Read all posts from March 2012

  • President Obama calls on Congress to pass the Buffett Rule, a principle that ensures that millionaires and billionaires do not pay less in taxes as a share of their income than middle class families pay -- as a matter of fairness.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • A quick look back at the week on

    From Dartmouth to the World Bank: On Friday, the President named Dr. Jim Yong Kim – president of Dartmouth college, co-founder of Partners in Health and global health and development expert – as his choice to head the World Bank. “[Despite] its name, the World Bank is more than just a bank,” the President explained. “It’s one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce poverty and raise standards of living in some of the poorest countries in the planet.”

    Nuclear Security Summit: Just after midnight on Saturday morning, President Obama boarded Air Force One and departed for a trip to South Korea. His three-day trip included a tour of the DMZ and a meeting with U.S. troops stationed at the border; a talk with students at Hankuk University; and a series of bilateral and trilateral meetings with foreign leaders -- including President Hu Jintao of China, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia.

    All Right, Let’s Plant!: Students and Girl Scouts from across the country joined the First Lady on the South Lawn Monday for a sunny afternoon planting the White House Kitchen Garden.

    Big Data, Big Deal: On Thursday, the Obama Administration announced the “Big Data Research and Development Initiative, "which promises to help accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering, strengthen our national security, and transform teaching and learning.

    Facebook Timeline: The White House’s Facebook timeline launched on Friday, now providing both the latest news and a glimpse into history. The timeline highlights special moments from our rich history, including all forty-four presidential inaugurations, FDR’s first “fireside chat,” and the launch of the first White House website.

  • Ed. note: This was cross-posted from the Let's Move blog.

    The White House held a poster competition and invited elementary and middle school students nationwide to submit poster designs for the 2012 Easter Egg Roll. Students from over 20 states submitted entries. First Lady Michelle Obama selected winning designs for the 2012 Official Easter Egg Roll program cover and 2012 Official Easter Egg Roll Poster. Posters will be handed out as a prize to children who win the Easter Egg Roll or Egg Hunt.

  • We're excited to introduce the White House’s Facebook timeline, which highlights special moments from our rich history, dating back more than 200 years. Explore the inaugurations of our forty-four Presidents and peek inside life at the White House, from FDR’s first “fireside chat” to the first White House website, created in 1994. You can also see photos featuring famous visits and even first pets.

    We plan to update our timeline frequently, adding more historical photos and including milestones ranging from the first cornerstone being laid through events happening in the present. Be sure to "like" the White House on facebook for the latest news and a glimpse into history. Take a look around and let us know what you think. 

    So, what’s your favorite White House historical photo or interesting fact? Join us in celebrating the dynamic and colorful history of the White House, and share your thoughts with us on FacebookGoogle+ or on Twitter with the hashtag #WhiteHousefb.

    We look forward to hearing from you!

  • 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 December 2011. Today’s release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 2.2 million—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

    Ed. note: For more information, check out

  • I am excited to announce that next week, several senior White House officials including Valerie Jarrett, Joshua DuBois and I will be joining other federal, state and local policymakers, advocates and community leaders at the Second Annual National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence. Valerie and I participated in this dynamic Summit last year, and I can’t wait to learn more about all the progress that has been made.  I know the six cities involved in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention have made great strides on their comprehensive plans to reduce youth violence in their communities, and we can all learn from the successes and the challenges they have to share.

    I am thrilled that the issue of youth violence prevention will receive the attention it deserves from federal and local officials who are working hard each day to make our communities safer.  At the Summit, we will hear from Cabinet officials including Attorney General Holder, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.  We will also hear from Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia, Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, and the Mayors of the six cities currently participating in the Forum: Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas, and San Jose.   

  • Editorial Note: This is the third in a three part part series (Part One and Part Two) on Master Sergeant (retired) Jeffrey Mittman and his journey from being wounded in Iraq to his employment with the Department of Defense and includes a forward by Major (ret) Arturo R. Murguia.

    Today, we close out our series on Army Master Sergeant (ret) Jeffrey Mittman. While we focused on Jeff and his story, there are hundreds of “Jeffrey Mittmans.” They are the young men and woman who decided to give up their personal freedoms because they believed in something greater than themselves and defend our Nation. 

    Tragically, in this conflict some have made the ultimate sacrifice, some, like Jeff, have been severely wounded and some carry with them the hidden scars of war. 

