- Posted byon May 14, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
On Tuesday, May 13, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough spoke at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Global Forum. The AJC Global Forum is an annual event that brings a diverse group of Jews together from around the world to advocate for shared values.
His remarks highlighted the President’s priorities on the domestic front, focusing on immigration and the economy, and on foreign policy, reiterating the Administration’s unshakeable commitment to the State of Israel and to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
His full remarks – as prepared for delivery – are below:
Minister Kasoulides, Minister Steinitz, distinguished guests, it’s an honor to represent the Obama Administration at the AJC Global Forum. I especially want to thank your President, Stan Bergman, and your longtime executive director, David Harris, for their leadership, and for inviting me here tonight.
Of course, I’m an obvious choice to join you this evening. After all, May is Jewish Heritage month, and who better to reflect on Jewish heritage than a guy named Denis McDonough?
But the truth is, so much of the heritage we celebrate this month is shared. My grandparents came to this country in search of a better life. But this country, more than anyplace else, held out a promise of opportunity: that here, universal human rights would be protected, and that no matter who you were or where you came from, you could make it if you tried.
For more than a century, the American Jewish Committee has helped our country keep alive that promise of opportunity for all. You’ve stood up for our shared values around the world. You’ve honored the American tradition of perfecting our union with hard work and sacrifice, and the Jewish tradition that teaches that while we are not obligated to finish that work, neither are we free to desist from it.
These ideas of shared responsibility, of obligations that are bigger than ourselves, are what motivate President Obama every day. Under his leadership, and thanks to the determination of the American people, an economy that lost about nine million jobs has now created 9.2 million private sector jobs. More families know the economic security of health care. Troops who were fighting two wars are coming home.
But we also recognize that our work is far from finished. That’s why President Obama has laid out an opportunity agenda to keep America’s founding promise alive for future generations. He’s fighting to create more good jobs with good wages, and a world-class education for the next generation. He’s fighting for equal pay for women, and a fair minimum wage for our workers.
And as the American Jewish Committee knows well, President Obama is fighting to fix a broken immigration system. I want to spend some time on this, beginning by thanking you – because for years, you have been a key partner in this effort. You have argued, loudly and forcefully, that our current immigration system is unfair to businesses, workers, and families alike. You’ve helped bring a moral dimension to this debate, one rooted in the biblical edict, “You shall not oppress a stranger, having been a stranger in the land of Egypt.” And last year, thanks in no small part to your hard work, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together and passed a bipartisan, common-sense immigration bill.
The question now is whether House Republicans will live up to that example. It’s clear what the right choice is, not just morally, but economically. A report by the Congressional Budget Office found that passing the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill will grow our economy by more than 3 percent in one decade, and more than 5 percent in two decades. That means we could be looking at an extra $700 billion in our economy by 2023, and $1.4 trillion in 2033. And it will shrink our deficits by more than $150 billion over the next 10 years, and about $700 billion in the decade after that.
But as we’ve seen before, in today’s Washington, just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it will get done. So in addition to thanking you for helping us get to this point, I want to urge you keep making your voices heard. Make sure our lawmakers know what’s at stake. Ask them to put aside politics and do what is right.
President Obama believes there is still time to make reform a reality. Just today, he invited law enforcement officials from across our country who know how important this is to come to the White House. So I promise you that as you continue your efforts to fix our broken immigration system, your president will be with you every step of the way. Because he believes that ultimately, this issue is about much more than politics – it’s about our responsibility to keep alive the basic values we share.
Of course, even as he works to make real our country’s promise of opportunity for all, President Obama recognizes that our responsibilities don’t end at home – and those other responsibilities are what I would like to close with today. Part of what makes America great is that we stand by the countries that share our values around the world. That’s why throughout its history, the State of Israel has had no greater friend than the United States of America.
The United States is proud to be the first country to recognize the existence of a Jewish State – just 11 minutes after Israel’s independence was declared. Today, we celebrate a diverse, democratic ally, a “start-up nation” where entrepreneurship thrives. The unbreakable bonds between our two countries are as strong as ever.
