Read all posts from July 2014

  • This afternoon, President Obama visited the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington, D.C. to participate in a town hall with youth, and to announce new commitments in support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

    As the President said today, "We want fewer young men in jail; we want more of them in college. We want fewer young men on the streets; we want more in the boardrooms. We want everybody to have a chance to succeed in America. And it’s possible if we’ve got the kind of team that we set up today."

    Watch President Obama answer questions during today’s town hall:

  • Watch on YouTube

    At a ceremony at the White House this afternoon, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts for his unwavering courage in one of the fiercest battles of the Afghanistan war.

    In the summer of 2008, when our forces in Afghanistan were stretched thin across isolated outposts, Ryan was serving alongside 48 American soldiers charged with using little resources to defend a post with significant vulnerabilities. Mountains stood sky-high on every side of the village of Wanat, diverting aerial surveillance and delaying the heavy equipment they needed for their defense. 

    In the pre-dawn darkness of one fateful July morning, while manning this small, unfinished base, Ryan and his fellow soldiers were attacked by 200 assailants who were determined to take their post. “Those 200 insurgents were firing from ridges and from the village and from trees,” President Obama said. “Down at the base, a vehicle exploded—scattering its missiles, back at our soldiers. It was, said a soldier, ‘hell on earth.’”

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks before he signs an executive order regarding further amendments to Executive Order 11478

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks before he signs an executive order regarding further amendments to Executive Order 11478, Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal Government, and Executive Order 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity, to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, in the East Room of the White House. July 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Earlier today, President Obama signed an Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Order also ensures that federal employees – who are already protected on the basis of sexual orientation – will now formally be protected from discrimination based on gender identity as well.

    In response to the President's actions today, many national organizations dedicated to LGBT equality, civil rights, and religious freedom expressed their support.

    Anthony Romero, Executive Director, ACLU:

    This is one of the most important actions ever taken by a president to eradicate LGBT discrimination from America's workplaces. By signing this order, President Obama is building on a bipartisan tradition, dating back over 70 years, of barring discrimination without exception when taxpayer dollars are involved.

  • President Obama signs an executive order on further amendments to EO 11478

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks before he signs an executive order regarding further amendments to Executive Order 11478, Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal Government, and Executive Order 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity, to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, in the East Room of the White House, July 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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    "Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming."

    Those were President Obama's words to the audience in the East Room of the White House this morning, before he signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

    At the signing, the President explained how, because of their "passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of [their] cause, our government -- government of the people, by the people, and for the people -- will become just a little bit fairer."

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    This morning, President Obama made a statement on the current situation in Ukraine, in the wake of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 being shot down last week over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.

    Following his press statement on Friday, the President restated today that "our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, and putting forward the facts. We have to make sure that the truth is out and that accountability exists."

    He also noted that international investigators are already on the ground, prepared and organized to conduct "the kinds of protocols and scouring and collecting of evidence that should follow any international incident like this." President Obama then called on Russia -- and President Vladimir Putin in particular -- to "insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, [and] grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full, and unimpeded access to the crash site."

  • Ed. note. This is cross-posted from the Let's Move blog. See the original post here.

    Today, the First Lady welcomed fifty-four young chefs from all over the country to the State Dining Room for the 2014 Kids’ State Dinner. These 54 kids were selected from more than 1,500 recipes that were submitted for the Epicurious Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. From the décor to the talent, food, and big smiles, the White House was bustling with our next generation of kids encouraging healthy habits.

    The kids heard from the First Lady, tasted delicious meals, and enjoyed live entertainment all before taking a stroll to the White House Kitchen Garden. There were so many amazing moments from this year’s Kids State Dinner but here’s a “taste” of some of our favorites:

    1. Enjoying the Healthy Lunches

    From Black Bean Burgers to Smoky Southwestern Vegetable Dip, the lunch cooked up by White House chefs of the winning recipes was healthy and scrumptious! Make sure to check out how to cook up these great recipes in your own kitchen at home!

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  • This week, President Obama spoke about the importance of long-term investments in our country's infrastructure in front of Delaware's Interstate 495 Bridge. In his remarks, President Obama discussed how much the economy has rebounded over the past few years and how we've got a "huge opportunity to keep this momentum going...but also to make sure that growth is broadly shared." The President also announced the launch of the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth.

    The Build America Investment Initiative will continue to build on the progress our economy is making by creating jobs and expanding opportunity for all hardworking Americans. This initiative  has been hailed by leading stakeholders. Here's a sample of what they're saying: 

    Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber

    Oregon applauds the President’s new “Build America Infrastructure Initiative” announced today. We look forward to working with the new federal inter-agency work group, both here in Oregon and through our three-state partnership, the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange (WCX)."

    BlackRock —  Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO 

    The President's announcement represents a major step forward towards addressing America's infrastructure needs. Our current infrastructure deficit is an economic drag on businesses and consumers alike, and further investment is crucial to fostering economic growth, creating jobs, and keeping us competitive in the global economy.

