On May 16th, the White House is kicking off “We the Geeks,” a new series of Google+ Hangouts to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation here in the United States. Topics such as commercial space exploration, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, turning science fiction to science fact, and others will be discussed with Administration officials and key private sector contributors.
The first "We the Geeks" Hangout will focus on Grand Challenges, ambitious goals on a national or global scale that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology. Grand Challenges are an important element of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. On April 2nd, the President called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join with him in identifying and pursuing the Grand Challenges of the 21st century.
|Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks With Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm, Sweden on May 14, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/05/209352.htm.
|From: statevideo Views: 425 7 ratings|
|Time: 19:31||More in News & Politics|
President Obama called Prime Minister Najib on the evening of May 13 to congratulate him on his victory in parliamentary elections and to reaffirm the strong bonds of friendship between the United States and Malaysia. The President noted that Malaysians had turned out in record numbers to vote and welcomed the Prime Minister’s efforts to address concerns about election irregularities. The two leaders discussed the importance of continuing to deepen our bilateral cooperation, including on expanding cooperation on trade, regional security, and multilateral cooperation.
On Friday, May 17th at 10:00am MT (12:00pm ET), Dr. Biden will give the commencement address to the 33rd graduating class of Navajo Technical College (NTC) -- one of two tribal colleges serving the Navajo Nation.
Many of the programs at NTC are designed to help create new jobs and economic opportunities on or near the Navajo Nation, while equipping their students with the skills they need to succeed in those jobs.
You can watch live using the video player below.
(Jeff Martin, National Women’s Law Center)
During his State of the Union address in February, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every four-year old in America. As the President put it that day:
In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure to meet with mothers, leaders, and tireless advocates that understand that the best investment we can make as a country is in our children’s future.
The coalition came to the White House to deliver 30,000 letters and art work thanking the President for his proposal to make high-quality preschool available for all children – and I used the opportunity to thank them for all their hard work, and to hear from them about the work they continue to do advocating for children.
They understand that for every dollar spent on high-quality early education, we save more than seven dollars in the long run by boosting kindergarten readiness, graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, and even reducing violent crime. They also understand that providing our children with the best start possible in life is not only a moral imperative, but an economic imperative that will benefit our communities and our nation far into the future.
|Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks With Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Rome, Italy on May 9, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/05/209170.htm.
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|Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks With Italian Foreign Minister Bonino
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks with Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino in Rome, Italy on May 9, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/05/209205.htm.
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|Time: 29:35||More in News & Politics|
|Vice President Biden Delivers Remarks the 43rd Conference on the Americas
Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the 43rd Conference on the Americas at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on May 8, 2013.
|From: statevideo Views: 49 4 ratings|
|Time: 30:37||More in News & Politics|
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York
8:29 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. Please, everybody have a seat.
Well, first of all, thank you so much, Steve Israel, not only for the wonderful introduction, but I love the story of your grandparents. And so often we spend time thinking about how we got into this strange business -- (laughter) -- but so often it traces back to the values that were passed on generation through generation. And to hear that story I think affirms not only why you’re such an outstanding Congressman but also the kind of man you are. And so we’re thrilled to have you here, and just the great job you’re doing on behalf of the DCCC. So give Steve a big round of applause. (Applause.)
I want to say thank you to somebody who has been a great friend -- if you are in a foxhole, this is the person you want with you -- the soon-to-be-again Speaker of the House, Leader Nancy Pelosi. We love Nancy. (Applause.)
And one of my favorite senators -- just a guy who everybody who meets him says, that guy, he’s just solid, sincere, hardworking, a wonderful family and has really helped to transform politics in Colorado -- Michael Bennet. Give Michael a big round of applause. (Applause.)
And of course, I want to acknowledge all the outstanding members of the New York delegation who are here. But I’ve got to give a special shout-out to somebody who is helping to engineer some of the most important legislative agenda items that we’ve got in my second term; could not be prouder of him -- Chuck Schumer. Give Chuck a big round of applause. (Applause.)
