The White House Blog: The Vice President
- Posted byon December 20, 2011 at 6:56 PM EDT
Five days ago, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was on hand in Baghdad to bring the mission in Iraq to its official end. The United States Forces-Iraq colors were lowered and flown out of the country in the official casing ceremony.
Today, President Obama and Vice President Biden were there as the colors returned home.
They were joined by General Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and some of the families of the final returning service members from Iraq.
One of those the group welcomed home was General Lloyd Austin, III -- the final commander of the U.S. in Iraq.
General Austin spoke at the ceremony, thanking the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians who served in the nearly nine year mission.
“I am truly humbled by your service and your many, many sacrifices,” he said.
- Posted byon December 9, 2011 at 4:55 PM EDT
Officially, Hanukkah doesn't begin for another 11 days -- but last night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama decided to kick things off a little early with a celebration of the holiday at the White House.
They were joined by Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in attendance, along with Israel's Ambassardor to the United States Michael Oren, the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir, and a large group of faith and community leaders.
Hanukkah, the President said, is "an opportunity to recognize the miracles in our own lives:"
Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.
This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.
- Posted byon December 9, 2011 at 1:16 PM EDT
This week, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Florida to talk to students and their parents about college. President Obama and Vice President Biden have focused on making college affordable for middle-class families since the day they took office. We increased the value of the maximum Pell Grant award by more than $800 and created the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is worth up to $10,000 over four years for tuition and other expenses. Even after grants and tax credits, most students still need to borrow money for school. That’s why we are allowing borrowers to cap federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income.
The Vice President reminded the audience of all these accomplishments, but he didn’t stop there. As proud as we are of this Administration’s record, increasing student aid is just one part of keeping college affordable. State higher education leaders and individual schools must also do their part. On Monday, the President gathered a group of college presidents at the White House to talk about rising college costs and strategies they can pursue to reduce these costs. In Florida, the Vice President argued that colleges "can cut cost and limit student debt without in any way compromising the quality of an education." He acknowledged that "it won’t be easy" but forcefully concluded that "there is no excuse for complacency."
Finally, the Vice President assured students who might be concerned about rising tuitions and debt loads that going to college is an excellent investment. College graduates earn more money and have a significantly lower unemployment rate than high school graduates with no post-secondary degree. And as the Vice President told the audience, "having a college degree is about a lot more than how much money you make. It’s about the independence it bestows upon you, the significantly broader range of choices it gives you…it’s about your sense of self-worth…it’s about being able to fulfill your potential."
Brian Levine is Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President
- Posted byon December 9, 2011 at 9:52 AM EDT
Yesterday morning, Vice President Biden made a surprise visit to Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida to welcome over 300 sailors home from a seven month deployment to the Middle East.
The sailors serve on the USS Gettysburg, which was returning to its homeport in Mayport. The Gettysburg deployed last May – along with helicopters and crew from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 70 (the “Spartans”, based at nearby Naval Station Jacksonville) – as part of the George H.W. Bush Strike Group.
As the Gettysburg slowly made its way into port, the Vice President said a few words to the hundreds of family and friends gathered to welcome home their loved ones. He was joined by Rear Admiral Nora Tyson, Commander of Carrier Strike Group 2 – the first woman in U.S. Navy history to assume command of a carrier strike group. The Vice President thanked the families for the sacrifices they have made while their loved ones served overseas. “They also serve who only stand and wait,” he said, quoting poet John Milton.
He also recalled his own son Beau’s homecoming after serving a year in Iraq.
“I learned early, early on,” the Vice President said, “if anyone got - no matter who it was, the president, the Lord almighty - got between his mother and him or his wife and him as he was getting off that bus, they would have been trampled.”
“I promise I'm not going to get between you and that ship coming in here,” he told the crowd.
- Posted byon December 7, 2011 at 12:14 PM EDT
In August, Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Pearl Harbor after his trip to Asia to pay his respects at the USS Arizona Memorial -- a 184-foot structure that rests atop the midsection of the sunken World War Two battleship.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona, one of 21 battleships attacked on December 7th, 1941, is the final resting place for 1,177 American crewmen. It represents the greatest loss of life on any ship that day and about half of the total number of Americans killed in the attack.
The Vice President, his daughter-in-law Kathleen, and his granddaughter Naomi visited the memorial at sunset, and had the opportunity to reflect on the overwhelming loss of life in the memorial’s sanctuary, where 1,177 names of the fallen are etched in marble on the wall.
After laying a wreath at the foot of the wall, the Vice President and his family silently sprinkled flower petals into the sea -- a symbolic tribute to all those lost in the attack.
- Posted byon December 4, 2011 at 9:28 PM EDT
Vice President Joe Biden had one last stop to make in Istanbul earlier today before departing for Athens - the last leg of his trip through the region.