    As these initiatives recognize, private investment will be crucial to successful infrastructure development, especially in light of fiscal constraints on the government. Nonetheless, Congress should continue to develop a more permanent and comprehensive plan to build the 21st-century infrastructure the nation so badly needs.

  • President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 11, 2014.

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    In this week’s address, the President discussed the importance of ensuring that the economic progress we’ve made is shared by all hardworking Americans. Through his opportunity agenda, the President is focused on creating more jobs, educating more kids, and working to make sure hard work pays off with higher wages and better benefits.

    This week, the President will visit a community college in Los Angeles to highlight the need to equip our workers with the skills employers are looking for now and for the good jobs of the future, and he will continue looking for the best way to grow the economy and expand opportunity for more hardworking Americans.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3

  • This week, President Obama addressed the crash of Flight MH17, talked about investing in our country's infrastructure, and continued to take important steps to respond to a changing climate -- and the First Lady hosted the Kids' State Dinner, featuring 54 delicious recipes from around the country.

    Check out what else you may have missed in this week's wrap up.


    President Obama on the Crash of Flight MH17

    Today, President Obama delivered a statement to the press in the wake of the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17:

    Yesterday, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border. Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken -- men, women, children, infants -- who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine. Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

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    President Obama noted that this was "a global tragedy -- an Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies, filled with citizens from many countries." And as a result, there now needs to be a credible, international investigation into exactly what happened.

  • Welcome to Infrastructure & Transportation Week here at West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening infrastructurally and transportationally here at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and beyond.

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    Today, President Obama delivered a statement to the press in the wake of the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 yesterday:

    Yesterday, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border.  Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken -- men, women, children, infants -- who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine.  Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

    We know at least one American citizen, Quinn Lucas Schansman, was killed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family for this terrible loss.

    Yesterday, I spoke with the leaders of Ukraine, Malaysia, and the Netherlands.  I told them that our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and that the American people stand with them during this difficult time.  Later today, I’ll be speaking to Prime Minister Abbott of Australia, which also suffered a terrible loss.

    By far, the country that lost the most people on board the plane was the Netherlands.  From the days of our founding, the Dutch have been close friends and stalwart allies of the United States of America.  And today, I want the Dutch people to know that we stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, in our grief and in our absolute determination to get to the bottom of what happened.

  • This morning at 11:25 a.m. ET, we'll be streaming the 2014 Kids' State Dinner live from the White House.

    And you can watch it all right here.

    More than 1,500 entries were submitted this year, featuring wholesome and tasty ingredients such as squash, ground turkey, salmon, and kale. Watch the winning recipes being selected for the 2014 Kids' State Dinner below -- and tune in to the Kids' State Dinner live today at 11:25 a.m. ET.

    Watch on YouTube

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted on CNN.com. See the original post here.

    More than 30 years ago, Congress wisely passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Yet today, many pregnant women still experience unfair and unnecessary challenges on the job.

    Non-discrimination has been the law of the land for over three decades, yet, in some workplaces, the standard for treatment of pregnant women has remained in the dark ages. Some are fired or demoted, with no hesitation, when a modest accommodation would allow them to continue to work and support their families.

    The stories are heart-wrenching and preventable. There’s the pregnant woman who was terminated when, in violation of company policy, she started carrying a water bottle on advice of her doctor to fight urinary and bladder infections.

    Or the store clerk who was fired when her physician restricted her to lifting only lighter loads due to her pregnancy, even though during the course of work she rarely needed to lift heavier weights. 

    I vividly remember early on in my career when I was eight months pregnant, working literally around the clock, and worrying that each trip to the restroom or my need to catch the occasional catnap was causing my colleagues to question whether I could keep up.

    In so many cases, modest accommodations – adjustments that readily might be made for other employees – are denied pregnant women, forcing expectant moms to choose between their health and that of their pregnancies, and their jobs.

  • Update at 10:38 p.m. ET: The Press Secretary released a statement on Malaysian Airlines Flight 17.

    President Obama calls to President Poroshenko of Ukraine aboard Air Force One

    President Obama calls to President Poroshenko of Ukraine aboard Air Force One to discuss the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. July 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This afternoon, aboard Air Force One, President Obama placed separate telephone calls to President Poroshenko of Ukraine and Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia to discuss the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

    Here's a readout of the President’s call with President Poroshenko of Ukraine:

    President Obama spoke with Ukrainian President Poroshenko this afternoon to discuss the tragic crash of flight Malaysian Airlines 17. President Poroshenko welcomed the assistance of international investigators to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation of the crash site. President Obama assured him that U.S. experts will offer all possible assistance immediately. The Presidents emphasized that all evidence from the crash site must remain in place on the territory of Ukraine until international investigators are able to examine all aspects of the tragedy.

