Read all posts from April 2012

  • President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan hold a press conference

    President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan hold a press conference in the East Room of the White House, April 30, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, President Obama and Prime Minister Noda of Japan met to reaffirm the U.S.-Japan Alliance, a 60-year-old partnership between the two nations based on friendship and a commitment to peace.

    Meeting just a month after the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the tsunami and nuclear crisis that followed, President Obama said that “we’ve seen that friendship on display very profoundly over the past year.”

    “I’m told that over the past year many Japanese have found strength in what they call "kizuna" -- the bonds of solidarity between friends and neighbors; bonds which cannot be broken.  Mr. Prime Minister, the same could be said of the bonds between the United States and Japan.  And today we welcome you in that spirit.”

    Following a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, the two leaders laid out a new joint vision to guide their alliance, and shape the Asia Pacific for decades to come. President Obama explained the four main points:

    First, we recognize that the U.S.-Japan alliance will remain the foundation of the security and prosperity of our two nations but also a cornerstone of regional peace and security.  As such, we reviewed the agreement that our governments reached last week to realign American forces in Japan.  This reflects our effort to modernize America’s defense posture in the Asia Pacific with forces that are more broadly distributed, more flexible and more sustainable.  At the same time, it will reduce the impact on local communities, like Okinawa.

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Building and Construction Trades Department Legislative Conference (April 30, 2012)

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Building and Construction Trades Department Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Speaking to 3,000 attendees of the Building and Construction Trades Department conference in Washington, DC this morning, President Obama made an argument for investing in rebuilding America.

    He told the crowd:

    [As] a share of the economy, Europe invests more than twice what we do in infrastructure; China about four times as much. Are we going to sit back and let other countries build the newest airports and the fastest railroads and the most modern schools, at a time when we’ve got private construction companies all over the world -- or all over the country -- and millions of workers who are ready and willing to do that work right here in the United States of America?

    The President used the conference as an opportunity to call on Congress to get construction workers back on the job:

    As we speak, the House Republicans are refusing to pass a bipartisan bill that could guarantee work for millions of construction workers. Already passed the Senate. Ready to go, ready to put folks back to work. Used to be the most -- the easiest bill to pass in Washington used to be getting roads and bridges built, because it’s not like only Democrats are allowed to use these things. Everybody is permitted. Everybody needs them.

    So this makes no sense. Congress needs to do the right thing. Pass this bill right away. It shouldn’t be that hard. It shouldn’t be that hard. Not everything should be subject to thinking about the next election instead of thinking about the next generation.

    Read the full remarks here.

  • As April comes to a close, we wrap up the Month of the Military Child. Earlier this month, the First Lady and I celebrated the one-year anniversary of Joining Forces. Over the past year, it has been so inspiring to see the commitments made by Americans across the country to support our military families—especially our military children. 

    Throughout my travels, so many military families have shared with me how important it is that schools create a supportive environment for military children. Last week, I had the honor of hosting the 2012 Teachers of the Year finalists at my home in Washington, D.C.  This was my fourth year hosting this event and it is always one of my favorites. This year was even more special as I listened to stories about how these teachers – who are the best of the best – are supporting our military children in their schools and their communities.

    Dr Jill Biden Hosts Teachers of the Year 2012 at the Naval Observatory

    (by Ron Sachs)

  • We would like to share a few manufacturing initiatives that reached important milestones during the past week.

    Launch of Manufacturing.Data.Gov

    President Obama has said that an economy built to last is one that is based not only on consuming goods but on making things.  That’s why we’re proud to announce the launch of Manufacturing.Data.Gov.  This new community on is a one-stop Web portal for anyone interested in sharing and ideas and transforming emerging technologies into commercial success stories.  It will serve as a public resource of high-value datasets, tools, and applications that can help entrepreneurs streer the entire product development chain for a project, from invention, engineering design and prototyping, to validation and testing, manufacturing, and sales.

  • One year after the raid that delivered justice to Osama Bin Laden, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, will deliver remarks on the Efficacy and Ethics of the President’s Counterterrorism Strategy at the Woodrow Wilson Center at 12:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, April 30, 2012. 

