Friday, July 31, 2009

Ahoy Matey!

FRIDAY, JULY 31ST, 2009 AT 4:13 PM
Ahoy Matey!
Posted by Kol Peterson
This week, the Environmental Protection Agency’s survey vessel, the BOLD, is surveying the New England coast, from Boston Harbor to the Penobscot Bay in Maine. Two EPA scientists are giving constant updates from the vessel about their experience. Frankly, it looks windy and rainy out there, but coastal monitoring is a long term initiative that goes on rain or shine.

CEA Chair Romer’s Chat on Health Insurance Reform and Small Business

FRIDAY, JULY 31ST, 2009 AT 12:51 PM
CEA Chair Romer’s Chat on Health Insurance Reform and Small Business
Posted by Jesse Lee
During the July 25th Weekly Address, the President discussed a report just out from the Council of Economic Advisers detailing the impact health insurance reform would have on small business. The President also asked small business professionals to read the report and come forward with their questions – and thousands of them did, including 1,500 through the LinkedIn network alone. The following Wednesday CEA Chair Christina Romer sat down for a live video chat to address some of those questions as selected by an informal board of LinkedIn small business members. Watch the video of the chat, which is as instructive now as it was live if you are interested or concerned about how small business will fare in this sweeping change:

Joining the discussion at

FRIDAY, JULY 31ST, 2009 AT 11:50 AM
Joining the discussion at
Posted by Nathan Sterken
The White House live stream broadcasts all kinds of White House events, from press conferences with the President to concerts in the East Room. As you may have seen, it’s also home to a new, interactive feature—Open for Questions. During what we call "Open for Questions" sessions, which are hosted about once a week, administration officials answer questions from the public in a live, online video chat. To participate in a future session, stay tuned to the White House blog, Facebook page or Twitter feed for announcements, and then head to the White House Live application on Facebook during the event to submit a question.

By looking at the percentage of people from each state who tuned in, we can see that the popularity of Open for Questions and other White House events varies from state to state with each event. The map below, for example, shows this Wednesday’s Open for Questions session with the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors was most popular in the Midwest and Virginia:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Valerie Jarrett & Ambassador Rice on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

THURSDAY, JULY 30TH, 2009 AT 7:26 PM
Valerie Jarrett & Ambassador Rice on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Posted by Kareem Dale
As Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, what happened today was a reminder of how monumental what we do here really is. Valerie Jarrett joined Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, as she signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on behalf of my country. It has been a chaotic day, but I wanted to share their remarks at the signing with all of you as soon as possible:

Ambassador Rice: Thank you all so much. It’s really a tremendous honor to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on behalf of the United States.

This Treaty, as you all know, is the first new human rights convention of the 21st century adopted by the United Nations and further advances the human rights of the 650 million people with disabilities worldwide. It urges equal protection and equal benefits under the law for all citizens, it rejects discrimination in all its forms, and calls for the full participation and inclusion in society of all persons with disabilities.

The United States is very pleased to join the 141 other countries that have signed this Convention in pursuit of a more just world. President Obama will soon submit it to the Senate for its advice and consent.

So let me offer my congratulations and thanks to all of you who worked so hard to make this day possible.

We all still have a great deal more to do at home and abroad. As President Obama has noted, people with disabilities far too often lack the choice to live in communities of their own choosing; their unemployment rate is much higher than those without disabilities; they are much more likely to live in poverty; health care is out of reach for far too many; and too many children with disabilities are denied a world-class education around the world. Discrimination against people with disabilities is not simply unjust; it hinders economic development, limits democracy, and erodes societies.

These challenges will not disappear with the stroke of a pen. Our work is not complete until we have an enduring guarantee of the inherent dignity, worth, and independence of all persons with disabilities worldwide. Let the signing of the Treaty today be an ongoing source of inspiration for us all in our shared struggle to bring old barriers down.

Thank you, it’s now my great pleasure to introduce my good friend and colleague Valerie Jarrett, who as you all know currently serves as Senior Advisor to President Obama and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement. She traveled here from Washington today for this historic moment, and we are glad you are here. Thank you so much.

Ms. Jarrett: Thank you Ambassador Rice. Ambassador Rice has been a trusted advisor and friend of President Obama and has provided invaluable advice and counsel and guidance throughout both his campaign and in the early months of his administration. We are so proud of her efforts and hard work and the men and women serving at the U.S. Mission, working on the front lines of the Administration’s effort to usher in a new era of engagement.

I am thrilled to be joining Ambassador Rice on this occasion, as the United States takes this historic step toward advancing our global commitment to fundamental human rights for all persons with disabilities.

Last week, the President took a bold step forward for our country and announced that the United States of America would sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Now we fulfill his commitment, and the United States of America proudly joins the 141 other nations in signing this extraordinary Convention – the first new human rights convention of the 21st century.

Today, as Susan mentioned, 650 million people – ten percent of the world’s population – live with a disability. In developing countries, ninety percent of the children with disabilities do not attend school. And women and girls with disabilities are too often the subject of deep discrimination. This extraordinary treaty calls on all nations to guarantee the rights of those that afforded under the Americans with Disabilities Act, urges equal protection and equal benefit before the law for all citizens, and reaffirms the inherent dignity, worth, and independence of all persons with disabilities worldwide.

It is fitting that we are signing this Convention just a few days after the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Due in large part to the ADA, we have made great progress. But as the President said last Friday, and as the Ambassador just said, we are still not satisfied. We have much work to do.

Today, the President, together with Secretary Clinton, once again demonstrate their commitment to people with disabilities at home and around the world, and I am pleased to announce the creation of a new, senior level disability human rights position at the State Department. This individual will be charged with developing a comprehensive strategy to promote the rights of persons with disabilities internationally; he or she will coordinate a process for the ratification of the Convention in conjunction with the other federal offices; last but not least, this leader will serve as a symbol of public diplomacy on disability issues, and work to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are addressed in international situations. By appointing the necessary personnel to lead and ensure compliance on disability human rights issues, the President reinforces his commitment to the UN Convention.

We look forward to the Senate giving swift consideration and approval to the Convention once the President submits it them for their advice and consent.

With this signing, we once again confirm that disability rights are not just civil rights to be enforced here at home; they are universal human rights to be promoted around the world. So we proudly join the international community in protecting the human rights for all, thank you very much.

In attendance at the signing ceremony were the following guests:

· Mr. Carl Augusto, President and CEO, American Foundation for the Blind
· Ms. Marca Bristo, President and CEO, Access Living; Chair, US International Council on Disabilities
· Ms. Ann Cody, Director of Policy and Global Outreach, BlazeSports America
· Mr. Fred Doulton, Social Affairs Officer, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
· Ms. Akiko Ito, Chief, Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
· Jessica Neuwirth, Director of the New York Office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
· Ms. Patricia O’Brien, Chief Legal Advisor, UN
· Ms. Matthew Sapolin, NYC Commissioner for People with Disabilities
· Dr. William Kennedy Smith, President and Founder, Center for International Rehabilitation
· Ms. Marjorie Tiven, Commissioner of the New York City Commission for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol

2009 Medal of Freedom Recipients

THURSDAY, JULY 30TH, 2009 AT 1:09 PM
2009 Medal of Freedom Recipients
Posted by Katherine Brandon
The President announced today the 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilan honor. The President praised the recipients for breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens: "These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way."
The awards will be presented on August 12. Here is a little bit about this year’s recipients:
•Nancy Goodman Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s leading breast cancer grassroots organization.

•Pedro José Greer, Jr. is the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Florida International University School of Medicine. He is also the founder of Camillus Health Concern, an agency that provides medical care to over 10,000 homeless and low-income patients each year in Miami.

•Stephen Hawking is an internationally-recognized theoretical physicist, and is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University.

•Jack Kemp was a U.S. Congressman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Republican Nominee for Vice President in 1996. He died in May, 2009

•Sen. Edward Kennedy is one of the longest-serving and greatest Senators of all time. He has worked tirelessly for health care reform over the last five decades.

•Billie Jean King is known for winning the famous "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match, and championing gender equality issues not only in sports, but in all aspects of life.

•Rev. Joseph Lowery has been a leader of the civil rights movement since the 1950s, and co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King.

•Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow is the last living Plains Indian war chief, and author of works on Native American history and culture who has served as an inspiration to young Native Americans across the country.

•Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official from a major city in the United States. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, and encouraged LGBT citizens to live their lives openly.

•Sandra Day O’Connor was a Supreme Court Justice from 1981 until her retirement in 2006. She was the first woman ever to sit on the Supreme Court, and has received numerous awards for her outstanding achievements.

•Sidney Poitier is an actor known for breaking racial barriers. He is the first African American to be nominated and win a Best Actor Academy Award.

•Chita Rivera is an actress, singer and dancer, who has broken barriers and inspired a generation of women. In 2002, she was the first Hispanic to receive the Kennedy Center Honor.

•Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Since 2002, she has been the President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative.

•Janet Davison Rowley, M.D., is the Blum Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago. She discovered the first consistent chromosome translocation in a human cancer.

