Read all posts from August 2011

  • Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.

    Blue Star Families

    In 2009, I helped to create Blue Star Families with a group of dedicated military spouses to support, empower and connect military families to each other, to their communities and to decision makers.  As the Army spouse of an OIF combat wounded warrior, I feel a close kinship with this dynamic group of military spouses and families who experience similar issues. All too often, the greater community does not understand our sacrifices and our service to this nation. As such, Blue Star Families’ strategic focus is to bridge the gap between the military and civilian communities.  In doing so, our primary aim is to promote and foster healthy military families through the collaborative sharing of information and quality of life resources.

    To be sure, Blue Star Families has exceeded its own expectations. We have struck a chord, not just with military family members hungry for support and empowerment, but also with elected officials, military leadership and corporate America seeking to hear unfiltered feedback related to “on the ground” issues that are impacting us. As military families, we appreciate the momentous sacrifice of others in our shoes; subsequently, we regularly conduct our Military Family Lifestyle Survey to glean what today’s military families truly need. From its results and our personal familiarity, we set the stage for our pioneering programming platform with novel projects like Operation Honor Cards and our groundbreaking public service announcements (PSAs) to help prevent military family suicides.

  • Over 400 small and minority business entrepreneurs participated in a Department of Energy small business procurement summit in Orangeburg, South Carolina on Tuesday, August 23, 2011. I had the pleasure of speaking at the event together with DOE Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. Congressman James Clyburn, and SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns. This was part of a series of high-level events that the White House asked all Federal agencies to conduct. Since March, over 20 Cabinet and Senate-confirmed officials and 7,000 small business owners have participated in 19 small business matchmaking events around the country.

  • Watch the President's full remarks here.

    This morning, President Obama urged Congress to pass a clean extension of key transportation programs as soon as possible. I was proud to stand in the Rose Garden with the President as he called for Congress to protect critical jobs and bolster our roads, bridges, runways and railways.

    At the end of September, if Congress doesn’t act, the nation's surface transportation program will expire.  This provides funding for highway construction, bridge repair, mass transit systems, and other essential projects that keep our people and our commerce moving quickly and safely.  It also provides money for thousands of transportation projects currently under construction around the country.  When the law expires, those projects will shut down, taking precious jobs with them.

    For America's construction workers and their families, it represents the difference between making ends meet or not.

    If we allow our transportation law to expire without an extension, almost 1 million construction and other workers will lose their jobs over the coming year. If the extension is delayed for just 10 days, our nation will lose nearly $1 billion in highway funding, and that is money we can never get back.  In addition, over 4,000 of our professionals in the Department of Transportation will be immediately furloughed without pay.

  • Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the FEMA blog.

    FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate responds to Hurricane Irene in Vermont

    Administrator Craig Fugate (right) goes over a map of Ludlow with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (center) and General Dick Harris, Brigadier General, Vermont National Guard in Ludlow, VT. They surveyed damages in the town following the inland flooding caused by Irene, August 30, 2011. (Photo from FEMA)

    You may have heard media reports that the lead up to Irene was over-hyped and that we “dodged a bullet” – well I can tell you that while the impacts of Irene could have been much worse, there are many areas, especially in the Northeast that are still experiencing dangerous inland flooding and our state and local partners are still very much responding to this storm.

    Yesterday, I visited Vermont and met with Governor Shumlin and his emergency management team, as well as Senator Sanders, Senator Leahy, Representative Welch and other local officials. Thanks to the New Hampshire National Guard, who is in Vermont helping with the flood response, we flew over some hard hit areas of the state to assess the damages, and ensure that the Governor had all the resources he needed to continue the response to the flooding that Irene has left in her wake.

  • President Obama today praised the extraordinary decade of service rendered by the 9/11 Generation of our military, the more than five million men and women – all of whom voluntarily joined the armed forces over the past ten years. He also paid special tribute to the more than 6,200 Americans who have given their lives in this hard decade of war.

    Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (328MB) | mp3 (32MB)

    Speaking before the American Legion National Convention today in Minneapolis, the President said that America’s military is the best it’s ever been, and highlighted the ways in which this new generation has changed the way America fights and wins our wars:

    They're a generation of innovators, and they’ve changed the way America fights and wins at wars.  Raised in the age of the Internet, they’ve harnessed new technologies on the battlefield. They’ve learned the cultures and traditions and languages of the places where they served.  Trained to fight, they’ve also taken on the role of diplomats and mayors and development experts, negotiating with tribal sheikhs, working with village shuras, partnering with communities.  Young captains, sergeants, lieutenants -- they've assumed responsibilities once reserved for more senior commanders, and reminding us that in an era when so many other institutions have shirked their obligations, the men and women of the United States military welcome responsibility. 

