Read all posts from May 2014

  • President Barack Obama announces the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

    President Barack Obama announces the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier held captive for nearly five years by militants during the Afghanistan war, during a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House, Saturday, May 31, 2014. With the President are Sgt. Bergdahl's parents, Jani and Bob Bergdahl. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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    Earlier this evening, in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama spoke about the recovery of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — an American soldier who spent nearly five years in captivity during the war in Afghanistan.

    Standing with Sgt. Bergdahl's parents, Bob and Jani, the President made clear that "while Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten."

    His parents thought about him and prayed for him every single day, as did his sister Sky, who prayed for his safe return. He wasn't forgotten by his community in Idaho, or the military, which rallied to support the Bergdahls through thick and thin. And he wasn't forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.

  • In this week’s address, President Obama discussed new actions by the Environmental Protection Agency to cut dangerous carbon pollution, a plan that builds on the efforts already taken by many states, cities and companies. These new commonsense guidelines to reduce carbon pollution from power plants were created with feedback from businesses, and state and local governments, and they would build a clean energy economy while reducing carbon pollution.

    The President discussed this new plan from the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he visited children whose asthma is aggravated by air pollution. As a parent, the President said he is dedicated to make sure our planet is cleaner and safer for future generations.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., May 30, 2014.

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., May 30, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

  • This week had a little bit of everything: President Obama making a surprise visit to Afghanistan; honoring our veterans for Memorial Day; the fourth-ever White House Science Fair; the first-ever Concussion Summit – and group hugs with the President. And that's barely scratching the surface.

    Check out what else you may have missed in this week's wrap-up:

    Helping Young People Stay on Track

    Three months ago, President Obama launched My Brother's Keeper – a new initiative to ensure that America's boys and young men of color reach their full potential. And today, the My Brother's Keeper Task Force released a report on its progress over the initiative's first 90 days.

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    Learn more about the initiative – and find out how you can get involved in your own community.

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    Three months ago, President Obama launched the My Brother's Keeper initiative – aimed at expanding opportunities for America's boys and young men of color, and ensuring all young people can reach their full potential.

    Through the initiative, the Administration is joining with cities, towns, businesses, and foundations that are working to connect young people to mentoring, support networks, and the skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way into the middle class. And the President wants everyone to get involved by signing up to mentor young people in their own communities.

    As a part of the launch, the President established the My Brother's Keeper Task Force to develop a "coordinated federal effort to improve significantly the expected life outcomes for boys and young men of color ... and their contributions to U.S. prosperity." Today, he met with the Task Force to receive a report on the progress made in the first 90 days of the initiative, as well as an initial set of recommendations.

  • The view from aerial tour of Hurricane Sandy damage  of New Jersey's barrier beaches

    The view from aerial tour of Hurricane Sandy damage of New Jersey's barrier beaches, Nov. 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

    The 2014 hurricane season begins this Sunday, and communities across the country are making sure they're ready.

    Today, the President headed over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Response Coordination Center, where he received an update on efforts to prepare communities for extreme weather events and other climate change impacts.

    In brief remarks ahead of his hurricane preparedness briefing, the President noted that, while states still have the primary role in preparing for responding to disasters, the federal government would continue to ensure they have the resources they need. But, as he also said:’s also every citizen’s responsibility to make sure that we are prepared for emergencies when they come -- and not just hurricanes but every emergency.

    Looking for ways to make sure you're prepared? has a whole suite of instructions and resources for before, during, and after a storm. We've pulled a couple out here.

  • Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett addresses Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and her "Shadow Day” participants

    Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett addresses Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and her "Shadow Day” participants in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, May, 29, 2014. Rep. Bass' program brings former foster youth to Washington, D.C. to shadow their Member of Congress. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Yesterday, as a part of National Foster Care Month, I was honored to welcome California Congresswoman Karen Bass, over 60 former foster youth, and the cast members and creators of Disney’s The Fosters to the White House to discuss ways to better ensure the health, safety, and economic empowerment of foster youth, both while in foster care – and when transitioning out of the system.

  • 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 February 2014. Today’s release also includes visitor records generated prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public in April 2014 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 3.66 million—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

  • Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and beyond. This week, the President nominated two new Cabinet Secretaries, honored servicemembers for Memorial Day, hosted the fourth-ever Science Fair and the first-ever Concussion Summit, and traveled to West Point, to graduate 1,000 brand-new Army officers. That's May 23rd to May 29th or, "I Love These Kids!"