So over the last month, we’ve gone through some tough times in this country. Obviously, we saw the horrific bombing of the Boston Marathon. I had traveled down to a tiny town in West, Texas to deal with the aftermath of a terrible explosion there that had such a devastating impact on the city. It’s hard to find two communities more different than Boston, Massachusetts and West, Texas, I assure you. (Laughter.) And yet, what was striking about that very difficult, challenging week was the consistency of spirit from Boston all the way to West, Texas.
And I remember being in a car with Deval Patrick, the outstanding mayor of -- Governor of Massachusetts, and we were driving to a memorial service and we were talking about the emergency response and how first responders who were actually running in the race all ran to the site of the explosion, and how the hospitals and doctors responded magnificently to sort through who would go where to maximize their ability to care for the victims, and the people who were driving runners to their homes -- complete strangers -- because of everything that had happened. And what Deval and I agreed on was that in times of tragedy, in the midst of just terrible pain, there’s something about the American spirit that just rises up.
And it’s not just resilience. There is a generosity and a sense of neighborliness and an insistence on doing the right thing and thinking about others. And Deval and I talked about how this is a constant in America, and it’s not just during tragedies, not just during crises. You can see it out on a Little League field where parents are out there volunteering. You see it in churches and synagogues and mosques and temples all across the country. You see it in neighbors helping neighbors, and you see it in workplaces where workers are taking pride of great American products and services that they’re creating, helping to build a nation.
But the one thing Deval and I agreed on was that we’re not seeing enough of it in our politics, and we’re certainly not seeing enough of it in Washington. And one of the things that a second term affords you is a little bit of perspective, because I don’t have to run again, as Michelle happily reminds me. (Laughter.) And I’ve been through some tough battles over the last four years, and then my time in the Senate before that. And you’re able to project out a little bit into the future.
And precisely because of that spirit that was evident in West, Texas and in Boston, I’ve probably never been more optimistic about America. Having gone through these extraordinary hardships -- worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; the financial system on the verge of meltdown; dealing with two wars and all the losses associated with that and the enormous strains on our budget -- we are now in the process of having cleared out the rubble.
And although we are nowhere near where we need to be, given everything that we’ve gone through, we have seen job growth for almost three consecutive years now. We have seen the economy growing. We have seen people’s 401(k)s and investments on Wall Street restored. We’ve seen health care costs grow at a slower pace over the last three years than any time in the last 50 years. We are in the process of implementing and making sure that millions of people all across the country finally get affordable health care that they’ve never had. (Applause.)
We have doubled the production of clean, renewable energy and our traditional natural gas and oil deposits have been tapped with new technology in ways that will probably lead us to be a net exporter of natural gas within the next five to ten years. (Applause.)
And housing, which was probably the biggest drag on our economy, is steadily beginning to recover. And so across the board, there are all these signs of progress. And that’s the American spirit at work. That’s the American people -- through grit and determination and a vision of possibility, just brick by brick, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city, state by state rebuilding.
And when I travel internationally -- I took a trip down to Mexico -- and met with not only the new Mexican President but also leaders of Central American countries. What was striking is that in a part of the world where in the past there had been times where there had been suspicions directed at the United States and what our motives were, there’s an enormous hunger to engage in trade and commerce and cooperation to deal with these transnational drug networks, and a genuine sense of not just the desire, but the need for American leadership -- not a leadership that dictates, not a leadership that seeks simply to impose our will on others, but a leadership in which we are convening and collaborating and partnering, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
And so the bottom line is, when I canvas the world, there is no nation that we would want to trade hands with. And there’s no nation that secretly -- they couldn't admit it -- wouldn’t mind having the hand that we’re holding. And the only thing that’s holding us back -- the only thing that’s holding us back -- is a spirit in Washington that isn't reflective of the spirit of the American people; a spirit in Washington that’s more interested in game-playing than getting things done -- (applause) -- a spirit in Washington that is more concerned about the next election than the next generation. And that has to change. And that’s why you’re here tonight -- because you know it has to change.