    And a readout of President Obama’s call with Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia:

    President Obama called Malaysian Prime Minister Najib today to express condolences to the people of Malaysia for the terrible loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine, as well as all the families who lost loved ones in this tragic event. The President told the Prime Minister that United States has offered immediate assistance to support a prompt international investigation. President Obama reaffirmed the strength of the friendship between the United States and Malaysia and underscored that the United States stands ready to provide any assistance or support necessary.

    Bernadette Meehan is Deputy Spokesperson of the National Security Council.

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks near the Interstate 495 Bridge at the Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, Delaware

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks before he signs an executive action creating the Build America Investment Initiative during an event near the Interstate 495 Bridge at the Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, Del., July 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    This afternoon, President Obama traveled to the Port of Wilmington in Delaware to talk about creating jobs, rebuilding America, and making our middle class stronger.

    Before delivering his remarks, however, the President took a moment to discuss the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17:

    Right now, we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens onboard. That is our first priority.  And I’ve directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government.  The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why.  And as a country, our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home.

  • President Barack Obama drops by a meeting of the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience

    President Barack Obama drops by a meeting of the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, in the State Dining Room of the White House, July 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    We've been talking a lot recently about the need to rebuild and strengthen our nation's infrastructure. As the President has made clear, a world-class infrastructure system is a vital part of a top-performing economy.

    But there's another important reason why we need to rebuild our infrastructure: climate change.

    Communities across America need more resilient infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change -- like more extreme weather and increased flooding. That's part of the reason why the President established the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience last November.

    The Task Force, made up of 26 governors, mayors, and county and tribal officials from across the country, advises the President on how the federal government can best help American communities dealing with the effects of climate change. Today, the Task Force came to the White House for their fourth and final meeting, and will give the President final recommendations this fall.

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Labor's blog. See the original post here.

    Last night, New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy participated in Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game – proof positive that you can perform peerlessly at your job while still taking care of your family at critical moments. Murphy made headlines a few months ago when he chose to miss the first game of the season to be with his wife after she gave birth to their child.

    Murphy’s story is one about having the right priorities and being faithful to your values, even in the face of criticism. But his story is about something else very important – the power of membership in a strong labor union, which can use collective bargaining to secure paternity leave and other essential benefits.

    Three weeks ago, a crowd of more than a thousand – workers, business leaders, policymakers, advocates, and more – gathered at the first White House Summit on Working Families to ignite a conversation about how to provide more people with the same workplace benefits and protections enjoyed by Daniel Murphy. And the labor movement, which has been in the vanguard of this struggle, played a prominent role.

  • Ed. note: This live event has concluded.

    Today at 2:15 p.m. ET, First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver the keynote address at the Unite for Veterans Summit in Los Angeles, an event hosted by United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the University of Southern California. 

    As part of the Joining Forces Initiative, the First Lady is teaming up with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to highlight the importance of aiding veterans as they transition into the next phase of their lives. Mayor Garcetti has joined the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness by the end of 2015.

    Watch the First Lady's remarks right here starting at 2:15 p.m. ET:

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  • Today, Congress took an important step forward in making sure that we’re developing the capabilities necessary to make America safer.

    As the President’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, I welcome the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee markup of the FY 2015 Defense Appropriations Act. Its ultimate passage would allow us to move forward on a number of priority national security initiatives, including the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF).  

    As President Obama announced during his West Point speech in May, this new fund will help us take the fight to terrorist organizations by strengthening the capacity of our friends on the frontlines. The CTPF presents a new, sustainable model for strategic engagement with our partners from South Asia to the Sahel. Because today’s principal terrorist threats no longer emanate from al-Qa’ida central leadership but from an evolving and decentralized set of actors, we need the flexibility to develop tailored regional solutions to terrorist groups that pose the greatest threat to the United States, wherever they are located.

  • President Obama hosts 2014 Iftar dinner

    President Barack Obama hosts an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House, July 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Last night, President Obama hosted his sixth Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House, an annual tradition started by First Lady Hillary Clinton when she hosted a Ramadan Eid celebration dinner in 1996. Many consider President Thomas Jefferson to be the first President to host an Iftar dinner, as he hosted a sunset dinner to accommodate the fasts of an envoy from Tunisia over 200 years ago.

    The Iftar is the meal after sunset that concludes the day of fasting during the month of Ramadan, a time to pray and reflect, to be reminded that we are equals in humanity, and to reaffirm commitments to helping the less fortunate, including those struggling from economic hardship and inequality.

    Last night, guests were welcomed into the East Wing where a copy of the Quran owned by President Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, was on display from the Library of Congress. At sunset, guests gathered in the Grand Foyer to break their fast with a date following the traditional melodic Muslim call to prayer led by a local student from the University of Maryland. Then finally, after a 16-hour day of fasting since sunrise, guests gathered in the State Dining Room for a halal meal with the President.

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