  • President Barack Obama, with introducer Tori Belluci, delivers opening remarks at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit

    President Barack Obama, with introducer Tori Bellucci, delivers opening remarks at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit in the East Room of the White House, May 29, 2014. Belluci suffered multiple concussions as a youth and high school athlete. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Whether he's on the court for a pick-up game of basketball, or filling out his March Madness bracket, President Obama doesn't hide the fact that he's an avid sports fan. And as a parent with two young daughters, he also realizes the importance of protecting our kids' health and safety.

    To help ensure children's safety in sports, the President hosted the Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit this morning at the White House to address the growing risk of concussions in youth.

  • “We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past. We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.”  President Barack Obama, March 15, 2012

    The U.S. energy sector is undergoing a profound transformation. The United States is producing more oil and natural gas, is generating more electricity from renewables such as wind and solar, and is consuming less petroleum while holding electricity consumption constant. As detailed in today’s report from the Council of Economic Advisers, these developments have had substantial economic and energy security benefits, and they are helping to reduce carbon emissions in the energy sector and thereby tackle the challenge posed by climate change. These trends have been supported and advanced by President Obama’s All-of-the-Above energy strategy.

    The President’s All-of-the-Above energy strategy has three key goals:

    1. To support economic growth and job creation
    2. To enhance energy security
    3. To deploy low-carbon energy technologies and lay the foundation for a clean energy future


    1. Decades-long trends in energy use are being reversed. The U.S. is the world’s leading producer of petroleum and natural gas, surpassing long-standing petro-states Saudi Arabia and Russia. Accompanying these increases has been an unexpected turnaround in petroleum and gasoline demand; while industry-standard projections by the Energy Information Administration from as late as 2006 suggested ever-increasing consumption of oil and gasoline, U.S. gasoline consumption has fallen by 5.5 percent since 2007, or nearly half a million barrels per day. At the same time, production of renewable energy has increased rapidly.  Since 2008, electricity production generation from wind has tripled while solar generation is up more than ten-fold.

  • Today’s GDP revision was due almost entirely to a downward revision to the highly volatile inventories category, with small upward revisions to consumer spending and business fixed investment being offset by small downward revisions to net exports and state and local purchases. Overall the first quarter was subject to a number of notable influences, including historically severe winter weather, which temporarily lowered growth. A range of more up-to-date data from March and April, including jobs, manufacturing, housing and other indicators, provide a more accurate and timely picture of where the economy is today and show that it continues to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. The President will do everything he can either by acting through executive action or by working with Congress to push for steps that would raise growth and accelerate job creation, including fully paid-for investments in infrastructure, education and research, a reinstatement of extended unemployment insurance benefits, and an increase in the minimum wage.


    1. Real gross domestic product (GDP) fell 1.0 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter of 2014, according to the second estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This drop follows an increase of 3.4 percent annual pace in the second half of 2013. Looking at the various components of GDP, consumer spending grew at a rapid pace, mainly reflecting sharp increases in health care and utilities consumption, while the other elements of consumer spending on net rose only slightly. Consumer spending on food services and accommodations fell for the first time in four years, one of several components that was likely affected by unusually severe winter weather. Exports and inventory investment, two particularly volatile components of GDP, also subtracted from growth.

  • 05 West Point

    Graduating cadets listen to President Barack Obama deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point commencement ceremony at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y., May 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    This morning, President Obama traveled to West Point to congratulate the newest officers in the United States Army and to reflect on America's foreign policy agenda. In the President's remarks, he acknowledged that our world is changing with accelerating speed and that America must be equipped to respond to an increasingly dynamic environment.

    It will be your generation's task to respond to this new world. The question we face; the question you will face; is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead, not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also to extend peace and prosperity around the globe.

  • Maya Angelou delivers her poem at the inaugural ceremonies for President Bill Clinton

    Maya Angelou reciting her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the 1993 Presidential Inauguration of William J. Clinton. U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C. January 20, 1993. (William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum)

    This afternoon, the President released a statement on the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou – one of the most prolific writers and activists of our time:

    When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that “No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.” 

    Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya. 

    Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.

  • Today, the White House, the Energy Department, and the General Services Administration are teaming up to host an Energy Datapalooza, highlighting important new steps in the public and private sectors to leverage data and innovation in ways that promote a clean energy economy in America.

    Advances in technology are making it easier for consumers and businesses across the nation to better understand how they are using and saving energy. Empowering citizens with information about their energy usage can help them make smart choices that cut energy waste, cut down energy bills, and preserve our environment.

    The federal government has an important role to play in unleashing energy-related data and catalyzing innovation to support these savings. That is why the Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps to make open government data more available to citizens, companies, and innovators — including by launching both an Energy Data Initiative and a Climate Data Initiative.

    In addition, in 2011, the Administration launched the Green Button Initiative to provide families and businesses with easy and secure access to their own energy-usage information. And today, the Obama Administration is announcing a number of new steps to continue this momentum, including: a successful federal pilot applying the Green Button to help building managers achieve greater efficiencies; and new or expanded data resources and tools in the areas of geothermal, solar, hydropower, bio energy, and buildings.

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    Today at the White House, President Obama caught basketballs shot off a hand-built catapult, test drove a remote-controlled search-and-rescue robot, and used his hand to activate an auto-retracting bridge made of Legos – all part of his tour of the 2014 White House Science Fair.

    This year’s event brought 100 incredible kids from more than 30 states to participate in a day-long showcase of innovative projects, patent-worthy inventions, and potentially life-saving discoveries made by America’s brightest young minds. The student exhibitors included a young researcher making progress to develop an anti-flu vaccine, an engineer who built an electric car and then raced it in a national competition, a group of girl coders who built an app to help their visually impaired classmate, and multiple teens with patents pending on groundbreaking inventions that could one day save lives.

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks regarding Afghanistan to the press in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 27, 2014.

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks regarding Afghanistan to the press in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    This afternoon, in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama talked briefly about the United States' next steps in Afghanistan, and how "we will bring America's longest war to a responsible end."

    Over the last several years, we’ve worked to transition security responsibilities to the Afghans. One year ago, Afghan forces assumed the lead for combat operations. Since then, they’ve continued to grow in size and in strength, while making huge sacrifices for their country. This transition has allowed us to steadily draw down our own forces -- from a peak of 100,000 U.S. troops, to roughly 32,000 today. 

    The President announced today that 22,000 more troops will return home by the end of the year, ending the U.S. combat mission in December 2014.

    "When I took office, we had nearly 180,000 troops in harm's way," President Obama said. "By the end of this year, we will have less than 10,000."

  • It is no secret that the last several months have seen dramatic progress in expanding access to high-quality, affordable health insurance.  Over the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period, more than 8 million people signed up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces, and, through March 2014, 4.8 million people gained coverage through Medicaid or CHIP.  Meanwhile, multiple independent surveys have reported sharp drops in the share of Americans without health insurance.

    What is not widely known is that the last several months have also seen a steady stream of good news on health care costs.  This good news suggests that even as coverage expands, the underlying slow growth in health care prices, per-enrollee spending, and premiums that we have seen in recent years is continuing.  That slow cost growth, which is thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, is helping keep families’ premiums and out-of-pocket costs down, making it easier for businesses to hire workers and pay a good wage, and improving our fiscal future.

  • Today, President Obama is hosting the fourth-ever White House Science Fair, which will feature extraordinary science projects and experiments from some of America’s most innovative students.

    Find out more below about the students participating in this year’s Science Fair:

    Elana Simon, 18
    Elana Simon, 18 (New York, New York)
    After surviving a bout with a rare liver cancer at age 12, Elana Simon, now 18, teamed up with one of the surgeons who treated her, set up shop in a medical lab, and began to collect much-needed data about the rare illness she'd endured. She gathered tissue samples from patients coping with the same cancer, fibrolamellar, performed genomic sequencing tests, and found a common genetic mutation across all of the samples she collected. Elana's results were published in the top journal Science, and formed a basis for a new website, the Fibrolamellar Registry, which she built to help empower fibrolamellar patients to share their own medical data for use by researchers working to find a cure. Elana is a recent winner of the American Association for Cancer Research's Junior Champion in Cancer Research Award. She has presented her work before an audience of 16,000 cancer researchers and is headed to Harvard to study computer science in the fall.
    Deidre Carrillo, 18
    Deidre Carrillo, 18 (San Antonio, TX)
    Deidre Carrillo, 18, knows what it's like to sit behind the wheel of an innovative electric vehicle she helped design and build, and to feel the adrenaline rush of racing it over a finish line. Deidre leads and helped found her high school's Southwest Engineering Team, which competes annually in Florida's Emerald Coast Electrathon-a national competition for student-built electric cars. For the first six months of the team's existence, Deidre was the only female member. As driver of the team's Dragon 1 vehicle, she helped lead her team to second place finishes in the Electrathon for two years in a row, before grabbing a first place finish in the 2014 competition this year. After graduation, Deidre plans to study public relations at Texas A&M University.

  • This was originally posted on the Huffington Post, and is part of a series of essays about the issues facing working families in the 21st century, leading up to the White House Summit on Working Families on June 23, 2014.

    You can learn more about the summit and how you can get involved at

    On the first Friday of every month, the Labor Department announces new employment numbers that help set the tone for the conversation about our economy and where it's headed.

    But that's not the only set of data on my mind. My older daughter, who will leave for college in a few months, just played her last high school varsity lacrosse game, and I kept the team statistics this season (Amalia had 15 goals and 14 assists, in case you were wondering).

    Involvement in my kids' sports teams is something I have made time for over the years. I've also been able to coach all three of them in baseball and basketball, something that has strengthened our bonds and given me indescribable joy. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I lost my own father when I was 12, and I am the same age today that he was when he died suddenly of a heart attack. So when it comes to family time, I have a strong sense of the fierce urgency of now.

    But I'm lucky. I've had jobs that allow me the flexibility to achieve work-life balance, to be there when one of the kids sinks a jump shot or for the parent-teacher meetings. I can move tasks around. If I don't get something done at the office at 4:30 in the afternoon, I can go back to it at 10:00 in the evening.

    But if you work in retail or in hospitality or at a call center, or if you need to take a second job at night to make ends meet, you probably don't have that option, and you can't be there for your kids. Often, it's not just about missing a game. It means you can't help with homework. It means you can't be involved enough to know when your kids are in trouble at school. Or it means if they get sick in the middle of the day, you have no way to pick them up.

    I think our families deserve better. They shouldn't have to choose between the family they love and the job they need. And it's not just about being able to put food on the dinner table -- it's about being able to actually be at the dinner table as well. The most important family value of all is time with your family.

    That's why we're convening the Summit on Working Families -- to tackle issues like childcare, paid leave and equal pay that speak to the anxieties that keep people awake at night. These issues go to the heart of middle-class economic security. Addressing them is part of fully restoring America's basic bargain -- that if you work hard and take responsibility, you will have a chance to succeed.

    We are way behind the rest of the world when it comes to progress on this front. Everything has changed in recent decades -- the economy, technology, cultural attitudes, the demographics of the workforce, the role of women in society and the structure of the American family. It's about time our laws caught up. We watch Modern Family on television, but we're still living by Leave It To Beaver rules.

    I'm proud to be Secretary of Labor. But I'm even prouder of two more important titles: dad and husband. I've been able to be all three. I want all working people, no matter what their jobs are, to be able to meet their obligations both at work and at home.

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    Today, President Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and deliver remarks at a memorial service honoring our fallen servicemembers and their families.

    The President, who returned from Afghanistan this morning, thanked troops and veterans for their service to our nation, and paid tribute to the fallen:

    Today, in small towns across America, in cemeteries throughout our country and around the world, and here on these solemn hillsides, the families of our fallen share stories of the lives they led. Our hearts ache in their absence. But our hearts are also full -- full in knowing that their legacy shines bright in the people that they loved the most. Through almost unimaginable loss, these families of the fallen have tapped a courage and resolve that many of us will never know. And we draw comfort and strength from their example.

    We draw strength from the promise of their children. Today, Michelle and Jill are with 200 brave boys and girls whose parents gave everything they had in service to their country.

    The First Lady and Dr. Biden were seated in the audience with children who are participating in the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors' "Good Grief" camp -- a program that provides a safe and supportive atmosphere to help young survivors learn coping skills and identify support systems.