|Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kelly Testifies on "Export Control Reform: the Agenda Ahead"
U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Thomas Kelly testifies on "Export Control Reform: the Agenda Ahead" before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, DC on April 24, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/t/pm/rls/rm/2013/207883.htm.
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|Time: 06:10||More in News & Politics|
The Vice President hosted His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan for breakfast at the Naval Observatory today. The Vice President and the King discussed how best to advance a political transition to a peaceful, democratic post-Assad Syria where moderates are empowered. The Vice President underscored the strength of the U.S.- Jordanian relationship and noted enduring U.S. support for Jordan. The King will meet with President Obama on Friday.
1:23 P.M. EDT
MS. HAYDEN: Hi, guys. Thank you very much for joining on what I know is short notice, but we wanted to have an opportunity to provide you with a little bit of context to the letters you've seen that were sent today from the White House's Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs, Miguel Rodriguez. Those letters were to Senator McCain and Senator Levin. You've probably also seen Secretary Hagel's comments, and we just wanted to give an opportunity to answer some questions.
This call is on background attributable to a White House official. With that, I'll turn it over to your unnamed official to go ahead and get started, and then we'll take some questions.
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: Thanks, Caitlin. I'll just say a few introductory comments.
You all presumably have the letter that was sent up to the Hill; if you need it we can provide that. The letter was in response to a letter that was sent to the President yesterday, April 24th, from Senator McCain, Senator Levin, Senator Corker, Senator Menendez, Senator Chambliss, Senator Ayotte, Senator Casey and Senator Graham. And the question that was posed in that letter was: Has the Assad regime or Syrian elements associated with or supported by the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011?
I'll just highlight a few parts of the letter by way of opening, and then take your questions. What I will say is, for some time now, as you know, the President has directed the government to closely monitor the potential use of chemical weapons within Syria. Given our concern that as the situation deteriorated and the regime became more desperate, they may use some of their significant stockpiles of chemical weapons.
What we say in the letter is that our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin. This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts. For example, the chain of custody is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions.
We go on to reaffirm that the President has set a clear red line as it relates to the United States that the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups is a red line that is not acceptable to us, nor should it be to the international community. It's precisely because we take this red line so seriously that we believe there is an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria.
We are currently pressing for a comprehensive U.N. investigation that can credibly evaluate the evidence and establish what took place in association with these reports of the use of chemical weapons. At the same time as that U.N. investigation is underway -- and we're seeking to make it more comprehensive -- we're also working with our friends and allies as well as the Syrian opposition to procure, share and evaluate additional information associated with reports of use of chemical weapons so that we can establish the facts.
And I think the point here is that given the stakes involved, given how serious the situation is, and what we have learned, frankly, from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments are not alone sufficient. Only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty can then guide our decision-making and inform our leadership of the international community.
So with that, I'll move to take your questions.
Q Thanks so much for doing the call, and thank you for your service. Secretary Kerry told lawmakers today that the intelligence assessments referenced, with various degrees of confidence, two instances of chemical weapons use inside Syria. Were these the two alleged uses in Damascus and Aleppo in March? Or was this also the alleged use in Homs in December? And do you believe that President Obama's red line has been crossed?
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: Thanks for the question, Josh. Let me just say a number of things. I don't want to speak in detail about intelligence assessments, because portions of them, of course, are classified and the intelligence community is best positioned to characterize in detail their assessments. I will say, for instance, the incident in Aleppo that you referenced, in March, was one of the reports that we've been following up on, and in fact was a precipitating factor in the call for the U.N. investigation. And, in fact, the Syrian government itself said that they would support a U.N. investigation. What we've made clear is that U.N. investigation needs to be comprehensive. It needs to look into all reports of chemical weapons use, and it needs to have credible access in order to ascertain exactly what took place.
As relates to the numbers of incidents, I won't go beyond what Secretary Kerry said. Again, what we are saying is that the intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria. And we'll continue to seek to gather additional facts associated with that assessment.
