The White House Blog
Posted by Jesse Lee on January 18, 2010 at 5:46 PM EST
This morning the President and the First Lady dedicated the morning to serving the community here in DC.
Posted by Jesse Lee on January 18, 2010 at 5:10 PM EST
This afternoon the President took a few hours to host a conversation with a small group of African American seniors and their grandchildren on the legacy of the civil rights movement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. They all took a moment to look over the Emancipation Proclamation, which was hung in the Oval Office over a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King.
The President gave a few brief remarks afterward:
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. We have just had a wonderful conversation. I want to just tell you a little bit about why we did this. I think sometimes in celebration of Dr. King's birthday we act as if this history was so long ago.
And the reason we brought together some elders and some young people very briefly was not just to visit the Oval Office and see the Emancipation Proclamation, which is going to be on loan to us, but it's also just to remind us that there were some extraordinarily courageous young people like Dr. Dorothy Height, like Mrs. Eleanor Banks and Romaine Thomas and her husband, and others who were actively involved in bringing about one of the great moments in United States history.
And so what we've done is we've heard some stories, shared -- Dr. Height has shared with us what it was like meeting Martin Luther King when he was a 15-year-old at Morehouse, visiting there. We heard from Ms. Glanton, Willie Glanton, who is a great activist in Iowa, about the work that she's done there on behalf of the civil rights movement, reminding us that it wasn't just isolated in some areas.
I am especially proud to have the Harveys here -- Mr. Joseph Harvey and Ms. Mabel Harvey. Mr. Joseph Harvey is 105, and Ms. Mabel Harvey here is the spry young one at 102. (Laughter.) And Ms. Harvey just now was whispering in my ear, as you guys were walking in, that this must be the Lord's doing, because we've come a mighty long way. (Laughter.) That's what she said. And so that's wonderful to hear.
We've heard from some young people who were sharing in these stories and understanding that this is a living history. And I was very pleased to hear from Taylor Branch, author of one of the definitive biographies of the civil rights movement and Dr. King. He shared, I thought, a really interesting idea, which is that not only is Dr. King's birthday a time to celebrate service, to reflect and study on how we had helped to perfect our union, but that it should be a day in which each of us individually also try to stretch out of our comfort zones and try to do something for others and to reach out and learn about things that maybe we've shied away from -- because part of what the civil rights movement was all about was changing people's hearts and minds and breaking out of old customs and old habits.
That's, I think, an important lesson for all of us on this day -- are the things that we can try to do that might have seemed impossible but we know are worth doing, and can we apply those principles that we know to be true in our own lives and our society.
So I'm just so grateful that we had this opportunity to share with everybody. And I want to wish everybody around the country a day in which they reflect on the extraordinary contributions that ordinary people can make each and every day to make America the most hopeful country in the world.
Thank you very much, everybody.
Science and Engineering Indicators 2010: A Report Card for U.S. Science, Engineering, and TechnologyPosted by Kei Koizumi on January 18, 2010 at 10:43 AM EST
Cross-posted from the OSTP blog
Today, in an event at the White House, the National Science Board released its Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 report. This report, produced every two years by the Board—the governing body for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NSF’s Division of Science Resources Statistics, is the major authoritative source of U.S. and international data on science, engineering, and technology and is packed with a wealth of indicators on research and development (R&D) spending, trends in higher education and workforce development in science and engineering (S&E) fields, public attitudes toward science and technology, and new patterns of international collaboration in research. In a way, it’s like a report card on U.S. science, engineering, and technology, comparing U.S. performance with other nations. It also tells us where the U.S. stands and compares American S&E performance to that of other nations.
The latest edition of Indicators tells us that the state of U.S. science and engineering is strong, but that U.S. dominance of world science and engineering has eroded significantly in recent years, primarily because of rapidly increasing capabilities among East Asian nations, particularly China.
