Read all posts from January 2014

  • President Barack Obama holds a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Jan. 14, 2014

    President Barack Obama holds a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Jan. 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This is going to be a year of action.

    That’s what President Obama told his Cabinet today at their first official meeting of the new year.

    “We’ve got a lot to do in 2014,” he said. “We want to maximize the pace of our recovery, but most importantly, we want to make sure that every American is able to benefit from that recovery, that we’re not leaving anybody behind and everybody is getting a fair shot.”

    The President said he was pleased Congress has put forward a bill to fund the government, and called on lawmakers to take action on other important issues, including extending emergency unemployment insurance and passing legislation to reform our immigration system.

    “I’m looking forward to working with Democrats and Republicans, House members and Senate members, to try to continue to advance the economic recovery and to provide additional ladders of opportunity for everybody,” President Obama said.

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Energy. You can see the original post here.

    Watch on YouTube

    Meet Carter Wall. She's the director of the performance solar division at a Boston-area electrical construction company and the first profile in our new #WomeninSTEM video series.

    Carter developed an interest in science at an early age, yet struggled to find examples of women scientists and engineers beyond historical figures, like Marie Curie. A lack of relatable role models ultimately didn’t stop Carter from pursuing an undergraduate education and career rooted in STEM -- shorthand for science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields. Now, she plays a key role at one of largest solar developers in the Northeast, while also serving as an ambassador for the Energy Department’s Women in Clean Energy Initiative.

    Just like Carter, many women have difficultly finding STEM role models they can directly relate to, partly due to the underrepresentation of women in these fields. Among college grads, men outnumber women in nearly every science and engineering major, according to a report by the American Association of University Women. The disparity is equally as stark as women enter the workforce. According to the Department of Commerce, women make up less than a quarter of STEM professionals in the U.S.

  • In September 2012 at the Clinton Global Initiative, President Obama made a commitment to step up our fight against the evils of human trafficking and pledged to “do even more to help victims recover and rebuild their lives.”

    Today, as part of the Administration’s ongoing efforts to carry out that pledge, and in recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the White House released the first-ever Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States

    The plan lays out a five-year path for increased coordination, collaboration, and capacity across the federal government and in partnership with other governmental and nongovernmental entities at all levels.  It describes the steps that federal agencies will take to ensure that all victims of human trafficking in the United States are identified and have access to the services they need to recover and to rebuild their lives. 

  • Ed. note: This event has now concluded.

    Today we’re excited to host the Second Annual White House Safety Datapalooza with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This exciting event will highlight innovators from the private, nonprofit, and academic sectors who are using freely available government data to build products, services, and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways. Top officials from across the Administration will highlight safety-data efforts in the areas of transportation, food, and occupational and consumer product safety, as well as tools to improve disaster preparedness and emergency response.

    After the ‘palooza, attendees from technology, public safety, government, and business communities will participate in breakout datajams with Federal agency representatives to brainstorm new ways to foster the development of ultra-high speed applications for law enforcement officers; leverage technology to improve disaster response and recovery; increase consumer product safety awareness; and reduce exposure to occupational hazardous-noise.

    You can watch today’s Safety Datapalooza online from 9am EST – to 12pm EST and follow the conversation on twitter @safetydatagov and using #safetydata.

    View the event agenda here.

  • For the first time today, as part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ regular reporting on enrollment in private health care plans through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, the department released demographic information on the enrollees, including breakdowns by age.

    It’s fascinating and important stuff.  But we were also struck by the way in which local press stepped back and saw the even bigger story – that day after day, month after month, more and more of our friends and neighbors in every part of the country are getting the security and peace of mind of affordable coverage.  Reading the headlines below, it was a bright, shining reminder of one of the big reasons the President fought so hard to pass the Affordable Care Act in the first place.

    • Associated Press: “Health care enrollment spikes in Utah in December” 
    • Detroit Free Press: “Health insurance enrollment takes off in Michigan, nation for coverage under ACA”
    • Detroit News: “Feds: Michigan experiences 11-fold increase in health care sign-ups”
    • MLive: “Obamacare signups in Michigan spike in December; see demographic breakdown”
    • Sun-Sentinel:  “Obamacare enrollment gains traction in Florida”
    • Stevens Point Journal: “Obamacare enrollment soars in Wisconsin”
    • Palm Beach Post: “Florida’s Obamacare enrollment surges, as does the nation's”

  • JANUARY 28th, 2014  9PM ET State of the Union


    President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address (February 12, 2013)

    President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


    On Tuesday, January 28 at 9pm ET, President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union Address.

    This year there will be more ways than ever to take part in the State of the Union, including a new way to watch the speech and share exclusive graphics with your social networks, and opportunities to discuss President Obama’s remarks with White House officials immediately following the address.