On your red line question, it is absolutely the case that the President's red line is the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups. However, I also want to underscore that given how important this issue is and how important these decisions are, our standard of evidence has to build on these intelligence assessments. So the intelligence assessments inform our decision-making. We want to continue to investigate above and beyond those intelligence assessments to gather facts so that we can establish a credible and corroborated set of information that can then inform our decision-making.
So currently, again, we have benefited from a lot of rigorous intelligence work. That intelligence work is based on a mosaic of information. There is evidence associated with that, including physiological samples. At the same time, we believe it's necessary to continue to investigate to corroborate that information and to have a strong, firm, evidentiary basis for the way in which we consult our friends and allies in the international community on this issue and the way in which the President will ultimately makes decisions.
So we are continuing to do further work to establish a definitive judgment as to whether or not the red line has been crossed and to inform our decision-making about what to do next.
Q Just a point of clarification on the last -- you said you need a better or a strong, firm, evidentiary basis to do what exactly? I mean, what is on the table here, both with your allies and, as you said, for the presidential decision? What are the range of those options?
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: Sure. Thanks for the question. So, as you know, we currently have a number of lines of effort in Syria, ranging from our humanitarian assistance to our significantly-increasing, nonlethal support to the opposition. At the same time, though, the President has tasked that there be a full range of options for him to consider for additional action in Syria.
And if, again, we reach a definitive determination that this red line has been crossed based on credible, corroborated information, what we will be doing is consulting closely with our friends and allies in the international community more broadly, as well as the Syrian opposition, to determine what the best course of action is.
I don't want to get into those hypotheticals at this juncture, but suffice it to say all options are on the table in terms of our response, and it could run a broad spectrum of activity across our various lines of effort in Syria, which already include diplomatic initiatives, already include assistance to the opposition. But again, at the President's direction, there are additional options and contingencies that we prepared for that we would have to consider as we make a determination about chemical weapons use.
Q Thank you so much. Senator McCain has called on the White House to establish a safe zone for Syrian civilians. In light of this new evidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, would the White House consider that? And my second question is, the President has called on President Assad to step down. He said that he lost his legitimacy. Who does he hold responsible in this incident in terms of using chemical weapons? Is still President Assad responsible for that? Thank you.
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: Sure, let me just take the second question first. As we say in the letter, we believe -- the United States intelligence community assesses that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, again, with varying degrees of confidence. At the same time, we're seeking to establish additional facts associated with that assessment. We reference the chain of custody, so in terms of our efforts to confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions it occurred.
What we also say is that we believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime. We believe that the Assad regime maintains custody of chemical weapons within Syria, and we believe that they have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to escalate their use of violence against the Syrian people. So we are very skeptical that the reports of use of chemical weapons could be attributed to anyone other than the Assad regime in Syria given our belief that they remain in custody of those chemical weapons.
We've also made it clear that President Assad, as the leader of the Assad regime, is ultimately responsible for the security of those chemical weapons and responsible for ensuring that they are not used. So ultimately, he is accountable for any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. And President Assad and those around him should know that the world is going to continue to carefully monitor this issue and bring forward information as we have it and as we are doing today, and that ultimately, if it is established in a credible and confirmable way that there was a use of chemical weapons by the regime, we do believe that President Assad is ultimately accountable for that action.
With respect to the option that you referenced from Senator McCain, I don't want to get into a specific hypothetical scenario beyond saying that we will consummately have prepared contingency planning for different scenarios in Syria. I think the military has spoken to the fact that they do prudent planning in terms of preparing a range of options for different contingencies. But what we will ultimately do is going to be informed by what we believe is going to make the greatest difference. And that is a judgment that we want to reach not just by ourselves, but in close coordination and consultation with other countries -- beginning with our close allies, countries like the British and the French, who have closely worked with us on this issue of chemical weapons and on the issue of Syria more generally; also the countries in the region that we've been working very closely with -- Turkey, our Gulf partners, Jordan.