And as President Obama put it last year at the United Nations General Assembly, “the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.” Time and time again, he has stated his firm conviction that Israel has a right to defend itself, and to maintain its qualitative military edge.
Over the last five and a half years, President Obama has backed up those words with action. Today, the cooperation between our militaries and intelligence services has never been stronger. At this very moment, there are Israeli children sleeping more soundly because of the Iron Dome defense system that America invested in.
And with so much tumult across the region—including Egypt and Syria—we are consulting closely with our Israeli partners every step of the way, as we saw again in Susan Rice’s visit to Israel last week. Susan led the U.S. delegation of the U.S.-Israel Consultative Group, a dialogue launched several years ago. The ICG, as we call it, is a first of its kind, a spot where we consult on our shared threats, including from Iran, with Israel. It has been led by the President’s National Security Advisors, Tom Donilon and now Susan. This intensive and candid discussion reflects the unprecedented level of cooperation between our two countries, and President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security.
And along with many other important pieces of business she conducted in Israel last week, Susan reaffirmed the President’s clear policy: the United States is committed to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Over the last few years, we have rallied the world behind unprecedented sanctions that have helped to bring Iran to the negotiating table. Today—for the first time in a decade— progress on Iran’s nuclear program has been halted and key parts have been rolled back. The IAEA has confirmed that Iran is meeting its commitments under the joint plan of action.
Today we started another round of tough negotiations among the Iranians on one side and basically the rest of the world on the other. We are engaged in serious, substantive negotiations aimed at reaching a comprehensive solution that addresses the world's concerns with Iran’s nuclear program. There’s no doubt that significant gaps remain and it is far from certain that we can reach a final agreement that sufficiently addresses our concerns. But this is a chance to resolve this issue diplomatically, peacefully. And throughout these focused negotiations, our bottom line has not changed and will not change. A nuclear-armed Iran would be a grave danger to the United States, to Israel, and to the world, and we are committed to doing what we must to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Even as we pursue a resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, we remain focused – every single day – on countering Iran’s support for terrorism, and its destabilizing efforts in the region. That includes our unprecedented support for Israel’s security, as well as the security of our Gulf Partners. That includes our efforts to strengthen the Syrian opposition, and to apply pressure on the Assad regime. And that includes steady and coordinated efforts to expose Iranian support for terrorism; to stop the flow of weapons to terrorist groups like Hizbollah and Hamas; and to maintain our robust sanctions on Hizbollah and Iranian sponsorship of terrorist activity.
Moreover, as President Obama said in Jerusalem last year: “Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist … might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.” And with the question of Israel’s existence off the table, there is another question we must ask ourselves: What will Israel’s future hold?
It was America’s commitment to Israel’s future—our abiding belief that Israelis and Palestinians deserve a future of peace and security—that guided our efforts over the past year. Early in those talks, Secretary of State Kerry came here, to the AJC Global Forum, because your organization understands that peace and security are inextricably linked. In the end, the interests of a Jewish State of Israel require two nations that can live in peace. In the face of an unsustainable status quo, a two-state solution is not just desirable – it is necessary, for both sides.
Today, we are profoundly grateful to Secretary Kerry, and to organizations like AJC, for the extraordinary efforts made over the past year. No nation has done more to stand with the parties—Israelis and Palestinians—in their search for peace than the United States of America. No nation. And though talks may be suspended, President Obama has been very clear—the United States will never waver in our commitment to a just and lasting peace. Both Israelis and Palestinians face hard choices. Both must make difficult decisions. And only Israelis and Palestinians can make the compromises that are necessary for two states to live side-by-side in peace and security.
