- Posted byon April 16, 2014 at 1:56 PM EDT
On Tuesday, I had the privilege of speaking to hundreds of new citizens at a naturalization ceremony held at Hayfield Secondary School in Alexandria, Va. It was an incredible experience — one that made me proud of our country’s well-earned reputation as a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. Gathered in one place were 700 individuals from over 100 different countries, represented by different flags, different cultures and different systems of government. These 700 took an oath in unison and in one single moment they all became Americans.
Of course, their individual journeys to this day were much more unique, complicated and hard fought than could ever be captured in a moment. Some came from across the globe — from nations like Brazil, Russia, India, China, Ireland, Ghana and Afghanistan. Others came from our neighbors – Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Some of them are business owners, doctors, teachers, artists and engineers. And some are parents caring for America’s next generation.
Some are new citizens like Corporal Jorge Luis Cuji Villacis, who came here from Ecuador when he was 11 years old, went to school and then joined the U.S. Marine Corps because he wanted to make his family proud, serve this country and become a better person.
And what I found so inspiring about this ceremony is what it reaffirmed about this country. We are a nation bound together not by a shared race, a single ethnicity or a state-sanctioned religious faith. We ask neither that such traits be inherited nor left behind. Instead, our country is defined by our founding principles: freedom, equality and democracy. The idea that you are free to control your destiny and help shape the future of this nation, no matter where you came from, no matter who your ancestors are and no matter what you look like. More than a place on the map, that spirit is what the United States of America represents and it’s what these new citizens embody.
Becoming an American citizen and taking part in our shared story is a precious privilege that no one in that auditorium took for granted. So as we welcome these new partners to our bold experiment in self-government, we must work to improve the inefficient immigration system that hampered them, and so many other talented immigrants, from starting their lives here.
We know that we can improve that system by strengthening our borders, streamlining legal immigration, holding employers accountable and creating a firm but fair path to earned citizenship for those immigrants who are already contributing to our economy and society in so many ways.
That’s why we remain committed to working with Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reforms that will do justice to our immigration system and the hard working, talented individuals who come through that system seeking the privilege of becoming an American.
# Tony West is the Associate Attorney General for the Department of Justice
- Posted byon April 16, 2014 at 12:11 PM EDT
The relationship between environmental protection and public health is at the heart of EPA’s mission and the agenda of the National Hispanic Medical Association. For years, Hispanic communities have been living in areas where the quality of the air they breathe and the water they drink does not meet national standards. In 2009, 70% of Hispanic children lived in areas with poor air quality. All too often, Latinos work in occupations where they are exposed to greater environmental hazards and toxic chemicals. Furthermore, when it comes to health disparities, Latinos, particularly Puerto Ricans, are disproportionately affected by asthma attacks and asthma related deaths. Make no mistake. Climate change is very much a public health threat; it widens the health disparities we work to address.
EPA will keep fighting for environmental justice—but we can’t do it alone. We can never underestimate the importance of Hispanic medical providers as a culturally competent link, ensuring the health of the Hispanic community in America. Therefore, EPA and the NHMA are starting to work more closely together to meet our common goals of improving the environmental health of Hispanic communities throughout the nation. We have been sharing valuable information and expertise to address the challenges Latino and underserved communities face, from air quality issues and many more.
EPA recently took a step forward to protect the predominantly Hispanic farm worker community from the dangers of pesticide exposure. Each year, between 1,200 and 1,400 pesticide exposure incidents are reported on farms and in fields or forests. Last month, EPA proposed commonsense revisions to the Worker Protection Standard to protect farmworkers and their families. This is just one example of a step toward healthier communities. We’re not going to solve our environmental and health challenges overnight. Yet, we know that together we can make a difference to ensure that we have a cleaner, healthier environment and true environmental justice for all.
EPA and NHMA’s goals of protecting our environment and public health are aligned. In fact, they are joined at the hip. Our future and the future of our children depend on clean air, clean water and a stable climate. Hispanic communities, EPA, and the NHMA are working towards that goal.
