Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"We Need All of Our Children to be Exposed to the Olympic Ideals"

"We Need All of Our Children to be Exposed to the Olympic Ideals"
Posted by Molly Fedick

(First Lady Michelle Obama greets gymnast Nadia Comaneci, her husband gymnast Bart Connor, left,
and other former Olympians before the Chicago 2016 Dinner in Copenhagen, Denmark, Wednesday,
September 30, 2009. From left in the background, athletes Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Bob Berland,
David Robinson, and Paralympic athlete Linda Mastandrea.
Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama brought American pride to the Danish capital today, her visit only adding to the Olympic-sized fervor reverberating throughout Copenhagen—also in attendance was Chicago’s other first lady, talk show host Oprah Winfrey. The First Lady, eager for the torch to shine brightly stateside, shared some favorite childhood Olympic moments and reflected on how the importance of Olympic ideals in every child’s life:

We need all of our children to be exposed to the Olympic ideals that athletes from around the world represent, particularly this time in our nation’s history, where athletics is becoming more of a fleeting opportunity. Funds dry up so it becomes harder for kids to engage in sports, to learn how to swim, to even ride a bike. When we’re seeing rates of childhood obesity increase, it is so important for us to raise up the platform of fitness and competition and fair play; to teach kids to cheer on the victors and empathize with those in defeat, but most importantly, to recognize that all the hard work that is required to do something special.
I remember watching the Olympics when I was little. I remember it to the T, some of those memories. And Nadia Comaneci is here, who – (applause) – and so many incredible Olympic athletes. But I remember, I told this story, when you scored that perfect 10, you bounced off the balance beam, off the parallel bars. I thought I could do that. (Laughter.) I didn’t know then that I would be 5'11". (Laughter.)
But it was – it was an activity in our household when it was time for the Olympic Games, all of us gathered around the TV cheering on and being inspired by people who were doing things that were beyond belief. And I just think, wouldn’t it be great if that kind of spirit was happening right down the street in our community? Just think of that. Kids and communities across the city, in Austin, kids who grew up in Cabrini, kids who live so far from the city. Now just imagine if all of that was happening right in their own backyard. That’s what I think about. (Applause.)
It does something to a kid when they can feel that energy and power up close and personal. And for some kids in our communities and our city, around the nation, around the world, they can never dream of being that close to such power and opportunity.

Word from the White House: The Cost of Inaction & Patient Centered Health Research

Word from the White House: The Cost of Inaction & Patient Centered Health Research
Posted by Jesse Lee
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, reports or documents.

Supporting Report: "The Cost of Failure to Enact Health Reform," Roberts Wood Johnson Foundation, 9/30/09

Talking Points: New Report – The Cost of Inaction

· Even as we continue to debate exactly what health insurance reform will look like in its final form, it’s critical to remember one thing: doing nothing is not an option. The cost of inaction is too high.

· A new report out today from the Robert Wood Johnson foundation underscores that cost.

· It finds that "if federal reform efforts fail, over the next decade in every state, the number of uninsured will increase, employer-sponsored coverage will continue to erode, spending on public programs will balloon and individual and family out-of-pocket costs could increase by more than 35 percent."

· Under even the best case scenario, their analysis predicts a tremendous economic strain on individuals and businesses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia if reform is not enacted.

· And in the worst case scenario the results would be absolutely devastating:
o In 29 states, the number of people without insurance would increase by more than 30 percent.
§ The number of uninsured could grow by at least 10 percent in every state. All told, the number of uninsured Americans would reach 65.7 million.
o Individual and family spending would increase significantly—from $326.4 billion in 2009 to $548.4 billion in 2019.
§ Individual and family out-of-pocket costs would increase by more than 35 percent in every state
o Businesses would see their premiums continue to increase – more than doubling in 27 states.
§ Even under the best case scenario, employers in nearly every state would see premium costs increase by more than 60 percent.
o Every state would see employer-sponsored coverage continue to erode, and half would see the number of people with employer sponsored coverage fall by more than 10 percent.

Talking Points: Patient Centered Health Research

· Health care is a complicated subject and sometimes it’s easy to get confused by terms we haven’t heard before – like the "comparative effectiveness research" being debated on Capitol Hill today.

· But when you get past the jargon, the idea here is really quite simple: Patient centered health research gives doctors and patients the best medical information to help them make the best decisions.
o To facilitate higher-quality health care, this research pulls together the evidence on treatments available for a given medical condition and summarizes the risks and benefits of various options to help doctors and patients choose the treatment that’s best for their individual needs.

· This research expands choices for patients.

· Right now, less than one percent of our health care spending goes to examining what treatments are most effective.
o And even when that information finds its way into journals, it can take up to 17 years to find its way to an exam room or operating table.
o Don’t you want your doctor to have more information, not less?

· The research will never be used to ration care or dictate medical decisions – it simply provides medical research.
o In fact, the objective medical research actually empowers doctors and patients and helps them fight insurance company decisions to deny treatment and ration care.

· Many physician and patient groups recognize that this research is important and support it.

· Opposing this research keeps doctors and patients in the dark and strengthens insurance companies at the expense of doctors and patients.

A Night to Celebrate VAWA, But the Work is Not Done

A Night to Celebrate VAWA, But the Work is Not Done
Posted by Lynn Rosenthal
Last night, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a reception at the U.S. Naval Observatory honoring the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). A range of groups that support the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault joined the gathering to celebrate the accomplishments of what the Vice President calls his greatest legislative achievement in his 36 years in the Senate.
"You help so many women step out of the darkness; you help so many young girls expect a different future, expect a different treatment, demand a different way of being dealt with by young men. You've inspired them to speak out against the once unspeakable tyranny of domestic violence," the Vice President said in applauding the many who have fought for awareness over the years.

(Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a reception commemorating the 15th anniversary of the passage of
the Violence Against Women Act, at the Naval Observatory, Tuesday, September 29, 2009.
Official White House Photo by David Lienemann.)
Dr. Biden added, "As I have traveled around this country, I have heard so many heart-breaking stories about the impact of domestic violence on women and their families. But I have also heard how much the passage of the Violence Against Women Act has meant to those who have suffered from domestic violence."
The Act, passed in 1994, provides federal funding for courts, law enforcement and specialized prosecutors, shelters that house battered women, rape crisis centers, and a national hotline for victims. It also increased confidentiality protection for victims and led to a unit in the Department of Justice solely focused on the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault. Since then, domestic violence rates have fallen significantly, largely thanks to this landmark legislation.
Yet, there is still much work left to do. "We cannot let this slip from the consciousness," the Vice President said. And we won’t. Our next objective is to reauthorize the original Violence Against Women Act in 2011 and to take steps to address the terrible violence faced by women around the world. In a time of economic stress for many in our country - periods when victims become more isolated and violence tends to escalate - our national campaign to increase awareness cannot let up. This is an issue that affects all men, women, and children in this country and we have to continue to change the culture surrounding domestic abuse and sexual assault.
On a night on which we toasted the passage of an historic act, we look to the future confident that more can and will be done to curb the abuse and actually end domestic violence and sexual assault before it starts. We have an opportunity to ensure that all girls grow up without the scars of violence and abuse, and that all women are free to realize their true potential. As the Vice President put it, "We stand committed."

Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Adviser on Violence Against Women

Reality Check: Trying to Turn a Point of Pride into a Moment of Shame

Reality Check: Trying to Turn a Point of Pride into a Moment of Shame
Posted by Jesse Lee

Last night Fox News continued its disregard for the facts in an attempt to smear the Administration's efforts to win the Olympics for the United States. In the past, hosting the Olympics has been a source of pride and unity for the country, but once again Fox News' Glenn Beck program has shown that nothing is worthy of respect if it can be used as part of a partisan attack to boost ratings.

RHETORIC: BECK SAID VANCOUVER LOST $1 BILLION WHEN IT "HAD THE OLYMPICS." Glenn Beck said, "Vancouver lost, how much was it? they lost a billion dollars when they had the Olympics." [Transcript, Glenn Beck Show, 9/29/09]

REALITY: VANCOUVER'S OLYMPICS WILL NOT TAKE PLACE UNTIL 2010. Vancouver will host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games from February 12 – 28, 2010 and March 12-21, 2010, respectively. [, accessed 9/29/09]

RHETORIC: VALERIE JARRETT "WAS LAST SEEN WITH THE NEA." Beck's guest, FOX News contributor Pat Caddell, said, "[Obama] is going to go [to Copenhagen] with Valerie Jarrett who was last seen with the NEA pumping up their use of, you know, money." [Transcript, Glenn Beck Show, 9/29/09]

REALITY: VALERIE JARRETT WAS NOT ON THE NEA CONFERENCE CALL. Valerie Jarrett was not a participant in the August 10, 2009 United We Serve/NEA conference call.

