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  • The President and First Lady 9/11 Service Project

    On September 11, 2009, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama joined AmeriCorps members and volunteers in painting a Habitat for Humanity home in Washington, D.C., joining Americans across the country who marked the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by participating in service and remembrance activities. September 11, 2009. (by Ralph Alswang)

    Twenty years ago, our nation started a new chapter in our proud tradition of citizen service. AmeriCorps represented a new way of getting things done: passionate citizens making an intense commitment to solve problems and improve the lives of others while expanding opportunity for themselves.

    Since then, more than 900,000 men and women have taken the AmeriCorps pledge, improving the lives of millions of Americans and strengthening the ties that bind us together as a nation. AmeriCorps members are symbols of hope and optimism wherever they serve, and represent the best qualities of our nation and its people.

  • Vice President Biden on the 20th Anniversary of VAWA

    Vice President Joe Biden speaks on the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, at the National Archives, in Washington, D.C. September 9, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Twenty years ago this week, President Clinton signed into law the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) -- a landmark law that empowered women and children to expose and prosecute domestic violence. The signing of the law marked the end of an arduous road to pass the legislation and put our society on the path toward effectively combating such heinous abuses. Vice President Joe Biden, then a U.S. Senator, not only authored VAWA, but helped drive it through Congress and deliver it to the President's desk. 

    Today, standing in front of the U.S. Constitution at the National Archives, Vice President Biden reflected on how far we've come in our ability -- and willingness -- to address domestic violence:

    Even just 20 years ago, few people wanted to talk about violence against women as a national epidemic, let alone something to do something about. No one even back then denied that kicking your wife in the stomach, or smashing her in the face, or pushing her down the stairs in public was repugnant. But our society basically turned a blind eye. And hardly anyone ever intervened, directly intervened -- other than my father and a few other people I knew.

    And no one -- virtually no one called it a crime. It was a family affair. It was a family affair. Laws -- state laws when we attempted at a state or a federal level to design laws to prevent actions that were said that we now are celebrating, we were told, I was told, many of us were told that it would cause the disintegration of the family. That was the phrase used. It would cause the disintegration of the family.

    "This was the ugliest form of violence that exists," he said, and though many wanted to see these crimes remain hidden in the shadows, the Vice President was committed to bringing them out into the light. "We had to let the nation know," he said, "because I was absolutely convinced -- and remain absolutely convinced -- in the basic decency of the American people, and that if they knew, they would begin to demand change."


    "The only way to change this culture was to expose it . . . the best disinfectant is sunlight."


  • This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law on September 13, 1994. The President issued a proclamation commemorating that anniversary. You can read the full text of that proclamation below.


    Twenty years ago, our Nation came together to declare our commitment to end violence against women. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), written by then United States Senator Joe Biden and signed into law on September 13, 1994, changed the way our country responds to domestic abuse and sexual assault. At a time when many considered domestic abuse to be a private family matter and victims were left to suffer in silence, this law enshrined a simple promise: every American should be able to pursue her or his own measure of happiness free from the fear of harm.


    On the anniversary of this landmark legislation, we rededicate ourselves to strengthening the protections it first codified, and we reaffirm the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse.


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

    Watch on YouTube

    Meet Mallory Lindgren, a project manager at a Minnesota-based land and energy development consulting firm, and the latest profile in the Energy Department’s #WomenInSTEM video series. This series celebrates the amazing work of women across the energy sector while providing a new generation of students with a diverse set of role models as they begin their careers in science.

    Mallory’s interest in STEM (short for science, technology, engineering, and math) dates back to her childhood and a curiosity about the how the Earth’s natural systems work. Growing up, Mallory’s mother encouraged this inquisitiveness through Star Trek and other science-based TV shows. But it was an environmental science class in college that helped Mallory understand how different fields of science are related and led to a degree in hydrology and, eventually, her career in the energy sector.

  • Students at Booker T. Washington High School Listen to First Lady Michelle Obama

    Students at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta listen to First Lady Michelle Obama speak on preparing for higher education. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education by Joshua Hoover.

    First Lady Michelle Obama was at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Ga., yesterday, to help kick off the Department of Education’s annual back-to-school bus tour, and to encourage students to take charge of their futures and complete an education beyond high school as part of her Reach Higher initiative.