Together, we hope to make a difference, one community at a time.
Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.
# Gina McCarthy and Dr. Elena Rios
- Posted byon April 15, 2014 at 7:18 AM EDT
In the field of agriculture, we have a very important question to ask ourselves: who will the next generation of farmers and ranchers be?
For more than three decades, the share of farms operated by beginning farmers has been in decline. Beginning farms and ranches accounted for 22 percent of the nation’s 2 million family farms and ranches in 2012—down from about 35 percent in 1982. Consistent with this trend, the average age of principal farm operators in the United States has risen in that period, from 51 to 58.
Since day one, the Obama Administration has supported opportunities for people who want to work the land and produce food, fuel, and fiber for our country. The Administration continues to make these critical investments because of the great innovation and promise that agriculture holds.
The White House will be hosting a Champions of Change event to celebrate local agriculture leaders who are taking innovative approaches to support American farming and ranching—both now and in the future. These leaders will be invited to the White House to celebrate their accomplishments and showcase their actions to support the future of agriculture.
Today, we’re asking you to help us identify these standout local leaders by nominating a Champion of Change for the New Generation of American Agriculture by noon on Friday, April 18. These Champions may be:
- Beginning farmers and ranchers using innovative practices and techniques to create productive and sustainable farms and ranches that will feed people at home and abroad long into the future.
- Producers, foresters, small-business owners, and scientists using Farm Bill programs to drive agricultural productivity and economic competitiveness.
- Local leaders that are working to build new opportunities for those who want to work on the land, create innovation in the field of agriculture, support diversity in agriculture, and connect a new generation to their food, fiber, fuel, and agricultural neighbors.
Click on the link below to submit your nomination (be sure to choose “Future of American Agriculture” in the “Theme of Service” field of the nomination form).
We look forward to hosting this event at the White House this spring, highlighting the great work of our nation’s agriculture leaders. Thank you for your dedication to American agriculture and the overall wellbeing of our rural communities.
- Posted byon April 14, 2014 at 4:27 PM EDT
Haroset, symbolic of the mortar the Jewish slaves of ancient Egypt used to build the Pharaoh’s cities and store-houses, is probably one of the favorite foods of Passover with recipes passed down in families from generation to generation.
Since most American Jews come from Ashkenazic backgrounds, they enjoy a version of haroset using just apples and walnuts, explains Susan Barocas of the Jewish Food Experience, a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. At the end of a long winter, apples likely would have been the only fruit left in cold cellars in Central and Eastern Europe.
But the truth is that recipes for haroset are as varied and unique as the families that celebrate, with the ingredients reflecting the ingredients and flavors available in the all the many lands where Jews have lived. Figs, apricots, dates and oranges are popular in different haroset along with a variety of nuts and spices such as ginger and allspice.
In the end, haroset-making is deliciously imprecise. Nearly everything can be—and is—adjusted to personal taste. Making haroset by hand with a knife or in a chopping bowl is laborious, but it provides a wonderful opportunity to involve children and others in holiday preparations. But not to be discounted—the food processor makes it easy to prepare more than one kind of haroset to enjoy as part of your Passover, celebrating all the many journeys of Jews around the world through the many generations.
Here are three recipes for haroset. Feel free to add the word “about” in front of any of the measurements!
TRADITIONAL ASHKENAZIC HAROSET
The apple-to-nut ratio, as well as what kind of apples to use, are up to the haroset maker. This version of this Passover classic has more of those ingredients and less sugar than other recipes. Even the consistency varies widely. Some people like it ground to a fine paste; others leave it chunky. It’s up to individual taste.
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3 apples, unpeeled, cored and cut into about 8 pieces
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or to taste
- 1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons grape juice or sweet Passover wine
Put the walnuts in the chopping bowl if doing by hand or a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Roughly chop into large dice or pulse just a few times in the processor, being careful not over-process. Add the apple pieces and chop or pulse to desired consistency. Add rest of ingredients and stir well to blend. Makes about 2 cups.
