Engage and Connect

President Obama is committed to making this the most open and participatory administration in history. That begins with taking your questions and comments, inviting you to join online events with White House officials, and giving you a way to engage with your government on the issues that matter the most.

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Latest News

  • Investing in Rural Kids Is an Investment in Our Future

    Latta Groundbreaking

    State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

    "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead? ... This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."

    -- President Obama, January 31, 2015

    The American Dream is a dream of opportunity for a better future. Who better represents this opportunity than our country’s children? As parents and as leaders, we owe it to our kids to provide them access to education, housing and health care, and most importantly, an opportunity to succeed so they can help our nation compete in a 21st century economy.

    In small towns and rural communities, kids living in poverty often miss out on these opportunities. They are often isolated and have limited access to support services. School may be miles away, the health care clinic miles in the other direction and the nearest grocery store in yet another direction. Public transportation options are limited, and the family car may be in the shop. Rent might be hard to meet and college might seem to be only a dream.

    Our kids are the most important assets we have for building the future economy, and it is essential to make sure rural kids growing up in poverty can reach their full potential. Investing in rural children and their families is critical not just to the long-term success of our rural communities, but to our global competitiveness. Studies indicate that we spend an estimated $500 billion each year on expenses related to child poverty. Imagine if we could use even a fraction of that in smarter ways to serve our children.

    Since President Obama convened the White House Rural Council four years ago, we have made tremendous progress in creating new opportunities for rural businesses and communities to thrive and grow. As these opportunities expand, we now need to ensure that they are available to everyone. To that end, the White House Rural Council convened last week to explore how the Administration can better coordinate and target efforts so that rural families living in poverty have the best chance to climb into the middle class.

  • Celebrating Our Heritage and New Opportunities

    The following article by Secretary Perez was originally published on the Department of Labor’s blog and can be found HERE

    Last week was the 171st anniversary of the independence of the Dominican Republic, the country where my family came from. My mother arrived in the 1930s when her father was appointed ambassador to the U.S. After my grandfather spoke out against the brutal dictator in power, he was declared “non grata.”

    Secretary Perez presents the Embassy of the Dominican Republican with a portrait of his grandfather, who was ambassador from the Dominican Republic to the U.S., Sept. 3, 2013.

    My father fled the regime later, and showed his gratitude for the refuge he found here by serving with distinction as a physician in the United States Army. His service to the country led to a lifelong medical career dedicated to serving veterans. My parents settled in Buffalo, New York, and raised me and my four siblings to have great respect for this nation, as well as a great sense of responsibility to it.

    That’s why I chose a career in public service. I feel particularly fortunate to work for a president who shares my values, and who shares a commitment to fulfilling the American promise of opportunity for everyone, including new Americans.

    That promise of opportunity for all is why the president is proposing free community college for everyone willing to work for it. It’s why he’s pushing to expand access to paid leave for America’s workers, and why he continues to push for an increase in the minimum wage. It’s why he’s proposing tax relief for middle class families and bold investments in skills and training. It’s why he wants to make childcare more affordable. It’s why he’s working to lift up and empower young men of color through the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. And it’s why he remains committed to comprehensive immigration reform.

    These efforts are important for everyone, but the fact is that, in many parts of the country, Latinos are the future of the workforce. And as the Dominican population, and the entire Latino population, continues to grow, access to 21st century skills – skills necessary to land the jobs of today and tomorrow, will be critical to the country’s future prosperity.

    In particular, community colleges are a time-tested route to skills that lead to stable, middle-class careers. Over the past several years, the administration has invested $2 billion in community colleges and their partners. And the president’s new community college proposal would have a significant impact on Latinos and their families: in 2013, nearly a quarter of the students enrolled in community colleges across the country were Latino.

    Another proven, but under-traveled, route to the middle class is apprenticeship. In order to help us double the number of apprenticeships in the U.S., the president’s proposed budget includes a number of significant investments to promote and expand their use. And our new American Apprenticeship Grants will help more people, and particularly, women and people of color, access apprenticeship opportunities.

    There are not a lot of places in the world where a group of people of similar heritage can come together to celebrate that heritage, while also celebrating the nation that they now call home. But in America, we consider our diversity to be our greatest strength. We are now, and we have always been, a nation of immigrants. And we will be a stronger nation by ensuring that every person has access to opportunity.

  • Previewing Vice President Biden's Trip to Guatemala

    The video is available HERE.

    Continuing the Administration’s active engagement in Central America, the Vice President is traveling to Guatemala City on Monday to meet with the Presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the President of the Inter-American Development Bank.