OSTP Director John P. Holdren, who also serves as President Obama’s science adviser, received the 2010 edition of Indicators on behalf of the President this week and promised to put the report’s insights to good use in the Federal Government’s policymaking. OSTP, as the lead policymaking body within the White House for matters related to science, engineering, and technology, recognizes that good science and technology policy depends on reliable, comprehensive, and useful data. Indicators is the premier source of science and technology data and will enrich this Administration’s policymaking for years to come.
As Dr. Holdren has noted repeatedly, the Obama Administration is committed to evidence-based policymaking and making data used for policymaking accessible, relevant, and timely. Indeed, the President himself has on many occasions reiterated his deep appreciation of the importance of science, engineering, and technology to finding solutions to the many challenges that today face the country, including building a prosperous and innovative U.S. economy of the future, reducing dependence on foreign energy sources while mitigating the impacts of harmful climate change, and delivering high-quality health care to every American.
The Indicators report is factual and policy-neutral. But a number of Administration policies are already taking aim at the challenges outlined in the new report.
Just last week, for example, President Obama announced a new set of public-private partnerships in the“Educate to Innovate” campaign committing more than $250 million in private resources to attract, develop, reward, and retain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers. This initiative is responsive to data, presented in Chapter 1 of Indicators, showing that American 15-year-olds are losing ground in science and math achievement compared to their peers around the world.
Similarly, in his April 2009 speech at the National Academy of Sciences and on several occasions since then, President Obama set a goal for the United States to invest 3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on R&D. Chapter 4 of Indicators tells us that in 2007 the U.S. R&D/GDP ratio was 2.68 percent, with roughly one-third of that investment coming from Federal funding and two-thirds from the private sector, and that the U.S. ranks eighth in the world in this measure among major economies, some of whom—such as—Japan and South Korea—are already investing in excess of 3 percent. The Indicators report tells us why the goal is reasonable and prudent and how close we are to achieving it. Moreover, a careful reading offers a raft of ideas on how the Federal government can do its part to meet that goal.
A third example: Last month, the Administration announced a new Manufacturing Strategy, in effect a policy framework for revitalizing American manufacturing as a key component of an innovation-based U.S. economy. We have a remarkably good measure of manufacturing’s importance from Chapter 6 of Indicators, which shows us the U.S. is still, by far, the world leader in value-added manufacturing. But we also know from Indicators that recent trends haven’t been favorable for the U.S. because of the increasing importance of East Asian economies in high value-added manufacturing. Most of these data don’t yet incorporate the impacts of the global recession, but they begin to tell a worrying story. So evidence from Indicators on the decline of U.S. venture-capital funding in 2008, for example, supplemented by more recent data, help explain why increasing access to capital for new businesses is a key component of both the Administration’s Manufacturing Strategy and its broader Innovation Strategy announced by the President in September.
These are just a few examples of how the data contained in the Science and Engineering Indicators 2010report can help the Federal government make better policy. We invite you to take a look at the report for yourself—even keep a copy on your computer or desk as we do!—and make use of this rich set of data and analysis, fully accessible to the public on a very user-friendly site. Dr. Holdren and all of us at OSTP join the science, engineering, and technology community in thanking the National Science Board and the National Science Foundation for their excellent work. Our commitment is to put it to great use.
Kei Koizumi is Assistant Director for Federal Research and Development with the Office of Science and Technology Policy
Posted by Lynn Rosenthal on January 18, 2010 at 10:20 AM EST
All Americans should be heartened by the recent announcement that the Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, is strengthening its commitment to fighting crimes of violence against Native American women.
As part of broader DOJ reforms to dramatically improve public safety in tribal communities, the Attorney General recognized that though there is no "quick fix," we "must continue our efforts with federal, state, and tribal partners to identify solutions to the challenges we face." After holding listening sessions with tribal leaders across the nation, he directed all 44 U.S. Attorneys' Offices with federally recognized tribes in their districts to reinvigorate efforts to combat and prosecute violent crime, particularly against women and children. And he announced an additional $6 million to hire Assistant United States Attorneys—and additional victim specialists—to assist with the ever-growing Indian Country caseload.