We’ve got more work to do. And I spelled out in my inauguration, I spelled out in my State of the Union exactly what we need to do. We need to continue to build on the tremendous progress we’ve made in reforming our education system and make sure that every child in America is prepared before they start school with universal pre-K for every kid, which can make an enormous difference in achievement levels all across the country. (Applause.) Modernize our high schools so they’re adapted to the 21st century. Make sure that our community colleges are linking up with businesses to prepare our young people for the jobs of tomorrow. Make college more affordable. We know that we need to do that. There’s no credible argument for not doing it.
We know we’ve got to rebuild our infrastructure. We’ve got $2 trillion of deferred maintenance. There was a list a few months back of the top airports in the world -- not one out of the top 25 were in the United States of America. Not one. Imagine that. Roads, bridges, airports, ports, broadband lines, smart grids.
We know what we’ve got to do. And, by the way, if we are rebuilding our infrastructure, we’re putting people back to work right now. So it’s strengthening our economy now and for the future. We know what we need to do.
We know that we have to control our energy future. And as promising as these new technologies are to tap into new sources of energy, we also know that climate change is real. And if we want to leave a world for our children and our grandchildren that is as beautiful as the one that we inherited, then we’re going to have to double down on our investments in basic research and science around clean energy, and discover not just the energy sources of the past, but also the energy sources of the future. We’ve got to win that race. We know that. We know that.
We know we’ve got to get immigration reform done, because we want America to attract the best and the brightest. (Applause.) We want the message of the Statue of Liberty to be resonating around the world, that flame to continue to shine as a beacon not just for freedom but also for people who are ambitious and have drive, and who are unconstrained by the past, because they believe in the future. We know we’ve got to do that.
And we know that we’ve got to have a sensible budget, a budget that invests in education and invests in research, and is true to our commitment to keeping our seniors out of poverty, and is true to our investment in the infrastructure that’s going to continue to make this a growing, dynamic economy. And we can do all that. We don’t have to do anything radical. We know what the basic plan is.
And with just some modest steps, with the deficit already coming down quicker than at any time since World War II, at a faster pace, we know that if we just make a few smart decisions both on the revenue side and on the spending side -- not through automatic, mindless spending cuts that are slashing our commitments to research and our investments in our kids, but through smart, targeted spending cuts and revenue -- that we can stabilize our budget for decades to come, just open field running from there on out. America cannot be stopped if we make some smart decisions.
Internationally, as I said, people are looking for our leadership. But what they’re not looking for is us simply seeing every problem as a military problem. They’re looking for us to be proponents of peace and work on its behalf. (Applause.)
They are looking for us to show leadership in helping make sure that children around the world aren’t dying of malnutrition and that they get a decent education, and that people in extreme poverty making less than two dollars a day, that they’re put in a position in which they can succeed -- because they understand that if they succeed, then America will succeed as well. And they don’t understand exactly sometimes what’s holding us back.
So the promise of America is alive and well, and I could not be more optimistic. But that spirit that we saw in Boston, that spirit that we saw in West, Texas, we’re going to have to unleash that. And the only way we unleash that is to make sure that Washington, our elected leadership -- that they start reflecting that spirit as well. And I can tell you that the Democratic leaders in that room -- in this room, they reflect that spirit because I see them every single day. I know their values and I know what they care about, and I know what they're working for.
And truth be told, there are folks on the other side of the aisle who have that spirit as well. It’s not a Democratic or a Republican spirit. It’s not a partisan spirit. It’s an American spirit.
But what is also true is that the dynamic on the other side of the aisle right now runs contrary to what we need in order to succeed, that they’ve got a different point of view right now, reinforced by some folks around the country that don't share our vision for America as a place where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share.
Now, I’m going to do everything I can over the next three and a half years to continue to reach out to my Republican friends on the other side of the aisle because I sure want to do some governing. I want to get some stuff done. I don't have a lot of time. I’ve got three and a half years left, and it goes by like that. And if any of you doubt that three and a half years goes by quick, try having some teenage or close-to-teenage girls. (Laughter.) Because you look up and you don't know what happened. (Laughter.)