    Booker T. Washington High School opened its doors in 1924 and was the first public high school for African-Americans in Georgia. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is among the school’s graduates. The First Lady began her visit by joining Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a quick stop at a college fair, and to listen to students talk about their experience in searching out schools and getting help from their counselors.

  • It’s time for our children to head back to school, and as classrooms and notebooks begin to fill up again, I’m increasingly optimistic about our country’s ability to elevate and strengthen education. With high school graduation rates at an all-time high, and big jumps in the number of students going to college over the last few years, it’s a good time to celebrate the teachers, principals, families, and students who have driven that success. And, it’s a good time to talk about the work ahead in ensuring that strong educational opportunities are a reality for every child in America.

    For the fifth year in a row, I’m hitting the road for our Department’s back-to-school bus tour. This year’s tour is themed “Partners in Progress,” and I’ll be traveling through Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee to see innovation in education at work, and to discuss progress, promise, and results.

    Today, I’m taking over the White House’s Instagram account to give you a behind-the-scenes look as I meet teachers, parents, students, and education leaders who have been partners in making progress for our nation’s children. Keep checking back throughout the day for more photos, and remember that the tour won’t end today, so stay up-to-date with our tour by following me on Twitter, by checking out the hashtag #EDTour14, and by visiting ed.gov/progress

  • As the last stop on his three-day trip to Estonia and to the NATO Summit in Wales, President Obama visits the prehistoric monument Stonehenge.

  • Vice President Biden Delivers the Weekly Address

    Vice President Joe Biden tapes the Weekly Address in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Sept. 5, 2014. September 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    In this week’s address, the Vice President discusses our continued economic recovery, with 10 million private sector jobs created over 54 straight months of job creation. Yet even with this good news, too many Americans are still not seeing the effects of our recovery.

    As the Vice President explains, there’s more that can be done to continue to bolster our economy and ensure that middle class families benefit from the growth they helped create, including closing tax loopholes, expanding education opportunities, and raising the minimum wage.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3

  • This week, the economy added 10 million jobs; the country celebrated 50 years of environmental conservation; and the President spoke about the enduring strength of democracy to the people of Estonia.

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


    10 Million Jobs

    This week, American businesses officially marked the creation of 10 million new jobs in the last 54 months. 10 million.

    And while there’s a lot more work to do, President Obama has made good on his promise of a “year of action.” Here are some of the ways we’ve made our economy stronger than ever:

    • Automobile production has skyrocketed and the automobile industry has hit its highest production rate since 2002.
    • Our businesses are exporting more goods and services.
    • New home construction has hit groundbreaking new levels since the recession.
    • American consumers are spending billions more on goods and services.

  • Watch on YouTube

    Earlier today -- the last day of his trip to Estonia and the U.K. -- President Obama held a press conference at the conclusion of the NATO Summit in Wales, and discussed a number of issues, including ISIL and the situation in Ukraine.

    The President began his remarks by thanking Prime Minister David Cameron and his team for hosting the summit, and also thanked the people of Wales for their warm welcome. "It's a great honor to be the first sitting U.S. President to visit Wales," he said.

  • Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, the President celebrated Labor Day and American economic patriotism at Milwaukee's Laborfest, then traveled east for a three-day, two-country trip to Estonia and then on to the NATO summit in Wales.

    Watch on YouTube

  • Today’s employment report underscores the fact that the economy is continuing to recover, and employment is continuing to increase. Women have shared in these gains, with female employment increasing by 4.1 million jobs in the last 54 months, and the fraction of discouraged workers and workers experiencing long-term unemployment continues to fall. Across industries, women’s employment gains look relatively similar to previous periods of strong employment growth. To further support the economy, and to ensure the workplace works for the 21st century economy, the President is encouraging Congress to act and using his own executive action to support policies that support a fair workplace for all workers -- including women.