    If you plan on watching from home, we will be streaming an enhanced version of the speech on that features graphics, data and charts that help explain policies and the issues. You can also tune in live on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and through our mobile apps

    In the mean time, here’s how to stay updated, and learn more about how you can watch, share and discuss the speech.

    • Get email updates: Sign up and make sure you’re among the first to get exclusive content before and after the speech
    • Follow us on Twitter: Make sure you’re following @WhiteHouse on Twitter for news and real-time updates before, during and after the address.
    • Officially launching early next week, will be your number one resource for all things State of the Union, and the best place to watch the enhanced livestream of President Obama’s address, featuring charts, graphs, data and more to help explain the issues and policies he’s discussing alongside the remarks. 

  • Ed. Note: Registration for the 2014 State of the Union Social is now closed. Check back at for upcoming White House Social opportunities.

    On Tuesday, January 28th, President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union Address from the Capitol. Here at the White House, we’ll be hosting our third State of the Union Social event. This event is part of a series of "White House Socials" that invite our social media followers to join in-person events, engage with administration officials, and share their experience with their friends. Use the hashtag #SOTUSocial to discuss the event online, and help get the word out.

    This event is an opportunity for our followers on social media to watch President Obama’s State of the Union Address live from the White House, and then participate in a panel with senior staff to discuss the vision and policies laid out in the speech. 

    Interested in joining? You can apply right now at today. After you sign up, tell your friends about the event using the hashtag #SOTUSocial. Please note, registration closes at 6:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, January 16th.

    State of the Union Social

    If you plan on watching from home, we will be streaming an enhanced version of the speech on that features graphics, data and charts that help explain policies and the issues. You can also tune in live on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and through our mobile apps

    Learn more about the State of the Union:

  • In this week’s address, President Obama calls 2014 a year of action, which should start with Congress quickly passing emergency unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million Americans who lost this vital lifeline as they fight to find jobs and make ends meet.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • Promise Zones: The President announced on Thursday the first five “Promise Zone” locations, an initiative to partners with local communities and businesses to create jobs, expand access to educational opportunities and spur economic mobility.

    President Obama was joined in the East Room by students from Harlem Children’s Zone, an educational undertaking that inspired the Promise Zones, where he spoke about the importance of making sure a child’s path isn’t determined by their zip code, but rather by their hard work and determination. In his speech, the President mentioned how he wasn’t so different from one of the students who has benefitted from the Harlem Children’s Zone.

    “If you want to know why I care about this stuff so much, it's because I'm not that different from Roger,” President Obama said.

    There was a period of time in my life where I was goofing off. I was raised by a single mom. I didn’t know my dad. The only difference between me and Roger was my environment was more forgiving than his. That’s the only difference. If I screwed up, the consequences weren't quite as great. So if Roger can make it, and if I can make it, if Kiara can make it, every kid in this country can make it. 

    The Promise Zones, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, are the first of 20 being launched over the next three years. You can read his full remarks here.

    Extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance: On Tuesday, President Obama called on Congress to extend emergency unemployment insurance. Two weeks ago, Congress failed to renew the vital lifeline that temporarily extends insurance for 1.3 million Americans who are currently looking for work. “Now, I've heard the argument that says extending unemployment insurance will somehow hurt the unemployed because it zaps their motivation to get a new job,” the President said.

  • Want to get the latest updates on We the Geeks? Sign up here for email updates and share your ideas for future topics.

    Summing up the distinction between short-term changes in the weather and long term climate trends in today’s "We the Geeks" Hangout, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, President of the American Meteorological Society, used nine simple words: "weather is your mood and climate is your personality." He later highlighted a need among scientists to correct the misperception that cold snaps disprove climate change, comparing it to the rationale: “because its night time, the sun went away.”

    Those insights and more were shared at today’s "We the Geeks" Google+ Hangout on the "Polar Vortex" and Extreme Weather.

    The live discussion kicked off with an explanation of the mechanics of the polar vortex phenomenon by leading National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Arctic Researcher Jim Overland, who said the shape of the circulating vortex of cold air—when it’s stable—is actually "just like the vortex going out of your bathtub." (You can watch a two-minute explainer video of the Polar Vortex by President Obama’s Science Advisor John P. Holdren, here).

  • The very best people to describe what having new health insurance means -- what it feels like -- isn't me, or any White House policy staffer. It's not even the President.

    It's people like you -- or your neighbor, coworker, sister, or partner.

    It's anyone who woke up on the morning of January 1st with the peace of mind, security, and quiet dignity that comes with taking your health care into your own hands.

    We've been hearing from a lot of you. Your stories are powerful, and they keep coming in.