MOROCCAN HAROSET BALLS
A typical Moroccan haroset recipe contains dried fruits and spices ground to a paste-like consistency. Traditionally, Moroccan-Jewish families roll the haroset into small balls that are delicious eaten alone or squished between two pieces of matzah. They also make a delicious snack or part of a Passover breakfast.
- 3/4 cup walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts
- 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
- 1/2 cup dried apricots
- 2 or 3 dried figs
- 1 cup raisins (dark, golden or any combination)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 or 2 pinches allspice
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sweet red wine or grape juice
- Finely ground walnuts or almonds (optional)
Using a food processor, pulse to coarsely chop the nuts, then add all the rest of the ingredients except the wine and finely ground nuts. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and well blended, adding just enough wine as you are pulsing to make the mixture stick together. Too much and it will be too sticky. As you pulse it, the mixture will form a large ball. Now you are ready to roll. Very slightly dampen hands with cold water. Gently roll the mixture into balls about ¾ inches in diameter or your desired size. Place the balls on a tray or baking sheet covered in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours. Serve or store in a covered container. Or you can roll each ball in finely ground nuts, which will keep them from sticking together so they can be stored immediately in a covered container. These treats will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator, but rarely last that long. Makes about 24 balls.
Presenting this haroset shaped into a pyramid is traditional among the Jews of Persia. This recipe reflects the many fruits and spices of ancient Persia, known since 1935 as Iran. Jews have lived in Persia for over 2,500 years and developed a delicious, healthy cuisine alongside the larger Persian community. Any Persian haroset recipe almost always includes tropical fruits that grow in the country. A wide variety of nuts is used throughout Persian cooking, as reflected in the four types used here. Unlike the very sweet Ashkenazi haroset, this recipe adds a taste of cider vinegar, very typical of the savory-sweet combination found in Persian cooking.
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 3/4 cup raw and unsalted almonds
- 3/4 cup raw hazelnuts
- 3/4 cup raw and unsalted pistachio nuts
- 2 unpeeled pears, cored and cut into chunks
- 1 unpeeled apple, cored and cut into chunks
- 1 cup dates, pitted
- 2 small oranges or 1 large, peeled, pitted, sectioned and finely chopped with juice
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger root
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Sweet Passover wine or grape juice
Pulse nuts in food processor until finely chopped. Put into a large bowl. Chop the fruits, except the orange, by pulsing also, being careful not to chop the mixture into a paste. Add all the fruit, including the orange already chopped by hand and its juice, to nuts and stir to blend well. Add cinnamon, ginger root, cider vinegar and just enough wine to bind. Mix very well. Place haroset mixture on a square platter and shape into a pyramid using your hands. A flat spatula can be used to smooth the “walls.” Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours to let the flavors blend.
Matt Nosanchuk is the White House Liaison to the American Jewish community.
- Posted byon April 11, 2014 at 10:47 AM EDTEd. note: This is cross-posted from SBA.govI had the pleasure to recently participate in the White House Business Council’s Roundtable with Muslim American Business Leaders that brought together the business and faith-based community for a dialogue on how to support small businesses that start, grow and create jobs that sustain our nation’s economy.The forum recognized the tremendous contributions of Muslim American entrepreneurs and small business owners. There were nearly 20 business owners in attendance that represented various industries and sectors of small business. The roundtable provided a platform to acquaint business leaders taking part with SBA’s programs and services that are available to assist small businesses.Joining me at the roundtable was SBA’s John Shoraka, Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development, and Ann Marie Mehlum, Associate Administrator for Capital Access. Other participating agencies included the National Economic Council and the Department of Commerce International Trade Administration.The conversation outlined the progress that SBA has made in supporting entrepreneurs, including minority-owned small businesses, and laid the groundwork for greater collaboration in the coming months with these important community leaders.The SBA was privileged to have a seat at the table to help address the needs of the Muslim American business community. It gave us an opportunity to tell the story of SBA’s mission to counsel and assist businesses, and to strengthen the economy of our nation. We were able to provide information about our key programs they can use to grow their businesses. This includes SBA’s lending programs that work to address gaps in capital, as well as our government contracting programs that help small businesses compete in the federal marketplace.SBA’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships works to build strong relationships with both secular and faith-based nonprofit organizations to encourage entrepreneurship, support economic growth and promote prosperity for all Americans.We at SBA recognize the important role of all business communities and networks in economic development at the federal level, and that partnerships can provide effective and valuable steps in moving forward to engage and impact communities, especially those that are underserved and economically challenged.We are working to ensure that the nation’s job creators have access to the tools they need to build, grow and strengthen.Sarah Bard is the Director for SBA’s Office of Faith Based: Neighborhood Partnerships.
