspiring remarks.
Leaders of businesses who have been hiring literally thousands of veterans were there -- and they brought with them veterans and spouses who they hired in the past year.
As several of the veterans told me, Joining Forces has made a significant impact on their lives.
August 22, 2012
04:15 PM EDT
With a few weeks of summer weather left, there is still plenty of time to explore the great outdoors. There are few better places to do that than in America’s national parks, wildlife refuges, waterways, and forests. A new and improved Recreation.gov website is the perfect tool to plan your family’s next adventure.
With improved navigation tools and more in-depth content, Recreation.gov showcases 90,000 federal sites and healthy outdoor spaces to consider.
The new website makes it easy to make reservations, see ready-made itineraries for destination cities, and search for activities on an interactive map.
“Tourism and outdoor recreation are powerful economic engines in communities across the country,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “With the redesign of Recreation.gov, we are making it easier for people to plan trips, find outdoor adventures, and explore activities at our public lands across the country.”
Some important new features include:
- Explore Trip Ideas: Explore Trip Ideas helps you discover points-of-interest on public lands when planning trips to popular destination cities like Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and more.
- Go Lists: Go Lists highlight places to go, events, and activities at federal sites across the country with topics including “Day Hikes for Weekend Warriors” and “Civil War 150th Anniversary: Places and Events that Shaped Our Nation.”
- Discover Great American Adventures: Discover Great American Adventures offers more in-depth articles and destination spotlights, featuring a wide variety of experiences and adventures found only in America. Some destination spotlights include “Best Places to Star Gaze,” “Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming,” and many more.
Supporting President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, Recreation.gov encourages people to be active outdoors and offers suggestions on hiking, climbing, biking and more. Check out the new Recreation.gov website to learn more.
August 21, 2012
03:53 PM EDT
On August 11, strong earthquakes in northwest Iran destroyed and damaged hundreds of villages, causing the loss of many lives, leaving thousands without electricity, water, health care and other essential services. The United States immediately sent the Iranian people our condolences and offered direct earthquake relief to the government of Iran. Despite our strong differences with the Iranian government, we have a deeply held obligation to help those in need in times of disaster.
In the days since those devastating quakes, Iranians who call this area home have been searching for missing loved ones, mourning those who were lost in this tragedy, and beginning to rebuild their lives. Iranian authorities have been assisting families affected, but there are still urgent unmet needs. In a disappointing decision, the government of Iran has chosen not to accept our offer of humanitarian assistance. If the Iranian government changes its decision, we are ready to provide: emergency health care kits, plastic sheeting, blankets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, plastic water containers and water treatment units, as well as other support through partner NGOs.
In addition to what the U.S. government could do, we know that there are many Americans – of Iranian origin and otherwise – who want to help. Last Friday, the White House hosted a conference call for interested groups from the Iranian-American and other communities, to discuss our offer of assistance and how the American people can best assist Iranians in need. Officials from the National Security Staff, USAID, the State Department and the Treasury Department walked call participants through the ways American citizens can donate to the relief efforts without violating the sanctions that are currently in place.
While donations of many humanitarian items, like food and medicine, to Iran did not require a license from Treasury, some transactions required a special license. To make it easier for American citizens to help Iranians recovering from these earthquakes, today the Treasury Department issued a General License that immediately authorizes U.S. persons to contribute to earthquake relief efforts in Iran. The General License authorizes certain fund-raising and transfers of funds to Iran for earthquake relief for a period of 45 days. This step allows the American people to support organizations providing humanitarian relief activities, including the distribution of emergency medical and shelter supplies, as well as those pursuing broader efforts to rebuild affected areas.
The new license is intended only to support the Iranian people as they respond to and rebuild from this natural disaster. We remain committed to rigorously implementing the measures and sanctions in place to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime, and to continue increasing the costs of Iran’s non-compliance with its international obligations related to its nuclear program.
Denis McDonough is the Deputy National Security Advisor.
Todd ParkAugust 21, 2012
10:31 AM EDT
Excitement is building as we prepare for Thursday’s launch of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. This new initiative is bringing in top innovators from outside government to work with top innovators inside government to create real and substantial changes that will in a very short time frame benefit the American people, save taxpayers money, and help create new jobs.