    Read what 10 different Americans had to say about what being covered now means to them. Then, join them and share a story of your own.

    JoAnn S., Florida

    "I haven't had insurance in years and my husband had a shared insurance junk-type policy. The day I signed up on Dec 10, I actually cried when the application went through. I got my first premium notice in the mail yesterday and was never so happy to see a bill before."

    Gayla W., New Hampshire

    "I lost my job last April. My partner and I both have pre-existing conditions so our only option was to COBRA my employer-provided plan -- at a cost of $1,676 a month. It was a good plan, but now we have a comparable plan through the ACA for $87 a month. I can't describe just how life changing this is for us. We can afford to live again."

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks announcing the first five "Promise Zones"

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks announcing the first five "Promise Zones," in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 9, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Yesterday, on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, President Obama announced the first five “Promise Zone” locations across the U.S. The program, first unveiled at his State of the Union address last year, is an initiative that partners with local communities and businesses to create jobs, expand access to educational opportunities and spur economic mobility and security.

    Joined by students from the Harlem Children’s Zone -- a 17 year undertaking that found children will do better if those around them are doing better -- the President spoke in the East Room of the White House on the importance of making sure everyone who works hard has a fair shot at success, no matter where they come from or who they are. “A child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in, but by the strength of her work ethic and the scope of her dreams,” the President said.

    As an example of how communities can change children’s lives, the President told the story of Roger Brown from Harlem. Roger spent some time in the foster care system before going to live with his mom, who entered his name into the Promise Academy Charter School lottery, where he received a spot. During school, Roger was the class clown and acted out but his teachers didn’t give up on him and kept pushing him. So he buckled down and became the first person in his family to go to college.

    “If you want to know why I care about this stuff so much, it's because I'm not that different from Roger,” President Obama said.

    There was a period of time in my life where I was goofing off. I was raised by a single mom. I didn’t know my dad. The only difference between me and Roger was my environment was more forgiving than his. That’s the only difference. If I screwed up, the consequences weren't quite as great. So if Roger can make it, and if I can make it, if Kiara can make it, every kid in this country can make it. 

  • As our economy continues to make progress, there's a lot more work to do. Though December’s job growth was less than expected, we continue to focus on the longer-term trend in the economy - 2.2 million private sector jobs added and a 1.2 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate over the course of 2013. Today’s numbers are also a reminder of the work that remains, especially on one of our nation’s most immediate and pressing challenges: long-term unemployment. Despite an abundance of evidence indicating that this challenge is far from solved, Congress allowed extended unemployment insurance to lapse at the end of 2013, cutting off a critical lifeline to those who lost a job through no fault of their own and are still searching for work. Several of the charts below—and the updated Council of Economic Advisers report available here—explain why today’s jobs numbers show that while we are making progress, extended unemployment insurance benefits remain necessary and should be the first order of business in 2014.


    1. America’s resilient businesses have added jobs for 46 consecutive months, with private sector employment increasing by 8.2 million over that period. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 74,000 in December, due to an 87,000 increase in private employment. Private sector job growth was revised up for October (to 217,000) and November (to 226,000) so that over the last three months, private employment has risen by an average of 177,000 per month. Policymakers should be doing everything they can to speed job creation. The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that extending the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program through 2014 would lead to an additional 240,000 jobs over the course of the year, because the benefits sustain the purchasing power of recipients who support local businesses and their suppliers. This projection is similar to the central estimate released by the Congressional Budget Office.

  • Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, the President repeatedly called for Congress to extend Emergency Unemployment Insurance for more than a million Americans, and announced the first five of what will be 20 Promise Zones to help change the odds for kids, as the War on Poverty turned 50. And as a polar vortex descended on much of the country, the President's Science Advisor explained why. That's January 3rd to January 9th or, "A Year of Action. " 

  • Today, President Obama signed a memorandum establishing the federal government’s first Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) process, fulfilling an important commitment from his Climate Action Plan and ensuring that federal energy policies continue to meet the nation’s economic, environmental, and security goals. Over the next four years, the QER will provide a comprehensive review of these policies in the context of a changing energy landscape.

    The ways that this country produces and uses energy are changing in ways that few people could have predicted a decade ago. As an Administration we've pursued an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and, as a result, we are now more energy secure than at any time in recent history, and we have cut our carbon pollution in the process. We have more than doubled our production of electricity from wind and solar since the President took office, and we have set a goal to double it again by 2020. 

    We are also producing more of our own conventional fuels. The United States is now the number one natural gas producer in the world, and, for the first time in decades, the United States is now producing more oil at home than it imports from abroad. These are important steps to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and responsibly leverage our nation’s home-grown energy resources.