Samatya Square -- a traditional neighborhood in the Fatih district of Istanbul -- is home to all sorts of vendors and food stands carrying local specialties.
The neighborhood is said to represent a "mosaic of life" in Istanbul, having been home to Turks and various minority groups for centuries.
Vice President Biden walked through the cobblestone streets stopping in stores and picking up a few things. On the Vice President's shopping list: oranges, tangerines and other fruit as well as olives and cheeses.
Vice President Joe Biden visits a shop in the Samatya Square neighborhood in Istanbul, Turkey, December 4, 2011. (by David Lienemann)
- Posted byon December 3, 2011 at 5:30 PM EDT
Following their meeting, the Vice President and the Ecumenical Patriach were joined by members of the Holy Synod, Metropolitans, and Greek community leaders for continued discussions - not to mention an abundance of the local dessert of choice, Turkish Delight.
Vice President Biden then had the opportunity to tour the Church of St. George at the Patriarchate with His Eminence Archbishop Demitrios Trakatellis, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, with whom the Vice President recently met in New York City. A beautiful day in Istanbul, the tour included a stroll through the Church's mosaic adorned courtyard. It was a special honor to later light a candle at the Church with the Ecumenical Patriarch.
- Posted byon December 3, 2011 at 4:45 PM EDT
Earlier today in Istanbul, Vice President Biden addressed the second Global Entrepreneurship Summit, convened by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Vice President is leading the U.S. delegation to the summit, which follows the 2010 Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship hosted by President Obama in Washington, D.C.
This year’s summit comes at a critical moment in the Middle East and North Africa as millions have risked their lives for political freedom and economic opportunity.
"Democratic revolutions like the ones in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya -- and the ones still unfolding in Syria and Yemen --are imbued, literally imbued with entrepreneurial spirit, a spirit that requires risk and initiative, steadfast determination, and a unifying idea," said Vice President Biden. "They aim to do more than merely change the government which is in power, but also to end practices like authoritarianism, corruption, the stifling of free expression -- practices that make political and economic freedom impossible."
The Vice President also highlighted how entrepreneurs are a driving force for job creation and economic growth in the United States.
"Once, the wealth of a nation was primarily measured by the abundance of its natural resources, the expanse of its landmass, the size of its population and the power of its armies," the Vice President said. "Today, the true wealth of a nation is found in the creative minds of its people and their freedom and ability to bring those ideas to life -- to develop not only new products, but the technologies that will create entirely new industries, entire new markets, entire new opportunities."
- Posted byon December 2, 2011 at 11:09 AM EDT
Speaking at an event in Baghdad to honor the shared sacrifice and commitment of American and Iraqi servicemembers, Vice President Biden heralded a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and Iraq – one rooted in civilian cooperation as the remaining American troops prepare to return home by the end of this year. More than 200 U.S. and Iraqi servicemembers attended the event at Al Faw Palace - a former palace of Saddam Hussein.
“Today we come together at another moment of transition,” said Vice President Biden. “In America, and in Iraq, the tide of war is receding. And our relationship, borne on the battlefield and long defined by the imperative of security alone, is now giving way to a new, more normal partnership between sovereign nations seeking to build a future together.”
In reflecting on the 4,486 American servicemembers who lost their lives in the war in Iraq, and the more than 30,000 wounded, the Vice President quoted President Harry Truman in describing the end of the war as a “solemn but glorious hour.”
The event capped two days of productive talks in Baghdad with Iraqi political leaders – including a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee – all focused on the transition to an Iraq in control of its own security, with the United States as an enduring strategic partner across a broad range of areas. From energy development, to trade, to the rule of law, to agriculture, to education – these areas of cooperation defined by the Strategic Framework Agreement offer an “opportunity to help a new Iraqi democracy secure its place in the community of responsible nations,” the Vice President said.
From Baghdad, Vice President Biden traveled to Erbil where he met with Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani.
The next stop for the Vice President: Ankara, Turkey, the first leg on a four-day visit to Turkey and Greece.
Related: See the slideshow from the Vice President's trip to Iraq
- Posted byon November 29, 2011 at 4:36 PM EDT
This morning, the Vice President arrived in Baghdad.
He's there to co-chair a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee and speak at a ceremony honoring the sacrifices of both U.S. and Iraqi troops -- and the victories they've won.
That ceremony takes on particular significance because, between now and the end of the year, the last of the American servicemembers stationed in Iraq will come home, as President Obama has repeatedly promised.
While in the country, Vice President Biden will also hold talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, and other political leaders.
They'll discuss ways in which our two countries can deepen our cooperation on a range of policies -- from trade to energy to technology.