    On May 1, 2011, President Obama said:

    As a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

    The Woodrow Wilson Center will host the speech and a discussion with Brennan on the Administration’s ongoing efforts to destroy al Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as the standards and practices that have been put in place to ensure that the Administration’s counterterrorism operations reflect our values as Americans and uphold the rule of law. 

    Watch the speech live here at 12:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, April 30, or at WilsonCenter.orgUpdate: Watch video from the event below.

  • President Barack Obama attends the 2012 White House Correspondents' Dinner

    President Barack Obama attends the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    On Saturday night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended the White House Correspondent's Dinner, which was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. The annual event, which has been held since 1920, honors the work of the journalists who report on the Administration and the dinner raises money that is used to grant scholarships to journalism students. The dinner is one of Washington, DC's most anticipated social events of the year, and the President's speech, which pokes fun at himself and the coverage he has received from the reporters in attendance, is the evening's highlight. You can watch President Obama's full speech below:

  • I’m on my way back from London where we’ve just wrapped-up the third Clean Energy Ministerial. This innovative forum brings public and private sector leaders from around the world together to accelerate the transition to clean energy technologies. 

    This year’s meeting was especially exciting. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron attended one of our sessions and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon participated in another by phone. Secretary Chu spoke about the huge opportunities in cutting energy waste and the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative, which (no kidding) could save consumers more than $1 trillion over the next two decades. Dozens of public and private sector leaders shared lessons learned and proposals for next steps in promoting energy efficiency, clean energy and sustainable energy for all.

    Most important, we announced major new steps forward. The United Kingdom pledged more than $100 million to promote carbon capture, use and storage in the developing world.   Denmark, Germany and Spain announced a global renewable energy atlas  -- an important new on-line resource for governments or companies working to bring solar, wind and other renewable energy sources to market. The United States and Italy announced the launch of Lighting India, which will bring modern lighting services to two million people by the end of 2015. The United States announced a new program to support women working in clean energy – the Clean Energy Education & Empowerment initiative.

    The first Clean Energy Ministerial was hosted by Secretary Chu in Washington in summer 2010, growing out of a Major Economies Forum Leaders meeting the year before. The second Clean Energy Ministerial was held in Abu Dhabi in spring 2011. As this week’s London meetings made clear, countries working together under the Clean Energy Ministerial have accomplished a lot in a short time.   

    Yet we’ve only begun to tap the potential. Our initiatives are gaining steam. The fourth Clean Energy Ministerial will be held in India in 2013 and the fifth in Korea in 2014. In the months and years ahead, this innovative global forum can help speed the transition to clean energy technologies in the United States and around the world. 

  • President Obama discusses a new Executive Order designed to crack down on the bad actors who prey on our veterans and service members considering higher education.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • President Obama Speaks with Champions of Change Alumni

    President Barack Obama meets with Champions of Change alumni in the Map Room of the White House, April 26, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    A little over a year ago, the White House created the Champions of Change program to recognize ordinary Americans across the country who are doing extraordinary work in their communities. During the last year we have held more than 40 Champions of Change events, honoring over 500 Champions from all 50 states.

    These are people who are working to end youth and domestic violence, to green our cities, and to renew and strengthen communities through service and innovation. They are working to promote immigrant integration, to provide housing counseling, and to establish broadband access in rural areas of the country. As President Obama said, “By making their communities better places to live, our Champions are helping to ensure that our country’s best days lie ahead.”

  • 2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki watches President Obama (April 24, 2012)

    2012 National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki, a 7th-grade English teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Burbank, Calif., watches as President Barack Obama honors the 2012 National and State Teachers of the Year in the East Room of the White House, April 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    On Tuesday, a special group of educators visited the White House: the 2012 State and National Teachers of the Year. The teachers honored that day are just a few of the many across America who, through their work every day, change lives forever. As President Obama said in his comments to these Teachers of the Year, he wouldn’t be in the White House today if it were not for the teachers who challenged him, pushed him, and inspired him – who taught him that no matter who you are, where you come from, or what your last name is, you can succeed.  