So this will be a process in which we not only seek to evaluate and confirm instances of use of chemical weapons, but as it relates to our response, we'll be reviewing our own contingency planning. But we'll also be in close consultations with our friends and allies as well.
Q Secretary Hagel had indicated that this conclusion, these assessments had been reached in the past 24 hours. Could you talk to us about what happened in the last 24 hours and whether you saw any change in the situations at Syrian chemical weapons depots? And also, just to clarify on your answer on Aleppo, you had said that that was one of the incidents the U.S. had been following up on. Did you mean that that is one of the two incidents that Kerry was referencing?
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: First of all, I don't want to confirm any particular incident as being confirmed at this point, given the fact that these are intelligence assessments and they're based on a broad range of information -- some of it classified. What I was confirming is that the incident in Aleppo is one that prompted further investigation and we believe merits further investigation.
With respect to your other question --
MS. HAYDEN: Margaret, this is Caitlin. Can you just repeat the other part of your question please?
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: Oh, it was Hagel, sorry, yes. So with respect to Secretary Hagel’s comment about the last 24 hours, the way I’d characterize that, Margaret, is that we are constantly reviewing our intelligence as it relates to chemical weapons. We have been doing so for several months.
I would also note that we are the ones who often raise the profile of the issue of chemical weapons precisely because we saw things that were concerning to us within Syria. And as we made clear in the letter, we raise those issues publically, we raise those issues privately in seeking to deter the use of chemical weapons.
As a part of that process, we also continually kept Congress informed of our assessments of chemical weapons and our efforts to investigate reports of the use of chemical weapons. In the last 24 hours, a determination was made to respond to the letter that we received from the several senators on an unclassified basis.
Given the fact that we have been developing additional information within our intelligence community and given the fact that we want to be responsive to Congress, to the international community and the American people on these issues, we felt it was the right and prudent thing to do to respond in an unclassified form to this letter. So we took that decision last night, and the letter was delivered to Capitol Hill this morning.
As you also have no doubt seen, we were briefing the Congress on this issue as well today in our commitment to keep them fully informed. So these are constantly updated intelligence assessments. They evolve over time as we gather more information. And the decision that was made in the last 24 hours was to finalize the assessment that we would provide, both in terms of our briefing to members of Congress today, but also in terms of deciding to respond to this letter in an unclassified fashion.
Q Thanks for doing the call. In Congress, Republicans and Democrats -- the Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, just put out a statement -- appear to believe that a red line has been crossed. And Dianne Feinstein said if action isn’t taken now, the Syrian regime will see that there’s no sanction to even limited use of chemical weapons. To what degree is the administration sensitive to the charge -- both leveled by members of Congress and a fear that is within the Syrian opposition -- that if nothing is done now, the Syrian regime, desperate, will only escalate its use of chemical weapons because nothing is being done after proof positive has been determined -- at least by several governments, and partially by ours -- and that the situation is so chaotic in Syria right now that the credible and collaborative or corroborative evidence standard the administration sets can never be reached?
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: Thanks for the question, Major. Let me just say a few things. First of all, we’re already doing a significant amount in Syria, and we recently doubled our assistance to the opposition, including direct assistance to the Syrian military coalition on the ground. So we have now $250 million worth of nonlethal assistance. Again, that will include direct support to the people who are fighting on the ground as it relates to things like meals, medical equipment, body armor and things that are directly relevant to their efforts. And we also have over $400 million in humanitarian assistance that we’re deploying and delivering into Syria as well -- as well as dealing with the refugee crisis in neighboring countries.
With respect to your question on chemical weapons, I would say that we are the ones who took the determination to come forward with our assessment as it stands today, just as we have consistently raised the profile of the issue of chemical weapons.
The other countries that you reference, I think if you were to ask them, they’ll speak for themselves, but they are very much in the same position that we are in assessing that there is evidence of the use of chemical weapons, but there needs to be further investigation so that there is a clear, corroborated and credible basis for the decisions that we need to make.