RHETORIC: CHICAGO IS CLOSING THE GOVERNMENT SEVERAL DAYS A WEEK BECAUSE THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO BE OPEN. Beck's guest Caddell said, "Chicago is closing the government several days a week because they cannot afford to be open. They are going to go and reward -- this is the biggest scandal." [Transcript, Glenn Beck Show, 9/29/09]

REALITY: CHICAGO HAS HAD ONE REDUCED-SERVICE DAY IN 2009, AND WILL HAVE TWO MORE ON THE FRIDAY AFTER THANKSGIVING AND ON CHRISTMAS EVE. On August 17, 2009, CBS Chicago reported, "If you planned to check out a library book, visit a city clinic or have your garbage picked up on Monday, you're out of luck. The City of Chicago is basically closed for business on Aug. 17, a reduced-service day in which most city employees are off without pay. City Hall, public libraries, health clinics and most city offices will be closed. Emergency service providers including police, firefighters and paramedics are working at full strength, but most services not directly related to public safety, including street sweeping, will not be provided. That also includes garbage pickup. Residents who receive regular collection on Mondays should expect trash to be picked up on Tuesday. Some other customers may experience a one-day delay as collectors catch up. As part of the 2009 budget, three reduced-service days were planned for 2009, days which are unpaid for all affected employees -- the Friday after Thanksgiving; Christmas Eve; and New Year's Eve. The City Council recently approved moving the reduced-service day planned for New Year's Eve to Monday. The 2009 budget anticipates saving $8.3 million due to the reduced-service days. In addition to reduced service days, all non-union employees were asked to take a series of furlough days and unpaid holidays, and most non-sworn union employees agreed to similar unpaid time off." [CBS Chicago, 8/17/09]

RHETORIC: VALERIE JARRETT WILL BENEFIT FINANCIALLY. Beck asked, "Is it possible that she is going to benefit if the Olympics come to Chicago?" Caddell responded, "Well, that’s the word. She has certainly had a lot of dealings going on in real estate." [Transcript, Glenn Beck Show, 9/29/09]

REALITY: UPON ENTERING GOVERNMENT, VALERIE JARRETT DIVESTED ALL HER REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT HOLDINGS EXCEPT FOR A SINGLE INVESTMENT THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE OLYMPIC BID. Valerie Jarrett divested all her investment real estate holdings upon entering government except for a single real estate holding that she was unable to sell. This single real estate investment has been determined by White House Counsel and the independent Office of Government Ethics to present no conflict of interest in performing her duties as a White House advisor. It has nothing to do with the Olympic bid.


For even more Fox lies, check out the latest "Truth-O-Meter" feature from Politifact that debunks a false claim about a White House staffer that continues to be repeated by Glenn Beck and others on the network.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We can stop the Distracted Driving epidemic

We can stop the Distracted Driving epidemic
Posted by Secretary Ray LaHood

The Distracted Driving summit we announced in August convenes tomorrow, and I can't wait to get started.

Folks, it's simple: a driver operating a cell phone or texting while driving is SIX times more likely to be involved in an accident. SIX times.

If you're driving down the road, trying to dial a number or text, you cannot pay appropriate attention to the car in front of you or the car behind you or the traffic and pedestrians around you.
How do we know this? Because over 80% of car accidents occur while drivers are distracted in some way.

Americans are waking up to the danger distracted drivers pose to themselves, to us, and to our loved ones. We can no longer afford to ignore new technology's impact on road safety.

Suddenly, everyone--automakers, safety advocates, motorists' associations, insurance companies, school officials, trucking industry groups, parents of victims, children of victims, law enforcement agencies; newspapers, websites, bloggers, editors, television networks--is saying the same thing: distracted driving needs to stop.

We've all observed the rise of this hazard, and I want to spend these two days seeing what we can do to stop this deadly epidemic on America's roadways.

The summit will gather senior transportation officials, elected officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, private sector representatives, and academics--an array of folks whose expertise can help us meet this challenge.

We'll clarify the scope and various sources of the problem, then look at ways to manage it--whether through education and public awareness initiatives or legislative and regulatory approaches and enforcement.

A great feature of the 2-day meeting is that we're webcasting it. And viewers of the live webcast can submit questions online to the panelists they're watching. It's quite an opportunity for the public to get involved in this historic dialogue.

Look, we're not out to take anyone's technology away; we just want people to drive safely. And it's not just texting and cell phones and navigation systems; driving with your attention anywhere but on the road--for any reason--is just too dangerous.

So, please join us this Wednesday and Thursday either at the summit or for the live-stream online and figure out the best way to move forward on this.

Ray LaHood is Secretary of Transportation

What's Our Plan?

What's Our Plan?
Posted by Graves Spindler
Cross-posted from the DHS blog.

We've harped on it for 29 days - September is National Preparedness Month. We've directed you to, provided tips on how to be prepared and stay informed, and asked you more than once to cough into your sleeve.

No one likes to spend that much time thinking about what could happen – be it a natural disaster or otherwise – but the steps you take to prepare for the unthinkable can make the difference for your place of business, your school, and especially your home. And, it’s the American way: being ready and resilient has helped our nation surmount its biggest challenges for two centuries.

So as National Preparedness Month comes to a close, the Secretary has one more request of you: ask a question. Stand up at school, or at work, or at home, and ask, "What's our plan?"

The Secretary will deliver a speech at The American Red Cross National Headquarters this afternoon at 2:15 PM EDT on preparedness, and wants to make one final pitch to the American public during the month of September. Bring it up the next time you attend a meeting at your child's high school, or at church, or around the dinner table. This is a shared responsibility, and we all have a role to play in building a culture where these questions, and this dialogue, are commonplace.

Watch the speech LIVE at starting at 2:15 PM EDT.

Then visit to learn more.

Graves Spindler works for the Department of Homeland Security

Word from the White House: Common Ground on Health Insurance Reform & The Real Health Care Tax

Word from the White House: Common Ground on Health Insurance Reform & The Real Health Care Tax
Posted by Jesse Lee
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, reports or documents.

Supporting article: "Study: Insured pay 'hidden tax' for uninsured health care," USA Today, 5/29/09

Supporting report: "Hidden Health Tax' for Family Health Coverage Climbed to $1,017 in 2008," Families USA, 5/28/09

Talking Points: Common Ground on Health Insurance Reform

· As we continue to move closer and closer to reform, one encouraging sign is the striking degree of consensus between the various bills making their way through Congress.

· The common features in these bills underscore the level of fundamental agreement about what health insurance reform should look like and offer a clear outline of what it will mean for Americans:

Ø Unprecedented security and stability
o Each bill would put an end to some of the insurance industry’s worst practices, like denying you coverage because of a pre-existing condition, or dropping or watering down your coverage when you get sick and need it most.

Ø Expanded access to affordable care
o Each bill would provide affordable options by creating an exchange where you can leverage the purchasing power of a large group to get reasonable prices and choose the option that’s best for you and your family.

Ø Lower costs for all Americans – including seniors
o Each bill would increase choice and competition in the health care market.
o For seniors, each would protect and strengthen Medicare while making prescription drugs more affordable in the "donut hole."

Ø Improving quality of care by bolstering prevention and primary care
o Each bill invests in both prevention and building the workforce of primary care providers.
o Insurance companies would be required to fully cover preventive care and checkups.

Talking Points: The Real Health Care Tax

· Not surprisingly, as health insurance reform continues to gain momentum, its opponents continue to hurl baseless attacks in the hopes that something will stick.

· The latest en vogue assault in their last-ditch effort to preserve the status quo is an alleged tax that reform will impose on middle-class families.

· But here’s the reality: Right now, under the system they wish to preserve, hundreds of millions of Americans who get insurance through their job or buy it on their own are paying a hidden tax of $1,000 to cover the costs of caring for Americans without health insurance.

· And that figure is growing by the day as more and more people lose their insurance.

· What President Obama is proposing is not a tax, but a requirement to comply with the law.
o People are required to obey the speed limit and have to pay a penalty if they get caught speeding? Does anyone consider that a tax?
o People are required to have car insurance and can be fined if they are caught without it. Is that a tax?
o What we’re talking about is a penalty for the few people who will refuse to buy health insurance – even though they can afford it – and who expect the rest of us to pick up the tab for their care.

Q: But what about the fees on insurance companies, drugmakers, devicemakers? Won’t that be passed on to consumers as a hidden tax?

A: No, for at least three reasons:

1. First, the fees are lump sum, not per unit, so you should not expect that manufacturers will pass them on.
o Do critics really think the drug companies are holding back their prices today out of the goodness of their hearts and would decide to raise them to make up for this lump sum - but couldn't raise them today to get higher profits?

2. Second, these fees are intended to recapture part of the benefits these businesses will get from reform, as they acquire tens of millions of new customers.
o If you believe the lump sum tax put pressure on them to raise prices, then the fact that they are getting lots of revenue from new customers will reduce that pressure.

3. Third, the fees are all going to ensure that we are increasing the numbers getting affordable coverage and thus reducing the $1,000 hidden tax that millions of Americans pay for the uncompensated care of the uninsured.
o So even if you believed that somehow companies would find a way to pass them along, that would be more than outweighed by the benefits middle-class families would get from not only hundreds of billions of dollars in health care tax credits but from reducing the hidden tax they currently pay for the uninsured.

What Science Is Telling Us About The Climate-Change Challenge

What Science Is Telling Us About The Climate-Change Challenge
Posted by John P. Holdren
Climate is changing all across the globe. The air and the oceans are warming, mountain glaciers are disappearing, sea ice is shrinking, the great ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are slipping, and sea level is rising. And the consequences for human well-being are already being felt: more heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires; tropical diseases reaching into the temperate zones; and coastal property increasingly at risk from the surging seas.