    This series isn’t just about Jeff –it’s about how wounded warriors like Jeff can make your agency that much more successful by virtue of their experience and the adversity they have faced and overcome. 

    Jeff, and veterans like him, is a “force multiplier” –that is, an entity which exponentially raises the effectiveness of its unit. And that is exactly what you will hear from Jaime Charlson, DFAS Organizational Management Office Specialist. Jaime will tell you what wounded warriors like Jeff bring to the table. He will also tell you about the Federal Hiring and Federal Accommodation tools that agencies like DFAS use to bring in talent like Jeff.

    It’s been ten years since 9/11. That means the majority of the Armed Forces have enlisted or re-enlisted during a time of war. They could have enjoyed the comforts of family and civilian life. Rather, they decided to pursue the profession of arms and defend our Nation. Now, as these wars scale down, it is our sacred duty to embrace and serve our Nation’s wounded warriors.

    Major (ret) Arturo R. Murguia is a Special Assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense

    Jeffrey Mittman, an Army veteran of 22 years, including four combat tours, was severely wounded when a roadside bomb blast caused injuries to his face, eyes and arm in 2005. While he completed his recovery and transition out of the Army, he earned one master’s degree and started another. He started speaking at events and on Capitol Hill and worked at the National Industries for the Blind.

    This January, Jeffrey was hired through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS)“Hire a Hero Program.” The DFAS Hire a Hero Program is run by a specialized team dedicated to recruiting wounded warriors, expediting the hiring process and ensuring appropriate accommodations are available. 

    “Veterans, like Jeff, bring skills to DFAS that we look for in all our employees—leadership, teamwork and mission-focus,” said Jaime Charlson, DFAS Organizational Management Office Specialist. “It is a win-win situation for DFAS and the veteran.”

  • This week, the President traveled to the Republic of Korea to attend a nuclear security summit where he also visited the DMZ, held a series of bilateral (and one trilateral) meetings, and gave a major address to students at Hankuk University. Back at home, the kitchen garden got underway with this year's first planting.

  • Ed note: This interview with Dr. Jill Biden by Mary Ellen Flannery originally appeared on the website for the National Education Association. This excerpt has been reposted with their permission.

    Suddenly, it seems everybody, including President Obama, is talking about community colleges and their vital role in creating trained workers for American jobs in manufacturing, health services, education, and more. But Dr. Jill Biden, wife to Vice President Joe Biden, has known for years that community colleges provide a low-cost, high-quality education for millions of Americans. That’s because Biden has a front-row seat at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has taught English as an adjunct professor since 2009. Recently Biden, an educator with more than 30 years of experience, conversed with NEA Today on issues ranging from college accessibility to her summer reading list.

    Q: When President Obama visited your campus (Northern Virginia Community College) in February, he told students, “The truth is that the skills and training you receive here will be the best tool you have to achieve the American Promise.” How is this true? What do you think your students aspire to – and how does the time that they spend in community college classrooms help them achieve those dreams?

    Dr. Biden: For the last 18 years, I have seen firsthand the power of community colleges to change lives. I have welcomed students to my classroom from a wide variety of educational, economic, and cultural backgrounds, and I have seen how the community college system offers them the same path of opportunity.

    I have students who attend classes on top of a full-time job. I teach moms who are juggling jobs and child care while preparing for new careers. I have many students working toward attending a four-year university.

    Community colleges connect the dots – granting two-year degrees, providing new skills training and certification, and providing an affordable path for those who want to move on to a four-year university.

  • On Tuesday, April 3rd, Vice President Biden is traveling to Norfolk, VA to discuss how the Obama Administration is tackling rising college costs. Higher education can’t be a luxury – it’s an economic imperative for every family in America, so that our students and workers are prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.

    In the afternoon, the Vice President will answer questions about college affordability on Twitter. People from across the country can ask questions using the hashtag #AskVP and follow the chat live from the @VP Twitter account.

    Here's how you can participate:

    • Starting now, ask the Vice President about college affordability using the hashtag #AskVP
    • On Tuesday, April 3rd at 3:45 p.m. EDT the Vice President will answer some of your questions from the @VP account
    • Follow the whole chat live on Twitter live through the @VP handle
    • If you miss the live event, the full conversation will be posted on and on Storify

    We hope you can join us.