    The President touched on some of the most extraordinary achievements of the past ten years, in Iraq and Afghanistan, including “our greatest victory yet in the fight against those who attacked us on 9/11—delivering justice to Osama bin Laden in one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in American history.”

  • President Barack Obama visits the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA HQ

    President Barack Obama visits the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to monitor the latest on Hurricane Irene, Aug. 27, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, as cities and towns along the East Coast begin to recover from the destructive power of Hurricane Irene, we also reflect on the six year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Both storms remind us of the need to take precautions and be prepared before disasters strike. and are resources with easy-to-follow steps on how to plan ahead for disasters that might affect your area.  

    In a statement observing the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the President highlighted the importance of enhancing our preparedness efforts and the Administration's commitment to supporting communities as they rebuild:

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (38MB) | mp3 (4MB)

    This morning, President Obama announced his intention to nominate Alan B. Krueger as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). As one of the nation’s leading economists, Dr. Krueger will bring  decades of experience, including serving as chief economist at the Treasury Department, and a wealth of knowledge to the challenge of creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Following his confirmation, President Obama will designate Dr. Krueger as Chairman of CEA. 

    During his remarks in the Rose Garden, the President first addressed the response to Hurricane Irene:

    It’s going to take time to recover from a storm of this magnitude.  The effects are still being felt across much of the country, including in New England and states like Vermont where there's been an enormous amount of flooding.  So our response continues.  But I’m going to make sure that FEMA and other agencies are doing everything in their power to help people on the ground.

    President Obama announces Alan Krueger to lead the Council of Economic Advisers

    President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press in the Rose Garden of the White House announcing Alan Krueger as his nominee to lead the Council of Economic Advisers, Aug. 29, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Even as communities of the Eastern seaboard recover from the hurricane, the country as a whole continues to face the challenge of economic recovery. As the President said today, Dr. Krueger will be a strong addition to his economic team as they work tirelessly to accelerate hiring and spur innovation:  

  • President Obama on Hurricane Irene Recovery

    President Barack Obama makes statement on Hurricane Irene with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Bill Daley in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    With Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate at his side, President Obama today gave the American people a brief update on the ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Irene, the deadly storm that devastated swaths of the East Coast this weekend. The President also expressed concern for those who were impacted:

    Our thoughts and prayers are with those who’ve lost loved ones and those whose lives have been affected by the storm. You need to know that America will be with you in your hour of need.

    While the storm has weakened as it moves north, it remains a dangerous storm that continues to produce heavy rains. One of our chief concerns before Irene made landfall was the possibility of significant flooding and widespread power outages. And we’ve been getting reports of just that from our state and local partners. Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in the coming days as rivers swell past their banks.

    So I want people to understand that this is not over. Response and recovery efforts will be an ongoing operation, and I urge Americans in affected areas to continue to listen for the guidance and direction of their state and local officials.

    The President thanked the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, state and local officials and the many volunteer organizations who worked tirelessly over the past several days, noting that the advance planning has saved lives and property. Moving forward, he said that FEMA will be working with state and local responders to assess damage and assist in the recovery.

    Watch the President's full remarks on the recovery from Hurricane Irene here.

  • President Obama pays tribute to the first responders, those who have served, and those who lost their lives ten years ago in the September 11th attacks. Visit for ways to commemorate the solemn anniversary in your community.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • Vice President Joe Biden Signs a Flag for a Group of Sailors at Yokota AFB

    Vice President Joe Biden signs a flag for a group of sailors after speaking to troops at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    A quick look at what happened this week on

    #VPinAsia: The Vice President spent the last week traveling through Asia and meeting with leaders in the region. He delivered a major speech in China, met with the Prime Minister of Mongolia, and paid tribute to the enduring spirit of the Japanese tsunami survivors.

    Hurricane Irene: The President has urged Americans to take this storm seriously. With the hurricane poised to reach the east coast this weekend, it is important to take steps ensuring your preparedness. We've compiled a list of helpful resources in case you are in the projected path of the hurricane.

    Libya:  Following a call with the National Security Council, President Obama spoke about the evolving situation in Libya. President Obama said, "The Qaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people," making it clear that the courage of the Libyan people has brought freedom within reach.

  • Tonight, President Obama returns from a trip with the First Family to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. This summer trip follows a long tradition of Presidents getting out of Washington to spend time with their families and enjoy the outdoors. The White House Historical Association shared images from a slideshow of Presidential vacations and retreats.

    Check out some of the photos of Presidential vacations from the past:

  • In September 2009, the President announced that – for the first time in history – White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis.  Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in May 2011.  Today’s release also includes several visitor records generated prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public in July 2011 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy.  This release brings the grand total of records that this White House has released to over 1.6 million records.  You can view them all in our Disclosures section.

    Ed. Note: For more information, check out

  • Lately, there has been a great deal of inaccurate information about the Obama Administration's record on regulations. I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up the facts, particularly in view of a letter sent by Speaker Boehner to the President today.