    Last November in Washington D.C., the leaders of these countries rolled out their Alliance for Prosperity plan to tackle the endemic violence and poverty that have held the region back while the rest of the hemisphere has prospered. The Vice President also outlined how the United States, the international community, and the private sector could support the plan’s implementation.

    This week in Guatemala City, the presidents will update Vice President Biden on their progress. The presidents of the countries have already taken courageous steps to target criminal smuggling groups, root out corruption, and promote the transparency of their institutions.

    As the Vice President has said, confronting the enormous challenges that face Central America requires nothing less than systemic change - a change that we, the United States, have a direct interest in helping our neighbors to bring about.

    That’s why the President and Vice President requested from Congress $1 billion to help Central America’s leaders make the difficult reforms and investments required to address the region’s interlocking security, governance and economic challenges.   

    The meetings on Monday and Tuesday are about what comes next. The Vice President and these four presidents will outline concrete goals to:

    • Stimulate the region’s economic growth;
    • Reduce inequality and promote educational opportunities;
    • Target criminal networks responsible for human trafficking; and
    • Create transparent, accountable institutions

    To learn more about the upcoming trip, watch this new video that explains the current situation and the next steps forward to ensure that our Central American neighbors become the next great success story in the Western Hemisphere.

  • Investing in the Future of Tribal Nations

    As part of his commitment to strengthening nation-to-nation relationships with Indian tribes, President Obama hosted his sixth White House Tribal Nations Conference in December 2014. The Conference built on the President’s trip to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation last summer, where he dedicated efforts to improve opportunities for Native youth and affirmed his promise to work together with tribes on education and economic development in Indian Country.

    In addition to hosting the Conference, the White House released its 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report, Investing in the Future of Tribal Nations. The report highlights the Administration’s progress and accomplishments in Indian Country over the past year.

  • Giving Every Young Person a Path to Reach Their Potential

    KEEPING UP with THE CABINET

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's blog. See the original post here.

    Our nation’s most basic duty is to ensure that every child has the chance to fulfill his or her potential. This isn’t the responsibility of one individual or one neighborhood: it’s up to all of us to pave these paths of opportunity so that young people — regardless of where they grow up — can get ahead in life and achieve their dreams.

    That’s why My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) is such an important initiative. Launched by President Obama last year, MBK brings communities together to ensure that all youth — including boys and young men of color — can overcome barriers to success and improve their lives. I got to see this work up close during a recent trip to Oakland, California. I joined Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council President Lynette McElhaney, and other stakeholders for a conversation about efforts that are making a difference in the lives of local youth.

    One of the participants was a teenager named Edwin Manzano. The son of a hard-working single parent, Edwin found encouragement and support at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC). Thanks in part to the academic and mentoring services offered by the EOYDC, Edwin will become the first member of his family to attend college when he begins his studies this fall at San Francisco State University.

    Edwin is grateful for the opportunities that EOYDC afforded him. “Everyone needs a support system,” he says. That’s true whether you are a teenager or HUD Secretary. I was lucky when I was growing up on the West Side of San Antonio. Although it was a modest community in terms of resources, it was rich with folks who took an interest in my future. I had family members, teachers — and even policymakers — who paved a path that allowed me and other young people like me to succeed.

    Unfortunately, not every child is as fortunate. That’s why My Brother’s Keeper is so close to my heart. The future of every young person in America should be determined by their heart, their mind and their work ethic. It should never be determined by their zip code.

    In Oakland, I talked with 17 young people who have big hopes and aspirations for the future. It’s in our nation’s interest to help them achieve their goals. And we’re committed to doing our part at HUD.

    For example, we’ve introduced a Jobs-Plus pilot program that will provide public housing residents in eight cities with intensive employment training, rent incentives and community building focused on work and economic self-sufficiency.

    We’re also working on a broadband initiative to ensure that students living in HUD-assisted households will benefit from the life-changing opportunities available through high-speed internet. This project will provide the access to online resources that young people need to succeed in the 21st century global economy.

    On the housing front, we expect the recent expansion of our Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) initiative to aid HUD-assisted properties in raising billions of dollars in private sector investment — funding that will be used to secure our nation’s affordable housing future. And recently, our Federal Housing Administration lowered its Mortgage Insurance Premiums to make homeownership more affordable for responsible families, helping them put down roots and build wealth for the future.

    But I know HUD alone won’t solve the issues facing America’s youth. These challenges require our Department to maintain longstanding, effective partnerships with other federal agencies and key stakeholders. Most importantly, President Obama understands that My Brother’s Keeper will only succeed if local leaders take his call to action into their own hands.

