The White House Blog: The President

  • Getting to Zero: President Obama on the Next Phase in Our Fight Against Ebola

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    "If you need me, just say the word." 

    Brett Sedgwick spent much of his recent time traveling to furthest corners of Liberia. He'd go from community to community, supporting teams that helped grieving families bury their loved ones who had perished from the Ebola disease. The safe-burial teams buried them carefully, safely, and respectfully so that they could rest in peace without transmiting the disease to anyone else. 

    As a health care worker with Global Communities, Brett reflected the spirit of the 10,000 civilian workers like himself when he said: "If you need me, just say the word." 

    "That's a simple but profound statement," the President said today as he reflected on the volunteers who've been essential to the significant progress we've made toward bringing an end to the world's deadliest Ebola outbreak.

    "That's who we are -- big-hearted and optimistic, reflecting the can-do spirit of the American people. That's our willingness to help those in need." 


  • Chart of the Week: Progress in the Battle Against Ebola

    The world is witnessing the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. Since the first cases in March of 2014, there have been more than 22,500 reported cases in West Africa and more than 8,900 people have died from this devastating disease.

    As the President has made clear, to effectively protect the American people, we must confront this outbreak at its source. That's why the U.S. has not only launched a government-wide approach to strengthen our preparedness here at home, but is also leading the fight on the frontlines of the epidemic in West Africa.

    Thanks to these efforts, and the work of countless others from around the world, the number of people who are contracting Ebola has declined sharply in the last few months. Take a look:


  • President Obama on the Death of Kayla Jean Mueller

    President Obama released a statement this morning on the tragic death of Kayla Jean Mueller, an aid worker who was taken hostage by ISIL in 2013: 

    "It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the death of Kayla Jean Mueller.  On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I convey our deepest condolences to Kayla’s family – her parents, Marsha and Carl, and her brother Eric and his family – and all of those who loved Kayla dearly.  At this time of unimaginable suffering, the country shares in their grief.
     
    "Kayla dedicated her life to helping others in need at home and around the world.  In Prescott, Arizona, she volunteered at a women’s shelter and worked at an HIV/AIDS clinic.  She worked with humanitarian organizations in India, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, compelled by her desire to serve others.  Eventually, her path took her to Turkey, where she helped provide comfort and support to Syrian refugees forced to flee their homes during the war.  Kayla’s compassion and dedication to assisting those in need shows us that even amongst unconscionable evil, the essential decency of humanity can live on.
     
    "Kayla represents what is best about America, and expressed her deep pride in the freedoms that we Americans enjoy, and that so many others strive for around the world.  She said:  “Here we are.  Free to speak out without fear of being killed, blessed to be protected by the same law we are subjected to, free to see our families as we please, free to cross borders and free to disagree.  We have many people to thank for these freedoms and I see it as an injustice not to use them to their fullest.”
     
    "Kayla Mueller used these freedoms she so cherished to improve the lives of others.  In how she lived her life, she epitomized all that is good in our world.  She has been taken from us, but her legacy endures, inspiring all those who fight, each in their own way, for what is just and what is decent.  No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla’s captivity and death.
     
    "ISIL is a hateful and abhorrent terrorist group whose actions stand in stark contrast to the spirit of people like Kayla.  On this day, we take comfort in the fact that the future belongs not to those who destroy, but rather to the irrepressible force of human goodness that Kayla Mueller shall forever represent."


  • The Old Family Dining Room, Made New Again

    The Old Family Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2015. The room opens to public view for the first time in White House history Tuesday, February 10, 2015.

    The Old Family Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2015. The room opens to public view for the first time in White House history Tuesday, February 10, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

    Today, for the first time in White House history, the Old Family Dining Room on the State Floor is open for public viewing.

    The room has a rich and colorful history.

    The Old Family Dining Room -- a smaller dining room off the State Dining Room -- was established by President and Mrs. John Quincy Adams in 1825 as a place for the family to take meals. Enjoyed since then by 38 Presidents and their families, it was considered the "breakfast room" until 1961, when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy moved the family's dining room into the family's private quarters upstairs. "Breakfast room” was the Hoovers’ designation, because they ate dinners in State Dining Room. Other first families prior to the Kennedys ate all of their meals there. After the family's dining room was moved to the private residence, Presidents have used the Old Family Dining Room for small official meals, including working luncheons with foreign heads of state.


  • President Obama Hosts Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, "One of Our Strongest Allies"

    President Obama and Chancellor Merkel Participate in Joint Press Conference (1)

    President Barack Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany participate in a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    President Obama hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House earlier today, holding a bilateral meeting and a working lunch to discuss some of our countries' most pressing issues.