All this is happening faster than was expected. Sea level is rising at twice the average rate for the 20th century. The coverage and thickness of the sea ice in the Arctic at its summer minimum have been shrinking at a pace far faster than the projections of just a few years ago. The average area burned by wildfires in the Western United States annually has increased four-fold in the past 30 years.

We know the primary cause of these perils – it is the emission of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants from our factories, our vehicles, and our power plants, and from land clearing. We also know that failure to curb these emissions will bring far bigger impacts in the future than those experienced so far.

But we also know what we can and must do to avoid the worst. We must work together – East and West, North and South– to transform our energy technologies from polluting and wasteful to clean and efficient. We must create new incentives and agreements to accelerate this transformation and to reduce deforestation and other destructive land-use change around the world. And we must invest in adaptation, to reduce our vulnerability to the degree of climate change that can no longer be avoided.

We can do this together. And when we do, we will benefit not only by avoiding the worst damages from climate change, but also by reducing our dangerous overdependence on petroleum, alleviating the air pollution that afflicts our cities, preserving our forests as havens for biodiversity and sources of sustainable livelihoods, and unleashing a new wave of technological innovation – generating new businesses, new jobs, and new growth in the course of creating the clean and efficient energy systems of the future.

How aggressive must these efforts be? The science is increasingly clear that holding the global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius is likely to be essential for keeping climate change to a manageable level. It is likewise clear that having a good chance of meeting this goal requires that global emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants should level off by about 2020 and shrink thereafter to something like 50 percent of the current levels by 2050, with continuing declines after that. Economic and political realities, including recognition that emissions from the industrialized countries have caused the largest part of the problem up until now, suggest that the United States and other industrial nations should take the lead in this effort, reducing our emissions to well below current levels by 2020.

President Obama understands this challenge with crystal clarity, and under his leadership the United States is moving rapidly to do what is required to meet it. The Recovery Act has provided the largest boost in history in Federal support for research, development, demonstration, and deployment of clean and efficient energy technologies. New cooperative efforts to help developing countries move in this direction have been launched. And, most importantly, the Administration is working with Congress to get comprehensive energy-climate legislation that, by rewarding energy options that don't harm the climate, will unleash American ingenuity to tackle this challenge in ways that will create jobs and help drive economic recovery while showing the whole world the way toward a climate we can live with.

John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy

Monday, September 28, 2009

The UN, Women & Girls

The UN, Women & Girls
Posted by Jennifer Simon
Ed. Note: Thanks to the Council on Women and Girls for keeping us updated.

The status and role of women and girls was featured prominently in official events throughout the week in New York, during the opening of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly. Ambassador Rice was pleased to welcome Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council of Women and Girls, to UN Headquarters to participate in several key events such as meetings with the newly-nominated UN Congressional and Public Delegate teams, roundtables on public-private partnerships, and dinners with key groups to discuss women's and girl's development.
These events build on significant developments which have taken place at the UN in recent weeks. Of particular importance is the UN General Assembly's unanimous vote on September 14th to combine several UN offices and agencies into a new, more powerful agency for women – an initiative which was strongly backed by the United States, under the leadership of Ambassador Rice. Not only will the new agency streamline women's and girl's issues into one agency, but it also raises the office to be a part of the Secretary General's core team – elevating women's issues to their rightful status.
We are excited by this announcement and congratulate the General Assembly on taking this important step in promoting women's rights. Dedicated UN staff are doing great work on behalf of women and girls all around the world – fighting for equality, advancing educational and economic opportunities, and working to prevent domestic violence, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. However, there is always room for improvement to better support those in the field. We need to be more focused, coordinated, and efficient – so that the programs and initiatives that support women can be more effective.
The General Assembly's decision to combine four existing offices into one greater office was a first step in this direction – but it is only a first step toward making a strong women's agency what it needs to be. The General Assembly's vote requested that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon produce a comprehensive proposal over the next year on the new agency's mission, organization, funding, and management. We now need to dig in and work hard to make the vision a reality on behalf of all of the world's women and girls.
As President Obama said in his speech to the General Assembly earlier this week, "this Assembly's Charter commits each of us 'to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women.'" And the President made a point of specifically citing among those fundamental rights "the opportunity for women and girls to pursue their own potential." Streamlining work on women's rights and equality into a single empowered office fits with our broader interest in making sure that the UN is able to deliver on this vital part of its mandate. We are facing increasingly interconnected global challenges – poverty, disease, climate change, violence, conflict – that demand a top notch UN, one that is able to make real differences in people's lives around the world. The newly created women's agency is an important part of this broader vision.

Jennifer Simon is a senior advisor at the State Department and serves as Ambassador Susan Rice's liaison to the Council on Women and Girls

Reality Check: Nancy-Ann DeParle's Stellar Record

Reality Check: Nancy-Ann DeParle's Stellar Record
Posted by Jesse Lee

One of the funny things about the debate over health insurance reform has been watching people who have for years clamored for cutting waste from Medicare contort themselves trying to find ways to oppose our efforts to do exactly that. As the President noted in his Address to a Joint Session of Congress:

Now, these steps will ensure that you -- America's seniors -- get the benefits you've been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pockets for prescription drugs. (Applause.) That's what this plan will do for you. So don't pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut, especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past and just this year supported a budget that would essentially have turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will not happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare. (Applause.)

In case you don’t want to take the President’s word for it, here’s what the AP reported in an article headlined "SPIN METER: Once Medicare's foe, GOP now boosts it":

Last spring, most Republicans voted in favor of a budget proposal that would end Medicare in its current form for people under 55, offering vouchers instead to pay for private health care accounts.

You can read more about this switcheroo, as it were, from a Washington Post story out this morning, and from the New York Times editorial referenced here earlier.

A more recent attack has come from Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth, directed at the Director of our Health Reform Office Nancy-Ann DeParle. He leads off his attack citing various problems that various companies she’s been associated with have had, declaring that "We can thank Investigative Reporting Workshop of the American University School of Communication for this information." Well, Moore shouldn't be too thankful if his goal was smearing DeParle – here's what the report actually says about DeParle's direct involvement:

"There is no reason to think that DeParle was directly involved in any of the actions that led to the investigations and sanctions. DeParle was a member of the board of directors of these companies, not the chief executive officer managing day-to-day operations. It is rare for directors to be held legally accountable for illegal dealings by management."

Moore also claims that when DeParle ran Medicare during the 1990's, she did nothing to halt the waste and abuse that President Obama is fighting against now: "By the end of the Clinton administration, Medicare fraud was estimated by the U.S. General Accounting Office to costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars a year. This happened on Ms. DeParle's watch. It makes one wonder how this czarina is going to root out waste when so much of it piled up the last time she was in charge."

Unfortunately for Mr. Moore's argument, the reality is quite the contrary – DeParle helped cut errors and waste in half and saved taxpayers billions during her tenure. Again, the very report that Moore so graciously thanks includes this:

The investigations and lawsuits are at odds with DeParle's reputation in Washington as a progressive, highly respected health policy analyst. During the late 1990s, when she ran Medicare, she pushed hard to raise medical quality standards and to clamp down on fraud and waste in the massive federal health plan for the elderly.

"In my experience, she's the one administrator who really was tuned into the fraud issue," said William J. Mahon, a former director of the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association. "She distinguished herself in putting fraud on the agenda."

A few more examples:

DeParle Headed Aggressive Campaign To Fight Medicare Fraud Cut Improper Payment Rate In Half In Just Two Years. "Medicare's aggressive campaign to fight fraud and overbilling has cut the improper payment rate in half in just two years, but the giant health program for the elderly still paid health care providers $ 12.6 billion last year for services that cost too much or were never provided, federal auditors said Tuesday. In 1996, when the government began systematically auditing a sample of claims by doctors, hospitals and other agencies, its erroneous payment rate was estimated at 14%...'We have turned the corner and we are heading in the right direction,' said Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, who heads the Health Care Financing Administration, which runs Medicare. She pledged to 'continue the aggressive effort to fight waste, fraud and abuse.'" [L.A. Times, 2/10/99]

Medicare’s Error Rate Had Fallen From 14% To 6.8% By Final Year Of Clinton Administration. "The US Department of Health and Human Services said on Friday that the rate of improper Medicare payments was stable over the past 2 years. HHS said the projected percentage rate for 2002 was about 6.3%, the same figure reported for 2001 and a significant decrease from the 13.8% rate estimated in 1996, when the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) began calculating the number. In 2000, the error rate was about 6.8%." [Reuters, 1/24/03]

Medicare Lost $23.2 Billion To Fraud, Abuse And Errors In 1996. "In all, government auditors told Congress that 14 cents of every dollar spent last year by Medicare, the nation's health care program for the elderly, was lost to such instances of fraud, abuse, or simple error. That amounted to $ 23.2 billion of the $ 168.6 billion Medicare paid last year to hospitals, doctors, laboratories and other health care providers." [AP, 7/18/97]