•Desmond Tutu is widely regarded as "South Africa’s moral conscience," and was a leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa.

•Muhammad Yunus is a global leader in anti-poverty efforts, and pioneered the use of "micro-loans" to provide credit to poor individuals.
See the official release for a little more detail.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Celebrating the Detroit Shock

MONDAY, JULY 27TH, 2009 AT 5:05 PM
Celebrating the Detroit Shock
Posted by Katherine Brandon

The President invited the Detroit Shock to the White House today, where he congratulated them on their third WNBA Championship in six years. Earlier in the day, the Shock hosted a WNBA Fit Clinic at the local Boys and Girls Club, as part of United We Serve. The President praised the team's dedication to service, and noted the great work they have done in Detroit.

He also praised the team, and the WNBA, for serving as inspiration to a generation of young girls who dream of playing professional sports:

Let me also say something as a father -- I was mentioning it to the team before we came out. It's hard to believe the WNBA has already been around for 12 years. And that means that my daughters have never known a time when women couldn't play professional sports.

They look at the TV and they see me watching SportsCenter and they see young women who look like them on the screen. And that lets them and all our young women, as well as young men know that we should take for granted that women are going to thrive and excel as athletes. And it makes my daughters look at themselves differently; to see that they can be champions, too. So, as a father, I want to say thank you. (Applause.) And thank you to all the WNBA athletes who work hard each day to set a positive example to which all our daughters can aspire.

Closing Lobbyist Loopholes

MONDAY, JULY 27TH, 2009 AT 1:59 PM
Closing Lobbyist Loopholes
Posted by OMB Director Peter Orszag
Cross-posted from the OMB blog.

The President believes that a piece of legislation as important as the Recovery Act must be implemented with an unprecedented degree of transparency. That is why, in March, he imposed substantial limits on lobbyists in their communications with the Federal government about the Recovery Act. He also ordered OMB to evaluate agencies’ actual experiences with the restrictions in the first 60 days and then recommend whether any modifications were needed. That review resulted in a decision to tighten the restrictions and, on Friday, OMB updated the formal guidance on Recovery Act communications with lobbyists.

We continue to demand unprecedented transparency for lobbyist contacts and, for the first time in history, we now are bringing transparency to the world of unregistered lobbyists – CEOs and others with special access who would contact an agency or department about their interest in Recovery funding. By expanding the restrictions on oral communications to apply to everybody who tries to exert influence on Recovery Act competitive funding decisions, we reinforce merit-based decision-making and transparency. Tough lines also need to be bright lines, so everyone can understand them. That’s why the updated approach focuses these restrictions on oral communications after formal applications for competitive funding have been filed and before the funds are awarded.

Contacts by registered lobbyists prior to the filing of a formal application remain subject to the previously announced restrictions, which require rapid Internet disclosure of the contact. These rules are by far the toughest ever and go well beyond the minimum disclosures previously required by law. To make that disclosure more consistent, the White House shortly will provide departments and agencies with a new technology tool – so that thorough reporting and information standards will be easily accessible for anyone to see.

Peter R. Orszag is Director of the Office of Management and Budget

A Dialogue with China

MONDAY, JULY 27TH, 2009 AT 12:02 PM
A Dialogue with China
Posted by Jesse Lee

This morning the President laid out a framework of his vision for yet another critical aspect of American foreign policy – our relationship with China, which he called "as important as any bilateral relationship in the world." The President addressed the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, with Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner chairing the dialogue with the Chinese Vice Premier and State Counselor.
The President opened his remarks, as he often does, putting the relationship in a historical context:
One hundred years ago -- in the early days of the 20th century -- it was clear that there were momentous choices to be made -- choices about the borders of nations and the rights of human beings. But in Woodrow Wilson's day, no one could have foreseen the arc of history that led to a wall coming down in Berlin, nor could they have imagined the conflict and upheaval that characterized the years in between. For people everywhere -- from Boston to Beijing -- the 20th century was a time of great progress, but that progress also came with a great price.
Today, we look out on the horizon of a new century. And as we launch this dialogue, it's important for us to reflect upon the questions that will shape the 21st century. Will growth be stalled by events like our current financial crisis, or will we cooperate to create balanced and sustainable growth, lifting more people out of poverty and creating a broader prosperity around the world? Will the need for energy breed competition and climate change, or will we build partnerships to produce clean power and to protect our planet? Will nuclear weapons spread unchecked, or will we forge a new consensus to use this power for only peaceful purposes? Will extremists be able to stir conflict and division, or will we unite on behalf of our shared security? Will nations and peoples define themselves solely by their differences, or can we find common ground necessary to meet our common challenges, and to respect the dignity of every human being?
We can't predict with certainty what the future will bring, but we can be certain about the issues that will define our times. And we also know this: The relationship between the United States and China will shape the 21st century, which makes it as important as any bilateral relationship in the world. That really must underpin our partnership. That is the responsibility that together we bear.
Identifying President Nixon’s visit as a pivotal moment, he described how the Cold War era had limited the relationship between the two countries to a narrow set of issues, but that it was now time to seek cooperation on mutual interests on a much broader scale.

(President Barack Obama addresses the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic
Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, Monday,
July 27, 2009. Listening at left are Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, center, and Chinese State
Councilor Dai Bingguo, left. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Again, as he often does, the President proceeded to move into specific examples of issues where progress can be made in the future:
Let me name some of those challenges. First, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in a lasting economic recovery. The current crisis has made it clear that the choices made within our borders reverberate across the global economy -- and this is true not just in New York and Seattle, but in Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well. That is why we must remain committed to strong bilateral and multilateral coordination. And that is the example we have set by acting aggressively to restore growth, to prevent a deeper recession and to save jobs for our people.
Going forward, we can deepen this cooperation. We can promote financial stability through greater transparency and regulatory reform. We can pursue trade that is free and fair, and seek to conclude an ambitious and balanced Doha Round agreement. We can update international institutions so that growing economies like China play a greater role that matches their greater responsibility. And as Americans save more and Chinese are able to spend more, we can put growth on a more sustainable foundation -- because just as China has benefited from substantial investment and profitable exports, China can also be an enormous market for American goods.
Second, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interest in a clean, secure, and prosperous energy future. The United States and China are the two largest consumers of energy in the world. We are also the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Let's be frank: Neither of us profits from a growing dependence on foreign oil, nor can we spare our people from the ravages of climate change unless we cooperate. Common sense calls upon us to act in concert.
Both of our countries are taking steps to transform our energy economies. Together we can chart a low carbon recovery; we can expand joint efforts at research and development to promote the clean and efficient use of energy; and we can work together to forge a global response at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and beyond. And the best way to foster the innovation that can increase our security and prosperity is to keep our markets open to new ideas, new exchanges, and new sources of energy.
Third, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Make no mistake: The more nations acquire these weapons, the more likely it is that they will be used. Neither America nor China has an interest in a terrorist acquiring a bomb, or a nuclear arms race breaking out in East Asia. That is why we must continue our collaboration to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and make it clear to North Korea that the path to security and respect can be traveled if they meet their obligations. And that is why we must also be united in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and urging the Islamic Republic to live up to its international obligations.
This is not about singling out any one nation -- it is about the responsibility of all nations. Together, we must cooperate to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world, which will be a focus of our Global Nuclear Summit next year. And together, we must strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by renewing its basic bargain: countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament; countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them; and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. A balance of terror cannot hold. In the 21st century, a strong and global regime is the only basis for security from the world's deadliest weapons.
And fourth, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interests in confronting transnational threats. The most pressing dangers we face no longer come from competition among great powers -- they come from extremists who would murder innocents; from traffickers and pirates who pursue their own profits at the expense of others; from diseases that know no borders; and from suffering and civil wars that breed instability and terror. These are the threats of the 21st century. And that is why the pursuit of power among nations must no longer be seen as a zero-sum game. Progress -- including security -- must be shared.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cookies Anyone? The http kind, that is

FRIDAY, JULY 24TH, 2009 AT 2:07 PM
Cookies Anyone? The http kind, that is
Posted by Bev Godwin
Nine years ago -- a lifetime in Internet time -- the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a policy commonly referred to as "the cookies policy. " This policy prohibited federal agencies from using certain web-tracking technologies, primarily persistent cookies, unless the agency head provided a waiver. This may sound like arcane, boring policy – but it is really important in the online world.
As Executive Sponsor of the Federal Web Managers Council and Director of, I know the importance of this policy issue in serving the public. The "cookie policy" has been the topic of frequent discussion among federal web managers over the years as we strive to provide the best customer service online while protecting individual privacy. We want to use cookies for good, not evil. As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to create a more open and innovative government, OMB wants public input to determine how to best update the cookie policy to meet these goals.
Let your voices be heard. Get more background on cookies, the policy, and the new framework OMB is considering and visit the OSTP blog where you can comment. Help us help you.