So again, it’s precisely because we take the red line seriously that we feel like there needs to be clear, factual, evidentiary basis for our decisions. And we will be continuing that investigation. And frankly, we feel like even with the chaotic situation in Syria, there are ways for us to establish the facts.
Now, the simplest way is for the U.N. investigation to have the access that it needs to do a credible investigation, and that means people being able to get in on the ground and do the evaluations necessary.
But even without that investigation, we're already working with the Syrian opposition, who can help us in corroborating reports and gathering evidence. We're working with other countries, like the British, for instance, who are also undertaking their own investigations and gathering their own information. So we are also capable of collecting further information, evaluating that information and presenting it to the public.
But I would say that given our own history with intelligence assessments, including intelligence assessments related to weapons of mass destruction, it's very important that we are able to establish this with certainty and that we are able to present information that is airtight in a public and credible fashion to underpin all of our decision-making. That is I think the threshold that is demanded given how serious this issue is.
But I think nobody should have any mistake about what our red line is. It is when we firmly establish that there has been chemical weapons use within Syria, that is not acceptable to the United States, nor is the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist organizations. And the people in Syria and the Assad regime should know that the President means what he says when he set that red line. And keep in mind, he is the one who laid down that marker. He's the one who directed that we provide this information to the public. And he's the one who directed that we do everything we can to further investigate this information so that we can establish in credible, corroborated, factual basis what exactly took place.
Q Two questions. One, could you give us any more detail on the physiological samples? Are we talking about soil samples, some other form of material? And secondly, on the question coming up, what Major asked earlier -- if you're having to wait until you establish this comprehensive case, this evidentiary case you talked about, is there a risk that Assad, who has kind of ratcheted up the use of weapons steadily throughout this war, might feel emboldened to take it to the next level? I mean, if this is something that’s going to take you weeks or even months to establish definitively, isn't there a risk that Assad will somehow see that as a pretext to go even further in his use of weapons?
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: On your first question, I don’t want to get into the details of the physiological evidence because it's still rooted in intelligence gathering. The fact is these assessments, which the intelligence community can speak to, are based on a broad mosaic of information. Some of it is physiological.
The point I'd make that's relevant here to our follow-through is that we do have the ability to gather that type of information, precisely because we are working with countries in the region and we're working with the Syrian opposition. So we continually gather that type of evidence ourselves. We do believe that the United Nations should have more direct access into Syria to form a credible investigation of their own. But in the interim, we're also going to continue to work with our friends and allies in the opposition to gather as much evidence as we can.
With respect to your second question, I think what the Assad regime needs to know is that we are watching this incredibly closely. And just the fact that we were able to establish the assessments that we already have collected points to how closely we are monitoring chemical weapons within Syria. Were he to undertake any additional use, he would be doing so under very careful monitoring from us and the international community.
With respect to the reports of use already, we are already gathering facts associated with those reports so we can establish the type of evidentiary basis that I spoke about. So I think the message to the Syrian regime should be perfectly clear, even with what we are doing today, which is that we are going to be methodical, rigorous and relentless in gathering the relevant information and putting it together so we can establish exactly what happened around these reports of chemical weapons use. And if there are any additional reports, we're similarly going to be following through on those as well, and we're going to be doing so in the context where the entire world, the international community, is focused on this issue.
So there should be no mistaking our determination not just to get to the bottom of these reports, but to send a message that as we establish the facts here and as we continue to stick to a red line that makes clear that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable to us, the United States of America is committed to following through on what the President said, which is that Bashar al-Assad and his regime will be held accountable for these types of actions. And I think we're joined by other like-minded friends and allies who share that view.
Q Can you tell us whether the physiological samples that you received are associated with any deaths?
WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: I don't want to get into the details of the physiological samples, just because they're rooted ultimately in intelligence. What I will say is that as we have a mosaic of information that informs our intelligence judgments, we also have a capability to gather this type of evidence. And that's an ongoing process that's underway.