After all, for Native American women, even "challenges" may be an understatement. On some reservations, violent crime is more than twenty times the national average—but women tend to suffer most. Some tribes face murder rates against Native American women of more than ten times the national average. And tribal leaders say there are countless more victims of domestic violence and sexual assault whose stories may never be told. As President Obama put it at the White House Tribal Nations Conference on November 5, "the shocking and contemptible fact that one in three Native American women will be raped in their lifetimes is an assault on our national conscience that we can no longer ignore."
The White House strongly supports efforts to strengthen the capability of law enforcement to address public safety needs on reservations, including the announced Justice Department reforms and the Tribal Law and Order Act. That's why at the Tribal Nations Conference, he commended Attorney General Holder for his efforts to ensure greater safety in tribal communities and thanked Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Byron Dorgan and Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin for their leadership on this important issue.
In his memorandum to U.S. Attorneys, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden explained why the federal government has a responsibility to address the endemic pattern of abuse, assault, and other violence that reservations across the United States face every day. Our unique legal relationship with Native American tribes mandates it. And the 1994 Violence Against Women Act authored by Vice President Biden calls for it. But our national conscience also demands justice.
Only now, we can finally come to expect it, too.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
Posted by Macon Phillips on January 17, 2010 at 10:44 PM EST
Earlier this evening, the White House released an overview of key facts and examples of government actions in response to the earthquake in Haiti. You can keep up to date with the latest news and resources on the response at the White House's dedicated webpage. Before this summary of what your government is doing, a quick reminder from former Presidents Bush and Clinton about how you can help:
All numbers below are accurate as of noon Sunday, January 17, 2010
- Contribute online through ClintonBushHaitiFund.org.
- Text “QUAKE” to 20222 to charge a $10 donation to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (the donation will be added to your cell phone bill).
- Find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information.
AIRPORTS AND AIRSPACE
- The airfield is open for 24/7 operations and has a 100-aircraft per day capacity, this is an increase from yesterday’s 60 aircraft per day capacity.
- The airport has received more than 600 short tons of supplies.
- USAF air traffic control and airfield management personnel continue to manage air operations at the airport with approval of the Government of Haiti.
- There are 30 military helicopters providing relief to the people of Haiti.
- These helicopters are operating out of nine landing zones, including five drop-off points.
- Approximately 5,800 military personnel on the ground or afloat.
- Approximately 7,500 additional military personnel are expected to arrive by 1/18.
- More than 1,000 personnel from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Haiti on 1/16.
EVACUATION AND RESCUES
- More than 250 HHS medical personnel have arrived in Haiti.
- 2 planeloads of medicine, medical equipment and supplies from HHS have arrived in Haiti with a third expected to arrive today.
- 3,840 hygiene kits taken from USAID stockpiles in Miami have arrived.
- The USNS Comfort is currently underway and expected to arrive on 1/20 with 600 medical personal on board.
FOOD AND WATER
- As of 0900 a total of 1,760 American citizens have been airlifted out of Haiti.
- USAID/DART reported that a U.S. Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team had rescued an additional three individuals at the Caribbean Market.
- As of 0900, US USAR teams have rescued 26 individuals.
- There are currently six US USAR teams operating in Haiti along with 21 international USAR teams from around the world. US teams are based out of Fairfax VA, Los Angeles CA, Miami FL (two teams), New York NY and Virginia Beach VA.
- Each USAR team includes approximately 70 team members.
Get Information about Friends or Family
- U.S. military aircraft have airlifted 130,000 humanitarian daily rations and more than 70,000 bottles of water to Port-au-Prince.
- Three water purification units are operational and can supply 180,000 liters per day.
- USS Carl Vinson continues to provide potable water production.
- U.S. military aircraft will continue to support the delivery of an additional 600,000 daily rations over the next several days.
- Six additional water purification units are scheduled to arrive in the coming days from USAID stockpiles in Dubai. Each unit provides 1000,000 liters of safe drinking water serving 10,000 people per day.