Bev Godwin is the Director of Online Resources & Interagency Development

Watch, Discuss, Engage at 1:45: Secretary Sebelius on Health Insurance Reform

FRIDAY, JULY 24TH, 2009 AT 12:57 PM
Watch, Discuss, Engage at 1:45: Secretary Sebelius on Health Insurance Reform
Posted by Katherine Brandon
Yesterday, the President took questions directly from the American people at a town hall focused on health care in Ohio. Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be hosting a live video chat at 1:45 to answer your questions from all over the country on health insurance reform. Watch it streamed live, and join the conversation on and Facebook.

Over at OPE: Astronauts and Mathematicians in the Oval Office

FRIDAY, JULY 24TH, 2009 AT 11:31 AM
Over at OPE: Astronauts and Mathematicians in the Oval Office
Posted by Katherine Brandon
Continuing to show his reverence to the math and sciences, the President recently met with the astronauts from Apollo 11, as well as the 2009 Raytheon MathCounts National Champions to honor their accomplishments. MathCounts is a nationwide math competition for middle school students. The kids not only got to meet the President, but they also got to meet the heroic Apollo 11 astronauts. Head over to the OPE blog, and read more about their exciting meeting.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vice President Biden Reaffirms Support for Georgia

THURSDAY, JULY 23RD, 2009 AT 1:27 AM
Vice President Biden Reaffirms Support for Georgia
Posted by Katherine Brandon
At the end of his four-day trip to Ukraine and Georgia, the Vice President addressed the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi. The Vice President came with a simple message: the United States supports Georgia as it moves towards becoming a secure, free, democratic, and united country.
The Vice President traveled to Georgia last year as a Senator in the midst of the conflict with Russia. Today, he traveled there under very different circumstances, but again pledged his support for Georgia. He made clear that while the United States works to reset relations with Russia, it will not come at the expense of Georgia:
As I said in Munich in the first days after our administration was sworn in, and as President Obama, I might add, reasserted two weeks ago in Moscow, we stand by the principle that sovereign democracies have the right to make their own decisions, and choose their own partnerships and their own alliances. We stand against the 19th century notion of spheres of influence. It has no place in the 21st century. (Applause.)
We will not -- we will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. (Applause.) And we urge -- we urge the world not to recognize them as independent states. And we call upon Russia to honor its international commitments…
The U.S. has committed $1 billion in aid to Georgia, and since the conflict last August, the U.S. has provided supplies and shelter to those who were displaced, reconstruction aid, and additional funds to strengthen Georgia’s civil society. The Vice President stated that the U.S. fully supports Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO, and will work with Georgia to meet the standards needed for NATO membership. The Vice President explained the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Georgia:
Let me be clear about what our strategic partnership with Georgia is, and what it is not. The United States has no desire to create our own sphere of influence in this region or anywhere else in the world. Our goal is to help build a multi-partner world in which nations make common cause of common concerns.
These partnerships are not being built against anyone. They are being built to the benefit of everyone who seeks a more democratic, prosperous and secure world. (Applause.)
With Georgia, our partnership involves meeting security challenges -- we are grateful, truly grateful that Georgian soldiers will stand next to our brave Marines in Afghanistan. It includes a commitment to energy security, and we welcome Georgia’s role as a bridge for natural resources flowing from east to west, as it did a thousand years ago. (Applause.)
It carries with it -- this cooperation agreement -- a determination to build stronger bonds not only between our governments, but among our people through cultural exchanges, entrepreneurial collaboration, and civil society cooperation.
Our partnership rests on a foundation of shared democratic ideals. That's what you are about. And we will continue to support your work to fulfill the democratic promise of six years ago.
The Vice President concluded his remarks by encouraging Georgia to continue along the path towards democracy:
Success requires the involvement of everyone in this room, of those who were elected outside this room. It requires every Georgian citizen, regardless of their political affiliation or their ethnicity, to take part in their government.
And I especially today call upon the young people of Georgia, the next generation of Georgian leaders, to continue to contribute their ideas, their voices, and their energy to help create a peaceful, stable, democratic and economically prosperous Georgia. Only then -- only then will we see a Georgia that is the home to all its rightful citizens.

The President's Press Conference - Full Video

The President's Press Conference - Full Video
Posted by Jesse Lee
In a primetime press conference focused on health insurance reform, the President explained what's in it for you and your family - watch the full video:

[UPDATE: Director DeParle is working hard to build consensus for reform and has been forced to postpone the chat once again due to intense and productive meetings on the Hill. We will be sure to schedule more opprtunities to hear and address your questions and concerns soon.]

Have health care questions of your own? The White House will be giving you opportunities to ask them and give your feedback over the coming days, starting today at 3:00pm ET with White House Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle. She will be taking your questions from and Facebook on how reform will affect insurance in America, including how we can cut costs and assure that every American has access to affordable, quality care regardless of pre-existing conditions.

This is an issue that impacts us all - so help keep your friends and family up to date:

Tonight's Press Conference - Tune in at 8pm ET

Tonight's Press Conference - Tune in at 8pm ET
Posted by Cammie Croft
We're hearing a lot of back and forth about health insurance reform. And it's hard to decipher myth from fact -- especially as Washington heats up with its usual political games and 'who's up', 'who's down' rhetoric.

So, tonight, President Obama is holding a primetime press conference to address the nation about health insurance reform. He will lay out where we are, where we're going, and why health insurance reform matters.

Check back later for advance excerpts of tonight's address. And at 8pm ET, tune in to watch the press conference live at and participate in the live chat on Facebook.

As the President has said, we are closer than ever before to accomplishing comprehensive health insurance reform. And now is not the time to slow down or lose sight of the finish line. Spread the word: Share/Bookmark

UPDATE: As indicated by the excerpts of the President's opening remarks, during tonight's news conference the President will stress the need for health care reform:

This is not just about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance. Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage if they become too sick, or lose their job, or change their job. It’s about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage because it became too expensive. And it’s about the fact that the biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

The President will also emphasize that health care reform is an important issue across the country, not just the political issue of the moment in Washington:

I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics – to turn every issue into running tally of who’s up and who’s down. I’ve heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it’s better politics to "go for the kill." Another Republican Senator said that defeating health reform is about "breaking" me.

So let me be clear: This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every Member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings…This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer. They are counting on us to get this done. They are looking to us for leadership. And we must not let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tonight's Press Conference - Tune in at 8pm ET

Tonight's Press Conference - Tune in at 8pm ET
Posted by Cammie Croft
We're hearing a lot of back and forth about health insurance reform. And it's hard to decipher myth from fact -- especially as Washington heats up with its usual political games and 'who's up', 'who's down' rhetoric.

So, tonight, President Obama is holding a primetime press conference to address the nation about health insurance reform. He will lay out where we are, where we're going, and why health insurance reform matters.

Check back later for advance excerpts of tonight's address. And at 8pm ET, tune in to watch the press conference live at and participate in the live chat on Facebook.

As the President has said, we are closer than ever before to accomplishing comprehensive health insurance reform. And now is not the time to slow down or lose sight of the finish line. Spread the word:

Peter Orszag on Building a New Foundation for Growth

Peter Orszag on Building a New Foundation for Growth
Posted by Katherine Brandon
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag addressed the Council on Foreign Relations today, outlining the Administration’s response to the economic crisis, and how the Administration is working to build a new foundation for economic growth and broadly shared prosperity.
Orszag reminded the audience that when President Obama was elected in November, the economy was in a freefall. The administration had to work to restore confidence. This is why the administration has been looking to the future, and laying the groundwork for a stable foundation, so that we will be prepared for future shocks. The Capital Assistance Program, the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, and the Recovery Act were all part of this approach. From his prepared remarks:
In designing the Recovery Act, we also recognized that the economic situation we inherited was so severe that we needed to assure producers and consumers that aggregate demand would be boosted not just for a few months, but for a sustained period. That is why we envisioned a Recovery Act that would ramp up rapidly in 2009, have its peak impact in 2010, and lay the groundwork for further growth thereafter.
Now, the Recovery Act has encountered some criticism in recent days – from all sides. And a piece of legislation of this size and import should be scrutinized. In conducting this debate, however, we need to understand what the Act was designed to do.
Remember that the Recovery Act was designed to take effect over a two-year period with about 70 percent of all funds going out in the first 18 months.
As a result, and since job growth typically lags behind economic activity, both Administration and independent forecasts have predicted that only a very small part of the total job creation expected from the Recovery Act would take place by the end of the second quarter. Therefore evaluating how well the Recovery Act is working based on recent movement in employment numbers is misleading.
Implementation of the Recovery Act is on schedule, and the $220 billion in relief has already had a direct impact. Orszag explained how the Recovery Act is helping our economy rebound:
Goldman Sachs, for one, projects that the Recovery Act will add about 3 percentage points on an annualized basis to GDP in the second quarter and have a similar effect in the third quarter. To be sure, other analysts may reach slightly different quantitative conclusions than Goldman Sachs – and in any case we have a way to go before anyone should become satisfied with our economic performance. Nonetheless, it is becoming increasingly clear that the economy is no longer on the brink of disaster.
The equity markets have rebounded, and credit markets have thawed. The TED spread—an indicator of stress in private credit markets—was typically below 50 basis points before the crisis. In October of last year, it peaked at over five times that, at 460 basis points. It has now settled back under 50 basis points. And the consensus among private forecasters is that the economy will return to positive growth this year.
But even as progress is made, this year will continue to be difficult for American workers, as the unemployment rate typically lags behind other parts of the economy. He argued that recovery is not just about rescue, but about rebuilding our economy so that we can have long-term, sustainable growth -- and that health care reform is an essential element to building this new foundation:
The evidence is clear that the biggest threat to our fiscal future is rising health care costs. If health care costs grow at the same rate over the next four decades as they did over the previous four, Medicare and Medicaid spending will go from about 5 percent of GDP to about 20 percent by 2050. That was about the size of the entire federal government last year.
Our fiscal future is so dominated by healthcare that if we can slow the rate of cost growth by just 15 basis points a year, the savings for Medicare and Medicaid would equal the impact from eliminating Social Security’s entire 75-year shortfall.
The fiscal importance of health care reform is indisputable. Yet in the current debate, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding whether the bills that are emerging from Congress accomplish our fiscal goals or not. So let me be clear: the President will not sign a health care reform bill unless it is deficit neutral with hard, scoreable savings over the next decade and on a stable trajectory as the decade ends.
In addition to reforming health care in a deficit-neutral way, the President has also insisted that we take additional steps to transforming our system to one that delivers better care, rather than more care.
Because if we fail to do more to move towards a high-value, low-cost healthcare system, we will be on an unsustainable fiscal path no matter what else we do. As it stands now, the health care system does the opposite of what it should -- creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to provide more care, not the best care.