Medicare Lost $11.9 Billion To Fraud, Abuse And Errors In 2000. "Medicare lost an estimated $11.9 billion to waste, fraud and mistakes last year, half of what was lost five years ago from improper payments to doctors and hospitals, auditors said Tuesday. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson praised efforts to reduce the improper payments, which could range from innocent mistakes to outright fraud and abuse." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3/7/01]

DeParle Convened HCFA’s First Conference on Combating Medicare Fraud and Abuse. "One of the first things Nancy-Ann Min DeParle did after taking over as head of the federal agency that administers Medicare was to visit South Florida with Sen. Bob Graham. Graham had promised DeParle, administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, that shewould be able to witness Medicare fraud first-hand. He was right. During the trip in January, Graham and DeParle stopped in clinics where patients were being seen - and Medicare was being billed - but no licensed doctors were on site. They visited community mental health care programs where bingo games were being charged to Medicare as therapy. DeParle, 41, returned to Washington pledging to make the fight against Medicare fraud, estimated at $ 23-billion each year, her top priority. This month, DeParle sponsored a first for HCFA - a meeting of about 300 health care providers, private insurers, prosecutors and public officials on combating fraud and abuse." [St. Petersburg Times, 3/30/98]

One would expect somebody who claims to be a principled conservative, who has talked for years about eliminating waste and abuse in the system, to praise DeParle's record and to embrace President Obama's attempt to do what Moore and other conservatives have called for year after year. But perhaps principles are of less importance than partisan hit pieces to some.

Word from the White House: New York Times Debunks Medicare Scare-mongering

Word from the White House: New York Times Debunks Medicare Scare-mongering
Posted by Jesse Lee
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any articles, reports or documents they refer to.

Supporting editorial: "Medicare Scare-Mongering," New York Times, 9/26/09

Talking Points: New York Times Debunks Medicare Scare-mongering
•Yesterday, the New York Times decried and debunked Republican "scare-mongering" on what health insurance reform would mean for Medicare.

•As the Times says, for Republicans to "posture as vigilant protectors of Medicare" reeks of "cynicism and hypocrisy," considering that they have "in the past tried to pare back Medicare."
o As recently as this past April, Republicans in Congress voted overwhelmingly to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program that provides a fixed sum of money to buy private insurance.

•With their recent scare tactics, the paper says, Republicans have been "obscuring and twisting the facts and spreading unwarranted fear."

•In fact, the Times points out, "the various reform bills now pending should actually make Medicare better for most beneficiaries — by enhancing their drug coverage, reducing the premiums they pay for drugs and medical care, eliminating co-payments for preventive services and helping keep Medicare solvent, among other benefits."

•President Obama believes Medicare is a sacred trust with America’s seniors. Reform protects Medicare. It doesn’t use dime of the Medicare trust fund to pay for reform and it strengthens the financial health of the program.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekly Address: Progress with the G-20 in Pittsburgh

Weekly Address: Progress with the G-20 in Pittsburgh
Posted by Jesse Lee
Recorded literally on his way back from the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, the President uses his Weekly Address to recap the progress made during the intensive discussions with world leaders. From an historic agreement to reform the global financial system, to groundbreaking commitments on reducing subsidies to fossil fuels worldwide, to unity in standing against threats to world peace -- engagement produced tangible results in several areas.

"See the Future. Feed the Future. Change the Future."

"See the Future. Feed the Future. Change the Future."
Posted by Jesse Lee
Tomorrow, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will co-host an event on global food security -- an issue that affects us all, especially the over one billion people suffering from chronic hunger.
Secretary Clinton also gave a speech today highlighting the consequences of this dire situation: chronic hunger causes job insecurity, and children struggle to learn. In the best traditions of the United Nations, Secretary Clinton focused on how we can work together to eradicate this ever-increasing problem:

Massive hunger poses a threat to the stability of governments, societies, and borders. People who are starving, who have no incomes, who can’t care for their families, are left with feelings of hopelessness and desperation. And so we know that desperation of that magnitude sows seeds of its own—of tension, conflict, and even the violence we saw in the film. Since 2007, there have been riots over food in more than 60 countries.

Agriculture—which encompasses not only crops, but livestock and fish—is critical to economic growth around the world; for more than three-quarters of the world’s poor, farming is their only source of income and avenue to prosperity. Food is linked to energy security: when the price of oil spikes, the cost of transporting food rises, while the increased demand for biofuels also affects prices. And it’s linked to climate security; droughts and floods caused by climate change destroy cropland and send food prices higher.

So food security is not merely a question of getting food to hungry people. And it is not simply a moral imperative. It represents the convergence of complex issues that have a direct bearing on economic growth, energy and environmental factors, and our strategic interests. And as such, it demands a comprehensive response.

If we can build partnerships with countries to help small farmers improve their agricultural output and make it easier to buy and sell their products at local or regional markets, we can set off a domino effect. We can increase the world’s food supply for both the short and the long term; diminish hunger; raise farmers’ incomes; improve health; expand opportunity; and strengthen regional economies.

To learn more, watch this short film the State Department put out in advance of the Secretary's push:

Vice President Biden Pledges Support for Georgia

Vice President Biden Pledges Support for Georgia
Posted by Jesse Lee
With the President having just declared a major disaster in the State of Georgia as a result of severe storms and flooding, Vice President Joe Biden visited the state today to comfort local residents and survey affected areas.

"Communities like yours may have lost a lot of the physical structure, but it looks to me you've kept a lot of the grit and determination," the Vice President said at a news conference in Marietta, Ga., an Atlanta suburb. The Vice President also promised relief to the area: "We're going to have people come see you," he said. "This is not going to happen overnight. This is not going to happen tomorrow, but it's going to happen."

Friday, September 25, 2009

President's G20 Press Conference - Streaming and Interactive at 4:40pm

President's G20 Press Conference - Streaming and Interactive at 4:40pm
Posted by Cammie Croft
Nothing wraps up a long day of important meetings like a livestream and live-chat. So, we're wrapping up the Pittsburgh G20 with a bang. Watch and discuss President Obama's concluding press conference in Pittsburgh on and Facebook. It'll be a wordly affair!

"A Growing Concern that Iran is Refusing to Live Up to Those International Responsibilities"

"A Growing Concern that Iran is Refusing to Live Up to Those International Responsibilities"
Posted by Jesse Lee

(President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy
make remarks about Iran prior to the morning plenary of the G-20 Pittsburgh Summit at the David L.
Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Penn., Sept. 25, 2009.
Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton.)

This morning President Obama was joined by French President Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Brown in taking a harsh tone towards the Iranian Government's behavior:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning. We are here to announce that yesterday in Vienna, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France presented detailed evidence to the IAEA demonstrating that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years.
Earlier this week, the Iranian government presented a letter to the IAEA that made reference to a new enrichment facility, years after they had started its construction. The existence of this facility underscores Iran's continuing unwillingness to meet its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions and IAEA requirements. We expect the IAEA to immediately investigate this disturbing information, and to report to the IAEA Board of Governors.
Now, Iran's decision to build yet another nuclear facility without notifying the IAEA represents a direct challenge to the basic compact at the center of the non-proliferation regime. These rules are clear: All nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; those nations with nuclear weapons must move towards disarmament; those nations without nuclear weapons must forsake them. That compact has largely held for decades, keeping the world far safer and more secure. And that compact depends on all nations living up to their responsibilities.
This site deepens a growing concern that Iran is refusing to live up to those international responsibilities, including specifically revealing all nuclear-related activities. As the international community knows, this is not the first time that Iran has concealed information about its nuclear program. Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power that meets the energy needs of its people. But the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program. Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow -- endangering the global non-proliferation regime, denying its own people access to the opportunity they deserve, and threatening the stability and security of the region and the world.
It is time for Iran to act immediately to restore the confidence of the international community by fulfilling its international obligations. We remain committed to serious, meaningful engagement with Iran to address the nuclear issue through the P5-plus-1 negotiations. Through this dialogue, we are committed to demonstrating that international law is not an empty promise; that obligations must be kept; and that treaties will be enforced.
And that's why there's a sense of urgency about the upcoming meeting on October 1st between Iran, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and Germany. At that meeting, Iran must be prepared to cooperate fully and comprehensively with the IAEA to take concrete steps to create confidence and transparency in its nuclear program and to demonstrate that it is committed to establishing its peaceful intentions through meaningful dialogue and concrete actions.
To put it simply: Iran must comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions and make clear it is willing to meet its responsibilities as a member of the community of nations. We have offered Iran a clear path toward greater international integration if it lives up to its obligations, and that offer stands. But the Iranian government must now demonstrate through deeds its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law.
I should point out that although the United Kingdom, France, and the United States made the presentation to Vienna, that Germany, a member of the P5-plus-1, and Chancellor Merkel in particular, who could not be here this morning, wished to associate herself with these remarks.