  • January 1 marked a new day in health care for millions of families and individuals throughout the country. For the millions of Americans who signed up for health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces, they now have the security and peace of mind that comes with access to quality and affordable health coverage. From now on, insured Americans won't be forced to put off a check-up or worry about going broke if they get sick. And for those who already have insurance, additional protections and benefits kicked in thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

    Now, it is against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage or charge you more because of a pre-existing medical condition. And they will no longer be able to drop you from coverage just because you get sick or get into an accident. Most plans must cover preventive services like cholesterol and cancer screenings, at no out-of-pocket cost. Better access to prevention and wellness services is important for reducing health disparities among Latinos who suffer from high rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer.

    Andrew Santiago is one of the 10.2 million Latinos who stand to benefit from the new protections provided by the Affordable Care Act. Andrew is a comedy writer from Brooklyn who works freelance jobs in television production. Andrew signed up for coverage under the Health Insurance Marketplace and qualified for a tax credit that allows him to purchase medical and dental insurance for only $87 a month. Andrew received enrollment assistance from the Hispanic Federation, one of the organizations working to ensure that Latinos across New York, New Jersey and Florida have access to quality and affordable coverage. 

  • More than 20 years ago, my personal involvement in the fight against breast cancer started after four of my friends were diagnosed with the disease in the same year. After one of those friends lost her battle, I saw just what a ruthless adversary breast cancer could be. Far too many of us have lost a loved one to breast cancer or seen a colleague or friend endure painful treatments to fight the disease. 

    That is why I am so pleased that today the Administration is making clear that most health insurance plans must soon cover chemoprevention medications like tamoxifen and raloxifene that can reduce the risk of breast cancer for women who have an increased chance of developing the disease. In addition, these health plans will have to cover the medications at no cost to these women.

    Women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer face many questions. Now, if their doctor recommends that the benefits of this treatment outweigh the risks, one question women across the country won’t have to ask is whether they can afford it. 

    This is just one more way the Affordable Care Act is helping fight breast cancer. Already, the ACA ensures that about 47 million women have access to free mammograms every year or two, that insurance companies can no longer deny coverage or increase premiums due to pre-existing conditions like breast cancer, and new health plans can no longer set an annual or lifetime cap on someone’s health insurance benefits – meaning women diagnosed with breast cancer will not max out their insurance benefits while seeking treatment.

  • Last year, in his State of the Union address, President Obama announced his plan to work with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety by creating 20 “Promise Zones” across the country.

    Yesterday, as we reflected on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, the President reiterated this commitment; he reminded us of the frustrations that many American families face, and the need to build ladders of opportunity for those working to get into the middle class.

    In a country as great as this one, a child’s zip code should never be what determines his or her opportunity. The government can’t fix this on its own, but it can be a much better partner in helping local leaders develop policies that improve education, protect the most vulnerable, and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit. That’s what we’ll be doing in these Promise Zones, where the federal government will partner with local innovators, advancing their work to expand opportunity in their communities.

    Today, in the East Room of the White House, the President will announce the first five “Promise Zones”, located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

    These areas – urban, rural, and tribal – have all committed, in partnership with local business and community leaders, to use existing resources on proven strategies, and make new investments that reward hard work. They have developed strong plans to create jobs, provide quality, affordable housing and expand educational opportunity, which we’ll help them execute with access to on-the-ground federal partners, resources, and grant preferences. 

  • This afternoon, I joined a conference call with Americans from around the country about the importance of extending emergency unemployment insurance.

    Because Congress has failed to pass legislation extending emergency unemployment benefits, approximately 1.3 million hardworking Americans lost a key lifeline this week. These benefits help support these individuals and their families as they look for work.

    If Congress doesn’t take action to extend these benefits soon – as Republicans and Democrats have worked together to do many times before – even more families will be in need in 2014. Nearly 5 million workers who are actively looking for jobs and their 9 million family members depend on this insurance to make ends meet.

  • Watch today's "We the Geeks" at 2:00 p.m. ET right here, or on the White House Google+ page.

    Here at the White House, while we’re beginning to thaw from this week’s bone-chilling deep freeze, our discussions about the science of weather extremes are heating up. 

    We know that no single weather episode proves or disproves climate change. Climate refers to the patterns observed in the weather over time and space – in terms of averages, variations, and probabilities. But we also know that this week’s cold spell is of a type there’s reason to believe may become more frequent in a world that’s getting warmer, on average, because of greenhouse-gas pollution.

    Join us this Friday, January 10th at 2:00 p.m. ET for We the Geeks: "Polar Vortex" and Extreme Weather, for a conversation with leading meteorologists, climate scientists, and weather experts about why temperatures dipped to such frigid lows this week, how weather experts turn raw data into useful forecasts, and what we know about extreme weather events in the context of a changing climate.