- Posted byon April 10, 2014 at 5:56 PM EDT
Last Thursday, parents, youth, advocates and community and national leaders from across the country came together at the White House to honor nine Champions of Change who have dedicated their lives to innovative approaches to reduce gun violence and make our communities safer.
Among the honorees and attendees were victims of gun violence, parents whose children were killed by senseless gun violence and individuals whose siblings, friends and neighbors were killed or have been victims of gun violence.
One of the honorees, Mark Barden, became an outspoken advocate for gun law reform after his 7-year-old son was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. At the event, Mr. Barden held a photo of his family, which included all three of his children, and shared that, like many across the nation, gun violence did not become a real issue for him until it hit home. He explained that the loss of his son was a turning point in his life, and he has now dedicated his life to make sure no one else has to face this pain.
Each of the attendees had a personal motivator for their hard work. Reverend Glenn Grayson was motivated by the murder of his 18-year old son, and explained that he used that tragedy as a source of empowerment to show youth that they can make more of their lives than what the media, community, or society presents to them.
Pamela Simon, Community Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, also shared her story as a survivor. On January 8, 2011, while staffing the Congresswoman, Pam was shot in the arm and the chest. She shared with the audience that, “those bullets hit Democrats and Republicans alike,” and that the rift between both parties on this issue is a detriment and danger to this nation.
Each of these champions used their personal motivations and exposures to tragedies at the hands of irresponsible weapons use as a force of change in their communities. From creating organizations to rallying local, faith-based, or educational communities, these Champions of Change used their resources and voices to implement change across the United States for a more secure and responsible political, educational, and social environment for our children.
Rumana Ahmed is the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Office of Public Engagement.
- Posted byon April 9, 2014 at 6:05 PM EDT
This week, the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico and a team of experts from federal agencies hosted roundtable discussions with Governor Alejandro García Padilla’s Administration, leaders from across the public and private sector, as well as foundation stakeholders. The roundtables are part of the Task Force’s ongoing efforts to work with Puerto Rico, encouraging the Commonwealth to take full advantage of existing federal resources and move its economy forward. Vice President Biden also met with the Governor to reiterate the Administration’s commitment to help the people of Puerto Rico on their path to economic growth and to create more opportunity for the Island and its residents.
The roundtable discussions made progress on the following three areas:
a) Making Puerto Rico Open for Business through Public/Private Partnerships;
b) Energy Leadership and Innovation Economic Competitiveness;
c) The Knowledge-based Economy
During these discussions, the García Padilla Administration reiterated its commitment to identifying private sector partnerships to strengthen the economy and create opportunities for the people of Puerto Rico. One example of this commitment is a promising collaborative effort to begin producing base proteins for an AIDS vaccine between the National Institutes of Health, University of Puerto Rico and Microbiology Center.
Our discussions also focused on mechanisms to strengthen Puerto Rico’s economic competitiveness. Entrepreneurs working in emerging markets have developed innovative, financially viable business models for capturing the potential of the knowledge-based economy and delivering essential goods and services. Central to this discussion was the need to develop the human capital in Puerto Rico necessary for these entrepreneurs and their financial backers to scale successful local innovations and deploy them.