Rapping Doctor Wins H1N1 Video Contest

Rapping Doctor Wins H1N1 Video Contest
Posted by Erin Edgerton
At an event earlier this week at George Mason University, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the winner of a video contest focused on flu prevention. The H1N1 Rap by Dr. Clarke beat out more than 200 other video entries to win $2500 in cash and a spot on national television.
Check out the winning video:

On July 9th of this year, Secretary Sebelius asked American citizens to help ongoing flu efforts by creating their own public service announcements. Tapping into the creativity of the American public, the video contest was aimed at finding innovative ways to inform people about the flu, promote good hygiene habits, and encourage Americans to take steps to stay healthy this flu season. "All Americans share the responsibility to be prepared and inform friends, family, and communities about flu prevention and good health," said Sebelius.
Videos were submitted from all over the country and by Americans of all ages and backgrounds. All of the video submissions were reviewed by video communication and public health experts, who narrowed the competition to 10 finalists. To select the winning video, the American public was again asked to participate and use the HHS YouTube channel to vote for their favorites. In early September, more than 50,000 votes were cast during the 18-day voting period. The winning video, The H1N1 Rap by Dr. Clarke, was submitted by Dr. John Clarke, who is the Medical Director for the Long Island Railroad, and videotaped at the Columbia University campus in Manhattan.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Women Leaders in Transportation

Women Leaders in Transportation
Posted by Marlise Streitmatter
On Monday September 21, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary LaHood kicked off a partnership with Spelman College in Atlanta that will develop women leaders in transportation and offer a head start to future women small business owners. This Pilot Entrepreneurial Training and Technical Assistance Women and Girls Program will provide internships and mentoring for young women, as well as entrepreneurial training for female small business owners in the region.

(In attendance at the signing of the agreement was Myra Burnett, Vice Provost of Spelman College,
joined by Mr. Brandon Neal, Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization,
and Secretary Ray LaHood, Secretary of the US Department of Transportation.)

Joining Secretary LaHood and Spelman Vice Provost Dr. Myra Burnett were Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. Congressman Lewis reminded us of Spelman’s historic legacy and how this program continues the college’s long tradition of leadership. By illustrating Spelman’s unique place in the fabric of the region and the country as a whole, Congressman Lewis showed us how far we’ve come, but also what lies ahead.

While it is true women have not always been as well represented in transportation as we would like, the White House Council and this program are steps to change that. Transportation is one of the most challenging and exciting industries in the country right now, and we would love to see more and more women pursue careers at DOT, such as air traffic controllers, highway engineers and safety inspectors – all good paying jobs – or other opportunities in the transportation field. With Spelman, which has produced exemplary women leaders since 1881, we could not have asked for a better partner. For more info on this and other DOT resources for women and girls, see

Marlise Streitmatter is Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation

"CPSC 2.0"

"CPSC 2.0"
Posted by Ed Kang
This week, the nation's safety agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, launched a comprehensive social networking initiative that will make life-saving information more accessible to millions of consumers. Moms, dads, grandparents and others can find the latest safety information on CPSC's blog "OnSafety", which has articles, videos, podcasts and other information that can keep kids and families safe from a variety of product-related hazards. The site features a "Recall Search" tool that provides the latest updates on recalls and other news. CPSC has also launched its official presence on YouTube, FlickR and Twitter, with more social networking sites to come in the near future.

CPSC's social media launch coincides with their Furniture and TV Tip-over Education Campaign. For young children, the home is a playground, and while many parents childproof to ensure that their home is the safest place, some may not be aware that TVs, furniture and appliances are hidden hazards lurking in every room. By educating parents on the dangers of unstable furniture by utilizing dramatic video, blogging and podcasting, CPSC hopes to raise the awareness of tip-over dangers in the home.

Future content will address other safety issues in and around the home in engaging, consumer-friendly ways. The Administration and CPSC urge all consumers to use this vital information in their homes, and to share it with friends, family, schools, daycare centers, and others. We encourage everyone to subscribe to CPSC's channel on Youtube, to stream pictures on Flickr, and receive tweets on Twitter – it's the information you need to save the life of a loved one.

Ed Kang is New Media Project Lead at the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Traveling with the V.P.

Traveling with the V.P.
Posted by Jason Djang
As we discussed yesterday, the Vice President spent the morning at a town hall with seniors in Maryland, dismantling the myths that have been put out there about health insurance reform. A new report from HHS showing that not only will reform leave seniors' Medicare benefits intact, it also includes a number of elements that can help bring seniors some additional peace of mind.

We had the chance to get his thoughts on the event and why he's dumbfounded about the "malarkey" that's being spread about President Obama's health reform plan as it relates to seniors. Check out highlights of the event:

His discussion was bolstered by a new HHS report showing that not only will reform leave seniors' Medicare benefits intact, it also includes a number of elements that can help bring seniors some additional peace of mind. Reform would strengthen Medicare, cut high prescription drug costs, make preventive services free, end overpayments to private insurance companies that cost all Medicare beneficiaries, improve quality and patient safety, and make long term care services more affordable -- just for starters.

All very serious stuff, but the Vice President was in true form yesterday, even quietly coming off stage and slipping into the crowd during the conversation:

“International Law is Not an Empty Promise”

“International Law is Not an Empty Promise”
Posted by Jesse Lee
During this morning's remarks to members of the UN Security Council, President Obama returned to an issue that was a major theme of his trip to the last G20 Summit in Europe: the spread and use of nuclear weapons:

(President Barack Obama chairs a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at the United Nations
headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
As I said yesterday, this very institution was founded at the dawn of the atomic age, in part because man's capacity to kill had to be contained. And although we averted a nuclear nightmare during the Cold War, we now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches. Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city -- be it New York or Moscow; Tokyo or Beijing; London or Paris -- could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And it would badly destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life.
Once more, the United Nations has a pivotal role to play in preventing this crisis. The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. And it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal. It reflects the agenda I outlined in Prague, and builds on a consensus that all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; that nations with nuclear weapons have the responsibility to move toward disarmament; and those without them have the responsibility to forsake them.
In closing, the President acknowledged the challenges ahead, citing the compelling words of President Ronald Reagan:

(President Barack Obama chairs a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at the United Nations
headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. Sitting behind him are Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Natios Susan E. Rice.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Now, we harbor no illusions about the difficulty of bringing about a world without nuclear weapons. We know there are plenty of cynics, and that there will be setbacks to prove their point. But there will also be days like today that push us forward -- days that tell a different story. It is the story of a world that understands that no difference or division is worth destroying all that we have built and all that we love. It is a recognition that can bring people of different nationalities and ethnicities and ideologies together. In my own country, it has brought Democrats and Republican leaders together -- leaders like George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn, who are with us here today. And it was a Republican President, Ronald Reagan, who once articulated the goal we now seek in the starkest of terms. I quote:
"A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And no matter how great the obstacles may seem, we must never stop our efforts to reduce the weapons of war. We must never stop until all -- we must never stop at all until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the Earth."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lobbyists on Agency Boards and Commissions

Lobbyists on Agency Boards and Commissions
Posted by Norm Eisen
We wanted to take this opportunity to announce the next step in the President’s efforts to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington. The White House has informed executive agencies and departments that it is our aspiration that federally-registered lobbyists not be appointed to agency advisory boards and commissions. These appointees to boards and commissions, which are made by agencies and not the President, advise the federal government on a variety of policy areas. Keeping these advisory boards free of individuals who currently are registered federal lobbyists represents a dramatic change in the way business is done in Washington.

As has been reported, the President has made a commitment to close the revolving door that has in the past allowed lobbyists and others to move to and from full-time federal government service. In furtherance of this commitment, the President issued Executive Order 13490, which bars anyone appointed by the President who has been a federally-registered lobbyist within the past two years from working on particular matters or in the specific areas in which they lobbied or from serving in agencies they had lobbied. The aspiration we are announcing today builds on this commitment. While the letter of the President’s Executive Order on Ethics does not apply to federally-registered lobbyists appointed by agency or department heads, the spirit does and we have conveyed that to the agencies who are responsible for these appointments.

We recognize that there are many registered lobbyists who currently serve on these committees as a result of a prior appointment. When these appointments expire, it is our hope that agencies not reappoint anyone who is currently registered as a federal lobbyist at the time of their potential reappointment.

The President recognizes that some lobbyists advocate for public interest goals shared by this Administration. Nevertheless, the President made a commitment to the American people to reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington out of a belief that lobbyists have too often in the past achieved disproportionate impact on government decision makers at the expense of broader voices from the public at large. If we are going to change the way business is done in Washington, we need to make sure we are not simply continuing the practices of the past.

As the Administration strives to make these changes, we will monitor the process and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that we are fulfilling the President’s commitment while satisfying all interested parties that their voices will be appropriately heard in the process.

Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform

"Real Change is Possible"

"Real Change is Possible"
Posted by Jesse Lee
In this morning's speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama covered a range of topics—all under the umbrella of his desire for leaders to recognize the "common future" of a world in which "the interests of peoples and nations are shared."

(President Barack Obama addresses the General Assembly of the UN in New York, Wednesday,
September 23, 2009. Official White House photo by Samantha Appleton.)