But just because peace is difficult doesn’t mean we can stop trying. As President Obama reminds me often, “Hard things are hard.” Fixing a broken immigration system is hard. Bringing an end to a decades-old conflict in the Middle East is hard. But our history, our heritage, teaches us that hard things are possible. And with your help, I believe that we can leave behind for our children a country that keeps alive its founding promise of opportunity for all, and a world filled with prosperity and peace.
Thank you very much.
Matt Nosanchuk is Director of Outreach on the National Security Council.
- Posted byon May 13, 2014 at 1:02 PM EST
For too long, many members of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community have lacked access to quality, affordable health care. Consider these statistics:
- One in four Korean Americans is uninsured;
- Nearly 40% of Asian American women over the age of 40 don’t get routine mammograms;
- One in four Asian Americans over the age of 18 – and one in three Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders – has not seen a doctor in the last year.
The Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity to provide nearly two million uninsured Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with quality, affordable health care. In addition, eight out of ten uninsured AAPIs may be eligible for financial assistance through Medicaid, CHIP, or tax credits in the Health Insurance Marketplace. That’s why, according to a report released by HHS last week, of enrollees in the Marketplace, 8% were Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.
Across the country, organizations and individuals stepped up to do their part to educate the AAPI community about the Affordable Care Act. And last month, the White House and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) honored the following 11 advocates and community leaders as “Champions of Change” for their work to educate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders about the Affordable Care Act:
- Teresita Batayola, CEO, International Community Health Services (Seattle, WA)
- Sophie Duong, CEO/President, Nationwide Viet Radio (Falls Church, VA)
- Howard J. Eng, Assistant Professor and Director of the Southwest Border Rural Health Research Center, The University of Arizona College of Public Health (Tucson, AZ)
- Minja Hong, Program Coordinator of Healthcare Access Services, Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York (New York, NY)
- Priscilla Huang, Action for Health Justice (Washington, DC)
- Amy Jones, Director of Health & Social Services, Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition, Inc. (Philadelphia, PA)
- Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Executive Director, South Asian Network (Artesia, CA)
- Ranjana Paintal, Program Manager, Asian Health Coalition of Illinois (Chicago, IL)
- Cathy Phan, Affordable Care Act Program Coordinator, Asian American Health Coalition - HOPE Clinic (Houston, TX)
- Bruce Thao, Director of Programs, Hmong American Partnership and Hmong National Development (St. Paul, MN)
- Cathy Vue, Program Coordinator, Asian Services In Action, Inc. (Cleveland, OH)
Gautam Raghavan is Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement.
- Posted byon May 13, 2014 at 12:54 PM EST
Ranjana Paintal is being honored as a Health in the AAPI Community Champion of Change.
I am honored to be chosen along with my fellow counterparts as a Champion of Change. Over the last year, I have served as program manager for the Asian Health Coalition’s partnership consortium around education, outreach and enrollment to underserved Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) communities in Illinois, which has been made possible through the Affordable Care Act. My participation at the local level has been fulfilling both on a personal and professional level in this landmark national effort. However, this award magnifies this sense of fulfillment because it furthers one of our agency’s most significant goals- to bring attention to the challenges of the marginalized immigrant and refugee communities in Illinois.
“No community should be invisible to its government” said President Barack Obama when he unveiled his vision to meet the growing and unmet needs of this country’s AAPI community a few years ago. These words have been central to our mission at the Asian Health Coalition as many of the immigrant communities that we work with have historically lacked health insurance and access to basic preventative care.
Illinois is home to the 5th largest AAPI population in the nation and also the largest in the Midwest region. As more than two-thirds of AAPIs in Illinois are immigrants, the passage of the Affordable Care Act presents an amazing opportunity to address the needs of the communities that our consortium serves and allows them to have access to health care services which we regard as a basic human right.