    VP Twitter Interview

    Vice President Biden participates in a Twitter interview at Albany Engineered Composites in Rochester, NH, Jan 26, 2012. January 26, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Be sure to follow @VP on Twitter for the latest from the Vice President's office. If you missed the Vice President's first Twitter interview following the President's State of the Union Address, you can check out the full conversation here.

  • David Lutz is a community pharmacist from Hummelstown, PA, and the story he tells of his customers not being able to afford their prescription medications has unfortunately been too common in communities across the nation. But the Affordable Care Act is already helping turn their difficult situation around.

    For years, David says, many of his customers have come in and asked him which of their prescriptions they could skip or which pills they could cut in half. They needed to make tough choices to save money on prescription drug costs. This was especially true for seniors on fixed incomes and unable to keep up with rising health care costs. Some of them were choosing between their rent and their medicines.

    “They were splitting pills, taking doses every other day, missing doses, stretching their medications,” he says, noting that not taking their medications as prescribed was not good for their health.

    But, according to David, this has begun to change since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The new health care law provides important relief to seniors, including a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs for those in the coverage gap known as the “donut hole.” The donut hole will be closed for good by 2020.

  • Today, Members of Congress have a simple choice to make: stand with big oil companies, or stand with the American people. President Obama spoke about that choice this morning from the Rose Garden:

    Right now, the biggest oil companies are raking in record profits – profits that go up every time folks like these pull into a gas station. But on top of these record profits, oil companies are also getting billions a year in taxpayer subsidies – a subsidy they’ve enjoyed year after year for the last century.

    Think about that. It’s like hitting the American people twice. You’re already paying a premium at the pump right now.  And on top of that, Congress thinks it’s a good idea to send billions more of your tax dollars to the oil industry?

    Here are five reasons to repeal oil subsidies:

    1. In 2011 the three largest U.S. oil companies made a combined profit of more than $80 billion. They don’t need more help from taxpayers who are already having a tough time filling up their tanks. High oil prices give oil companies all the incentive they need to produce more.
    2. American oil is booming. Domestic oil production is the highest it’s been in eight years. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high.  We’ve added enough oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some. For two years in a row, we’ve made more oil here in the United States than we bought from other countries. And the Obama Administration has taken other steps to help oil companies succeed, including opening up millions of acres of federal lands and waters to oil and gas production. 
    3. We can’t drill our way out of high gas prices. We use more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but we only have 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. That means that even if we drilled every drop of American oil tomorrow, we’d still have to buy oil from other countries to make up the difference. 
    4. Clean energy technologies are more promising than ever. Investments in wind and solar power are providing clean, renewable energy to millions of homes and businesses around the country. Manufacturers are building more fuel efficient cars and trucks that are helping drivers get more miles to the gallon so they can fill up less. Advanced, homegrown biofuels are powering fleet trucks across the country.
    5. Oil and gas are only one part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy. We want successful companies to thrive and grow, but we also have to get our priorities straight. We have to invest in our future, not subsidize the past. Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double-down on investments in clean energy technologies that will help us break the cycle of high prices that happen year after year.

    Read more about President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy.

  • [Editor's Note:  Watch the live webcast today at 2pm ET of the Big Data Research and Development event at]

    Today, the Obama Administration is announcing the “Big Data Research and Development Initiative.”  By improving our ability to extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data, the initiative promises to help accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering, strengthen our national security, and transform teaching and learning.

    To launch the initiative, six Federal departments and agencies will announce more than $200 million in new commitments that, together, promise to greatly improve the tools and techniques needed to access, organize, and glean discoveries from huge volumes of digital data. Learn more about ongoing Federal government programs that address the challenges of, and tap the opportunities afforded by, the big data revolution in our Big Data Fact Sheet.

  • Ed. note: This week, will feature the story of a catastrophically wounded Service member and his saga of recovery to employed Veteran.  In an effort to highlight what our wounded veterans can offer to private and public organizations, we chose to focus on retired Army Master Sergeant, Jeffrey Mittman.  His story is one of conviction and the dogged determination necessary to continue with his recovery and his successful transition to civilian and veteran life. 

    In order to bring his story full circle, we have invited his wife, Christy, and his employers from the DoD’s Defense Finance and Accounting Office (Indianapolis) to give their account of what this journey has meant for them as well. We began the series with Christy Mittman’s account of her husband’s injuries and how her family’s life was changed forever. The second post in the series tells the story from Jeffrey's perspective.