    Key Points about Women and the Economy

    1. Women’s nonfarm employment has increased by 3.8 million jobs over the last 54 months, and 1.2 million in the last 12 months alone. Women’s employment tends to be less cyclical than men’s, largely because women are less likely to work in industries where employment greatly fluctuates with the business cycle. The recent recession followed that pattern, and women lost far fewer jobs than men. Between December 2007 and February 2010 women lost 2.7 million jobs, while men lost 6.1 million. However, the unusual declines in state and local government during the recovery -- a loss of 744,000 jobs between August 2008 and January 2013 were particularly tough for women who lost 65 percent of those jobs. Over the past year state and local government employment has stabilized and begun to recover adding back 123,000 jobs since January 2013. Since February 2010, women and men have recouped 4.1 and 5.9 million private sector jobs, respectively. This has raised the share of private sector workers who are women from 46.9 percent prior to the recession to 47.9 percent this past August.

  • 10 million -- that’s the number of jobs American businesses have added over 54 straight months, the longest streak of private-sector job growth in American history. 10 million marks more than strengthening job growth, it is a sign of the industry of the American worker and the strength of an economy that made 10 million jobs possible.

    Just look at how far we’ve come over the past five years. When President Obama took office in 2009, the country was in the midst of the Great Recession -- the economy was shedding jobs by the hundreds of thousands, the housing market had hit rock bottom, and the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse. But President Obama took action, and now -- thanks to the grit and resilience of American workers and business owners -- our economy has added more than 10 million jobs and is growing day by day.

    From breaking ground on new homes to selling American goods abroad, the growing strength of key economic sectors helped make 10 million jobs possible. While there’s more work to do, take a look at a few of these critical pillars of our economy to see where we stood when President Obama took office and where we are now.

    1. Auto workers are assembling nearly 800,000 more cars each month than in 2009.

     
     
     

  • A new report this week from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had a lot to say about the state of health care costs and what it means for our economy. New estimates show that national health expenditures rose at historically slow rates in 2013 and American businesses and consumers will continue to see slow cost growth over the next few years, even as millions gain health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

    This week’s Chart of the Week uses the most up-to-date data to break down what’s going on with health care costs for employers and the Medicare program. Right now, employers’ inflation-adjusted health benefit costs are up just 1 percent on a year-over-year basis, among the lowest rates recorded historically. This slow growth in employer health costs helps businesses create jobs and pay a good wage. At the same time, Medicare spending per beneficiary is actually falling in inflation-adjusted terms, which is helping keep premiums low for beneficiaries and bringing down our deficit.

    Take a look at the numbers to see how health care costs for employers and the Medicare program are at near-historic lows:

    Get the full story behind these health care numbers from Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers -- then check out what people are saying about why it’s so important to #GetCovered.

  • With today’s report, the economy has now added 10 million private-sector jobs over 54 straight months of job growth. This figure is a marker of the progress that has been made, but also a reminder that more must still be done to create jobs, especially for the long-term unemployed, and grow the middle class. Although the pace of job gains in August was below recent months, the broader trends are moving in the right direction. To continue to support the progress our economy has made, the President will act wherever he can to create good jobs, facilitate investments in American infrastructure and manufacturing, and make sure that hard work pays off with higher wages.

    FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY’S REPORT FROM THE BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS

    1. The private sector has added 10 million jobs over 54 straight months of job growth, extending the longest streak on record. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 142,000 in August, mainly reflecting a 134,000 increase in private employment. Private-sector job growth was revised up for July and down for June for little total revisions. Over the past twelve months, private employment has risen by a total of 2.4 million.

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

    I hope Fast Lane readers recall my post last month after spending some time with UPS driver Jay Valentin; experiencing our road network through his eyes was a tremendously valuable morning for me. So valuable, in fact, that I wanted to do something similar alongside someone who relies on public transit so I could get a ground-level sense of her experience. And yesterday, I got that opportunity when I joined Lan-Anh Thi Phan in her Takoma Park, Maryland home and accompanied her on her morning commute.

    Lan is a nurse -- a patient care manager in the Oncology Ward of MedStar Washington Hospital Center here in the nation’s capital. Lan and the nurses she helps oversee provide care for patients battling cancer. And her reliance on public transit to get to this important job makes it clear: When we or our loved ones depend on dedicated caregivers like Lan Phan, we also depend on a safe, efficient transportation network to get them to work so they can deliver that care.

  • On his first full day in office, President Obama created the U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) position within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to lead Administration-wide efforts to unleash the power of technology, data, and innovation to help meet our nation’s goals and the needs of our citizens.

