Read all posts from April 2013

  • This morning, President Obama, sent the message below to the White House email list, explaining why he asked Francine Wheeler to deliver the Weekly Address. If you didn't get the email, be sure to sign up.

    Hello, everybody --

    Each week, like many presidents before me, I sit down to record a short address to the nation. It's something I take very seriously because it offers a chance to bring focus to an issue that needs to be part of the national dialogue.

    But today, I've asked someone to take my place.

    Francine Wheeler is a mother. She and her family live in Newtown, Connecticut. Four months ago, her six year-old son Ben was murdered in his elementary school, along with 19 other children and six brave educators.

    Joined by her husband David, Francine shares her perspective about the steps we can take to reduce gun violence and prevent the kind of tragedy she understands all too well.

    It's a message that every American should hear:

  • This week’s address is delivered by Francine Wheeler, whose six year old son, Ben, was murdered alongside nineteen other children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, four months ago. Now, Francine – joined by her husband David – is asking the American people to help prevent this type of tragedy from happening to more families like hers. Since that terrible day in December, thousands more Americans have died, and thousands more families have suffered the pain of losing a loved one to violence.

    Now that the Senate has agreed that commonsense gun safety reforms deserve a vote, they must finish the job and pass those reforms to protect our children and our communities. Now is the time for all Americans to help make this a moment of real change.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

    Learn more about President Obama's plan for commonsense gun safety reforms.

  • President Barack Obama examines the helmet given to him by the United States Naval Academy, who won the Commander-in-Chief Trophy, April 12, 2013

    President Barack Obama examines the helmet given to him by the United States Naval Academy football team during the ceremony to present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the team in the East Room of the White House, April 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    The Navy Midshipmen were at the White House today, marking eight visits in ten years that the U.S. Naval Academy's football team has won the Commander-in-Chief Trophy against the other service academies. Last year, Vice President Biden was there to award the Trophy when the Midshipmen triumphed in the 113th annual Army-Navy game to win the title

    In his remarks, President Obama highlighted the team's excellent record, but he talked more about their ethic of teamwork and discipline and unselfishness, and praised their focus on academics -- the Naval Academy’s graduation rate has been in the top 10 of the NCAA for the eighth straight year. But most of all, the President paid tribute to the work these champions will be doing in the future, on behalf of this country:

  • Watch West Wing Week here.

    Call for Action: On Monday, President Obama traveled to Connecticut to assure Newtown families and all Americans he has not forgotten about that community’s tragedy. The President urged Americans to press Congress to vote on gun legislation:

    And now they’re going to start denying your families a vote when the cameras are off and when the lobbyists have worked what they do? You deserve better than that. You deserve a vote.

    On January 16, President Obama issued 23 executive actions to help reduce gun violence, and called on Congress to pass laws that would help keep guns out of the wrong hands and make our schools safer. The President and Vice President have worked for common-sense measures to protect our children and our communities. Both have spoken with families of gun violence, mayors, law enforcement officers, community leaders and Americans across the country.

  • Earlier today, two Vice Presidents met in the West Wing of the White House. Hear more about it in the latest installment of Being Biden, an audio series from Vice President Biden:

    Vice President Joe Biden jokes with Julia Louis-Dreyfus of the TV show, “VEEP,” as she sits at his desk in the Vice President's West Wing office at the White House, April 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson).

    You can listen to the full series at whitehouse.gov/beingbiden, and also sign up to receive an email update when new stories are posted.

  • Today, the President released his 2012 federal income tax returns. He and the First Lady filed their income tax returns jointly and reported adjusted gross income of $608,611. The Obamas paid $112,214 in total tax. 

    The President and First Lady also reported donating $150,034 – or about 24.6 percent of their adjusted gross income – to 33 different charities. The largest reported gift to charity was $103,871 to the Fisher House Foundation.

    The President’s effective federal income tax rate is 18.4 percent. The President believes we must reform our tax system which is why he has proposed policies like the Buffett Rule that would ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share while protecting families making under $250,000 from seeing their taxes go up. Under the President’s own tax proposals, including limitations on the value of tax preferences for high-income households, he would pay more in taxes while ensuring we cut taxes for the middle class and those trying to get in it.