    President Obama believes that, as our economy recovers and we work to support job creation, it is important to minimize regulatory burdens and avoid unjustified regulatory costs. The President has taken ambitious and strong steps to promote this goal.

    Executive Order 13563, issued early this year, calls on all agencies to conduct a thorough retrospective review of existing rules; it also imposes a series of new requirements designed to reduce regulatory burdens and costs. Just this month, twenty-six agencies released regulatory review plans, with over 500 reform initiatives. A mere fraction of the new initiatives will save more than $10 billion over the next five years; as progress continues, we expect to be able to deliver savings far in excess of that figure. Already, we’ve finalized or formally proposed reforms to save more than $4 billion of regulatory costs over that period.

    ‪It is important to note that there has been no significant increase in rulemaking under this Administration. On the contrary, the number of significant rules reviewed by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and issued in the first two years of the Obama administration is lower than the number issued in the last two years of the Bush administration.  Moreover, in its last two years, the administration of George W. Bush imposed far higher regulatory costs than did the Obama administration in its first two years.

    Even more importantly, the net benefits of the final, economically significant regulations reviewed by OIRA in the first two years of the Obama Administration, including not only monetary savings but also lives saved and illnesses prevented, have been over ten times the net benefits during the first two years of the Bush Administration. Smart regulations produce significant benefits in the form of savings for businesses, clean air and water, workplace safety, safe food and consumer and investor protection.

    It is important to clarify that the annual regulatory agenda, sometimes cited as evidence of an increase in regulatory burden, is simply a list of potential ideas that agencies may consider pursuing. Under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, the agenda is merely a list of rules that are under general contemplation, provided to the public in order to promote transparency. Before any such rule can be issued, it must be subject to a long series of internal and external constraints, including the rulemaking requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and the new burden-reducing, cost-saving requirements of the President's January Executive Order on regulation. In any given year, many rules on the agenda do not become final.

    The President has said that our regulatory system must "protect public health, welfare, safety, and our environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness and job creation.”  We look forward to working closely with the public to achieve that goal.

  • The Martin Luther King Memorial was scheduled  to be dedicated on August 28, exactly 48 years after Dr.King's historic March on Washington. The event on the National Mall has been postponed because of Hurricane Irene, but many of the of the celebrations are going on as planned, including today's Women Who Dare to Dream luncheon, which honored the women of the Civil Rights movement whose legacy of strength and dignity continues to inspire hope. Dr Maya Angelou shared this poem she had written for Sunday's dedication at the luncheon, where guests also paid special tribute to Coretta Scott King.

    Reverend Martin Luther King

    The great soul
    Flew from the Creator
    Bearing manna of hope
    For his country
    Starving severely from an absence of compassion.

  • Watch the President's full remarks on Hurricane Irene here.

    UPDATE:  President Obama has signed Emergency Declarations for the following states: North Carolina, New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island , Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

    This morning, President Obama was briefed once again by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and senior White House officials about preparations being made for Hurricane Irene. Following the briefing, the President urged Americans in the projected path of the hurricane to take precautions now:

    Don’t delay.  We all hope for the best, but we have to be prepared for the worst.  All of us have to take this storm seriously.  You need to listen to your state and local officials, and if you are given an evacuation order, please follow it.  Just to underscore this point:  We ordered an aircraft carrier group out to sea to avoid this storm yesterday. So if you’re in the way of this hurricane, you should be preparing now.

    Visit or for resources on how you can prepare your families, home, and businesses for a hurricane. You can get the latest updates on the progression of Hurricane Irene at

  • Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the FEMA Blog.

    We’re continuing to closely monitor Hurricane Irene as it threatens much of the East Coast, from Florida to Maine. While it’s too soon to tell exactly where Irene will make landfall or have the most significant impacts, Administrator Fugate has an update on the ways you can get prepared:

  • As we commemorate Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, it is fitting to celebrate the many strides our Nation has made towards equality over the past 91 years.  It is a day to remember those iron-jawed angels, who marched and stood vigil, who fasted and were imprisoned for that basic right—the right to vote.  It is a time to recommit ourselves to continuing the struggle for full equality for women—for our mothers, grandmothers, daughters and for ourselves.  And for me personally it is a time to reflect on how much I have benefited from this legacy of sacrifice and leadership to enjoy the great honor I have today of serving in the Obama Administration.

    Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with community organizers, business leaders, faith leaders, and elected officials at Congressman Steny Hoyer’s 9th Annual Women’s Equality Day Luncheon in Clinton, Maryland.  I was proud to highlight that the rights, freedoms, and welfare of women and girls has been a priority of the Obama Administration from day one. 

    From creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, to appointing a strong team of women leaders to his Cabinet and White House staff, President Obama has ushered in a new era of leadership.  He nominated two women to the Supreme Court and nearly half of his confirmed nominees to the lower courts are women—far surpassing the previous high watermark of around 30 percent. 