Vice President Biden: We Stand by Ukraine

WEDNESDAY, JULY 22ND, 2009 AT 10:40 AM
Vice President Biden: We Stand by Ukraine
Posted by Katherine Brandon
Vice President Biden gave a speech in Kyiv today on U.S.-Ukraine relations, before departing for the second leg of his overseas trip in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Vice President praised Ukrainians for demanding justice, achieving free and fair elections, and a free press. He noted that today, Ukraine is one of the most democratic nations in the region.
While Ukraine has come a long way since the 2004 Orange Revolution, there is still progress to be made. The Vice President emphasized that the United States will support Ukraine as it works to become a democratic and prosperous member of Europe:
In any true democracy, freedom is the beginning, not the end. Freedom is merely the beginning, not the end. And here in Ukraine, yours is a revolution still in progress whose promise remains to be fulfilled.
More than anything else, I’m here to say this to the Ukrainian people: Ukraine, as it continues on the path to freedom, democracy, and prosperity, the United States will stand by Ukraine. These are your choices, not ours. But rest assured that we stand with you as you make those choices.
The Obama administration will not waver in its support of a strong and independent Ukraine. Charting the future course of Ukraine is, of course, a decision to be made by all of you, not by anyone outside.
Based on my discussions yesterday with the bulk of your political leadership, we want for Ukraine what it appears Ukrainians want for themselves -- a democratic and prosperous European nation.
The Vice President also talked about the President’s recent trip to Moscow, where the President aimed to reset relations with Russia. But, as the Vice President explained, this would not come at the expense of Ukraine:
I know it created some speculations that improving relations with Russia would somehow threaten our ties with Ukraine. Let me say this as clearly as I can. As we reset the relationship with Russia, we reaffirm our commitment to an independent Ukraine.
And we recognize no sphere of influence, or no ability of any other nation to veto the choices an independent nation makes as to with whom and under what conditions they will associate. We also do not believe in zero-sum thinking. We do not believe that a partnership with one nation must come at the expense of another. It has not. It does not, and it will not.
As I said, referencing the Munich Security Conference just weeks after taking office, it holds true again -- I want to reemphasize it. We reject the notion of spheres of influence as 19th century ideas that have no place in the 21st century. And we stand by the principle that sovereign states have a right to make their own decisions, to chart their own foreign policy, to choose their own alliances.
He acknowledged the difficult economic climate in Ukraine, and related the country's struggle to our own economic struggle. The Vice President pledged that the United States would help as Ukraine works to rebuild its economy and move towards energy efficiency and independence, issues that have been tied to democracy and the fight against corruption everywhere in the world.
As you take action, you will not stand alone. The United States wants to work with you to improve the investment climate, expand trade and investment between our two countries, and help in any effective way we can, knowing full well we do not have the answers. We are struggling economically, as well; a different struggle, but a real struggle.
Ultimately, democracy and free markets will flourish when they deliver on what people want most -– honesty, the elimination of corruption, a decent job, the ability to care for their parents and educate their children, physical security and economic opportunity, a chance to build a better life. No one wants anything more than a chance. When democracy and free markets deliver on these basic desires, then those promoting alternative forms of government, whether from within or without, are never able to gain a foot hold.
Nowhere is the relationship between democracy, development and security clearer than when it comes to energy. Right now, in the United States, we’re making significant efforts at some political expense, I might add, to diversify our energy supply, to invest in efficiency, and to make some very difficult decisions about how to deal with the carbon footprint we're leaving our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. None are without cost.
Just as it is in our interest to diversify our sources of energy and reduce the influence of those we depend on for our energy, I might add so too it -- so too is it in your overwhelming interest. Your economic freedom depends more, I suspect, in this country on your energy freedom than on any other single factor. Ukraine has abundant reserves of energy, and reform of your energy sector should reduce your dependence on foreign suppliers. Moving toward market pricing for energy is brave, but also absolutely necessary pre-condition.
Promoting energy efficiency and conservation also will go a long way toward increasing your independence.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Recovery Act - Webinar Training Materials

TUESDAY, JULY 21ST, 2009 AT 1:28 PM
Recovery Act - Webinar Training Materials
Posted by Cammie Croft
Yesterday, OMB and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board kicked off a four-day, seven-webinar training series to help show Recovery Act recipients just how to comply with the Act’s transparency guidelines.

We recently posted the audio recordings from yesterday’s webinars at:

The powerpoint presentations and audio of all the webinars will be made available on this page over the course of the week. So check back often to download the materials you need to help make Recovery Act spending as transparent as possible.

CEQ's New Site

TUESDAY, JULY 21ST, 2009 AT 11:59 AM
CEQ's New Site
Posted by Nancy Sutley
Check out the new and improved White House Council on Environmental Quality website! Our hope is to keep visitors informed on what is happening at CEQ and CEQ’s environmental priorities and activities. One of the major duties of the Council is to foster and promote environmental quality to meet the conservation, social, economic, and health goals of the Nation. Through our site, you can find up-to-date news on CEQ projects and announcements. The site gives some insight into areas we are focusing on in the environment and provides opportunities to give CEQ feedback and input on environmental initiatives.

Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.

Energy on Facebook

TUESDAY, JULY 21ST, 2009 AT 10:22 AM
Energy on Facebook
Posted by Secretary Steven Chu
When we heard Energy Secretary Steven Chu was joining Facebook to start a conversation about solving today's energy challenges, we invited him to write a post to tell you about it.

I recently joined Facebook because I want to talk with you directly about solving the energy and climate change challenge and ensuring America’s leadership in a clean energy economy. I hope you will check out my new page at

I’m excited by the chance to share what the Obama Administration is doing to bring about a revolution in clean energy. We are finding innovative ways to use energy more efficiently, working to deploy clean energy technologies like solar and wind power, and conducting cutting edge research to find the next generation of clean technologies. I will keep you up to date on all the latest developments, as well as share tips that will save you money on your energy bills.
But I also want to hear from you about what you’re doing in your communities and the steps you think we should take as a nation. I hope we can have a true dialogue because every American can and must play a role in this effort.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Weekly Address: Health Care Reform Cannot Wait

FRIDAY, JULY 17TH, 2009 AT 11:59 PM
Weekly Address: Health Care Reform Cannot Wait
Posted by Jesse Lee
The President calls on Congress to seize this opportunity – one that may not come again for decades – and finally pass health care reform: "It’s about every family unable to keep up with soaring out of pocket costs and premiums rising three times faster than wages. Every worker afraid of losing health insurance if they lose their job, or change jobs. Everyone who’s worried that they may not be able to get insurance or change insurance if someone in their family has a pre-existing condition..."

NAACP: 100 Years, One Historic Night

FRIDAY, JULY 17TH, 2009 AT 6:08 PM
NAACP: 100 Years, One Historic Night
Posted by Michael Blake
There are some moments in our lives where we have an "I was there" moment. A moment that despite your best attempts to explain how you felt, what you perceived that others were feeling, the words that were shared and the fanfare of the activity, you still can't convey how remarkable an experience it was that you just shared.