    As the President has repeatedly stated, teachers matter. That’s why he often tells young people that if they want to join a profession where they can make a difference every single day, become a teacher. Our Administration is proud to have supported states in undertaking comprehensive reforms to promote teacher effectiveness and advancement, because we know that an essential component of improving America’s education system is to ensure a great teacher in every classroom and a great principal in every school. And that’s why President Obama and Secretary Duncan continue to propose the changes needed to strengthen the teaching profession at every stage, to better prepare, develop, support, and reward great teachers that will help America’s children excel. That includes listening and working in partnership with teachers across America to forge a vision for transforming the profession, built on shared responsibility and accountability for results, on-going collaboration and development, and greater individual and collective autonomy for teachers that will free them from teaching to the test and unleash learning in their classrooms. 

    President Obama welcomed Rebecca Mieliwocki to the White House from Burbank, California as the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. In their comments, both the President and Rebecca recognized that many teachers around the country are just like her - teachers that go the extra mile to make sure their students are challenged, nurtured, and successful. Providing all students an education that prepares them for college and a career is the surest path to a strong middle class and an American economy built to last. 

  • Art has helped create the America that we know and love today. And at its best, film allows us a window into our own lives and get a chance to see the world through someone else's eyes. One of the heroes of American cinema, Atticus Finch, said that "you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

    That great line is from the classic film "To Kill A Mockingbird," a movie that has informed and entertained us for generations. I love the movies. And art gave me the chance at a young age to experience a world beyond my neighborhood in Chicago and develop skills that have lasted a lifetime. 

    Stories like mine are reasons President Obama is committed to recognizing the importance of the fine arts. And as a part of his constant effort to acknowledge and celebrate the  arts and their impact on our country, on Thursday, April 5, President Obama commemorated the 50th Anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird—a 1962 film adaptation of author Harper Lee’s 1960 novel about racial inequality in the deep south—by hosting a screening in the Family Theater at the White House. The invited guests included actors and family members related to the film. Among them was Mary Badham Wilt, the actress who played Scout; Veronique Peck, widow of Gregory Peck who played Atticus Finch; and students from local school in Virginia, Washington-Lee High School. 

  • The G.I. Bill was originally passed after World War II to help returning veterans transition back to civilian life through a range of benefits, including access to low-cost mortgages, loans to start businesses or farms, or help paying for education or job training. Millions of veterans used help from the G.I. Bill to attend college, including 3 former presidents: Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and George H.W. Bush.

    In 2008, Congress passed an updated version of the G.I. Bill, commonly known as the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of service after September 10, 2001. And today, President Obama signed an Executive Order to make sure that those who rely on the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill have the information they need to make informed decisions about their education options, and are protected from aggressive and deceptive targeting by schools and other educational institutions.

    Read more about the Executive Order and the protections it provides.

  • A quick look at this week on

    Soldier Ride: Last Friday, 22 injured servicemembers took a spin around the South Lawn – with President Obama cheering them on – as a part of the annual Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride. The Soldier Ride is a four-day cycling event that unites Wounded Warriors and aims to help restore their physical and emotional well-being. The President praised the riders for their strength and dedication, noting, "You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can't. That's what this is all about."

    Honoring Never Again: "Awareness without action changes nothing," the President remarked at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. on Monday. He spoke about honoring the pledge of "never again" by making sure we are doing everything we can to prevent and respond to atrocities and save lives, by spearheading new efforts and utilizing existing ones, including the Atrocities Prevention Board – established by the President to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on the critical mission to prevent mass atrocities and genocide.

    Fighting Falcons: The United States Air Force football team was honored with the Commander-in-Chief Trophy on Monday in the East Room of the White House after beating the Army and Navy in 2011 to claim their 18th trophy.

    #DontDoubleMyRate: When speaking this week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa about the importance of keeping interest rates on student loans low so that more Americans can get a fair shot at an affordable college education, President Obama asked college students to tell their members of Congress one thing: Don't double my rates. While Congress cut the rates on federal loans in half five years ago, that rate cut is set to expire on July 1st. Students are taking on more debt to afford the tuition and fees, and for each year that Congress doesn't act, the average student with federal loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.

    Slow Jams: On Tuesday while stopping by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, President Obama had a message for Congress: This is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people. He didn't just say it, though – if you missed President Obama slow jam the news, you can watch it here.