Our consortium of community-based organizations and their certified navigators have been cultural brokers in the education, outreach and enrollment of their community members. Right from the beginning, our navigators educated each of the unique populations that they served about the Affordable Care Act and how it could help them, and then followed up to ensure that those needing assistance in the enrollment process received the help that they needed. Culturally sensitive and language appropriate educational materials were created with feedback from our community partners; ethnic news media outlets, and key stakeholders including community leaders were educated to help spread the word within their networks. As a result, these communities had access to simple and jargon-free information in their native language, were encouraged to sign up from those they trusted most (faith leaders, community leaders and elders), and had trustworthy spokespeople from within their community who they could rely on to navigate them through the enrollment process. Thanks to the efforts of my colleagues and our partners, we had an incredibly successful enrollment period, surpassing our enrollment goals and educating thousands of individuals.
As a mother of 2 young children it gives me peace of mind to know that with the help of my health insurance I am better able to take care of myself so that I can take care of them. I look forward to the day when every parent in this country can say this, no matter what community they live in, what language they speak and where they are from. I’m proud that I was able to play a role in this historic initiative that will hopefully bring us to that day.
Ranjana Paintal is Program Manager for Asian Health Coalition of Illinois
- Posted byon May 13, 2014 at 12:52 PM EST
Priscilla Huang is being honored as a Health in the AAPI Community Champion of Change.
Of the over 2 million Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) who are uninsured, Bishnu Kamar was just one of the many. She was one of the many people who lived in fear of what might happen when they get sick and one of the many who could not afford quality coverage no matter how hard she worked as a social worker in her Philadelphia community.
Through the Affordable Care Act, Bishnu was able to get covered and it now offers new opportunities for better health for millions of other AAPIs just like her. This is why Action for Health Justice was created. It was co-founded by my organization, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles.
We launched this national, coordinated initiative because we wanted to ensure the Affordable Care Act was not just a promise, but a reality for AAPIs. With communities spanning 50 different ethnicities and speaking more than 100 different languages, the only way to ensure success was to develop culturally and linguistically tailored outreach strategies.
Together, we tackled the challenge head-on. We leveraged the expertise and reach of national partners and the collective forces of more than 70 community-based organizations and health centers, implementing a multi-part strategy rooted in and driven by community need. On the ground in 21 states, we channeled our energies to where assistance was most needed: immigrant families facing complex eligibility questions and those with language barriers. Most importantly, we knew that providing education would not be enough. To be the most effective, we combined education through trusted messengers with new resources, coordinated efforts tailored specifically to help limited-English-proficient Americans get covered and worked closely with enrollment assisters to monitor and troubleshoot the enrollment process.
From providing tens of thousands of AAPIs with information, to large town halls in California and beyond, we have gone to where our communities live, work, play and worship to promote the first open enrollment period. For many of the people we helped, Action for Health Justice partners were the first and only source of assistance they received.
Our work would never have been possible without the tireless efforts of our community partners and health centers. When I hear coverage stories like Bishnu’s, or the many others Action for Health Justice helped, the Affordable Care Act becomes a little more real. With the first enrollment period behind us, we at Action for Health Justice remain committed to educating AAPIs and all communities about their health care options now and beyond. Action for Health Justice is a testament to the power and strength that can come from collective action. I am humbled to be a part of that and honored to make health care a reality for so many.
Priscilla Huang is Policy Director for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, an organization that co-founded Action for Health Justice along with the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles.
- Posted byon May 13, 2014 at 12:50 PM EST
Minja Hong is being honored as a Health in the AAPI Community Champion of Change.
The New York Metropolitan area where my organization serves is often the initial stepping stone for first generation immigrants who choose to make their lives here in the United States. They come here to work, to educate their children, and to create homes. This is no less true of members of the Korean community. Therefore, Korean Community Services’ mission is to support their aspirations through ESL classes, job training, and after-school classes that create culturally and linguistically appropriate social safety nets that make for stronger families and communities.
My role as a Community Health Advocate, and as a state certified Navigator, allows me to understand all the practical challenges of receiving equal access healthcare, even in a diverse city such as ours. When open enrollment started, roughly one out of four individuals in the Korean community, were estimated to be without insurance due to linguistic, cultural, and financial barriers.