I had that moment on Thursday, July 16th, 2009 as did so many others when President Barack Obama went to the 100th anniversary convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Everyone had a feeling of excitement beyond description. Many dignitaries were present. NAACP leaders from across the country embarked to New York - a city filled with historical civil rights moments, which oftentimes are forgotten about because they weren't occurring in the historic South. But, the first moment that captured my attention was watching the line of people form slowly throughout the afternoon as they waited patiently despite their palpable excitement. The look of pride and accomplishment amongst a people who many times didn't feel such positive feelings was evident. Later, as the president met several leaders of NAACP, it was the genuine appreciation that humbled me and made me even more proud to work for him as he shook the hands of the staff despite the large number of them being present. There were a lot of people there whose names many times go unmentioned and unnoticed for work they do to fight for greater equality, never caring that their name is in lights. To have their work recognized by the President of the United States added a special dimension to the night that the media didn't capture, but it was equally important. I was fortunate to see it. I was there.

And then, there was the speech.

New York, Thursday, July 16, 2009. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, who received the Spingarn medal during the banquet - NAACP's highest recognition - simply but eloquently introduced President Obama by saying, "When he came to our convention in 2007, he was one of eight Democratic presidential primary candidates. When he came last year, he was the one - his party's nominee. Now I am honored to give the best introduction of all - please welcome the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama."

The president gave an inspirational speech where his physical presence and empowering words provided a visual reality to so many African-Americans that despite the tests of time AND the adversities of life OUR hopes and dreams can be and ARE being fulfilled.

The feeling in the room was electric. There were African-Americans who lived through the civil rights era and fought to have an equal voice at the table - including the right to vote - there to see an African-American President of the United States during the 100th anniversary of this pillar of the Civil Rights community who were led to many joyful tears, amens, shouts of celebration and reflective statements of how far we have come.

There were older women who were saying "amen" and "tell it" as the president shared that there are no excuses to us achieving more. There was an African-American sailor near me who took photos of every moment of every person he could see. People who couldn't get into the room of 4,200 attendees watched and videotaped from TV screens throughout the Hilton Hotel who didn't complain about not getting in but rather rejoiced in just being in the building for such a historic moment.

His remarks embodied an understanding that we've made progress but we have more mountains to climb. They also reminded us that we have to dream higher and obtain more, which he so beautifully stated by saying, "our kids can't all aspire to be LeBron or Lil Wayne. I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers -- doctors and teachers -- not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court Justice. I want them aspiring to be the President of the United States of America."

So for more than 4,000 people at the New York Hilton hotel who were there supporting this hallmark organization, which for 100 years has had many "I was there" moments including the marching, protesting, sitting in and standing tall; from W.E.B. Dubois to Julian Bond, we all shared in this once in a lifetime moment - the first African-American president closing out the 100th anniversary convention of the oldest African-American civil rights group in the country. So for generations to come, I will tell my children, and they will tell their children I was there.

Michael Blake is the Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement & Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

Over at OPE: Women Entrepreneurs & the New Foundation

FRIDAY, JULY 17TH, 2009 AT 6:01 PM
Over at OPE: Women Entrepreneurs & the New Foundation
Posted by Katherine Brandon
On Wednesday, the White House Office of Public Engagement welcomed over a hundred women entrepreneurs for a meeting to discuss the President's agenda and share ideas. Head over to the OPE blog, where you can learn more about it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Cabinet Secretary’s Visit Draws Volunteers to AZ Homeless Shelter

FRIDAY, JULY 17TH, 2009 AT 2:00 PM
A Cabinet Secretary’s Visit Draws Volunteers to AZ Homeless Shelter
Posted by Nicola Goren
This piece from the Arizona Republic just scratches the surface of a great story of service, and how we can help increase volunteerism around the nation.

Publicity from U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's recent tour of the La Mesita Family Shelter for homeless families in west Mesa was intended to help launch President Obama's volunteerism program, United We Serve [sic] locally, but it [also] helped A New Leaf, which operates the shelter, attract more volunteers. The program's goal is to stimulate more volunteerism, with Americans helping each other, especially during the recession.

After Secretary Locke's June 22 visit, A New Leaf received 10 calls from new volunteers who had read newspaper stories about the event or heard about it on television reports. Volunteers from Sun Valley Community Church in Gilbert called to discuss ideas for a group community service project, and four Eagle Scout candidates called in one week to do community service (they usually receive about two calls a month).

The Mesa-based non-profit operates 20 facilities valleywide, including two shelters in the East Valley, La Mesita and the East Valley Men's Center. It also operates Faith House, a domestic violence and transitional housing program in Glendale. The organization served 30,000 people last year and volunteers contributed 20,000 hours of service.

Like many nonprofits, A New Leaf has found that even with the blessing of a recent surge in volunteers, they need still more. In a tough economy, demand for services is rising while financial resources are declining, leaving volunteer manpower the only viable way to bridge the gap. To address this challenge all across America, the White House and the Corporation for National and Community Service have joined forces to create, a quick and easy way to connect organizations with potential volunteers. Groups can post their needs on the site, and anyone interested in serving can find a list of the volunteer opportunities right in your community simply by entering your zip code – or you can create your own volunteer projects with easy-to-use tool kits.

It’s all part of "United We Serve," a nationwide service initiative to help meet growing social needs resulting from the economic downturn. With the knowledge that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things when given the proper tools, President Obama is asking us to come together to help lay a new foundation for growth. This initiative aims to both expand the impact of existing organizations by steering new volunteers their way, and encourage new volunteers to develop their own "do-it-yourself" projects. United We Serve is starting with an initial 81 day burst of service, culminating in a day of celebration and commemoration on September 11, but it will grow into a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to promote service as a way of life for all Americans.

Nicola Goren is the Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service



Gostinny Dvor
Moscow, Russia

12:13 P.M. (Local)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Well, congratulations, Oxana. And to the entire Class of 2009, congratulations to you. I don't know if anybody else will meet their future wife or husband in class like I did, but I'm sure that you're all going to have wonderful careers.

I want to acknowledge a few people who are here. We have President Mikhail Gorbachev is here today, and I want everybody to give him a big round of applause. (Applause.) I want to thank Sergei Gurief, Director of the New Economic School. (Applause.) Max Boiko, their Chairman of the Board. (Applause.) And Arkady Dvorkovich, who is the NES board member, President of the Alumni Association and is doing an excellent job for President Medvedev, because he was in our meeting yesterday. (Applause.)

Good morning. It is a great honor for me to join you at the New Economic School. Michelle and I are so pleased to be in Moscow. And as somebody who was born in Hawaii, I'm glad to be here in July instead of January. (Laughter and applause.)

I know that NES is a young school, but I speak to you today with deep respect for Russia's timeless heritage. Russian writers have helped us understand the complexity of the human experience, and recognize eternal truths. Russian painters, composers, and dancers have introduced us to new forms of beauty. Russian scientists have cured disease, sought new frontiers of progress, and helped us go to space.

These are contributions that are not contained by Russia's borders, as vast as those borders are. Indeed, Russia's heritage has touched every corner of the world, and speaks to the humanity that we share. That includes my own country, which has been blessed with Russian immigrants for decades; we've been enriched by Russian culture, and enhanced by Russian cooperation. And as a resident of Washington, D.C., I continue to benefit from the contributions of Russians -- specifically, from Alexander Ovechkin. We're very pleased to have him in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

Here at NES, you have inherited this great cultural legacy, but your focus on economics is no less fundamental to the future of humanity. As Pushkin said, "Inspiration is needed in geometry just as much as poetry." And today, I want particularly to speak to those of you preparing to graduate. You're poised to be leaders in academia and industry; in finance and government. But before you move forward, it's worth reflecting on what has already taken place during your young lives.

Like President Medvedev and myself, you're not old enough to have witnessed the darkest hours of the Cold War, when hydrogen bombs were tested in the atmosphere, and children drilled in fallout shelters, and we reached the brink of nuclear catastrophe. But you are the last generation born when the world was divided. At that time, the American and Soviet armies were still massed in Europe, trained and ready to fight. The ideological trenches of the last century were roughly in place. Competition in everything from astrophysics to athletics was treated as a zero-sum game. If one person won, then the other person had to lose.

And then, within a few short years, the world as it was ceased to be. Now, make no mistake: This change did not come from any one nation. The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.

With the end of the Cold War, there were extraordinary expectations -- for peace and for prosperity; for new arrangements among nations, and new opportunities for individuals. Like all periods of great change, it was a time of ambitious plans and endless possibilities. But, of course, things don't always work out exactly as planned. Back in 1993, shortly after this school opened, one NES student summed up the difficulty of change when he told a reporter, and I quote him: "The real world is not so rational as on paper." The real world is not so rational as on paper.

Over two tumultuous decades, that truth has been borne out around the world. Great wealth has been created, but it has not eliminated vast pockets of crushing poverty. Poverty exists here, it exists in the United States, and it exists all around the world. More people have gone to the ballot box, but too many governments still fail to protect the rights of their people. Ideological struggles have diminished, but they've been replaced by conflicts over tribe and ethnicity and religion. A human being with a computer can hold the same amount of information stored in the Russian State Library, but that technology can also be used to do great harm.