He took the opportunity to reflect upon his first nine months in office, highlighting his administration's prioritiess and looking forward to challenges ahead:

On my first day in office, I prohibited -- without exception or equivocation -- the use of torture by the United States of America. (Applause.) I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and we are doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat extremism within the rule of law. Every nation must know: America will live its values, and we will lead by example.
We have set a clear and focused goal: to work with all members of this body to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies -- a network that has killed thousands of people of many faiths and nations, and that plotted to blow up this very building. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, we and many nations here are helping these governments develop the capacity to take the lead in this effort, while working to advance opportunity and security for their people.
In Iraq, we are responsibly ending a war. We have removed American combat brigades from Iraqi cities, and set a deadline of next August to remove all our combat brigades from Iraqi territory. And I have made clear that we will help Iraqis transition to full responsibility for their future, and keep our commitment to remove all American troops by the end of 2011.
I have outlined a comprehensive agenda to seek the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. In Moscow, the United States and Russia announced that we would pursue substantial reductions in our strategic warheads and launchers. At the Conference on Disarmament, we agreed on a work plan to negotiate an end to the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. And this week, my Secretary of State will become the first senior American representative to the annual Members Conference of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Upon taking office, I appointed a Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, and America has worked steadily and aggressively to advance the cause of two states -- Israel and Palestine -- in which peace and security take root, and the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians are respected.
To confront climate change, we have invested $80 billion in clean energy. We have substantially increased our fuel-efficiency standards. We have provided new incentives for conservation, launched an energy partnership across the Americas, and moved from a bystander to a leader in international climate negotiations.
To overcome an economic crisis that touches every corner of the world, we worked with the G20 nations to forge a coordinated international response of over $2 trillion in stimulus to bring the global economy back from the brink. We mobilized resources that helped prevent the crisis from spreading further to developing countries. And we joined with others to launch a $20 billion global food security initiative that will lend a hand to those who need it most, and help them build their own capacity.
We've also re-engaged the United Nations. We have paid our bills. We have joined the Human Rights Council. (Applause.) We have signed the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We have fully embraced the Millennium Development Goals. And we address our priorities here, in this institution -- for instance, through the Security Council meeting that I will chair tomorrow on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and through the issues that I will discuss today.
This is what we have already done. But this is just a beginning. Some of our actions have yielded progress. Some have laid the groundwork for progress in the future. But make no mistake: This cannot solely be America's endeavor. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone. We have sought -- in word and deed -- a new era of engagement with the world. And now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.
The President also outlined the "Four Pillars" he believes are "fundamental to the future that we want for our children": "non-proliferation and disarmament; the promotion of peace and security; the preservation of our planet; and a global economy that advances opportunity for all people."

(President Barack Obama addresses the General Assembly of the UN in New York, Wednesday,
September 23, 2009. Official White House photo by Samantha Appleton.)
In closing, the President offered a fresh take on the crucial choice that faces the international body:
In short, the United Nations can be an institution that is disconnected from what matters in the lives of our citizens, or it can be an indispensable factor in advancing the interests of the people we serve.
We have reached a pivotal moment. The United States stands ready to begin a new chapter of international cooperation -- one that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all nations. And so, with confidence in our cause, and with a commitment to our values, we call on all nations to join us in building the future that our people so richly deserve.

The President’s Address to the UN General Assembly: Responsibility for our Common Future

The President’s Address to the UN General Assembly: Responsibility for our Common Future
Posted by Denis McDonough
Ed. Note: Watch the speech live at 10:00 EDT through, or watch and discuss it with others through Facebook. [UPDATE: This event has now concluded.]

This morning, President Obama will deliver his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He will address his view of international cooperation in the 21st century and the need to move beyond old divisions to focus on the future. The President will lay out a new direction that he has set for American foreign policy and talk about our mutual responsibilities to make progress on several key priorities that will advance our common security and prosperity.

In his remarks, the President will talk about the fact that, in the year 2009, more than at any point in human history, the interests of all nations and peoples are shared. Specifically, he will put forward four pillars that are fundamental to the future that we want for our children in the 21st century: non-proliferation and disarmament; the promotion of peace and security; the preservation of our planet; and a global economy that advances opportunity for all people.

The President will acknowledge that we have reached a pivotal moment, and that the countries of the United Nations must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and our work must begin now.

I hope you’ll take a moment to watch the President’s speech live on or read his remarks calling on all nations to join us in building a new chapter of international cooperation that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all nations.

Denis Mcdonough is Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Day Well Spent

A Day Well Spent
Posted by Dr. Jill Biden
I wanted to share some photos and thoughts about my day yesterday; I was able to spend time on two areas I care very deeply about: community colleges and military families.

In the morning I traveled with the President to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York. As I told the students and teachers I met there, I felt right at home. Today I’m already back in my own community college classroom teaching English. President Obama and I toured several high-tech classrooms and spoke with students who are working on transformers and other emerging technologies to meet the workforce needs of their region. President Obama is making an historic commitment to higher education and brining more and more students to colleges like Hudson Valley. I was truly proud to introduce our President and be a part of yesterday’s visit.

After leaving the college, I went on to the headquarters of the New York National Guard in Albany. I spent several hours there meeting with New York National Guard soldiers, family members of deployed soldiers, and professionals who support the Guard with their Family Program services. I was heartened to learn more about the New York National Guard’s reintegration programs and the critical ways the Guard is working to support our soldiers and their families before, during and after deployments. As a military mom this is personal to me – and I hope to do as much as I can to raise awareness of the special challenges that Guard members and their families face. Every state has a National Guard – and every National Guard relies heavily on volunteers. Maybe today you could consider reaching out to your state Guard to see if you can offer to help? I know you won’t regret it.


One Stop Shop

One Stop Shop
Posted by Graves Spindler
Cross-posted from the DHS blog.

Today, Secretary Napolitano, United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients will be unveiling a new and improved USCIS website at USCIS’ headquarters.

Ninety days ago, President Obama called for new USCIS technology to improve transparency and efficiency in the immigration system. USCIS met the President’s directive by developing a re-designed and enhanced website, available in English and Spanish, to help customers navigate the immigration system more effectively. Essentially, the new USCIS website will be a "one-stop shop" for immigration information.

(The new "My Case Status" function above allows customers to sign in with a receipt number, and
check the status of their application. They will also be able to sign up for email and text alerts for the
first time, to let them know what step of the process their application is in.)
For example, the new website includes a "Where to Start" tool that helps customers easily navigate the new site, a "My Case Status" tool that allows customers to check the status of their application via email and text message alerts, and a "National Dashboard" that provides national data on volumes and trends in the immigration system. We are also proud to introduce a Spanish language version of our website, which is available at:

Take a minute to check out the new site today and spread the word!

Graves Spindler works for the Department of Homeland Security

Monday, September 21, 2009

US Department of Education Launches “I Am What I Learn” Student Video Contest

US Department of Education Launches “I Am What I Learn” Student Video Contest
Posted by Liz Utrup

Today, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan issued a video announcement encouraging students to respond to the President's call to take responsibility for their education. Students aged 13 or older are invited to create videos up to 2 minutes long, describing the role education will play in achieving their dreams, and the goals they will set for themselves to get there. The top three videos will each win a $1,000 prize, issued by the US Department of Education. Students can submit videos until November 2. There are no style restrictions - so be creative!
•The contest rules are as follows:
•Video must be 2 minutes or less in length
•Each video must be submitted by an active student, age 13 and older
•Contestants chosen as finalists will be contacted through their YouTube account and must respond within 7 business days to confirm eligibility
•Students under the age of 18 must submit a parental consent form
•The Department of Education's website ( must be featured in the video
•The video must be unique in content
•The video must convey the importance of education as well as the student’s individual academic goals
Learn more at

Liz Utrup is Special Assistant for Communications at the Department of Education

A Vision for Innovation, Growth, and Quality Jobs

A Vision for Innovation, Growth, and Quality Jobs
Posted by Lawrence H. Summers
President Obama laid out his vision for innovation, growth, and quality jobs earlier today at Hudson Valley Community College. The President's plan is grounded not only in the American tradition of entrepreneurship, but also in the traditions of robust economic thought.

During the past two years, the ideas propounded by John Maynard Keynes have assumed greater importance than most people would have thought in the previous generation. As Keynes famously observed, during those rare times of deep financial and economic crisis, when the "invisible hand" Adam Smith talked about has temporarily ceased to function, there is a more urgent need for government to play an active role in restoring markets to their healthy function.

The wisdom of Keynesian policies has been confirmed by the performance of the economy over the past year. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers last September, government policy moved in a strongly activist direction.

As a result of those policies, our outlook today has shifted from rescue to recovery, from worrying about the very real prospect of depression to thinking about what kind of an expansion we want to have.

An important aspect of any economic expansion is the role innovation plays as an engine of economic growth. In this regard, the most important economist of the twenty-first century might actually turn out to be not Smith or Keynes, but Joseph Schumpeter.

One of Schumpeter’s most important contributions was the emphasis he placed on the tremendous power of innovation and entrepreneurial initiative to drive growth through a process he famously characterized as "creative destruction." His work captured not only an economic truth, but also the particular source of America’s strength and dynamism.

One of the ways to view the trajectory of economic history is through the key technologies that have reverberated across the economy. In the nineteenth century, these included the transcontinental railroad, the telegraph, and the steam engine, among others. In the twentieth, the most powerful innovations included the automobile, the jet plane, and, over the last generation, information technology.