As a result, the Navigators at my organization and I, needed to identify and problem solve how we would address concerns specific to the immigrant population when it came to this historical change in our Nation’s healthcare law. Through the support and collaboration with other minority organizations in New York we were able to find much needed answers and apply them while still maintaining full enrollment schedules. In addition, we were compelled to add New Jersey Korean Americans to our roster of clients because of the overwhelming need for language competent services. To accomplish this, my colleagues and I went through another round of training specific to the federal marketplace and traveled to New Jersey sites to provide services throughout the entire open enrollment period. I was also privileged to be able to serve the Japanese community in the region in learning about their options in order to participate more fully in the healthcare reform.
Since our branch office is located in Midtown Manhattan it soon became evident to me that our role as bi-lingual Navigators was not only about exposing the challenges and distinctions in securing equal access healthcare to minority groups, but more about finding a common ground with the entire community. Regardless of race, language, creed or gender, the need to be healthy and to make sure one’s children are healthy was always the same. I am privileged to be able to work with driven and far-seeing colleagues, both in and outside my immediate organization, that continue to persevere in ensuring that people are empowered to make their own healthcare choices through education and changes in policy. My hope, going forward, is that despite the difficulties, or perhaps because of them, we find more common ground in the things that affect us all, such as access to healthcare, so that we can move toward creating healthy and productive communities.
Minja Hong is Program Coordinator of Healthcare Access Services at Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York
- Posted byon May 13, 2014 at 12:41 PM EST
Manju Kulkarni is being honored as a Health in the AAPI Community Champion of Change.
South Asian Network (SAN) is a community-based organization, dedicated to the mission of promoting the health, solidarity and empowerment of South Asian Americans in Southern California. Founded in 1990, SAN is one of the oldest South Asian American community-based organizations in the nation. Our offices are located in the City of Artesia in the heart of “Little India.”
Since 2003, SAN has been working to improve the health of the South Asian community in Southern California. Currently, the Community Health Action Initiative (CHAI) serves the health and health care access needs of South Asian Americans and immigrants in the following ways: (1) outreach and education on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and enrollment assistance in Covered California, California’s health benefit exchange; (2) outreach and enrollment assistance in other public benefit programs including Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps and SSI; (3) patient navigation services; (4) health education on cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stress management and depression; (5) a caregivers’ support group for those individuals caring for seniors; (6) mental health services for adults, children and seniors; and (7) a seniors’ walking club and nutrition program.
SAN was the only South Asian organization in California to be certified to provide outreach, education and enrollment assistance in the state’s health benefit exchange, Covered California. This allowed our staff to conduct outreach to over 2400 individuals. In addition, SAN received coverage in two national media outlets, the LA Times and PRI’s The World, in one state resource, California Health, as well as several local ethnic media outlets on our work to educate South Asians on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and assist with enrollment in Covered California.
Our staff and board of directors are most proud of the social justice framework which enables us to envision a more just and equitable world, our efforts to engage in prevention as much as service provision, and our success at incorporating diversity of the South Asian community throughout the organization.
Manjusha Kulkarni is Executive Director of South Asian Network (SAN).
- Posted byon May 13, 2014 at 12:38 PM EST
Howard Eng is being honored as a Health in the AAPI Community Champion of Change.
The Pima County AAPI Navigator Program’s primary goal is to reduce the number Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) uninsured in Pima County, Arizona. To accomplish this goal, the program uses both general and specified community cultural, linguistically and appropriate literacy level outreach approaches. The Program works with AAPI community leaders and partners to identify the most appropriate and effective public education and outreach approaches that can be used to reach their communities’ uninsured.
There are many challenges in outreaching to the AAPI populations in Pima County. Some of these include: (1) the AAPI populations are scattered throughout a very large county (larger than New Jersey); (2) many of the AAPI communities are not receptive to outsider interactions; (3) cultural and language barriers; (4) lack of awareness about health coverage availability; (5) limited health literacy; (6) do not see the urgency or the need for health coverage; and (7) even with subsidized coverage with the Health Insurance Marketplace for some AAPI families, it still may not be affordable.