The roundtables also focused on prospects for renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, analytical tools, and financing. Governor García Padilla reminded the Task Force that energy innovation is key to the development of Puerto Rico’s future economy. The participants explored how business, government, and community leaders can obtain information and tools to guide their organizations and communities in energy-related decisions and planning.
Today’s meeting included an update from Governor García Padilla on Puerto Rico’s progress implementing measures to reduce the Commonwealth’s deficit, strengthen its overall fiscal position, and grow the Puerto Rican economy. The Governor’s Administration reaffirmed its commitment to getting the economy of the Commonwealth back on track to recovery. The Obama Administration remains dedicated to being a strong partner in helping them achieve this important goal.
In the coming months, the Task Force will continue to take action and provide advice and recommendations on policies and initiatives that will complement Governor García Padilla’s plan to promote job creation, education, health care, clean energy and economic development in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico’s challenges did not develop overnight. And while they will not be solved overnight, the President’s Puerto Rico Task Force will continue to work with the García Padilla Administration to move Puerto Rico’s economy forward.
David Agnew is Co-Chair of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico
- Posted byon April 8, 2014 at 8:50 AM EDT
Teresa A. Crawford is being honored as a Gun Violence Prevention Champion of Change.
On a chilly desert morning January 19, 2013, about one month after the mass shooting of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I joined a small group of parents, educators, students and community organizers outside a shooting range in Las Vegas that advertises “shotgun weddings.” We gathered, not to protest the range’s unusual take on matrimony, but signal our resolve to the state legislators who drove past us on their way to a closed-door NRA lobbying session at the facility.
Just two weeks before Nevada’s biennial legislative session, time was short to convince lawmakers to pass a strong background checks law to stop private gun sales to dangerous possessors and strengthen mental health reporting. Nevada consistently ranks high on every index of gun violence, especially for women killed by intimate partners, and its gun laws get an F for weakness. Our message: The time to act is now! Most of the lawmakers drove past our signs with eyes front, but two assemblywomen approached to offer a box of doughnuts and chat with us. They turned out to be heroes who championed the background checks bill, SB 221, introduced by a courageous state senator, which passed both legislative chambers.
That day launched dozens of events to educate our community about the toll of gun violence in Nevada and urge state and federal lawmakers to pass new background checks laws. As a retired nurse, I feel that gun violence is a major public health challenge. We rallied at the offices of our senators and governor with handmade signs, held press conferences and vigils and shared personal stories. We phone banked our lists to ask supporters to call their lawmakers—which generated hundreds of contacts—wrote letters to the editor, asked questions at congressional Town Halls and brainstormed at grassroots trainings.
Ultimately, we delivered more than 12,000 signatures to both U.S. Senators and the Governor. We know from public interaction that the five Nevada-specific polls showing strong majority support for a background checks law accurately reflect the people’s will. Even gun owners support expanded background checks. The governor, pressured by the gun lobby, vetoed the bill.
That evening, we held a sunset vigil to thank our hero legislators and remember our losses. Our hearts were broken because the veto came exactly six months after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Because of the veto’s tragic timing, that event got full network coverage.
Three days before our first event, on January 16, 2013, President Obama released the administration’s plan to reduce gun violence in America and initiated 23 executive actions. The president’s leadership inspired us to form a citizen’s movement for the common goal of safer schools and communities. President Obama’s insistence that everyone affected by gun violence deserves a vote echoed long after the 2013 State of the Union speech ended.
Our unofficial coalition includes Organizing for Action, ProgressNow Nevada Action and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, now merged with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, plus our networks of friends and family. Our work continues in 2014 with a press conference, media interviews, a strategy summit and continued Town Hall dialogues with our elected representatives. We are preparing for the next legislative session in 2015. Our resolve is even stronger than it was on that cold morning over a year ago.
Teresa A. Crawford is the Organizing for Action Gun Violence Prevention Lead for Nevada, a board member for ProgressNow Nevada and a retired nurse in Henderson, NV.