So I want to get moving. And any time that the other side is ready and willing and prepared to work on the things that Chuck Schumer has been working on, like immigration and making sure that we’re reducing gun violence in this country; any time that somebody is willing to work on the kinds of things that Michael Bennet has been working on, like improving our education system and making sure that we’ve got world-class research; any time that somebody is willing to cooperate with Nancy Pelosi to make sure that our budget reflects our commitment to not just the folks at the very top, but a broad-based prosperity for all Americans, and that we’re making sure that we’re rebuilding our manufacturing base in this country -- any time those folks want to get to work, we are ready to work.
But what I also say is that during those two years that Nancy Pelosi was Speaker, man, we got a lot of stuff done. (Applause.) And what I also know is that unless we had a Democratic Senate, we would not have ended “don't ask, don't tell.” Unless we had had a Democratic Senate, we would not have been able to make sure that everybody in this country is able to access affordable health care. What I know is, is that if we hadn’t had a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, college would be a lot less affordable for our young people.
We know that. So I want to be clear. I am President of all Americans, not just the leader of a party. And my top priority is to make sure that when I leave this office I can honestly say that America is in a stronger position and a more secure position and a more promising position than it was before I took office.
But what I also know is that with leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Steve Israel and Michael Bennet and Chuck Schumer and all the New York delegation here, with them as partners, this country will take off like we haven’t seen in a very long time. That's what you’re investing in. You're investing in people who share your values and your vision for the future.
And that's why even though I’ve run my last race, I’m going to be working as hard as I can to make sure that their vision is one that is dominant on Capitol Hill. It’s that spirit that we saw in West, Texas. It’s the spirit we saw in Boston. It’s the spirit that we see here in New York City. And as I was driving up and saw the new Freedom Tower rising, it reminded me of just what it is that we’re fighting for. (Applause.)
So thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America.
8:50 P.M. EDT
New York, New York
5:52 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I want to make sure everybody has got their food -- (laughter) -- because I don’t want to get in the way of dinner here because it looks delicious.
I want to thank Alexandra and Sam for their wonderful hospitality. It is not easy opening up your house for an event with the President -- between all the tables and then the Secret Service, and this and that. But you guys have been great friends and this means so much to us, so we are very, very grateful. (Applause.) Yes, absolutely.
I see a lot of friends and supporters in the room. So many of you were active during the course of the campaign. I could not be more grateful for it and more humbled. One person I do want to acknowledge, because not only was he active in the campaign, but he has now been volunteered to head up the DNC Finance Committee -- Henry Muñoz is here from the great state of Texas. (Applause.) So I want to say thank you to Henry.
This is a pretty rambunctious group, so I want to use most of my time for questions and answers. But let me just make a few comments at the top. Obviously, this last month, America faced some enormous challenges. We had the Boston bombing, the explosion in West, Texas. And I was mentioning at an event before I came here -- I was driving with Deval Patrick to the memorial service in Boston, and we remarked on how when tragedy strikes, when a crisis occurs, there’s something about the American spirit -- the resilience, strength, but most of all that sense of community and neighborliness just shines through.
And even in our darkest hours, you can’t help but come away incredibly optimistic about the country. Now, the question Deval and I asked ourselves is how do we sustain that beyond moments of crisis and tragedy, and how do we translate that into our politics and our institutions -- because, obviously, that spirit isn’t always in evidence in Washington. (Laughter.) But, having said that, one of the virtues of a second term is it gives you some perspective. And I don’t have another race to run. And what I’ve learned from my first term in office, and probably what I’ve learned during the course of my life is things that are worth doing don’t happen right away. And it requires persistence and just the steady, constant application of hard work and tenacity and the ability to maintain a vision about where you want to go.
So here, domestically, our work is not yet done, and I am absolutely confident that if we stay with it, we are going to be able to get immigration reform done this year. (Applause.) We’re going to be able to continue some of the incredible education work that’s being done all around the country, and Randy has been an incredible partner in that process. We’re going to be able to continue to work to make sure that we’re rebuilding our infrastructure in our country; putting people back to work; helping the housing market continue to recover; putting people all across the country in a position where if they’re willing to work hard they can succeed and achieve their own American Dreams.