    Jeffrey Mittman spent 22 years in the Army, including four combat tours, and he is fond of saying that he only had one bad day in his whole military career.

    That day was July 7, 2005.

    Deployed to Iraq as part of an eight-man advisory team, Jeffrey and five team members were moving out to meet up with their Iraqi counterparts. It was Jeffrey’s day to drive the up-armored humvee. So, when a roadside bomb blast came through the driver’s side window, Jeffrey took the worst of it. The blast was big enough to leave a hole in the side of the humvee the size of a man’s fist. It took off Jeffrey’s nose, lips and teeth. He was left with only peripheral vision in one eye. His right hand and arm sustained irreparable damage.

    “I woke up a month later at Walter Reed to the sound of my wife talking to me,” Jeffrey said.

    Jeffrey would spend another two-and-a-half months in the hospital before he could finally go home to Indianapolis, Ind., though it would take a total of 40 surgeries to repair the damage that had been done. Jeffrey spent five-and-a-half-years—the last quarter of his military career—recovering. 

    There wasn’t much question that Jeffrey’s time in the Army was over—“They don’t need too many infantrymen who can’t see and have no trigger finger,” he quipped—but doing nothing was also not an option.

    “I had the responsibility of taking care of my family,” said Jeffrey, who has two daughters. “I couldn’t just sit back.”

    And so, Jeffrey went to work. During his recovery and transition he completed one master’s degree and started on a second. He began sharing his story at speaking events and on Capitol Hill. After hearing him speak at an event, the National Industries for the Blind offered Jeffrey a job. In January of this year, he started a new position in the corporate communications department of the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS).

  • Tomorrow, Congress has a real opportunity to do right by the American people. In response to President Obama’s repeated call to end the unwarranted tax breaks for big oil companies – which cost the American taxpayers billions of dollars each year – Congress will vote on a bill that could end these subsidies once and for all.

    There are a lot of tough issues that come before Congress each year. This is not one of them. After all, these are tax breaks that oil companies don’t need and that we can’t afford. It should be a no brainer.

    The United States has been subsidizing the oil industry for a century. President Obama believes that’s long enough. In fact, some of the oldest tax breaks for the oil companies date back to 1913 – a time when there were only 48 states in the Union and Ford was still producing the Model T.

    After 100 years, there’s no reason for Congress to keep these subsidies on the books, especially right now. Today, as American families all across the country are feeling pain at the pump, the oil industry is posting record profits. In 2011 alone, the three largest American oil companies made a combined profit of more than $80 billion, or more than $200 million per day.

    Now, we don’t begrudge companies for being successful in America. We want them to thrive and grow. But we also have to get our priorities straight. We have to invest in our future, not subsidize the past. Yet in the latest budget proposal by House Republicans, they want to keep the billions in tax breaks for oil companies in place while slashing discretionary investments in clean energy programs by nearly half. That just doesn’t make sense.

    So the question that Congress needs to ask itself this week is simple: at a time when oil companies are making more money than ever before, how can we justify giving them billions more in taxpayer subsidies every year? And if Congress doesn’t vote to eliminate these tax breaks now, then when? How much bigger do oil company profits need to be? How many more years will the American people have to wait? This is a perfect example of an issue that makes Americans so cynical about Washington.

  • Dr. Jill Biden was at the Mercer County Community College in New Jersey this morning, the latest stop in her “Community College to Career” tour. Last month, Dr. Biden and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis hit the road for a bus tour through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia where they visited community colleges that have formed innovative partnerships with local business leaders to train students with the skills they need to join the area workforce.

    Employers today are looking for skilled, educated workers, and they should be able to find those workers right here in the United States. Adam Dalton, a machine shop instructor at the Tennessee Technology Center in Harriman, Tennessee, said that “I have people calling me every week saying ‘I need guys and gals with this skillset, and we need them now.’”

    Secretary Solis said that community colleges are becoming more adept and more agile at listening to the needs of local businesses, and are helping pair trained workers who need jobs with the employers who are looking to hire.

  • Vice President and Dr. Biden host a Women’s History Month reception

    Dr. Jill Biden gives remarks at a reception in honor of Women's History Month at the Naval Observatory on March 26, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    As Women’s History Month comes to a close, the Vice President and Dr. Biden hosted a reception last night in honor of Women’s History Month to celebrate the history, accomplishments, and contributions of women across the spectrum of American life, from academia and science, business and labor, philanthropy and advocacy, athletics and the arts, to the military and government. 