     President Obama understands that supporting women translates into stronger families and a stronger economy.  That is why over the past two and a half years, the Obama Administration has placed an emphasis on implementing policies that empower women to realize their full economic potential.  The Administration has looked at issues from workplace flexibility to wage inequality, and expanded small business lending to women businesses owners though the Small Business Administration.

    The Obama Administration has also made strides in women’s health.  The landmark Affordable Care Act prevents insurers from charging women higher premiums than they charge men, and makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to women based on pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, being a victim of domestic violence, or pregnancy.  For the first time, new insurance plans must cover preventive care for women, including: mammograms, STD/HIV testing and counseling, domestic violence counseling, contraception, and gestational diabetes screening with no deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance.  Additionally, starting in 2014 all health plans will be required to cover the cost of a pregnancy — a monumental win for women.  This Administration is also working to reduce teen pregnancy, improve medical care for women veterans, and end violence against women though increased funding and innovative programs.

    Supporting our Nation’s families and working to improve their health is also a cornerstone of the First Lady’s agenda.  From Let’s Move!, the initiative that aims to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation, to Joining Forces, the initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to support and honor our service members, veterans, and their families, the First Lady is committed to improving the lives of women and children.

    The President and the First Lady are deeply committed to ensuring all women and girls can reach their highest potential, but each of us has a role to play in this fight for equality.  So in honor of Women’s Equality Day I hope you will get involved in our efforts by:  

    • Learning more about Let’s Move!, and what you and your community can do battling childhood obesity.
    • Finding ways to give back to our courageous service members, veterans and their families, and getting involved with Joining Forces.    
    • Visiting the Council on Women and Girls web site and staying connected with our efforts.  

  • Registering at 5.8 on the Richter Scale, the earthquake that rattled the East Coast Tuesday afternoon was one of the largest in decades.

    Want to know more about what happened, and if it can happen again? We'll answer these questions and more during a live, online chat with one of our top scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey Friday at 11:00 am EDT.

    To join the chat, go to If you would like to submit questions prior to the chat, you can do so by emailing us at

    Once you are logged in, just type your question in the chat window and we will get to as many questions as time allows.

    Events like these remind us that science plays a crucial role in our daily lives. We hope that we'll be able to answer your questions about the East Coast Earthquake. We look forward to you joining us tomorrow morning at 11:00 am EDT.

  • Vice President Joe Biden talks to Survivors of the Japanese Tsunami in Natori

    Vice President Joe Biden talks to survivors of the Japanese tsunami at a temporary housing center in Natori, Japan, Aug. 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Vice President Biden arrived In Tokyo late Monday evening -- the final leg of his trip through Asia. As he told Prime Minister Naoto Kan, he came to Japan for two main reasons: to express sympathy, admiration, and continued support from the U.S. in the wake of the March 11th earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, and to reiterate the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance. "We [the United States] are a Pacific power. You are a Pacific power. You are our ally," said the Vice President.

    From Tokyo, he traveled 90 miles north to the Sendai region -- one of the hardest hit by the tsunami last March. Delivering remarks on the second floor of Sendai International Airport's main terminal -- where hundreds of residents from nearby neighborhoods fled to escape the tsunami's path -- Vice President Biden praised U.S. Forces Japan  for working around the clock to clear debris and repair a runway that enabled the arrival of hundreds of relief workers, and hundreds of tons of humanitarian assistance.

    Vice President Biden also paid tribute to the "incredible spirit" of the Japanese people. The Japanese "remind the world of something equally as forceful as the force of nature," said Vice President Biden. That spirit "is equally as formidable, particularly when we join together in the most trying of times," he said.

    After paying his respects at a memorial site where the town of Natori once stood, the Vice President took a short ride to a temporary housing facility that hundreds of Natori residents now call home.  Meeting with displaced survivors and listening to their stories, the Vice President pledged that "America isn't going anywhere" and that U.S. assistance will be available as long as they need it.

    Vice President Biden concluded his trip to Japan by delivering remarks to U.S. service members and their families at Yokota Air Base -- headquarters of U.S. Forces Japan.  In his speech, the Vice President thanked the troops for their quick and decisive efforts to help the Japanese people and provide critical assistance in the aftermath of the disaster.

    Don't miss the photo gallery of the Vice President's visit to Japan. For complete coverage of his three country trip, click here.

  • This week we bring you Mailbag Day, Summer Edition 2011 where we respond to some of your emails and letters. Also this week, the President addresses the situation in Libya, monitors Hurricane Irene, and Vice President Biden travels to Asia to re-emphasize our strong economic and diplomatic ties to Asian nations. Plus, the White House experiences a little shake.

    Watch West Wing Week here.