  • At the very outset of his Administration, the President made a strategic decision to increase the United States’ focus on the Asia-Pacific region by rebalancing U.S. engagements, activities, and resources toward this vital region. The President made this plain in his speech before the Australian parliament in 2011:  “the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future, by upholding core principles and in close partnership with our allies and friends.”  Our approach is grounded in the proposition that the United States is a historic Pacific power whose economy, strength, and interests are inextricably linked with Asia’s economic, security, and political order…and we are here to stay”

    In March of this year, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon highlighted in a speech at the Asia Society that the Administration: “has worked to make our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific a reality because the region’s success in the century ahead –and the United States’ security and prosperity in the 21st century—still depend on the presence and engagement of the United States in Asia.”  The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget reflects this strategic priority by sustaining key investments made throughout the President’s first term and by investing in new initiatives to expand and deepen a Government-wide commitment across the region.  The Budget aligns resources and activities with the President’s Asia-Pacific rebalance objectives: shaping regional institutions and architecture, advancing economic integration across the region, strengthening and modernizing U.S. alliances, forging deeper partnerships with emerging powers, pursuing a stable and constructive relationship with China, and promoting universal and democratic values.

  • Over the next few years, more than a million service men and women will end their military careers and transition back to civilian life. Many of these veterans will decide to go back to school to finish their degrees, enroll in a community college for the first time, or work to obtain a master’s degree.

    That’s why, on our campus communities, we need to make sure that our veterans have access to the programs that will help them succeed and obtain good jobs to support their families.

    This April, as we mark the second anniversary of Joining Forces, I am pleased to be visiting several higher education institutions to learn more about what they are doing to support student veterans.

    Dr. Biden participates on a panel with student, faculty and staff veterans at George Washington University

    Dr. Biden participates on a panel with student, faculty and staff veterans at George Washington University (by Jessica McConnell Burt / The George Washington University)

    On Wednesday, I visited George Washington University to meet with student veterans and hear about several of their initiatives. While I was there, I heard from members of GW Vets, their student group representing more than 1,500 student veterans, military dependent students and allies across campus. 

    One of those students was Nichole Krom, a freshman who became involved in GW Vets as soon as she heard about it and is now the organization’s secretary. Nichole is not a veteran herself, but her father recently retired from the New York Air National Guard. She is a wonderful example of an important truth about our service men and women who sacrifice so much for our country – their families serve right alongside them.

  • The White House Photo Office just released their latest behind-the-scenes photo gallery, which includes images from President Obama’s historic Middle East trip, candid shots with senior advisors, and events around the White House.

    Check out some of the best images below, and see the full set of 36 photos on our Flickr gallery.

    • President Barack Obama signs memorabilia for March of Dimes 2013 National Ambassador Nina Centofanti

      President Obama signs memorabilia for March of Dimes 2013 National Ambassador Nina Centofanti, 8. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden in March

      President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Barack Obama throws a football with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough

      President Barack Obama throws a football with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • Bo, the Obama family dog, waits for First Lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn driveway

      Bo, the Obama family dog, waits for First Lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn driveway. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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    • President Barack Obama visits Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

      President Barack Obama visits Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk with their daughtersto attend an Easter service

      President Obama and First Lady Obama walk with their daughters Sasha and Malia to attend an Easter service. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    To learn more:

     

  • This week, the President, Vice President and First Lady continued to call for action to reduce gun violence, while the President announced the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, conferred the Medal of Honor, met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and held an Easter Prayer breakfast.

  • President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings

    President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, the Senate voted to move a step closer toward considering legislation that will help reduce gun violence. Shortly after the vote, President Obama made a call to family members of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    Press Secretary Jay Carney said in this morning’s press briefing that "the President congratulated the families on this important step forward, noting that the bipartisan progress would not have been possible without their efforts. He reiterated that much work remains, and pledged to continue fighting for the votes they deserve."

    The families are currently here in Washington, D.C. to ask Congress to pass common-sense measures to reduce gun violence.

    President Obama is calling on all everyone who wants to prevent future tragedies like the one that happened at Sandy Hook to stand up and make their voices heard.

  • President Obama embraces Ray Kapaun after presenting him with the Medal of Honor awarded to his uncle, Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun, April 11, 2013.