While we can't know exactly where the next great area of American innovation will be, we already see a number of prominent sectors where American entrepreneurs are unleashing explosive, innovative energy:

In information technology, where tremendous potential remains for a range of applications to increase for years to come;

In life-science technologies, where developments made at the National Institutes of Health and in research facilities around the country will have profound implications not just for human health, but also for the environment, agriculture, and a range of other areas that require technological creativity; and,

In energy, where the combination of environmental and geopolitical imperatives have created the context for an enormously productive period in developing energy technologies as well.

Looking across the breadth of the U.S. economy, the prospects for transformational innovation to occur are enormous. But to ensure that the entrepreneurial spirit that Schumpeter recognized in the early twentieth century will continue to drive the American economy in the twenty-first century requires a role for government as well: to create an environment that is conducive to generating those developments.

The President’s program is directed at strengthening our economic ecology—an educated workforce, a fluid environment that stimulates entrepreneurship, and building blocks in key areas of the economy—that has long been central to America's prosperity. These were core design considerations in putting together over $100 billion of Recovery Act funds that support innovation and they will continue to be core concerns going forward. With steps like these, the entrepreneurial spirit that Schumpeter recognized in the early twentieth century will continue to drive the American economy in the twenty-first century.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the President remarks today or, to delve into more detail, into a new white paper prepared by the National Economic Council about the policies President Obama is implementing to create a broader, more inclusive, more prosperous America based on the ingenuity of our people.

Lawrence H. Summers is Director of the National Economic Council

A Presidential Challenge to the Employees of the VA

A Presidential Challenge to the Employees of the VA
Posted by Aneesh Chopra and Peter Levin
Today, the President released a groundbreaking strategy to spur long-term high-wage job growth, in part, by "laying the groundwork and ground rules to best tap our innovative potential. This strategy is rooted in a simple idea, "that if government does its modest part, there is no stopping the most powerful and generative economic force the world has ever known: the American people.

It is this same belief in the ingenuity of the American people that guides the Administration's efforts to make government more effective, innovative, and open. Thus, on August 17th, the President turned to the front-line workforce to troubleshoot the backlogs and delays that have plagued the Veterans Benefits Administration. In his address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, President Obama challenged them to "come up with the best ways of doing business, of harnessing the best information technologies, of cutting red tape, and breaking through the bureaucracy. The President turned to VA employees because he knows they have a unique ability to see what's going wrong - why the backlogs continue to grow, why the delays are so long, why the claims processes can be so confounding – and with their own creativity and commitment would generate a mountain of ideas for improvement.

Under the leadership of Secretary Eric Shinseki and Under Secretary for Benefits Patrick Dunne, the VA launched the "innovation competition", starting with a web-mediated idea management tool that made it easy, convenient, and electronically safe for VBA employees to submit their original ideas. The platform enables unprecedented levels of collaboration and comment, and even allowed participants to "vote" on the ideas they thought would have the greatest, far-reaching impact. The VA innovation competition will create a new channel for best ideas to rocket right to the attention of the President and Secretary Shinseki, and for the outstanding employee-innovators behind those ideas to get some serious recognition.

Here in the CTO shop, we have the sneaking suspicion (OK, for some of us, it's more like a life-consuming, obsessive conviction) that smartly-deployed information technologies can transform organizations - improving services, reducing costs, speeding processes, and increasing happiness for clients and employees alike. In fact, we're going to go out on a limb and predict that information technology will be THE central character in the inevitable academy award winning documentary of the VA innovation competition - you know, the underappreciated underdog that confronts the cynics, dumbfounds the doubters, and becomes, well, a public service hero to our nation’s military heroes.

In just the first week the site has been accessed 29,000 times, by 7,000 users, with over 3000 ideas. This is an astonishing participation rate. Together with Chief Performance Officer Zients, Chief Information Officer Kundra, and their respective teams, we’re going to work relentlessly to make this competition a potent engine of employee-driven change.

Stay tuned. The next step is for the regional office directors to cull through their treasure chest, figure out which jewel they'd like to develop more, and submit it to headquarters. Next, Undersecretary Dunne and his team will pick the fifteen best, and invite them to Washington for an in-person presentation. The winners should be announced in the first couple of weeks of January and we fully expect regional offices to fast-track the low-hanging fruit. But in our book all the folks who took the time to check it out, contribute some ideas, vote on the best ones, and comment on all the rest are already champions.

The real winners will be our Veterans. That's what it's all about.

Aneesh Chopra is U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Peter Levin is Chief Technology Officer and Senior Advisor to the Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs

Health Insurance Reform as a Women’s Issue: The First Lady's Take

Health Insurance Reform as a Women’s Issue: The First Lady's Take
Posted by Margaret Chen

In case you missed it, on Friday the First Lady spoke with clarity and conviction to 140 women's health advocates on how health insurance reform impacts women and families. She also highlighted women's crucial role in making sure reform is passed. As a young woman working to improve the health of women and girls, I was honored to take part in the event. Before the First Lady spoke, three women shared their stories of battling the health insurance system after getting sick or losing a loved one. While the circumstances of Debi, Easter, and Roxi were different, their collective suffering inflicted by the current system made it clear that the status quo is inadequate and unacceptable -- a point emphasized by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in her introductory remarks.

The First Lady started by reminding us of the deeply personal nature of health insurance reform. She too had experienced the pivotal role of health insurance in moments when her father and infant daughter became ill. Framing health insurance reform as a women's issue, the First Lady described the many unique ways in which the health care debate affects women. Women shoulder the burden of making health care decisions for their families, and women need routine screening and care, such as pap smears and mammograms, that may not be covered by insurance. The health insurance system also discriminates against women, as having a C-section or experiencing domestic violence can be used as reasons to deny coverage. Finally, women pay more for health insurance, but earn less than men.

As the First Lady noted, women across the United States are being crushed by the current structure of our health care. Surrounded by individuals who have paved the way for women to reach higher and achieve more, I realized that now is the time for younger women to step up and voice our need for a more just system. At the conclusion of the First Lady's speech, I felt energized and ready to redouble our efforts to pass health insurance reform.

Margaret Chen is Special Assistant to the White House Council on Women and Girls

Friday, September 18, 2009

From Farm to First Table

From Farm to First Table
Posted by Molly Fedick
As part of her initiative to create a healthier America and her dedication to supporting the local community here in DC, the First Lady made sure to stop by opening day of the Freshfarm Market, located just steps from the Obama residence -- and the workplaces of thousands of DC employees, including more than 1,700 White House staffers.

(First Lady Michelle Obama helps open the Farmer's Market on H Street near the White House in
Washington, DC Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009. Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

The farmer's market will be open for business (and free sample consumption) Thursdays until October 29. After picking up some chocolate milk, fingerling potatoes, and pears, the First Lady gave a few remarks in honor of the new addition to the neighborhood:
Farmers' markets are a simple but major ingredient in solving access issues in many communities. And for those who think that fresh fruits and vegetables are out of their reach financially, as the Secretary mentioned, and I want to reinforce the fact that this market and other farmers' markets around the city participate in the WIC program, the SNAP program, the Double Dollar program, and the Seniors benefits program. And each SNAP and WIC dollar equals two dollars at a farmers' market to purchase fresh produce. (Applause.) So that's something -- and we want to get that word out as well.

So if you know people who have access to these benefits, they should understand that these farmers' markets are there for them as well. And there is an incentive for them to use and buy their fruits and vegetables here. So we want to get that word out.

And farmers' markets do more than just help Americans feed their families healthy meals. They help America's family farmers, as you've met some of our great farmers here, and you'll get to know them. That's the good thing about farmers' markets. You get to know the people who grow your food, how they do it, you know, who they are as people. That makes a huge difference. These farmers provide a critically important role in feeding this nation. Small and mid-size farmers grow the fruits and vegetables that we find on our supermarket shelves as well and at farmers' markets, and they are an important part of creating a healthier environment, healthier communities, and healthier families, and we have to support them.

And I want to thank all of the farmers and all the purveyors who have come out today to make this market such a wonderful, wonderful resource for this community. Events like this one are more than just about the opportunity to provide good food. It's also about creating better communities.

We know that when we start coming out to these markets, we're going to start talking to each other. We're going to talk about, where'd you get those peaches, and which stand, and let me try them, and what's fresh. We talk to each other in different ways.
So this market is not just about food. It's about our community. And this is just the beginning of the discussion. (Applause.)

Presentamos a

Presentamos a
Posted by Luis Miranda
¿Le gusta servir a la comunidad, ya sea organizando proyectos o participando como voluntario? La administración del presidente Obama está poniendo a su disposición el sitio web, contraparte en español de, como parte de la iniciativa "servimos unidos".

En podrá organizar, registrar y promover sus propios proyectos de servicio voluntario o encontrar opciones de voluntariado para servir a las comunidades. También puede compartir sus comentarios sobre su experiencia de servicio.
Lea el comunicado de prensa a continuación sobre la anuncio

A continuación el comunicado de prensa sobre el nuevo sitio web, el cuál también será presentado por la Primera Dama a través de un mensaje especial en video durante la ceremonia de los premios ALMA de NCLR en ABC esta noche.

Gobierno del Presidente Obama presenta para difundir su llamado al voluntariado.

Nueva página web en español se incorpora a la iniciativa "Servimos Unidos" del Presidente.