- 12,000 water containers have arrived from Miami.
- Yesterday, the U.N. World Food Program distributed high-energy biscuits to a total of 50,000 people.
- The World Food Program Port-au-Prince metropolitan areas schools feeding program is now serving hot meals to 50,000 affected people.
The State Department Operations Center has set up the following phone number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747 (due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording). You can also send an email to the State Department. Please be aware that communications within Haiti are very difficult at this time. Learn more at the State Department's dedicated page.
Posted by Jesse Lee on January 17, 2010 at 4:20 PM EST
Let it be clear up front that it is well worth considering the President's remarks today in full - by all means simply watch them in their entirety above or read the full transcript.
As he began his remarks today focused on honoring the legacy and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, President Obama spoke first about the venue in which he spoke:
Now, it's fitting that we do so here, within the four walls of Vermont Avenue Baptist Church -- here, in a church that rose like the phoenix from the ashes of the civil war; here in a church formed by freed slaves, whose founding pastor had worn the union blue; here in a church from whose pews congregants set out for marches and from whom choir anthems of freedom were heard; from whose sanctuary King himself would sermonize from time to time.
The President spoke of the time and problems that Dr. King referred to as the "Challenge of a New Age" - a time when pivotal victories of the Civil Rights struggle had been won in the courts, but when racism still persisted, and when these rulings were still defied in the South:
So it's not hard for us, then, to imagine that moment. We can imagine folks coming to this church, happy about the boycott being over. We can also imagine them, though, coming here concerned about their future, sometimes second-guessing strategy, maybe fighting off some creeping doubts, perhaps despairing about whether the movement in which they had placed so many of their hopes -- a movement in which they believed so deeply -- could actually deliver on its promise.
So here we are, more than half a century later, once again facing the challenges of a new age. Here we are, once more marching toward an unknown future, what I call the Joshua generation to their Moses generation -- the great inheritors of progress paid for with sweat and blood, and sometimes life itself.
The President went on to discuss the lessons of hope and fortitude that this "Joshua generation" could learn from that "Moses generation":
First and foremost, they did so by remaining firm in their resolve. Despite being threatened by sniper fire or planted bombs, by shoving and punching and spitting and angry stares, they adhered to that sweet spirit of resistance, the principles of nonviolence that had accounted for their success.
Second, they understood that as much as our government and our political parties had betrayed them in the past -- as much as our nation itself had betrayed its own ideals -- government, if aligned with the interests of its people, can be -- and must be -- a force for good. So they stayed on the Justice Department. They went into the courts. They pressured Congress, they pressured their President. They didn’t give up on this country. They didn’t give up on government. They didn’t somehow say government was the problem; they said, we're going to change government, we're going to make it better. Imperfect as it was, they continued to believe in the promise of democracy; in America's constant ability to remake itself, to perfect this union.
Third, our predecessors were never so consumed with theoretical debates that they couldn't see progress when it came. Sometimes I get a little frustrated when folks just don't want to see that even if we don't get everything, we're getting something. (Applause.) King understood that the desegregation of the Armed Forces didn’t end the civil rights movement, because black and white soldiers still couldn't sit together at the same lunch counter when they came home. But he still insisted on the rightness of desegregating the Armed Forces. That was a good first step -- even as he called for more. He didn’t suggest that somehow by the signing of the Civil Rights that somehow all discrimination would end. But he also didn’t think that we shouldn’t sign the Civil Rights Act because it hasn’t solved every problem. Let's take a victory, he said, and then keep on marching. Forward steps, large and small, were recognized for what they were -- which was progress.
Fourth, at the core of King's success was an appeal to conscience that touched hearts and opened minds, a commitment to universal ideals -- of freedom, of justice, of equality -- that spoke to all people, not just some people. For King understood that without broad support, any movement for civil rights could not be sustained. That's why he marched with the white auto worker in Detroit. That's why he linked arm with the Mexican farm worker in California, and united people of all colors in the noble quest for freedom.