    "Germany is one of our strongest allies, so whenever we meet, it's an opportunity to coordinate closely on a whole range of issues critical to our shared security and prosperity," President Obama said in a joint press conference. "As Angela and our German friends prepare to host the G7 this spring, it's also important for us to be able to coordinate on a set of shared goals."


  • The Work Before Us: A Message from Michael Botticelli

    Today, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Michael Botticelli as Director of National Drug Control Policy. The following message is cross-posted from the Office of National Drug Control Policy's blog.

    If you have a story to share about recovery from substance abuse or addiction, you can share it here.


    Many great movements to change public perception and policy around a public health issue have been fueled by people with a disease speaking out publicly.


    What is seen as someone else's problem -- someone else’s disease – takes on a new dimension when people speak up about it.  

    Such was the case when Betty Ford revealed her breast cancer diagnosis and her substance use disorder. Such was the case when Magic Johnson revealed that he was HIV positive, spurring action to stem the AIDS epidemic.

    Yet, despite the fact that nearly every family and community in America is affected by a substance use disorder, those fighting to overcome this disease are too often hidden in the shadows of shame and denial.  It is whispered about. It is met with derision and scorn. 


  • Using Behavioral Science Insights to Make Government More Effective, Simpler, and More People-Friendly

    It makes sense for us to be able to redesign government so that it can deliver on the functions that the American people are looking for. We should all want a government that’s smarter, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.

    -President Obama, July 8, 2013

    This month marks one full year since the launch of the first-ever Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST), which was created in response to the President’s call to make government programs more effective and efficient. SBST comprises leading experts who have been recruited into government to harness behavioral science insights to help Federal government programs better serve the nation while saving taxpayer dollars.

    SBST had a successful first year, launching a wide variety of evidence-based pilots with objectives ranging from connecting veterans with employment and educational counseling benefits to helping struggling student borrowers understand their loan repayment options.

    In one recent pilot, SBST collaborated with the Department of Defense (DOD) to help members of the Armed Forces continue contributions to their Roth Thrift Savings Plans. Due to a change in the military pay system in January 2015, nearly 140,000 members needed to re-enroll in their plans online, or else their contributions would be suspended indefinitely. SBST worked with DOD to redesign their planned communications to better serve our service members, by making the language clear and concise, charting out clear action steps for service members to take, and personalizing the emails.

    Results from the first week of the pilot indicated that the redesigned email led 22% more service members – 3,770 individuals – to re-enroll compared to the original message. Since the redesigned email was more effective at prompting re-enrollment after just one week, DOD sent a version of the redesigned email to the entire population in follow-up messages, demonstrating the rapid scalability of insights from these types of low-cost pilots.

    The President’s FY 2016 Budget, which was announced earlier this week, supports funds for an expansion of SBST. To mark the one-year anniversary of SBST, the team met with President Obama last Friday.

    We would love to hear your ideas for other issues SBST could address to help the government better serve the American people. Also, let us know if you’re interested in joining the effort. Send us your thoughts at sbst@gsa.gov.

    Maya Shankar is Senior Advisor for Social and Behavioral Sciences at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.


  • An Important Message at the 2015 GRAMMY Awards: "It's On Us"

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    "Artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes -- and get us thinking and talking about what matters." 

    Last night, some of the world's most talented and influential artists came together in Los Angeles to celebrate last year's most notable achievements in music at the 2015 GRAMMY awards. Along with the awards and performances, the night included an important appeal message from President Obama to all present: It's on us to stop domestic violence and sexual assault. 


  • Behind-the-Scenes Video: "Humans of New York" Goes to the White House

    Take a look behind the scenes as President Obama meets Vidal, a 13-year-old from Brownsville, Brooklyn, whose photo on the "Humans of New York" blog inspired a national campaign to support the students at his middle school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy.

    Watch the video and learn more about their story.

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  • Weekly Address: Everyone Who Works Hard Should Get Ahead

    President Obama Tapes the Weekly Address on January 30

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. January 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    In this week’s address, President Obama highlighted the progress our economy has made, with more than 3.1 million jobs created in 2014 – the best year for job growth since the late 1990s. America has come a long way, and with the right policies, we can continue to grow our economy into one where those who work hard can get ahead.

    That’s why earlier this week the President released a budget proposal focused on middle-class economics – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, does their fair share, and plays by the same set of rules. The President said he looks forward to working with anyone, Republican or Democrat, who is willing to fight for commonsense policies that will help the middle class succeed.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3