    Folks in Oakland are stepping up to answer this call. During the Community Conversation, I spoke with leaders from Oakland’s nonprofits, philanthropic institutions, and faith-based organizations that are putting our young people on the path to success. Groups like the East Oakland Youth Development Center, the East Bay Foundation, and the Allen Temple Baptist Church are using promising and proven approaches to make a real difference in their communities.

    This kind of work is happening all across the nation and will benefit generations of Americans. We’ve got to keep it going by continuing to support our young people. When they succeed, our nation grows stronger, and our future becomes brighter. And by giving everyone an opportunity to reach their goals, we can ensure that the 21st century is another American century.

    Julián Castro is the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

  • Teaching for Tomorrow

    Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson is being honored as a Climate Education and Literacy Champion of Change.

    Early in my career as a science educator, I attended a lecture on Minnesota’s changing climate given by a well-known University of Minnesota Ecology professor.  The concept of climate change was relatively new to me at the time, and I was startled to hear that some of the most dramatic seasonal, climate change-induced temperature variations in the United States were predicted to occur in Minnesota and the upper Midwest over the coming decades.  Was it true?  How did he know?  What could this mean for the places in Minnesota that are important to me?  Were similar impacts in store for the rest of the world? How much should I worry, and what, if anything, should I do about it?  Whether I realized it at the time or not, I was on my own path toward climate literacy.

    Twenty years later, as a teacher at the School of Environmental Studies (SES), I continue to work to understand the complexity of these questions and to challenge my high school students to wrestle with the implications of these questions in their own lives as well.  At SES, we embrace a mission that calls on our learning community to “develop active citizen leaders who are environmentally informed, self-perpetuating learners, and connected to the local and global community.” Over the past decade, climate education has played an integral part in bringing our mission to life.  This issue provides fertile ground for getting students to engage scientific concepts and processes in timely and relevant ways and, more broadly, to examine the systemic relationships between science, economics, politics, international relations, and ethics that are embedded in the challenge of fighting climate change.

    In order to prepare our students to be the next generation of effective citizen leaders, it is equally important that they have authentic opportunities to engage the issues that are important to them. 

    At SES, campus renewable-energy initiatives, climate-related school and non-profit partnerships, scientific modeling projects, and a host of student-led climate-change mitigation efforts provide testimony to the fact that our students are interested in learning about and addressing the challenges inherent in a changing climate.

    The societal challenges today’s students will face as adults will not be the same as those of my generation.  As educators, we have the responsibility to provide not the education we received, but the one our students will need.  For the past several years, students and faculty from SES and a variety of international partner schools have attended the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties.  Members of the youth constituency at these conferences can often be seen wearing t-shirts with their now-familiar slogan, “How Old Will You Be in 2050?” It is a challenging question, not only in terms of the implications it has for the decisions we make today concerning the climate issue, but also in terms of the obligation we as educators have to provide our students with the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind they will need to effectively address the challenges of the world they will inherit. 

    Craig Johnson teaches Senior Environmental Studies and Advanced Placement Environmental Science at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

  • Building Climate Resilience through Action Today

    Amy Snover

    Amy Snover is being honored as a Climate Education and Literacy Champion of Change.

    It is often said that we don’t know enough about climate change to take action. But we know that the choices we make today about energy use and preparing for a changing climate will shape the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. 

    We know that large reductions in global emissions of heat-trapping gases could help us avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change. We know that preparing for a changing climate can prevent needless and costly harm. And we know that many of the changes necessary to reduce the negative effects of climate change will take time to implement and would benefit from careful risk assessment, planning, and a sustained and engaged civic discussion about priorities and appropriate responses.

    We also know that none of us can solve this alone, within our silos, with our limited tools and skills. Building climate resilience requires melding the knowledge and prediction of science with the best ideas, creative energy, and practical insights of business, policy and planning, the arts and humanities, and community organizations. This is why it’s so important to build an educated, this-generation American workforce that grasps the climate-change challenge and is equipped to seek and implement solutions.

    Since 1996, I’ve worked with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington’s College of the Environment to develop, deliver, and support the use of decision-relevant science on climate impacts and adaptation, in order to build a climate-resilient Northwest. I began as a student, on a leave of absence from my graduate program, searching for ways to better connect the analytic and predictive skills of science with the practical needs and multiple objectives of real-world decision making. After helping to convene the first-ever discussion of climate-change risks and response options in the Northwest, and preparing the scientific summary to support that discussion, I was hooked. This was the meeting ground I was looking for: scientists, resource managers, policy makers, citizens, and business leaders working together to identify concerns, critical knowledge gaps, and ways to use existing scientific knowledge to advance societal objectives.