    Today, President Obama announced that Megan Smith will serve as the next U.S. CTO and Assistant to the President, succeeding Todd Park, and that Alexander Macgillivray will serve as a Deputy U.S. CTO.

    President Obama said today:

    Megan has spent her career leading talented teams and taking cutting-edge technology and innovation initiatives from concept to design to deployment. I am confident that in her new role as America’s Chief Technology Officer, she will put her long record of leadership and exceptional skills to work on behalf of the American people. I am grateful for her commitment to serve, and I look forward to working with her and with our new Deputy U.S. CTO, Alexander Macgillivray, in the weeks and months ahead.

  • New estimates out today from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that national health expenditures rose at historically slow rates in 2013, continuing the exceptionally slow growth in health costs seen in recent years. This slow growth, which is thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, is already generating major benefits for both the Federal budget and our economy.

    The near-term outlook in today’s report is also encouraging. Consistent with recent surveys reporting that millions of Americans gained health insurance coverage over the Affordable Care Act’s initial open enrollment period, the Actuaries project a sharp reduction in the number of uninsured Americans over the next few years due to the new coverage options made available under the Affordable Care Act. Unsurprisingly, the Actuaries predict that this dramatic expansion in coverage and access to care will temporarily increase growth in aggregate health care spending. But, consistent with a variety of incoming data, their projections imply that underlying growth in health care prices and per-enrollee spending – the factors that determine the premiums and cost-sharing that families face – will remain subdued over the next few years.

    Over the long term, health expenditure projections are always more uncertain. While the Actuaries project that the recent slowdown will largely dissipate as economic recovery continues, the balance of the evidence implies that much of the recent health care spending slowdown has been driven by structural changes, which suggests that a significant portion may persist. Because of the large size of the nation’s health care sector, if even a modest portion of the recent slowdown continues in the long run, it would have a transformative effect on the Federal budget, families’ budgets, and the economy as a whole. For example, even if as little as one-third continues, then, by 2023, national health expenditures would be $1,200 per person lower than if costs returned to their prior trend. In the years ahead, the Administration will continue its efforts to create a health care delivery system that consistently provides efficient, high-quality care, with the goal of making that transformation a reality.

  • President Obama Speaks to the People of Estonia

    President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after delivering remarks at Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia, Sept. 3, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    At the Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia today, President Obama spoke to students, young professionals, and civic leaders about the enduring strength and promise of democracy. "I am honored to be the first President of the United States to deliver an address like this to the people of Estonia," he said. 

    The President first reflected on the history of the Baltic people's fight to secure democracy across the region: 

    Exactly 25 years ago, people across the Baltics came together in one of the greatest displays of freedom and non-violent resistance that the world has ever seen.

    On that August evening, perhaps two million people stepped out of their homes and joined hands -- a human chain of freedom, the Baltic Way.  And they stretched down highways and across farmlands, from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius. They lit candles and they sang anthems.  Old men and women brought out their flags of independence.  And young parents brought their children to teach them that when ordinary people stand together, great change is possible.  

    Here in Estonia, when people joined the line, the password was “freedom.”  As one man said that day, “The Berlin Wall is made of brick and concrete.  Our wall is stronger.”  And it was. Within months, that wall in Berlin was pushed open.  The next year, the Baltic peoples finally voted in elections. And when the forces of the past made their last grab for power, you stood up.

  • This morning, in a joint press conference with President Ilves of Estonia, President Obama gave the following statement about the murder of journalist Steven Sotloff.

    Finally, I want to say that today the prayers of the American people are with the family of a devoted and courageous journalist, Steven Sotloff. Overnight, our government determined that, tragically, Steven was taken from us in a horrific act of violence. We cannot even begin to imagine the agony that everyone who loved Steven is feeling right now, especially his mother, his father and his younger sister. So today, our country grieves with them.

    Like Jim Foley before him, Steve’s life stood in sharp contrast to those who have murdered him so brutally. They make the absurd claim that they kill in the name of religion, but it was Steven, his friends say, who deeply loved the Islamic world. His killers try to claim that they defend the oppressed, but it was Steven who traveled across the Middle East, risking his life to tell the story of Muslim men and women demanding justice and dignity.

    Whatever these murderers think they’ll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed. They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists. And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.

    You can read the full text of the joint press conference here.

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