In a new Russia, the disappearance of old political and economic restrictions after the end of the Soviet Union brought both opportunity and hardship. A few prospered, but many more did not. There were tough times. But the Russian people showed strength and made sacrifices, and you achieved hard-earned progress through a growing economy and greater confidence. And despite painful times, many in Eastern Europe and Russia are much better off today than 20 years ago.

We see that progress here at NES -- a school founded with Western support that is now distinctly Russian; a place of learning and inquiry where the test of an idea is not whether it is Russian or American or European, but whether it works. Above all, we see that progress in all of you -- young people with a young century to shape as you see fit.

Your lifetime coincides with this era of transition. But think about the fundamental questions asked when this school was founded. What kind of future is Russia going to have? What kind of future are Russia and America going to have together? What world order will replace the Cold War? Those questions still don't have clear answers, and so now they must be answered by you -- by your generation in Russia, in America, and around the world. You get to decide. And while I cannot answer those questions for you, I can speak plainly about the future that America is seeking.

To begin with, let me be clear: America wants a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia. This belief is rooted in our respect for the Russian people, and a shared history between our nations that goes beyond competition. Despite our past rivalry, our people were allies in the greatest struggle of the last century. Recently, I noted this when I was in Normandy -- for just as men from Boston and Birmingham risked all that they had to storm those beaches and scale those cliffs, Soviet soldiers from places like Kazan and Kiev endured unimaginable hardships to repeal -- to repel an invasion, and turn the tide in the east. As President John Kennedy said, "No nation in history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union in the Second World War."

So as we honor this past, we also recognize the future benefit that will come from a strong and vibrant Russia. Think of the issues that will define your lives: security from nuclear weapons and extremism; access to markets and opportunity; health and the environment; an international system that protects sovereignty and human rights, while promoting stability and prosperity. These challenges demand global partnership, and that partnership will be stronger if Russia occupies its rightful place as a great power.

Yet unfortunately, there is sometimes a sense that old assumptions must prevail, old ways of thinking; a conception of power that is rooted in the past rather than in the future. There is the 20th century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another. And there is a 19th century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another.

These assumptions are wrong. In 2009, a great power does not show strength by dominating or demonizing other countries. The days when empires could treat sovereign states as pieces on a chess board are over. As I said in Cairo, given our independence, any world order that -- given our interdependence, any world order that tries to elevate one nation or one group of people over another will inevitably fail. The pursuit of power is no longer a zero-sum game -- progress must be shared.

That's why I have called for a "reset" in relations between the United States and Russia. This must be more than a fresh start between the Kremlin and the White House -- though that is important and I've had excellent discussions with both your President and your Prime Minister. It must be a sustained effort among the American and Russian people to identify mutual interests, and expand dialogue and cooperation that can pave the way to progress.

This will not be easy. It's difficult to forge a lasting partnership between former adversaries, it's hard to change habits that have been ingrained in our governments and our bureaucracies for decades. But I believe that on the fundamental issues that will shape this century, Americans and Russians share common interests that form a basis for cooperation. It is not for me to define Russia's national interests, but I can tell you about America's national interests, and I believe that you will see that we share common ground.

First, America has an interest in reversing the spread of nuclear weapons and preventing their use.

In the last century, generations of Americans and Russians inherited the power to destroy nations, and the understanding that using that power would bring about our own destruction. In 2009, our inheritance is different. You and I don't have to ask whether American and Russian leaders will respect a balance of terror -- we understand the horrific consequences of any war between our two countries. But we do have to ask this question: We have to ask whether extremists who have killed innocent civilians in New York and in Moscow will show that same restraint. We have to ask whether 10 or 20 or 50 nuclear-armed nations will protect their arsenals and refrain from using them.

This is the core of the nuclear challenge in the 21st century. The notion that prestige comes from holding these weapons, or that we can protect ourselves by picking and choosing which nations can have these weapons, is an illusion. In the short period since the end of the Cold War, we've already seen India, Pakistan, and North Korea conduct nuclear tests. Without a fundamental change, do any of us truly believe that the next two decades will not bring about the further spread of these nuclear weapons?

That's why America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons. That is consistent with our commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That is our responsibility as the world's two leading nuclear powers. And while I know this goal won't be met soon, pursuing it provides the legal and moral foundation to prevent the proliferation and eventual use of nuclear weapons.

We're already taking important steps to build this foundation. Yesterday, President Medvedev and I made progress on negotiating a new treaty that will substantially reduce our warheads and delivery systems. We renewed our commitment to clean, safe and peaceful nuclear energy, which must be a right for all nations that live up to their responsibilities under the NPT. And we agreed to increase cooperation on nuclear security, which is essential to achieving the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material within four years.

As we keep our own commitments, we must hold other nations accountable for theirs. Whether America or Russia, neither of us would benefit from a nuclear arms race in East Asia or the Middle East. That's why we should be united in opposing North Korea's efforts to become a nuclear power, and opposing Iran's efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon. And I'm pleased that President Medvedev and I agreed upon a joint threat assessment of the ballistic challenges -- ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century, including from Iran and North Korea.

This is not about singling out individual nations -- it's about the responsibilities of all nations. If we fail to stand together, then the NPT and the Security Council will lose credibility, and international law will give way to the law of the jungle. And that benefits no one. As I said in Prague, rules must be binding, violations must be punished, and words must mean something.

The successful enforcement of these rules will remove causes of disagreement. I know Russia opposes the planned configuration for missile defense in Europe. And my administration is reviewing these plans to enhance the security of America, Europe and the world. And I've made it clear that this system is directed at preventing a potential attack from Iran. It has nothing to do with Russia. In fact, I want to work together with Russia on a missile defense architecture that makes us all safer. But if the threat from Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile program is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated, and that is in our mutual interests.

Now, in addition to securing the world's most dangerous weapons, a second area where America has a critical national interest is in isolating and defeating violent extremists.

For years, al Qaeda and its affiliates have defiled a great religion of peace and justice, and ruthlessly murdered men, women and children of all nationalities and faiths. Indeed, above all, they have murdered Muslims. And these extremists have killed in Amman and Bali; Islamabad and Kabul; and they have the blood of Americans and Russians on their hands. They're plotting to kill more of our people, and they benefit from safe havens that allow them to train and operate -- particularly along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

And that's why America has a clear goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We seek no bases, nor do we want to control these nations. Instead, we want to work with international partners, including Russia, to help Afghans and Pakistanis advance their own security and prosperity. And that's why I'm pleased that Russia has agreed to allow the United States to supply our coalition forces through your territory. Neither America nor Russia has an interest in an Afghanistan or Pakistan governed by the Taliban. It's time to work together on behalf of a different future -- a future in which we leave behind the great game of the past and the conflict of the present; a future in which all of us contribute to the security of Central Asia.

Now, beyond Afghanistan, America is committed to promoting the opportunity that will isolate extremists. We are helping the Iraqi people build a better future, and leaving Iraq to the Iraqis. We're pursuing the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living in peace and security. We're partnering with Muslim communities around the world to advance education, health, and economic development. In each of these endeavors, I believe that the Russian people share our goals, and will benefit from success -- and we need to partner together.

Now, in addition to these security concerns, the third area that I will discuss is America's interest in global prosperity. And since we have so many economists and future businessmen and women in the room, I know this is of great interest to you.

We meet in the midst of the worst global recession in a generation. I believe that the free market is the greatest force for creating and distributing wealth that the world has known. But wherever the market is allowed to run rampant -- through excessive risk-taking, a lack of regulation, or corruption -- then all are endangered, whether we live on the Mississippi or on the Volga.

In America, we're now taking unprecedented steps to jumpstart our economy and reform our system of regulation. But just as no nation can wall itself off from the consequences of a global crisis, no one can serve as the sole engine of global growth. You see, during your lives, something fundamental has changed. And while this crisis has shown us the risks that come with change, that risk is overwhelmed by opportunity.

Think of what's possible today that was unthinkable two decades ago. A young woman with an Internet connection in Bangalore, India can compete with anybody anywhere in the world. An entrepreneur with a start-up company in Beijing can take his business global. An NES professor in Moscow can collaborate with colleagues at Harvard or Stanford. That's good for all of us, because when prosperity is created in India, that's a new market for our goods; when new ideas take hold in China, that pushes our businesses to innovate; when new connections are forged among people, all of us are enriched.

There is extraordinary potential for increased cooperation between Americans and Russians. We can pursue trade that is free and fair and integrated with the wider world. We can boost investment that creates jobs in both our countries, we can forge partnerships on energy that tap not only traditional resources, like oil and gas, but new sources of energy that will drive growth and combat climate change. All of that, Americans and Russians can do together.

Now, government can promote this cooperation, but ultimately individuals must advance this cooperation, because the greatest resource of any nation in the 21st century is you. It's people; it's young people especially. And the country which taps that resource will be the country that will succeed. That success depends upon economies that function within the rule of law. As President Medvedev has rightly said, a mature and effective legal system is a condition for sustained economic development. People everywhere should have the right to do business or get an education without paying a bribe. Whether they are in America or Russia or Africa or Latin America, that's not a American idea or a Russian idea -- that's how people and countries will succeed in the 21st century.