    Speaking to a distinguished crowd of women (and some men) who are at the pinnacle of their careers, the Vice President applauded their courage and achievements over the last few decades, saying “you’ve empowered entire generations” of women. He continued, “I’ve learned it from Jill, I learned it from my sister, and I’ve learned from the over thousand hours of hearings we held in the Violence Against Women Act that the single most important thing that empowers young women is powerful women – powerful women.” 

    Dr. Biden praised the guests for their "courage, strength and resilience." In addition, she paid special tribute to several members of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Female Engagement Team, known as the FETs, who attended the reception. These women volunteer to join otherwise all-male Marine patrols in Afghanistan, where they build relationships with Afghan women – a population mostly off-limits to male troops – learn about the country’s culture, and support our battlefield operations in Afghanistan. To highlight the incredible work of FETs, the Vice President and Dr. Biden also installed this photo exhibit of Female Engagement Teams at work in Afghanistan on the walls of the Naval Observatory.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a centennial tree planting ceremony during the National Cherry Blossom Festival (March 27, 2012)

    First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a centennial tree planting ceremony during the National Cherry Blossom Festival at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., March 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    It's been 100 years to the day since First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, planted the first of the 3,000 cherry trees presented from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC as a symbol of friendship between the United States and Japan.

    To mark the occasion, First Lady Michelle Obama -- joined by Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and William H. Taft IV, the great-grandson of President Taft -- returned to the Tidal Basin along the Potomac River to plant a new sapling for future generations to enjoy.

    She told the crowd:

    People from both of our nations worked together for years to bring these trees here to Washington. And over the past century, people of all ages from the U.S. and Japan and so many other nations have come to this Tidal Basin each spring to marvel at their beauty. And year after year, even after the coldest, darkest, stormiest winters, these trees have continued to bloom.

    So on this historic anniversary, we don’t just admire the beauty of these trees, we also admire their resilience. And in so doing, we are reminded of the extraordinary resilience of the Japanese people. Over the past year, we have all witnessed their courage, unity and grace as they have come together and begun the very hard work of rebuilding their nation.

    One hundred years from now, the First Lady said, she hoped, "the First Lady –- or the First Gentleman –- of 2112 will also have the privilege of joining with our friends from Japan, and planting another tree which will bloom for yet another one hundred years and beyond."

  • First Lady Michelle Obama gives seeds to girls from Girl Scout Troop 60325

    First Lady Michelle Obama gives seeds to girls from Girl Scout Troop 60325 in Fairport, N.Y., as she joins students for the spring White House Kitchen Garden planting on the South Grounds. March 26, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

    Ed. Note: This blog post is cross-posted from

    Radishes generally aren’t the top request among kids for an after-school snack. It’s probably safe to say they probably don’t break into the top 10. Or 200.

    But there’s something about growing it yourself that creates a special connection.

    “A lot of times when you grow your own vegetables and fruits, they taste really good.  They taste better than a lot of stuff you’ll get in a grocery store -- trust me. My kids have done it. They’re not big fans of all vegetables, but if they help to work on it they’re much more excited about trying it out,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in remarks kicking off the fourth planting of the White House Kitchen Garden.

    Schoolchildren from across the country joined the First Lady in the garden on Monday for a sunny afternoon of spring planting on the South Grounds.  “You guys wrote some really nice letters telling us about stories of the work that you're doing in your schools, in your communities,” the First Lady said. “Your letters were so wonderful, I thought, why not come and see me at the White House and help me plant my garden?  And you made it!”

  • Number of the Day: 280 (March 27, 2012)

    Two years ago, President Obama welcomed leaders from nearly 50 countries to Washington, DC to discuss nuclear weapons and lay out a framework for reducing their threat to global security.

    Yesterday, in South Korea, the President said that the world has made significant progress in achieving that initial set of goals:

    We are fulfilling the commitments we made in Washington. We are improving security at our nuclear facilities. We are forging new partnerships. We are removing nuclear materials, and in some cases, getting rid of these materials entirely. And as a result, more of the world's nuclear materials will never fall into the hands of terrorists who would gladly use them against us.

    And today, we saw another bit of tangible evidence of that success when the United States announced that more than 280 pounds of highly enriched uranium from the Ukraine have been transferred to Russia, where it will be downblended into low enriched uranium -- which can't be used to make a nuclear weapon.