    At the Climate Impacts Group, we take this multi-faceted approach every day.  We work with local, regional, and national decision makers, planners and resource managers, tribes, non-governmental organizations, and private industry to develop a common understanding of the ways climate fluctuations can influence desired outcomes, and to identify knowledge gaps precluding climate-resilient decision making. We assemble the best interdisciplinary scientists – atmospheric scientists, water-resource engineers, coastal economists – to address these gaps. Through trainings, technical advising, ground-breaking guidance, and long-lasting relationships, we build local capacity for applying science-based climate information, tools, and expertise in planning and risk management. And we’ve made a difference. The Northwest is home to many of the nation’s leaders in climate preparedness and resilience.

    Sixteen years after completing my PhD and re-joining the group as a post-doc, I am proud of all that we’ve accomplished together and am honored to be recognized as a White House Champion of Change. The most exciting part of all of this for me continues to be bridging the gap between science and practice – not only assembling, interpreting, translating, and delivering state-of-the-science understanding about climate risks facing the Northwest – because you can’t address risks that you don’t know about – but working with practitioners to develop guidance on how to apply climate information in their work today. As more and more people face the question, “What needs to change in the way we do business to set ourselves up for success as the climate changes?,” we’re ready to help them find answers.

    Amy Snover, PhD, serves as Assistant Dean for Applied Research and Director of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. 

  • Communicating Climate Change through Science and Interpretation

    Sarah-Mae Nelson

    Sarah-Mae Nelson is being honored as a Climate Education and Literacy Champion of Change.

    My family is made up of Southerners and outdoorsmen. Some called the Great Smoky Mountains home, and others hunt and fish as a matter of course. I grew up visiting lakes and streams, mountains and plains, and spending as much time near the ocean as possible. I attended church every Sunday and Christian school from kindergarten through my senior year of high school. I learned that to waste naught was to want naught. I learned to treat others as I would have them treat me. I was raised by strong, confident women who taught me I could do anything and everything I wanted as long as I worked hard for it. My father took the time to chaperone field trips and take me to museums and into nature. My mother was my best friend.

    It seems like I was born a scientist with endless questions and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I read encyclopedias, looked at creek water under a microscope, and was fascinated by the ocean and weather. A marine biology teacher in high school recognized my potential and introduced me to the student volunteering program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I started volunteering in 1996 and was introduced to the field of science interpretation. Science interpretation uses knowledge of audiences and resources, combined with communications techniques, to translate complex information into accessible messages for general audiences.

    I was incredibly fortunate to train in interpretation concurrent with my undergraduate studies in marine science. Through interpretation, I learned how to communicate science to people who didn’t have access to the deep background knowledge I had acquired. Upon graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz, I entered the field of interpretation working in museums and aquariums.

    Thanks to my upbringing in nature, I have always been aware of the environment around me. Through extensive readings, I was aware of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that indicated with increasing certainty that human activity was driving changes in global climate. In early 2007, an Aquarium colleague and I recognized that there was no one specializing in climate-change interpretation at our facility, and we decided to become the experts so we could fill that role. Over the next two years, the Aquariums and Climate Coalition was formed and hosted the first Communicating Climate Change Summit in December 2008. From this Summit, it was determined that climate change interpreters needed an online space to share ideas, and the website that would become climateinterpreter.org was born.

    With funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Monterey Bay Aquarium partnered with the National Aquarium and New England Aquarium in 2009 to create training and interpretation materials to communicate about climate change and the ocean. As part of this effort, I was asked to become one of the first-ever Climate Change Interpretive Specialists. By accepting this position, I helped lead the charge to train volunteers and staff on how to most effectively communicate climate science, ocean acidification, and climate-change impacts to Aquarium visitors.

    Every day, I work with colleagues across the country to increase climate literacy through informal science education. I never imagined this was where my love of science and the ocean would take me, but I am so grateful to be here today. It is truly a joy to see understanding appear on someone’s face when they grasp what you are teaching. I live for those lightbulb moments and the change they mean for the world. There is a famous saying that tells us to “be the change.” I live the change I want to see in the world.

    Sarah-Mae Nelson creates specialized training materials focusing on climate literacy and interpretation as Conservation Interpreter for the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Online Community Manager for climateinterpreter.org.