And this brings me to the fourth issue that I will discuss -- America's interest in democratic governments that protect the rights of their people.

By no means is America perfect. But it is our commitment to certain universal values which allows us to correct our imperfections, to improve constantly, and to grow stronger over time. Freedom of speech and assembly has allowed women, and minorities, and workers to protest for full and equal rights at a time when they were denied. The rule of law and equal administration of justice has busted monopolies, shut down political machines that were corrupt, ended abuses of power. Independent media have exposed corruption at all levels of business and government. Competitive elections allow us to change course and hold our leaders accountable. If our democracy did not advance those rights, then I, as a person of African ancestry, wouldn't be able to address you as an American citizen, much less a President. Because at the time of our founding, I had no rights -- people who looked like me. But it is because of that process that I can now stand before you as President of the United States.

So around the world, America supports these values because they are moral, but also because they work. The arc of history shows that governments which serve their own people survive and thrive; governments which serve only their own power do not. Governments that represent the will of their people are far less likely to descend into failed states, to terrorize their citizens, or to wage war on others. Governments that promote the rule of law, subject their actions to oversight, and allow for independent institutions are more dependable trading partners. And in our own history, democracies have been America's most enduring allies, including those we once waged war with in Europe and Asia -- nations that today live with great security and prosperity.

Now let me be clear: America cannot and should not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country. And we haven't always done what we should have on that front. Even as we meet here today, America supports now the restoration of the democratically-elected President of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies. We do so not because we agree with him. We do so because we respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders, whether they are leaders we agree with or not.

And that leads me to the final area that I will discuss, which is America's interest in an international system that advances cooperation while respecting the sovereignty of all nations.

State sovereignty must be a cornerstone of international order. Just as all states should have the right to choose their leaders, states must have the right to borders that are secure, and to their own foreign policies. That is true for Russia, just as it is true for the United States. Any system that cedes those rights will lead to anarchy. That's why we must apply this principle to all nations -- and that includes nations like Georgia and Ukraine. America will never impose a security arrangement on another country. For any country to become a member of an organization like NATO, for example, a majority of its people must choose to; they must undertake reforms; they must be able to contribute to the Alliance's mission. And let me be clear: NATO should be seeking collaboration with Russia, not confrontation.

And more broadly, we need to foster cooperation and respect among all nations and peoples. As President of the United States, I will work tirelessly to protect America's security and to advance our interests. But no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century on its own, nor dictate its terms to the world. That is something that America now understands, just as Russia understands. That's why America seeks an international system that lets nations pursue their interests peacefully, especially when those interests diverge; a system where the universal rights of human beings are respected, and violations of those rights are opposed; a system where we hold ourselves to the same standards that we apply to other nations, with clear rights and responsibilities for all.

There was a time when Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin could shape the world in one meeting. Those days are over. The world is more complex today. Billions of people have found their voice, and seek their own measure of prosperity and self-determination in every corner of the planet. Over the past two decades, we've witnessed markets grow, wealth spread, and technology used to build -- not destroy. We've seen old hatreds pass, illusions of differences between people lift and fade away; we've seen the human destiny in the hands of more and more human beings who can shape their own destinies. Now, we must see that the period of transition which you have lived through ushers in a new era in which nations live in peace, and people realize their aspirations for dignity, security, and a better life for their children. That is America's interest, and I believe that it is Russia's interest as well.

I know that this future can seem distant. Change is hard. In the words of that NES student back in 1993, the real world is not so rational as on paper. But think of the change that has unfolded with the passing of time. One hundred years ago, a czar ruled Russia, and Europe was a place of empire. When I was born, segregation was still the law of the land in parts of America, and my father's Kenya was still a colony. When you were born, a school like this would have been impossible, and the Internet was only known to a privileged few.

You get to decide what comes next. You get to choose where change will take us, because the future does not belong to those who gather armies on a field of battle or bury missiles in the ground; the future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create. That is the source of power in this century. And given all that has happened in your two decades on Earth, just imagine what you can create in the years to come.

Every country charts its own course. Russia has cut its way through time like a mighty river through a canyon, leaving an indelible mark on human history as it goes. As you move this story forward, look to the future that can be built if we refuse to be burdened by the old obstacles and old suspicions; look to the future that can be built if we partner on behalf of the aspirations we hold in common. Together, we can build a world where people are protected, prosperity is enlarged, and our power truly serves progress. And it is all in your hands. Good luck to all of you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

12:43 P.M. (Local)

Recovery in Action: AL, HI, KS, LA, NM, OH

FRIDAY, JULY 17TH, 2009 AT 10:50 AM
Recovery in Action: AL, HI, KS, LA, NM, OH
Posted by Nathan Sterken
The Recovery Act has three main goals: to stop the free fall of our economy, to create and save jobs and jumpstart our economy, and to build the foundation for long-term economic growth. The funds provided by the Recovery Act are still creating jobs across the country and helping put people to work now, but this week we highlight projects ensuring our nation’s long-term economic growth. From funding the improvement of airports in Kansas to new sources of clean energy in Hawaii, the Recovery Act is investing in the infrastructure that will keep America strong for years to come:

Alabama, Southeast Sun, 7/15/09:

Rucker Boulevard to be upgraded through funding "Though an area highway upgrade has fallen to the wayside after encountering planning difficulties, Enterprise Mayor Kenneth Boswell said a major city thoroughfare will soon be upgraded thanks to federal stimulus money. Boswell and the Enterprise City Council unanimously agreed to enter into an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation to repave Rucker Boulevard… During the repaving of Rucker Boulevard, a much sought-after traffic signal will also be installed at the intersection of Freedom Drive and Rucker Boulevard. The project, which will repave Rucker Boulevard from Reynolds Street to the Enterprise/Fort Rucker Gate, is expected to be awarded in August… City officials began lobbying for the resurfacing of Rucker Boulevard in its entirety more than two years ago and lobbying efforts were successful last year when ALDOT agreed to begin the project. The project was unfortunately cut short, however, when state funding ran low and left only one-third of Rucker Boulevard resurfaced… ‘We have had the traffic light actually warranted for quite some time, but we had to wait until there was money allocated for it,’ Boswell explained…The traffic signal, Boswell said, is another step the city is taking to make motorists safe."

Hawaii, Honolulu Advertiser, 7/16/09:

HECO to get $750,000 in wind power stimulus funds "Hawaiian Electric Co. will receive $750,000 in federal stimulus money to develop wind power initiatives, U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye announced yesterday. The grant, from the U.S. Department of Energy, will support HECO's Hawaii Utility Integration Initiatives. ‘Grants like this will help Hawai'i as we continue to strive for energy independence through the creation of renewable power solutions that utilize our unique access to wind, water, solar and other sustainable resources,’ the senators said in a statement. Wind farm projects are operating on Maui and the Big Island. Other projects are being planned for Kahuku, Maui and Lana'i."

Kansas, Associate Press, 7/16/09:

Salina airport project putting federal stimulus dollars to work "Construction is under way at the Salina airport on improvements funded partly with federal stimulus money. The work includes redeveloping the north ramp, which is part of the Salina Airport Authority's plan to provide additional services to a variety of aviation customers. Funds exceeding $830,000 were awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration. Construction will leave the airport with more than 1 million square feet of hangar, shop, office and classroom space for aviation businesses and their customers. Airport Authority executive director Tim Rogers says expects the construction project to create at least 850 aviation and aerospace jobs with an annual payroll of more than $21 million."

Louisiana, Associated Press, 7/16/09:

Louisiana gets $43M in stimulus money from EPA "The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality says the state has received $43 million to work on overdue wastewater upgrades and to fund ‘green projects.’ The money was awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency and comes through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Congress passed this year to stimulate the U.S. economy. DEQ said Wednesday that the money will be spent in 55 cities and towns in 42 parishes."

New Mexico, New Mexico Business Weekly, 7/15/09:

State gets $34.5M in stimulus water grants "Approximately $34.5 million is coming to New Mexico for water projects under the federal stimulus plan. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is awarding $15 million to the New Mexico Environment Department for the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program. Another $19.5 million will go to the New Mexico Finance Authority for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program. Both programs provide low-interest loans for water projects. The clean water program funds quality protection projects for wastewater treatment, non-point source pollution control, and watershed and estuary management. The drinking water program helps finance infrastructure improvements in drinking water systems. It emphasizes small and disadvantaged communities and programs that encourage pollution prevention as a tool for ensuring safe drinking water. About $4 billion will be awarded for wastewater infrastructure projects nationwide under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and about $2 billion will be awarded for drinking water infrastructure projects. About 20 percent of the drinking water funds are to be used for green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency improvements and other environmentally innovative projects."