    Veterans and their Families Can't Wait: On Friday, the President and the First Lady traveled to Fort Stewart, Georgia, home to the Army's famed 3rd Infantry Division. Besides meeting with soldiers and families, the President signed an Executive Order that renews his commitment to fully fund the post-9/11 G.I. Bill in an effort to preserve and enhance the educational opportunities for those who have served, as well as their families.

  • 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 January 2012. 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

  • On July 1, unless Congress acts, interest rates will double for more than 7.4 million students with federal loans. Fortunately, even though they voted just weeks ago in lockstep to allow this increase, Republicans in Congress have come around on the issue since President Obama took it to the American people – claiming they’re ready to step up and stop the rate hike. Unfortunately,  rather than work together to ensure interest rates on student loans don’t double, they have decided to re-fight old political battles, proposing to eliminate the health care law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund to pay for this important reform. This proposal would put women’s health at risk. And fighting old political battles won’t protect students and young people from major rate hikes.

    Eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund would have a devastating effect on women’s health and our work to prevent disease and illness. Eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund would mean:

    • Hundreds of thousands of women could lose access to vital cancer screenings.   Prevention Fund resources are expected to help more than 300,000 women be screened for breast cancer in 2013 and more than 280,000 be screened for cervical cancer. 
    • Programs that help to prevent congenital heart defects, prevent fetal alcohol syndrome, and promote early identification and intervention efforts for children with developmental delays and disabilities could be eliminated. 
    • Tens of thousands children could lose access to immunizations.

    These are just a few of the important ways the Prevention and Public Health Fund will help keep millions of Americans healthy. Keeping college affordable for America’s students should not come at the expense of putting women’s health at risk.

    The Senate will soon vote on a more viable solution to keep interest rates low and provide students a fair shot at an affordable education, by closing a loophole that allows people making more than $250,000 a year to avoid paying payroll taxes. Congress should find a bipartisan solution to keep rates low without hurting Americans’ health or increasing the deficit. There’s no good reason for interest rates to double for over 7 million students. But Republicans in Congress must prove that they’re serious about setting aside the political fights of the past and actually getting this done.

  • President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order at Fort Stewart (April 27, 2012)

    President Barack Obama signs an Executive Order at Fort Stewart in Georgia, April 27, 2012. The Executive Order will help ensure all of America’s service members, veterans, spouses, and other family members have the information they need to make informed educational decisions and are protected from aggressive and deceptive targeting by educational institutions. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Earlier today, I had the great privilege of joining the President and First Lady -- along with an amazing 10,000 soldiers, military families, and veterans -- at an extraordinary event in Fort Stewart, Georgia, home to the Army’s famed 3rd Infantry Division.

    The President and First Lady traveled to Fort Stewart to meet with soldiers and families -- and to sign an Executive Order (EO) that will positively impact the educational benefits and opportunities for our nation’s heroes and their families -- for a long time to come.

    We know from travels throughout the country -- and through feedback from veterans, our troops and their families – that education is a big deal. Opportunities provided through educational programs such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill open doors.

    And I know that on a personal level. Like many servicemembers, I have used the benefits of the Post- 9/11 GI Bill to further my education -- and that of my children.

    At Fort Stewart, the President renewed his commitment to fully fund the post-9/11 GI Bill.  With that bill -- and the Tuition Assistance program -- more than 550,000 veterans and 325,000 service members pursued education last year. Additionally, nearly 38,000 military spouses used their Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) benefit to advance their education.

    But sometimes…navigating through the maze of schools and opportunities can be a challenge. Many service members, veterans and families know exactly what I mean.

    They go online to try and find the best school that fits their goals; they end up on a website that looks official; they get promised to get connected with a program looks promising. Unfortunately -- and all-too-often -- our troops and families find themselves dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping them find the BEST program -- but they are happy to take their money. Our service men and women may get forced into making a quick decision. And sometimes recruiters from these schools show up on bases.

    As the President said, one of the worst examples of this is a college recruiter who visited Camp Lejeune and enrolled Marines impacted by Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) -- the nature and severity of their injuries were so significant, that the affected Marines couldn’t remember the courses the recruiter signed them up for -- but that didn’t stop the recruiter.