    President Barack Obama embraces Ray Kapaun after presenting him with the Medal of Honor awarded posthumously to his uncle, Chaplain (Captain) Emil J. Kapaun, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, April 11, 2013. Chaplain Kapaun was awarded the medal for his extraordinary heroism while serving with the 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy at Unsan, Korea and as a prisoner of war from November 1-2, 1950. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today in the East Room, President Obama told the story of Emil Kapaun, an Army Chaplain from Kansas who served in the US Army during the Korean War. It's a powerful story, and probably best told in the President's own words

  • In January, President Obama proposed a series of executive actions to help keep our kids and communities safe, and put forward a set of commonsense proposals for Congress to consider that can make a real difference in protecting our citizens from gun violence. But they are only going to act on them if they hear from the American people.

    You can make your voice heard by joining the White House call for action on social media. Here's how it works:

    1. Sign on to share a tweet or Facebook message through our action page here: wh.gov/nowisthetime/action
    2. We'll gather as many voices as we can, then post all the messages and tweets simultaneously for maximum impact
    3. The more people who sign up, the louder our collective voice will be, so after you sign on, encourage your friends and family to participate. 

     

    Now is The Time To Prevent Gun Violence - Act Now
    Learn more about the President's proposals here, and keep the conversation going on your social networks with the hashtag #NowIsTheTime.

     

  • Yesterday, we hosted the first-ever White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking. The event brought together leaders from government, the private sector, advocates and survivors, faith leaders, law enforcement, and academia to talk about what we can do, together, to end human trafficking.

    We took time to honor the stories and lives of brave survivors. We noted the great progress we’ve made against this grave injustice at the national and grassroots levels.  We honored the recipients of the first Presidential award for those who have led the way in fighting human trafficking. And we put our heads together to come up with more solutions that we can get to work on right away. Because even one life devastated by trafficking is one too many.  That’s why President Obama’s administration is working with partners around the country and the world to eradicate human trafficking.

    Last year, President Obama delivered a speech on the fight to end human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in New York. There, the President said: “It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric.” 

    The President called on everyone to step up the fight against trafficking. And we have. Since last year, we have renewed sanctions on some of the worst perpetrators of human trafficking. We have released for public comment the Victims Services Strategic Action Plan. We have partnered with organizations and groups that help women and children escape their abusers. And we have expanded our interagency task force to include enforcement partners such as the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, along with many other Federal agencies. 

  • First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on youth empowerment in Chicago, Ill., April 10, 2013.

    First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on youth empowerment at a “Joint Luncheon Meeting: Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago,” hosted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, Ill., April 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    First Lady Michelle Obama today brought a room filled with Chicago business and community leaders to tears as she challenged them to commit to the most important unfinished work of our lifetime -- widening the circle of opportunity for every last one of our children.

    Mrs. Obama was in Chicago to address the Public Safety Action Committee, a new private-sector effort launched by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to address the violent crime that is taking a terrible toll on the youth of the great city she and I both call home.

    As the First Lady pointed out, thousands of Chicago children are now living in neighborhoods where a funeral for a teenager is considered unfortunate, but not unusual; where wandering onto the wrong block or even just standing on your own front porch can mean putting yourself at risk.

    This needs to change. In Chicago and across the country, we need to create ladders of opportunity for our young people. We need to give our children mentors who push them and nurture them. We need to teach them the life-skills they need to succeed. We need to give them alternatives to gangs and drugs – safe places where they can learn something and stay out of trouble. Every single child -- in cities like Chicago and all across America -- has boundless promise, no matter where he or she lives. 

  • Ed. Note: This is a cross post from HHS.gov. You can find the original post here.

    America has come a long way in talking about mental health, yet we are still a country that too often confines mental health and addiction to the far edges of our discourse. We cannot ignore the fact that 60 percent of people with mental health conditions and nearly 90 percent of people with substance use disorders don’t receive the care they need. That is why the Affordable Care Act is so important to mental health. The health care law, along with previous parity legislation, will expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and parity protections for 62 million Americans.

    To continue these efforts, President Obama announced key steps earlier this year to make it easier for individuals struggling with mental health problems to get the help they need. And now, the President’s Budget will deliver on these commitments.