And we're not the only ones who are engaged in that effort. We're able to speak to the Syrian opposition, for instance, in our efforts to corroborate this information. So this information picture continues to fill in. That's what informed the letter that was delivered to the Hill today. And that's what will inform our continued efforts to establish the facts of what happened associated with these reports of chemical weapons use, and associated with the broader challenge of chemical weapons in Syria in general.
I'll just conclude by saying that we, number one, will continue to be deeply engaged in the situation in Syria. And I think you've already seen the upward trajectory of our assistance and our contact with the opposition as representative of our commitment to bring about a transition in Syria. The President has been consulting with other leaders. He had the Emir of Qatar here the other day. We have King Abdullah coming here shortly. So we have an ongoing set of consultations about Syria already on chemical weapons. We'll continue to provide information to Congress and the public as we gather it.
And that's I think what you see today with the effort to be transparent with what we know, which is reflected fully in the letter that was delivered and the briefings that have been delivered on the Hill. And so we'll continue to keep people informed going forward as this situation develops.
1:49 P.M. EDT
|Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks After a Trilateral Meeting with Afghan and Pakistani Officials
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks after a trilateral meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Tervuren, Belgium on April 24, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/04/207935.htm.
|From: statevideo Views: 125 1 ratings|
|Time: 02:14||More in News & Politics|
|Administrator Shah Testifies on the USAID Budget
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah testifies on the budget for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) before the House Foreign Affairs, State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee in Washington, DC on April 24, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hhrg-113-ap04-wstate-shahr-20130424.pdf.
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|Time: 06:46||More in News & Politics|
President Barack Obama stands with former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter, at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Tex., April 25, 2013. Former First Ladies Laura Bush, left, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, are also pictured. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President and Mrs. Obama were in Dallas today for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. It was an historic occasion that brought all the living former Presidents -- Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush -- together for the first time since right before President Obama took office in 2009. They were joined by former First Ladies Roslyn Carter, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton (also a former Secretary of State, as President Obama noted) and Laura Bush.
In his remarks, President Obama highlighted the special bond that connects our past presidents, and said that despite disagreement on matters of foreign policy, all of the men on the stage with him shared "a profound respect and reverence for the men and women of our military and their families. And we are united in our determination to comfort the families of the fallen and to care for those who wear the uniform of the United States."
One year ago, the President established the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) that established an innovative new model of federal-local collaboration dedicated to assisting communities get back on their feet and create jobs by helping them better leverage federal resources and form key partnerships to implement economic visions. Teams of federal employees are embedded with seven Mayors across the country to provide tailored technical assistance to cut through red tape, increase government efficiency, and build partnerships to help local leaders implement sustainable economic plans.
A year later, we have learned a lot about collaboration, team work, and how the federal government can support local communities working as a team to get things done.
These lessons are outlined in the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Annual Report, which describes the impact of the SC2 Initiative and identifies emerging innovations that have the potential to be applied to many other communities working to strengthen their economies and job creation at the local level.
At a time when communities must accomplish more with every dollar of investment, SC2’s work in its first few years has already enabled communities to maximize the impact of more than $345 million in existing federal funds.
Bush Presidential Center
10:42 A.M. CDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Please be seated. To President Bush and Mrs. Bush; to President Clinton and now-former Secretary Clinton; to President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Bush; to President and Mrs. Carter; to current and former world leaders and all the distinguished guests here today -- Michelle and I are honored to be with you to mark this historic occasion.
This is a Texas-sized party. And that’s worthy of what we’re here to do today: honor the life and legacy of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush.
When all the living former Presidents are together, it’s also a special day for our democracy. We’ve been called “the world’s most exclusive club” -- and we do have a pretty nice clubhouse. But the truth is, our club is more like a support group. The last time we all got together was just before I took office. And I needed that. Because as each of these leaders will tell you, no matter how much you may think you’re ready to assume the office of the presidency, it’s impossible to truly understand the nature of the job until it’s yours, until you’re sitting at that desk.
And that’s why every President gains a greater appreciation for all those who served before him; for the leaders from both parties who have taken on the momentous challenges and felt the enormous weight of a nation on their shoulders. And for me, that appreciation very much extends to President Bush.