Of course, King overcame in other ways as well. He remained strategically focused on gaining ground -- his eyes on the prize constantly -- understanding that change would not be easy, understand that change wouldn't come overnight, understanding that there would be setbacks and false starts along the way, but understanding, as he said in 1956, that "we can walk and never get weary, because we know there is a great camp meeting in the promised land of freedom and justice."
Even more broadly, he spoke to two of the defining principles both of the Civil Rights era and the entire history of this nation - hard work, and faith.
On hard work:
Progress will only come if we're willing to promote that ethic of hard work, a sense of responsibility, in our own lives. I'm not talking, by the way, just to the African American community. Sometimes when I say these things people assme, well, he's just talking to black people about working hard. No, no, no, no. I'm talking to the American community. Because somewhere along the way, we, as a nation, began to lose touch with some of our core values. You know what I'm talking about. We became enraptured with the false prophets who prophesized an easy path to success, paved with credit cards and home equity loans and get-rich-quick schemes, and the most important thing was to be a celebrity; it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get on TV. That's everybody.
And on faith:
It's faith that gives me peace. The same faith that leads a single mother to work two jobs to put a roof over her head when she has doubts. The same faith that keeps an unemployed father to keep on submitting job applications even after he's been rejected a hundred times. The same faith that says to a teacher even if the first nine children she's teaching she can't reach, that that 10th one she's going to be able to reach. The same faith that breaks the silence of an earthquake's wake with the sound of prayers and hymns sung by a Haitian community. A faith in things not seen, in better days ahead, in Him who holds the future in the hollow of His hand. A faith that lets us mount up on wings like eagles; lets us run and not be weary; lets us walk and not faint.
So let us hold fast to that faith, as Joshua held fast to the faith of his fathers, and together, we shall overcome the challenges of a new age. (Applause.) Together, we shall seize the promise of this moment. Together, we shall make a way through winter, and we're going to welcome the spring. Through God all things are possible. (Applause.)
May the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King continue to inspire us and ennoble our world and all who inhabit it. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
Posted by Kaye Sweetser on January 16, 2010 at 6:38 PM EST
Responding to the President's call, the U.S. Navy moved at top speed to ready ships, load them with supplies and steam toward Haiti to provide humanitarian assistance after the devastating earthquake there Tuesday.
Already on station, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and her Sailors have been providing hospital services, along with a much needed aviation platform.
Navy Aviation Boatswain's Mate Handling (AW) Lisa Gurnick is a 21-year-old Sailor from Brunswick, Ohio stationed aboard USS Vinson and works on the flight deck. She said Friday that she felt honored to be a part of this mission.
"This is exactly why I joined the Navy, to help other people, and now I'm getting to do that," began Gurnick. "We are on board an aircraft carrier that normally carries a large number of fixed-wing aircraft, but right now we are fully loaded with helicopters. We are working long hours right now and getting up early, but we are a strong team working together and I feel like we have such a clear purpose and mission. This (Friday) morning I have been working to launch and land helicopters as they are loaded up with water, medicine and people to fly into Haiti."
The humanitarian aid doesn't stop there.
As of Saturday, the Navy had nine ships scheduled to support the people of Haiti through air, hospital and supply operations. The forces are creating a "sea base" for staging humanitarian operations to provide assistance as quickly as possible. A testament to the naval forces agile operational ability, these ships combined can produce more than 900,000 gallons of water each day, a portion of which can be taken ashore to help relieve some suffering in Haiti. USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, left Baltimore on Saturday morning after assembling a floating hospital of crew and supplies from around the nation. The ship has 250 hospital beds, four operation rooms and more than 500 medical staff.
As the Navy arrives ready on station, you can follow the naval forces humanitarian assistance on the official U.S. Navy Facebook page.
Lieutenant Kaye Sweetser serves in the United States Navy
Posted by Macon Phillips on January 16, 2010 at 12:40 PM EST
"How can I help?"