After we announced our plans to create the Presidential Innovation Fellows program at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City on May 23, nearly 700 of you applied for Fellowship spots, offering to drop everything you were doing and come serve your country.
On Thursday, August 23, we will introduce the inaugural Fellows at a White House launch event, which will be streamed live on WhiteHouse.gov/live beginning at 10am EDT. And you can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #innovategov. Joining me at the event will be a number of champions of innovation in government, including Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeff Zients, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management John Berry, and U.S. Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel.
Megan SlackAugust 20, 2012
05:31 PM EDT
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the first-ever Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House, welcoming 54 budding chefs to a formal luncheon in the East Room. The guests, all between the ages of 8 and 12, represent all U.S. states, three territories and the District of Columbia.
Each of the guests, along with their parents, submitted a healthy recipe as part of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, which invited families to create an original lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable and delicious, and follows the nutritional guidelines of MyPlate.
“Believe it or not, more than 1,200 kids submitted recipes for this challenge -- 1,200. It's a big competition,” the First Lady said. A panel of judges from the organizations that teamed up with Mrs. Obama on this initiative -- Epicurious, the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture—tasted each of the recipes that made it to the final round of the competition and picked their favorites from each state, as Mrs. Obama explained.
And they spent hours trying to decide which ones were the healthiest and the tastiest and the most fun to cook and eat. And it wasn't easy to choose one winner from every single state. You were the winner in your state -- the whole state. You guys won! Cool!
But you're here because your recipes truly stood out, right? And that’s really saying something. You came up with dishes that were packed with nutritious, delicious ingredients; dishes that are good for you, but more importantly, they taste good, too. See? It can happen -- healthy and tasty at the same time.
Matt ComptonAugust 20, 2012
04:29 PM EDT
President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Aug. 20, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
"Today, HHS announced that thanks to the health care law that we passed, nearly 5.4 million seniors with Medicare have saved over $4.1 billion on prescription drugs. That’s an average savings of more than $700 per person," he said. "This year alone, 18 million seniors with Medicare have taken advantage of new preventive care benefits like a mammogram or other cancer screening at no extra cost."
After being asked about the prospects for more action from lawmakers to help create jobs and grow the economy, the President reiterated his call to help millions of responsible homeowners save hundreds of dollars each month.
"We're going to be pushing Congress to see if they can pass a refinancing bill that puts $3,000 into the pockets of the average family who hasn’t yet refinanced their mortgage. That's a big deal," the President told reporters. "That $3,00 can be used to strengthen the equity in that person's home, which would raise home values. Alternatively, that's $3,000 in people's pockets that they can spend on a new computer for their kid going back to school, or new school clothes for their kids, and so that would strengthen the economy as well."
To learn more about the President's proposal, visit WhiteHouse.gov/refi.
At the podium, President Obama also answered questions about the uprising in Syria, the security of American servicemembers in Afghanistan, and the state of the 2012 political campaign.
Colleen CurtisAugust 20, 2012
06:05 AM EDT
You can watch the Kids' State Dinner live today at 10 am EST
Today's Kids' State Dinner is a White House original in many ways -- it's not only the first time the guests of honor are ALL under the age of 13, it's also the first time the White House kitchen has served a formal meal where the entire menu was created by "chefs" who have no formal training. But Executive Chef Cris Comerford and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses say they learned a thing or two about healthy cooking from the young winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge -- watch it here:
Ezra MechaberAugust 19, 2012
04:37 PM EDT
On August 17th, we held a Google+ Hangout to highlight the difference AmeriCorps, a national service opportunity that has logged more than 1 billion hours of service since 1994, is making in communities across the country.
The Hangout was moderated by White House Director of Digital Strategy (and AmeriCorps*VISTA alum) Macon Phillips and Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Wendy Spencer. They were joined by four people actively engaged in the AmeriCorps community. They talked about what made AmeriCorps such an impactful program, and took questions that came in from Twitter and WhiteHouse.gov about the work AmeriCorps does.
The Hangout was part of a day-long White House focus on AmeriCorps: 150 AmeriCorps alumni came to the White House for a day-long briefing, and later that afternoon 12 of them were honored as Champions of Change, a program to honor ordinary Americans doing great work in their communities.