(Washington DC) -- Para informar a millones de hispanohablantes sobre el llamado a servir que hizo el Presidente Obama, su gobierno ha inaugurado hoy, una página web en español que facilita que los estadounidenses organicen voluntariados en sus comunidades.

La página web estará disponible a principios del Mes de la Hispanidad, cuando la nación reconoce las contribuciones que los latinos de todas las esferas hicieron por nuestro país durante su historia.

La primera dama Michelle Obama aparecerá en un video presentando la nueva página y hablando sobre la importancia del voluntariado durante los Premios NCLR ALMA del 2009 en ABC.

"Todo este verano hemos animado a los estadounidenses a unirse a fin de ayudar a fortalecer y construir los cimientos para la prosperidad futura de nuestra nación, comunidad por comunidad", dijo la primera dama Michelle Obama. "El servicio comunitario es una sólida tradición en la comunidad latina, y esperamos que la nueva página web ayude a conectar a más estadounidenses con proyectos de voluntariado en sus propias comunidades."

La nueva página web acompaña, otro enlace que la Administración lanzó en junio como parte de su iniciativa Servimos Unidos (United We Serve). Las dos páginas web están a cargo de la Corporación para el Servicio Nacional y Comunitario (Corporation for National and Community Service), una agencia federal que administra programas de voluntariado y dirige la iniciativa Servimos Unidos.

En, los visitantes pueden buscar oportunidades de voluntariado en su vecindario, idear un proyecto independiente de voluntariado al estilo de «Hágalo-usted-mismo», contar acerca de sus experiencias de voluntariado o reclutar a voluntarios para sus propios proyectos. La página web pone de relieve un video de bienvenida en español presentado por el secretario del Interior Ken Salazar, quien reflexiona sobre la importancia del voluntariado en momentos difíciles.

"Hoy en día nuestras comunidades han descubierto de nuevo el poder del voluntariado para unirnos en un propósito común", dijo Salazar. "Los invito a unirse a la iniciativa Servimos Unidos del Presidente Obama y a ayudarnos a demostrarle al mundo que cualquiera puede lograr cosas extraordinarias con las herramientas adecuadas."

"El presidente ha hecho un llamado audaz al voluntariado en un momento de gran necesidad, y los estadounidenses estamos preparados para actuar", afirmó Nicola Goren, la actual jefa ejecutiva de la Corporación. "Con la página web, esperamos que más estadounidenses encuentren maneras de aportar a sus comunidades y ayudar en la recuperación de nuestra nación."

Goren señaló nuevas investigaciones hechas por la Corporación para el Servicio Nacional y Comunitario que indicaban que más de 4.7 millones de adultos latinos realizaron trabajo voluntario a través de una organización formal en el 2008, un incremento de 400,000 más que en el año anterior. Los voluntarios latinos donaron aproximadamente 532 millones de horas como voluntarios, lo equivalente a $10,700 millones en las comunidades de Estados Unidos.

La página web incluye varias características para promover el voluntariado:

•Busque una oportunidad de voluntariado: Los visitantes pueden ingresar su código postal e intereses personales para enterarse de oportunidades de voluntariado cerca de su vecindario en una base de datos de más de 250,000 oportunidades en todo el país.

•Registre su proyecto: Las organizaciones o individuos que deseen reclutar voluntarios para sus proyectos pueden anunciar sus oportunidades de voluntariado (en inglés o español).

•Organice su propio proyecto: Para ayudar a cualquiera a organizar sus propios proyectos, como el planeamiento de una campaña de donación de libros, la creación de un jardín comunitario o evaluación del consumo de energía en viviendas. Traducciones al español realizadas por la AARP.

•Cuéntenos su historia: Se invita a los visitantes a compartir sus historias de cómo están teniendo un impacto a través de su servicio.
Para ayudar a solidificar la página web, La Corporación para el Servicio Nacional y Comunitario pide a organizaciones que actualmente buscan voluntarios hispanohablantes que anuncien sus oportunidades de voluntariado en español e inglés accediendo a

El programa Servimos Unidos se concibió como una manera de lograr la participación directa de los estadounidenses en la solución de los problemas de sus comunidades. Aunque se aprecia cualquier tipo de servicio voluntario, los esfuerzos de la iniciativa se centran en cinco áreas clave: educación, salud, energía y medio ambiente, renovación de la comunidad, seguridad y protección.

Los esfuerzos vienen en un momento de gran necesidad e impulso del servicio voluntario, ya que la crisis económica pone en peligro a más estadounidenses y aumenta la demanda de servicios sociales. Al mismo tiempo, muchas organizaciones sin fines de lucro están experimentando una bonanza de compasión con un aumento en el número de voluntarios, ya que muchos estadounidenses desean tenderles la mano a sus vecinos. Servimos Unidos aspira a aprovecharse de este creciente interés y enfocarlo para solucionar necesidades comunitarias específicas.

"Los desafíos a los que nos enfrentamos no tienen precedente en su tamaño y alcance, y ni las chapuzas ni respuestas fáciles nos ayudarán a encaminarnos hacia la recuperación", dijo el Presidente Obama al inaugurar Servimos Unidos. "La recuperación económica depende tanto de lo que ustedes hacen en sus comunidades como de lo que hacemos nosotros en Washington – y se necesita que todos nosotros trabajemos juntos.



Are you a someone who likes to serve your community by either organizing projects or volunteering? The Obama Administration has launched, the Spanish version of, as part of the initiative "United We Serve".

In you can create, register and promote your own projects and find volunteer opportunities to serve the community. You can also share your comments about your service experience.

Below is the release on the new site, which will also be promoted by the First Lady during tonight’s 2009 NCLR Alma Awards on ABC in a special video message

Obama Administration Launches Website to Broaden Call to Service

New Spanish Language Website Part of President’s United We Serve Initiative

(Washington DC) -- To carry President Obama’s call to service to millions of Spanish-speakers, the Obama Administration today launched, a Spanish-language website that makes it easy for Americans to find or organize volunteer projects in their communities.

The website is being launched at the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, when the nation recognizes the contributions Hispanics from all walks of life have made to our country throughout its history. First Lady Michelle Obama will appear in a video highlighting the new site and the importance of service airing during the 2009 NCLR ALMA Awards Friday night on ABC.

"All summer long we’ve encouraged Americans across the country to come together to help strengthen and build the foundation for our nation’s future prosperity one community at a time," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "Service to community is a strong tradition in the Hispanic community, and we hope the new website will help connect more Americans with service projects in their own communities."

The new website is a companion to, which the Administration launched in June as part of its United We Serve initiative. Both sites are managed by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that administers service programs and is leading the United We Serve initiative.

On, visitors can search for volunteer opportunities in their neighborhood, get ideas for "do-it-yourself" volunteer projects, submit their service stories, or recruit volunteers for their own volunteer efforts. The website features a welcome video in Spanish by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who reflects on the importance of service during tough times.

"Today our communities have rediscovered the power of service to unite us in a common sense of purpose, and Americans are turning out to volunteer like never before," said Salazar. "I invite you to join in the President’s United We Serve initiative, and help us show the world the extraordinary things that ordinary people can achieve with the proper tools."

"The President has made a bold call to service at a time of great need and Americans are ready to respond," said Nicola Goren, the Corporation's Acting CEO. "Through the website, we hope more Americans will find ways to give back to their communities and help in our nation’s recovery."

Goren pointed to new research from the Corporation for National and Community Service that found more than 4.7 million Hispanic adults volunteered through a formal organization in 2008, an increase of 400,000 over the previous year. Hispanic volunteers donated approximately 532 million hours of service, worth more than $10.7 billion to America’s communities.

The website includes a number of features to promote volunteer service:
•Find A Volunteer Opportunity: Visitors can enter their zip code and interests to find local volunteer opportunities from a database of more than 250,000 opportunities across the country

•Register Your Project: Organizations or individuals looking to recruit volunteers for their efforts can post their volunteer opportunities (in English or Spanish)

•Plan Your Own Project: To help individuals plan their own projects with their friends, family, or neighbors, easy-to-use toolkits in Spanish are available on projects such as organizing a book drive, creating a community garden, or conducting a home energy audit. Spanish translation provided by AARP.

•Share Your Story: Visitors are invited to share how they are making a difference through service
To help make the site more robust, the Corporation for National and Community Service is asking organizations that are looking for Spanish-language speaking volunteers to submit volunteer opportunities in Spanish and English by visiting

The United We Serve initiative was conceived as a way to directly involve Americans in tackling problems in their communities. While any kind of volunteer service is encouraged, the effort focuses on five key areas education, health, energy and the environment, community renewal, and safety and security.

The effort comes at a time of strong need and momentum for service, as the economic downturn puts more Americans at risk and increases the demand for social services. At the same time, many nonprofit groups are experiencing a ‘compassion boom' of increasing volunteers as Americans reach out to help their neighbors. United We Serve aims to tap this growing interest and focus it on addressing specific community needs.

"The challenges we face are unprecedented in their size and scope, and we cannot rely on quick fixes or easy answers to put us on the road to recovery," said President Obama in announcing United We Serve. "Economic recovery is as much about what you're doing in your communities as what we're doing in Washington – and it's going to take all of us, working together."