That's what former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both asked as the devastating impact of theearthquake in Haiti became clear. This question brought them to a place they both know well, the Oval Office. There they met with President Obama and agreed to lead a major fundraising effort for relief: the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
In the Rose Garden just after the meeting, President Bush touched on the work that's already being done and the best way for Americans to help:
The challenges down there are immense, but there's a lot of devoted people leading the relief effort, from government personnel who deployed into the disaster zone to the faith-based groups that have made Haiti a calling.
The most effective way for Americans to help the people of Haiti is to contribute money. That money will go to organizations on the ground and will be -- who will be able to effectively spend it. I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water -- just send your cash. One of the things that the President and I will do is to make sure your money is spent wisely. As President Obama said, you can look us up onclintonbushhaitifund.org.
President Clinton reaffirmed his optimism for Haiti's future, despite this enormous challenge for the country:
I believe before this earthquake Haiti had the best chance in my lifetime to escape its history -- a history that Hillary and I have shared a tiny part of. I still believe that. The Haitians want to just amend their development plan to take account of what's happened in Port-au-Prince and west, figure out what they got to do about that, and then go back to implementing it. But it's going to take a lot of help and a long time.
President Obama summed up the importance of the sustained attention and support the two former Presidents will champion:
In any extraordinary catastrophe like this, the first several weeks are just going to involve getting immediate relief on the ground. And there are going to be some tough days over the next several days. People are still trying to figure out how to organize themselves. There's going to be fear, anxiety, a sense of desperation in some cases.
I've been in contact with President Préval. I've been talking to the folks on the ground. We are going to be making slow and steady progress, and the key now is to -- for everybody in Haiti to understand that there is going to be sustained help on the way.
But what these gentlemen are going to be able to do is when the news media starts seeing its attention drift to other things but there's still enormous needs on the ground, these two gentlemen of extraordinary stature I think are going to be able to help ensure that these efforts are sustained. And that's why it's so important and that's why I'm so grateful that they agreed to do it.
Posted by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on January 16, 2010 at 12:00 PM EST
National Influenza Vaccination Week is coming to a close. It was a great week. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its partners announced a number of new initiatives and held events across the country designed to spread the word about the importance of getting the H1N1 flu vaccine.
The fact is that flu season is unpredictable and we don’t know whether there will be additional waves of flu illness. H1N1 is still circulating, it’s still dangerous, and there are still lives to be saved. That’s why it’s so critical for everyone to get vaccinated.
And we need your help. So, today, I am challenging you to become a “Flu Fighter” on Facebook.
Earlier this week, we launched a new Facebook application called “I’m a Flu Fighter.” This application allows users to select a Flu Fighting character and tell their friends that they received the flu vaccination and urge others to do the same. Users can also learn more about the flu vaccine and use the vaccine locator to find a clinic nearby where they can get vaccinated.
People often rely on the advice of close friends and family when it comes to personal matters of health. Through emerging social media tools like Facebook, we can share updates with our friends and family and promote positive health behaviors. This application gives people a fun way to encourage friends and family to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself, and as a Flu Fighter, you are also helping to protect the people around you. It’s also particularly important right now, since we’re only at the beginning of the ordinary flu season.
If one person tells 5 friends, and they tell 5 friends each, and each of those friends tells another 5 friends, that is already 156 people. Imagine how many people we could encourage to get vaccinated if we each told just 5 friends -- or, even better, all of our Facebook friends. Together we can be Flu Fighters, and protect our families, friends, and communities from the flu, one vaccination at a time.
Become a Flu Fighter by trying out the application, and visit our Facebook page to become a fan of fighting the flu.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Posted by Jesse Lee on January 16, 2010 at 6:00 AM EST
As the President continues to work on immediate job creation, he discusses his proposal for a new fee on the largest financial institutions to ensure that every cent of taxpayer assistance gets paid back. Saying that, "we're not going to let Wall Street take the money and run," he then discusses the ongoing push to make sure banks can never put our economy at risk again.