Watch the conversation, below, and be sure to follow us on Twitter at @WhiteHouse for more opportunities to engage.
- Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service
- Macon Phillips, White House Director of Digital Strategy
- Robert Fogarty, AmeriCorps*VISTA alum with New Orleans, co-founder of Evaucteer
- Quinn Gardner, AmeriCorps St. Louis alum and Joplin volunteer
- Rafael Gonzalez, Chief Service Officer for the City of Los Angeles
- Melissa Simmermaker, AmeriCorps*VISTA alum with Iowa Mentoring Partnership in Des Moines, IA
Megan SlackAugust 18, 2012
05:30 AM EDT
August 17, 2012
03:44 PM EDT
Here's a quick glimpse at what happened this week on WhiteHouse.gov:
NASA Success: On Monday, President Obama congratulated NASA’s Curiosity Team on the success of their rover touching down on the surface of Mars, praising them on their ingenuity and urging them to continue the good work. "Through your dedicated efforts, ‘Curiosity’ stuck her landing and captured the attention and imagination of millions of people not just across our country, but people all around the world, including Times Square," he said. "And being able to get that whole landing sequence to work the way you did is a testimony to your team."
Read the full remarks here.
Drought Relief: President Obama also toured McIntosh Family Farms in Missouri Valley, Iowa to see drought damage first-hand and offer relief to those being effected. The President announced that the Department of Agriculture will begin to buy up to $170 million worth of pork, chicken, lamb, and catfish. And the President is directing the Department of Defense -- which purchased more than 150,000 million pounds of beef and pork in the last year alone -- to encourage its vendors to accelerate meat purchases for the military and freeze it for future use.
"Understand this won't solve the problem. We can't make it rain," the President said. "But this will help families like the McIntoshes in states across the country, including here in Iowa. And we're going to keep doing what we can to help because that's what we do. We are Americans. We take care of each other."
To learn more, the Department of Agriculture is collecting resources for farmers, ranchers, and small businesses wrestling with this crisis at USDA.gov/drought. More information still is available at WhiteHouse.gov/drought.
Secretary Ray LaHoodAugust 17, 2012
12:00 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from The Fast Lane -- the blog of the Department of Transportation.
At DOT, we know that America’s transportation infrastructure is in need of attention, while construction workers across the country remain eager to get back on the job repairing, replacing, and modernizing our roads, rails, and runways.
Over the last decade, Congress has set aside $473 million in transportation funds that were never spent. These idle earmarks have sat on the shelf as our infrastructure continues to age and fall into disrepair, and hundreds of thousands of construction workers look for work. That ends today.
I’m excited to announce that this Administration is freeing up this unspent money and giving it right back to the states so that they can spend it on the infrastructure projects they need most.
As President Obama said today, "My administration will continue to do everything we can to put Americans back to work. We’re not going to let politics stand between construction workers and good jobs repairing our roads and bridges." Forty-nine states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, will receive funds, giving them the flexibility to put this money toward infrastructure projects that will make a real difference in their communities.
Adam GarberAugust 17, 2012
12:00 AM EDT
This week, the White House hosted PTA day and the annual Iftar dinner, the President addressed the drought and spoke with the Curiosity team, and the Administration began accepting applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. That's August 10th to August 16th or, "Dream Day."
Matt ComptonAugust 16, 2012
03:18 PM EDT
Soon, Youngstown, Ohio will be the home to a new public-private institute aimed at boosting innovation.
The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute will focus on 3-D printing technology, and it will launch with $30 million in federal funding, matched by $40 million from manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profits.
"This institute will help make sure that the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow take root not in places like China or India, but right here in the United States of America,” said President Obama. "That’s how we’ll put more people back to work and build an economy that lasts."
The Youngstown facility will serve Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia and is designed to function as a proof-of-concept for an eventual network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes around the country.
In March, the President called on Congress to invest $1 billion to launch the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation to boost competitiveness throughout America.
Since lawmakers have yet to take action, the President is pushing forward with today's initial effort as part of the We Can't Wait initiative.
- See other steps President Obama has taken as part of the We Can't Wait initiative.
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