To overcome many of these challenges, the Navigator Program works closely with AAPI community leaders and partners to determine if there is a need for Program assistance to outreach to the uninsured. If there is a need for assistance, the community leaders help to identify the most appropriate and effective public education and outreach approaches that can be used to reached their communities’ uninsured. The program uses cultural, linguistically and appropriate literacy level outreach approaches as well as work within the community culture and structure (e.g., giving public presentations to AAPI community and faith-based groups in English and their preferred language, if needed and providing Marketplace and other health care coverage information booths at AAPI community events). It takes time and patience to overcome the challenges and requires a long term approach in establishing a strong working relationship with the communities.
Looking past open enrollment, from December 2013 to August 2014, the Navigator Program plans to outreach 7 to 8 different Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Pima County. The Program outreached to the Bhutanese community in December 2013, Marshallese community in January 2014, Filipino and Chinese communities in February-March, and plans to begin outreach to the Asian Indian community in April.
Howard Eng is Assistant Professor and Director of the Southwest Border Rural Health Research Center, Center for Rural Health, The University of Arizona College of Public Health
- Posted byon May 13, 2014 at 12:36 PM EST
Bruce Thao is being honored as a Health in the AAPI Community Champion of Change.
My family arrived in the United States in December of 1975—greeted by winter in Iowa. Like many other Hmong refugee families, they struggled through poverty, learning a new language, and navigating a maze of systems seemingly built to keep them away from the very services they needed. My parents are proud and resilient and were able to make a better life for us despite having just survived war, refugee camps and leaving all they’ve ever known behind. It is this resilience and indomitable spirit which drives me and my work with Hmong American Partnership (HAP) and its subsidiary, Hmong National Development (HND).
Though the Hmong have come a long way having been in the U.S. for almost 40 years, we still have far to go. In 2010, 1 in 4 Hmong families lived in poverty, which is one of the highest rates across race and ethnic groups in America. In addition, the Hmong community has disproportionately low educational attainment rates and high rates of death from cancer and incidence of other ailments such as Hepatitis B, stroke, diabetes and gout. These health disparities can partly be attributed to a lack of health insurance and not receiving preventative care. By the time they are in front of a doctor they may be in stage 4 of liver or breast cancer.
When the Affordable Care Act passed, HAP and HND knew we had to get information out to our communities, particularly for the growing Hmong communities in Minnesota, California, and the South. While states like California, Minnesota and Wisconsin continue to have the highest Hmong populations (over 200,000 in these three states), we have seen an exponential increase in the Hmong population in the South (now over 20,000 Hmong in southern states). They are located in rural communities that do not have the capacity or infrastructure to provide healthcare outreach or education to the Hmong.
The majority of the Hmong in the South lack health insurance, many had never heard of the Affordable Care Act, and are illiterate in both Hmong and English. So we knew we had a tough task to tackle. In Arkansas, Missouri and North Carolina, HND conducted outreach and created relationships between Hmong community leaders, enrollment agencies and healthcare providers, identifying language assistance and interpreters where available. Through community meetings and conference lines, we connected communities across states and rural areas to educate them. To date we have provided education and outreach to over 500 Hmong farmers and families in the South that otherwise have been unreachable by mainstream agencies.
The keys to our success lie in leveraging community leaders and ethnic media and the power of word of mouth. Our history as a persecuted ethnic minority group has forced us to rely on oral tradition to carry our heritage and our identity. We utilize radio, conference lines, word of mouth and the power of story to get the word out to our communities to know that there are resources available and ways to receive healthcare. Our combined national efforts have resulted in close to 20,000 Hmong and other Southeast Asians learning about the Affordable Care Act and over 2,000 receiving healthcare coverage across the country.
Bruce Thao is Director of Programs for Hmong American Partnership (HAP) and Hmong National Development (HND).