So we’ve got a big agenda here at home. But we also have a big agenda internationally. Obviously, all of us are deeply concerned about what’s happening in Syria. And my administration has worked with international partners to mobilize humanitarian aid, nonlethal assistance to the opposition, isolating Assad, and continuing to press for political transition that ends the slaughter and brings about an end to the Assad regime.
We also have a lot of unfinished business with respect to Afghanistan. Our troops are coming home and we're transitioning out. But it's still a very dangerous place. And we have to make sure that the gains that have been made are sustained. And we've got to make sure that we're being vigilant when it comes to dealing with al Qaeda and other terrorist elements.
And then, something that so many people in this room are knowledgeable about, the peace process and reinvigorating a sense of hope and possibility for both Israelis and Palestinians. One of the highlights, obviously, of this early second term was the trip that I was able to take to Israel and to the Palestinian Authority and to the West Bank. (Applause.) And what made the trip so incredible was not only the capacity to see the incredible progress that Israel has made on so many fronts -- we looked at science exhibitions and to see how the economy is transforming itself into a high-tech, entrepreneurial center, and to have a chance to talk to young people who are doing so many incredible things.
But what was also encouraging was the sense that for all the difficulties, for all the setbacks, for all the false starts, deep down there's still this incredible desire for peace. It exists in Israel. It exists among the Palestinians. And the question is can we create a framework in which to actually finally deliver on that promise, particularly because the window of opportunity is growing smaller by the day. And in some ways, it's more difficult because of the incredible tumult that's taking place throughout the Middle East.
When change is happening so fast -- and in some cases, so chaotically and sometimes violently -- it makes people tend not to take risks. On the other hand, precisely because those changes are taking place all around the region, Israel's security and the prospect of Palestinian statehood all requires that those risks are taken and they're taken now.
And in order for us to achieve that, it's going to be important that John Kerry and my administration continue to work this thing very hard. But part of what's going to be required is also that those who are committed to peace here in this country continue to make their voices heard and continue to speak out. So many of you already have and are already making a difference, but I urge you to continue. And it's going to have to happen not just in interactions with the State Department or my administration -- you're going to have to be vocal on Capitol Hill as well.
And if we sustain that, then in fits and starts -- it will be difficult, it will be tough, there will be times where it feels like we're going backwards instead of forwards -- I believe that in the end, peace can be achieved. I am a big believer in a quote that I took from Dr. King, but I think describes my general perspective about both America and our future, but also our role in the world, and that is that, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." It requires persistence, it requires tenacity, but in the end, I think that good overcomes evil, and light overcomes darkness. And that’s what we have to strive for every single day, and that’s how I intend to spend the three and a half years that I have remaining as President, and I couldn’t have done that without the help of all of you.
So thank you very much. (Applause.)
6:00 P.M. EDT
New York, New York
4:24 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Well, first of all, I have to thank Harvey and Georgina for once again extending incredible hospitality to us. We are so grateful for their friendship and support, and for the amazing movies that they've made. And it is wonderful to see all of you. I see old friends, new friends and people who when I have time to watch movies or TV, I very much appreciate. So thank you for the great work that you guys do.
I'm going to spend most of this time in a conversation with everybody, so I'm not going to give a long speech at the front end. Over the last three weeks, month, the country has gone through some tough times. Obviously, we had the Boston bombing and the incredible tragedy that marred what is one of the greatest sporting events in the world, and an iconic event here in America. We went out to West, Texas to a tiny town that had been devastated by an explosion there.
And I remember, I was with Deval Patrick, a wonderful governor -- the Governor of Massachusetts -- as we were driving to a memorial in Boston shortly after the attack. And we talked about that in the midst of tragedy, the incredible strength and courage and resolve of the American people just comes out, and the neighborliness, and the sense of willing to support strangers and neighbors and friends during tough times. And that same spirit, which I would later see when I visited West, Texas -- you can't get two places more different than Boston and West, Texas. So it's a pretty good representative sampling of America.