The first thing I found in that desk the day I took office was a letter from George, and one that demonstrated his compassion and generosity. For he knew that I would come to learn what he had learned -- that being President, above all, is a humbling job. There are moments where you make mistakes. There are times where you wish you could turn back the clock. And what I know is true about President Bush, and I hope my successor will say about me, is that we love this country and we do our best.
Now, in the past, President Bush has said it’s impossible to pass judgment on his presidency while he’s still alive. So maybe this is a little bit premature. But even now, there are certain things that we know for certain.
We know about the son who was raised by two strong, loving parents in Midland, famously inheriting, as he says, “my daddy’s eyes and my mother’s mouth.” (Laughter.) The young boy who once came home after a trip to a museum and proudly presented his horrified mother with a small dinosaur tailbone he had smuggled home in his pocket. (Laughter.) I’ll bet that went over great with Barbara.
We know about the young man who met the love of his life at a dinner party, ditching his plans to go to bed early and instead talking with the brilliant and charming Laura Welch late into the night.
We know about the father who raised two remarkable, caring, beautiful daughters, even after they tried to discourage him from running for President, saying, “Dad, you’re not as cool as you think you are.” (Laughter.) Mr. President, I can relate. (Laughter.) And now we see President Bush the grandfather, just beginning to spoil his brand-new granddaughter.
So we know President Bush the man. And what President Clinton said is absolutely true -- to know the man is to like the man, because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.
But we also know something about George Bush the leader. As we walk through this library, obviously we’re reminded of the incredible strength and resolve that came through that bullhorn as he stood amid the rubble and the ruins of Ground Zero, promising to deliver justice to those who had sought to destroy our way of life.
We remember the compassion that he showed by leading the global fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria, helping to save millions of lives and reminding people in some of the poorest corners of the globe that America cares and that we’re here to help.
We remember his commitment to reaching across the aisle to unlikely allies like Ted Kennedy, because he believed that we had to reform our schools in ways that help every child learn, not just some; that we have to repair a broken immigration system; and that this progress is only possible when we do it together.
Seven years ago, President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that this year, with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the senators and members of Congress who are here today, that we bring it home -- for our families, and our economy, and our security, and for this incredible country that we love. And if we do that, it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
And finally, a President bears no greater decision and no more solemn burden than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military that the world has ever known. As President Bush himself has said, “America must and will keep its word to the men and women who have given us so much." So even as we Americans may at times disagree on matters of foreign policy, we share a profound respect and reverence for the men and women of our military and their families. And we are united in our determination to comfort the families of the fallen and to care for those who wear the uniform of the United States. (Applause.)
On the flight back from Russia, after negotiating with Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy's secretary found a small slip of paper on which the President had written a favorite saying: "I know there is a God. And I see a storm coming. If he has a place for me, I believe I am ready."
No one can be completely ready for this office. But America needs leaders who are willing to face the storm head on, even as they pray for God's strength and wisdom so that they can do what they believe is right. And that’s what the leaders with whom I share this stage have all done. That’s what President George W. Bush chose to do. That’s why I'm honored to be part of today's celebration.
Mr. President, for your service, for your courage, for your sense of humor, and, most of all, for your love of country, thank you very much. From all the citizens of the United States of America, God bless you. And God bless these United States. (Applause.)
10:50 A.M. CDT
Last week, I attended the Equal Futures Partnership: From Promise to Progress event at the World Bank, to share progress made by the Obama Administration since the launch of the Equal Futures Partnership last September. The Equal Futures Partnership is a multilateral initiative that seeks to break down barriers to women’s economic empowerment and political participation so that every woman and girl can reach her full potential. It is a response to the challenge issued by President Obama in September 2011 at the UN General Assembly. He said, “Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”
For the United States, our Equal Futures commitments seek to promote four key objectives: opening doors to quality education and high-paying career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields; breaking the cycle of violence and ensuring economic security for survivors of violence; promoting civic education and public leadership for girls; and expanding support for women entrepreneurs.