    The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget includes a critical $205 million investment in programs to help identify mental health concerns early, improve access to mental health services and support safer school environments. And, it invests $30 million in tools and research that will expand our understanding of gun violence prevention, including key mental health issues.

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the FY 2014 budget in the Rose Garden, April 10, 2013

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the FY 2014 budget, in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 10, 2013. Acting Director of Office of Management and Budget Jeffrey Zients accompanies the President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said that we must invest in the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising and thriving middle class.  He said that every day, we must ask ourselves these three questions:  "How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?"

    This morning the President sent Congress his Budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which presents his plan to address each of these questions. He also spoke to the press about his proposal in the Rose Garden, and said that while our economy is poised for progress, we need to get smarter about our priorities as a nation. And that’s what his 2014 Budget represents -- a fiscally-responsible blueprint for middle-class jobs and growth:

  • Ed note: You can watch a livestream of "In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul" on whitehouse.gov/live tonight at 6:55 pm ET.
     
    First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts Memphis Soul Student Workshop, April 9, 2013

    First Lady Michelle Obama hosts an interactive student workshop event: “Soulsville, USA: The History of Memphis Soul,” in the State Dining Room of the White House, April 9, 2013. Joining the First Lady on stage, from left, are: Sam Moore, Mavis Staples, Justin Timberlake, Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    As First Lady Michelle Obama noted earlier today, "You never know what's going to happen at the White House!"

    Mrs. Obama was talking to a group of students who had come from California, Tennessee, New York, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C to participate in an interactive workshop called “Soulsville, USA: The History of Memphis Soul.” And while her guests were excited to be in the State Dining Room for the event, the presence of Justin Timberlake on the panel increased their enthusiasm. 

    Timberlake, Sam Moore, Mavis Staples, Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper are all participating in the "In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul" event later tonight, and the First Lady invited them to join the students for a conversation about this truly American art form, and the hard work involved in being a successful musician or artist. 

  • Today President Obama traveled to Connecticut, where he told families of the children and teachers who died at Sandy Hook Elementary that we have not forgotten our promise to help prevent future tragedies and reduce gun violence in our country.

    “In fact,” he said, “I’m here to ask you to help me show that we can get it done.”

    Your families still grieve in ways most of us can’t comprehend. But so many of you have used that grief to make a difference -- not just to honor your own children, but to protect the lives of all of our children. So many of you have mobilized, and organized, and petitioned your elected officials … as citizens determined to right something gone wrong.

    And last week, here in Connecticut, your elected leaders responded. The Connecticut legislature, led by many of the legislators here today, passed new measures to protect more of our children and our communities from gun violence. And Governor Malloy signed that legislation into law. 

    So I want to be clear. You, the families of Newtown, people across Connecticut, you helped make that happen. Your voices, your determination made that happen. Obviously, the elected leaders did an extraordinary job moving it forward, but it couldn’t have happened if they weren’t hearing from people in their respective districts, people all across the state. That's the power of your voice.

    “So Connecticut has shown the way,” he said. “And now is the time for Congress to do the same.”

  • Every April, we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year, with rape in the headlines nearly every day, we speak out with even greater urgency to honor survivors and prevent sexual violence.

    We know the devastating statistics: 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetimes. That’s 18 million women in this country who have been raped, and more than 1 million rapes that occur every year. The vast majority of these assaults occur when the victims are under the age of 25, and those under the age of 18 are at the greatest risk. These numbers are real, but they don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell of the broken trust when the attacker is a friend, a trusted colleague, or a family member.  They don’t tell of the suicidal feelings, the depression, or of the PTSD. And, they don’t tell of the courage survivors demonstrate when they work every day to put their lives back together.

    Across the federal government, we are working to support survivors and to prevent sexual violence. Last year, the Department of Justice modernized the definition of rape used to collect our nation’s crime statistics. This year, the Department of Justice is working with law enforcement agencies to implement this change and develop new guidelines for investigating sexual assault cases. The Office on Violence Against Women is funding training that will help communities address their backlogs of rape kits and improve prosecution of sexual assault crimes. The Office of Victims of Crime is supporting the development of a telemedicine center that will help bring sexual assault forensic exams to victims in rural and isolated communities.

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