Ohio, WTOV-9, 7/15/09:

Stimulus Project Underway in Harrison County "Stimulus dollars are already helping to fill in gaps in ODOT project funding. A project just under way on U.S. Route 22 in Harrison County will remove three bridges and not replace them. The area will instead be filled in with dirt and paved, reducing maintenance and inspection costs… Removing the bridges will save ODOT about $7 million over the next 35 years, plus an additional $5,000 a year in inspection and maintenance costs. This is one of the first stimulus projects in the state to break ground, and the effects can be felt in more ways than one. In total it is estimated that almost 3,000 hours will be spent on the job by union carpenters, laborers and operators."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Building a Bipartisan Consensus

THURSDAY, JULY 16TH, 2009 AT 3:59 PM
Building a Bipartisan Consensus
Posted by Katherine Brandon
Continuing his effort to deal with Senators and Representatives of both parties in good faith, the President met with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine and Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska today at the White House, where they discussed the progress of health care legislation currently being crafted by the Senate.

More Stable and Secure Health Care For Seniors

THURSDAY, JULY 16TH, 2009 AT 2:00 PM
More Stable and Secure Health Care For Seniors
Posted by Terrell McSweeny
Vice President Biden and members of the Middle Class Task Force just concluded a health care reform discussion in Alexandria, Virginia. Along with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle, and Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, the Vice President led a discussion with older Americans on how reforming health care will lower costs, cut waste, create stability and improve quality for them.

(Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a Middle Class Task Force meeting on healthcare at Dr. Oswald Durant Memorial Center in Alexandria, Virginia, Thursday, July 16, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
As health reform advances this summer, it’s important to recognize the benefits for two key groups that are all too familiar with the toll rising costs of health care are taking on their security: seniors and early retirees aged 50-64.
Seniors face increasing health care costs while living off of fixed incomes – a situation that often forces them to make tough decisions– like cutting doses of important drugs to save money. The Medicare Doughnut Hole – the gap in prescription drug coverage that millions of seniors fall into- costs seniors a total of $15 billion dollars a year.
Health care reform will help close that gap by providing deep discounts for medications for seniors who are stuck in that hole and allowing seniors to access more affordable generic drugs. Health reform will also ensure Medicare beneficiaries access to their doctors, fund 100% of preventative care, and cut the bureaucracy between seniors and their doctors by simplifying paperwork, computerizing medical records, and making sure that forms are easy to read for seniors. Health reform will prevent any insurance company from denying coverage based on a person’s underlying health status, and it will end discrimination that charges you more if you’re sick.

(Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius answers a question along with President Joe Biden during
a Middle Class Task Force meeting on healthcare at Dr. Oswald Durant Memorial Center in Alexandria,
Virginia, Thursday, July 16, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
Americans aged 50-64 are often the most at vulnerable and at risk in the current health care system. Too young for Medicare, they experience sky high insurance premiums and costs because of their age. Premiums for 50-64 year olds buying coverage on the open market were three times that of their peers who were lucky enough to have employer coverage. And that’s for people who aren’t automatically excluded because of a pre-existing condition.
Health care reform will lower costs for 50-64 year old Americans by providing assistance to employer health plans to encourage them to cover recent retirees and by giving individuals access to an insurance exchange where participants will be able to compare prices of health plans – including a public plan - and decide which option is right for them. Individuals will be eligible for help paying for insurance in the exchange based on their income. And in order to market a plan in the Exchange, insurance companies will have to comply with its rules: no denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions; no discrimination based on age; and fair prices, for good benefits.

(Vice President Joe Biden kneels on the floor to talk to a woman in a wheelchair after a Middle Class Task Force
meeting on healthcare at Dr. Oswald Durant Memorial Center in Alexandria, Virginia, Thursday, July 16, 2009.
Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
Everyone will have the security of knowing that if they lose their job, or if someone in their family develops a chronic disease or has a pre-existing condition, they will be able to find affordable health care for their families in the exchange.
Vice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force are working to ensure that as Americans age, their care is stable and secure, affordable and effective.

Terrell McSweeny is Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President

Cabinet Officials Continue to Tour Rural America

THURSDAY, JULY 16TH, 2009 AT 11:43 AM
Cabinet Officials Continue to Tour Rural America
Posted by Katherine Brandon
The Rural Tour is continuing this week, as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood head to Wisconsin today to talk about economic development. As you may remember, Secretary Vilsack is leading the Rural Tour to travel to rural communities, listen to residents and get their thoughts on recovery. The aim is to come up with the best solutions for community challenges, and let residents know how the federal government can assist them.
On Saturday, Secretary Vilsack will be joined by Energy Secretary Stephen Chu in Virginia. They will discuss carbon sequestration and weatherization as part of the President’s plan to create green jobs and focus on clean energy. The Recovery Act is allocating $4.8 billion to install insulation, fix heating and cooling systems and other repairs, to help make homes more energy-efficient. These funds will weatherize 1 million homes, which will help lower utility bills for struggling families, and provide construction jobs.
On Monday, the tour continues in Louisiana, where Secretary Vilsack will be joined by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss rural health. Health and Human Services has been awarding Recovery Act Capital Improvement Program (CIP) grants to rural health centers across America to repair and renovation facilities.
Head over to the Rural Tour blog where you can read stories from the tour, and post your thoughts.

Update: At the event in Wisconsin today, Secretary Vilsack and Secretary LaHood highlighted the importance of investing in both physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, as well as expanding broadband infrastructure in rural areas. They also discussed Recovery Act efforts underway in Wisconsin, where $375 million is available for transportation projects. The Recovery Act provides $34 million for new clean-fuel buses, vans and other equipment to improve mobility for those living in rural areas. You can read more about the event, as well as Recovery Act projects in Wisconsin, here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Over at OSTP: Suggestions from the Declassification Policy Forum on Technlogy

TUESDAY, JULY 14TH, 2009 AT 5:57 PM
Over at OSTP: Suggestions from the Declassification Policy Forum on Technlogy
Posted by Katherine Brandon
Over at the Office of Science & Technology blog, you can read the latest suggestions submitted by the public through the Declassification Policy Forum. This time, the topic was "Technology Challenges and Opportunities." These thoughtful suggestions are just the beginning of an ongoing conversation.

Investing in Education: The American Graduation Initiative

TUESDAY, JULY 14TH, 2009 AT 5:52 PM
Investing in Education: The American Graduation Initiative
Posted by Katherine Brandon
As part of his effort to build a stronger foundation that will allow us to lead in the global economy, the President announced today a historic initiative to strengthen our nation’s community colleges, and called for five million additional graduates by 2020.

Speaking at Macomb Community College in Michigan, the President stressed the importance of education to America’s prosperity:

But we also have to ensure that we're educating and preparing our people for the new jobs of the 21st century. We've got to prepare our people with the skills they need to compete in this global economy. (Applause.) Time and again, when we placed our bet for the future on education, we have prospered as a result -- by tapping the incredible innovative and generative potential of a skilled American workforce. That's what happened when President Lincoln signed into law legislation creating the land grant colleges, which not only transformed higher education, but also our entire economy. That's what took place when President Roosevelt signed the GI Bill which helped educate a generation, and ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity. That was the foundation for the American middle class.

(President Barack Obama greets the crowd at Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich.,
Tuesday, July 14, 2009. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Yesterday, we told you about the Council of Economic Advisers’ report about the future of the U.S. labor market. The report described a shift towards jobs that require greater analytical and interactive skills, and the benefits of higher education. It is expected that jobs requiring at least an associate degree will grow twice as fast as jobs requiring only a high school education. The President understands that education is fundamental to reviving our economy and strengthening our workforce, which is why he is committed to increasing graduation rates, and has asked every American to commit to at least one year of higher education:

But today I'm announcing the most significant down payment yet on reaching the goal of having the highest college graduation rate of any nation in the world. We're going to achieve this in the next 10 years. (Applause.) And it's called the American Graduation Initiative. It will reform and strengthen community colleges like this one from coast to coast so they get the resources that students and schools need -- and the results workers and businesses demand. Through this plan, we seek to help an additional 5 million Americans earn degrees and certificates in the next decade -- 5 million. (Applause.)

You may remember Dr. Biden recently spoke about the critical role of community colleges in our higher education system. Community colleges are rapidly growing, and are needed now more than ever to keep America competitive. The American Graduation Initiative will build on the strengths of community colleges and launch new initiatives and reforms that will increase their effectiveness and impact by figuring out what works and what doesn't, modernize facilities, increase graduation rates, and expand and create new online learning opportunities.
•Read the White House fact sheet on the American Graduation Initiative.
The Initiative is estimated to cost $12 billion over the next decade, but the President has outlined a plan to pay for it by cutting waste, while increasing Pell Grant scholarships and reducing the deficit:

Not since the passage of the original GI Bill and the work of President Truman's Commission on Higher Education -- which helped to double the number of community colleges and increase by seven-fold enrollment in those colleges -- have we taken such a historic step on behalf of community colleges in America. And let me be clear: We pay for this plan -- this isn't adding to the deficit; we're paying for this plan -- by ending the wasteful subsidies we currently provide to banks and private lenders for student loans. (Applause.) That will save tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years. Instead of lining the pockets of special interests, it's time this money went towards the interests of higher education in America. (Applause.) That's what my administration is committed to doing.