    That’s just wrong.

    But practices like that -- and so many others -- will be coming to an end as a result of today’s order signed by the President.

    In short, the EO is designed to combat unscrupulous practices used by schools to gain access to the military/veteran education benefits; it protects the full range of military/veteran education benefits programs, including Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, the Tuition Assistance program, and MyCAA; and, its provisions focus on ensuring students have the proper information, support, and protections they need to make informed decisions about their educational options. 

    Here’s what the EO delivers for our veterans, military service members, spouses and their families:

  • Today’s advance estimate indicates that the economy posted its 11th straight quarter of positive growth, as real GDP (the total amount of goods and services produced in the country) grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter of this year (see first graph below). While the continued expansion of the economy is encouraging, additional growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the deep recession that began at the end of 2007.

    It is important to recognize that GDP is made up of various components. Several of the private sector components of GDP grew solidly in the first quarter. Personal consumption expenditures, for example, increased by 2.9 percent at an annual rate in 2012 Q1, as compared with 2.1 percent in the previous quarter. Auto production increased robustly, accounting for fully half of overall GDP growth in the first quarter. Residential construction increased by 19 percent, marking the first time since 2005 that residential construction has increased four quarters in a row. These are encouraging signs that the private sector is continuing to heal from the worst recession since the Great Depression.  

    Overall GDP growth was weighed down by reduced spending in the government sector, however. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, national defense expenditures fell by 8.1 percent in the first quarter.  Government spending across all levels subtracted 0.6 percentage point from overall GDP growth.  The latest report continues a pattern of moderate growth in the private sector components of GDP and contraction of the government components of GDP.  The second graph below displays the four-quarter percent change in the private components of real GDP and of government spending.    

    If only the private sector components of GDP are considered, GDP grew by 3.5 percent in 2012 Q1.

  • This week, the President hosted the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride, visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and traveled to North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa to launch a sustained effort to get Congress to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1st.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama answers questions from children of White House staff (April 26, 2012)

    First Lady Michelle Obama answers questions from children of White House staff during ”Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” in the East Room of the White House, April 26, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

    This year marks the 20th anniversary of the National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and the eighth year the White House has formally participated in this event. Over 180 children of employees of the Executive Office of the President (EOP) spent the morning at the White House discovering the many avenues and career paths their futures may hold.

    This year’s theme, Building Opportunities at the White House: Educating and Empowering a New Generation of Leaders was woven throughout the day’s activities. The children started their morning by taking the same Oath of Office their parent’s did when they started working in the Executive Office of the President. From there they heard from the White House Photo Office about the exciting people from around the world that the President, Vice President, First Lady and Dr. Biden have met, and learned about the importance of protecting our national parks from the National Park Service.

    The kids got to put their thinking caps on and learn about exciting careers in science, the culinary arts, and national security. First Lady Michelle Obama concluded the event by answering questions from the children, including: What is her favorite part about being First Lady? How many types of fruits and vegetables are in the kitchen garden? And when did Bo join the First Family?

  • After a traumatic brain injury as an infant, Quentin Hammond lived in a nursing home for the first six years of his life. At the nursing home, the caregivers viewed him as blind and vegetative, and not able to engage. However, thanks to a program supporting community living, Quentin’s mother Teresa, was able to bring him home where he now receives the right mix of services and supports. Quentin has benefited from living with the love and support of his mother and little brother, who calls Quentin his best friend.  Much to the contrary of his caregivers’ views in the nursing home, today Quentin can see, engages with others, and attends school. As Teresa said, “it’s been like a 360 turn, he is a different person.” 

    The Obama Administration has long been committed to helping all Americans, including people with disabilities and seniors, live at home with the supports they need, rather than in nursing homes or other institutions, and participate in communities that value their contributions. The Affordable Care Act has been critical in those efforts, providing many new resources and supports.

    Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the latest step towards expanding community living with the final rule creating the Community First Choice (CFC) Option. Thanks to the new health care law, CFC gives States additional resources to make community living a first choice, and leave nursing homes and institutions as a fall back option.  Under CFC, States can receive a six percentage point increase in federal matching funds for providing community-based attendant services and supports to people with Medicaid.