And part of what Deval and I talked about was what do we need to do to make sure that that same spirit is reflected in our politics and our government -- because it's there every day for people to see. It doesn't matter whether people are Democrats or Republicans or independents. If you go into schools, you go to Little League games, you talk to people at the workplace -- everybody has the same sense that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we've gone through some tough times, but we're resilient and we can overcome whatever challenges are thrown at us. And there's a desire to get outside of the constant squabbling and bickering and positioning and gamesmanship, and get to the business of figuring out how do we make sure that the next generation does better than this generation.
And as I think about my second term, and people have asked me, what's different about your second term -- well, other than me being grayer -- (laughter) -- and my girls being taller, the main thing about a second term is, A, I don’t have to run for office again; but, B, you also start just thinking about history, and you start thinking about -- in longer sweeps of time, and you start saying to yourself that the three and a half years that I've got is not a lot, and so I've got to make sure that I use everything I've got to make as much of a difference as I can.
And more than anything, what I will be striving for over the next three and a half years is to see if that spirit that I saw in Boston and West, Texas, if we can institutionalize that, if we can create a framework where everybody is working together and moving this country forward.
Now, the good news is that if we do that, we've got the best cards of any country on Earth -- and that’s the truth. Look, there's no American politician, much less American President, who's not going to say that we're not the greatest country on Earth. So that’s a cliché. On the other hand, objectively, when you look at where we are right now, we are poised for a 21st century that is as much the American century as the 20th century was.
We have recovered from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and yet, the economy is growing; millions of jobs have been created; the stock market has hit record highs; the housing market has begun to recover. When you look at our companies, innovation, dynamism, inventiveness still take root here in the United States more than anyplace else on Earth.
When it comes to energy, not only have we been able to double our production of clean energy, but even in terms of traditional energy, we will probably be a net exporter of natural gas in somewhere between five and ten years. And so the idea of the United States being energy independent -- which seemed far-fetched as recently as 10 years ago -- now is actually a possibility.
When you travel around the world, people still look to the United States for leadership. I went down to Mexico and then Costa Rica and I met with Central American leaders down there, and each and every one of them, including Daniel Ortega, who was at one of the meetings -- and some of you are too young to remember I guess Daniel Ortega, and I’m not -- (laughter) -- all of them talked about how can we trade, how can we work more effectively together. And so the possibilities for us to shape a world that is more peaceful, more prosperous, more innovative, more environmentally conscious, more tolerant, more open -- that opportunity exists, but there are just a few things that we’re going to have to do to make sure that we realize those opportunities, that potential.
We’ve got to continue to revamp our education system so it’s meeting the demands of the 21st century. We’ve got to rebuild our infrastructure so we don’t have the worst airports in the world. We’ve got to make sure -- and ports and roads and bridges and broadband lines. We’ve got to make sure that we continue to focus on putting people back to work, because jobs are not just a matter of income, they’re a matter of dignity and stitching the fabric of a community together.
We’ve got to deal with climate change in an honest, realistic way. We’re not going to reverse the trends overnight, but we have to start now for the sake of our kids and, in fact, the tools are available to us to make huge strides in the coming years if we make the smart investments. We’ve got to keep on investing in research and development. And we’ve got to get our fiscal house in order in a way that is sensible so that everybody is paying their fair share; everybody understands that we have to -- if we want a first-class education system, for example, then we’ve got to pay for it. If we want first-class infrastructure, we’ve got to pay for it. But we also want a government that is lean and effective and efficient, and not bloated.
And these are all things that we can accomplish. What’s blocking us right now is sort of hyper-partisanship in Washington that, frankly, I was hoping to overcome in 2008. And in the midst of crisis, I think the other party reacted; rather than saying now is the time for us all to join together, decided to take a different path.
My thinking was after we beat them in 2012, well, that might break the fever -- (laughter) -- and it’s not quite broken yet. (Laughter.) But I am persistent. And I am staying at it. And I genuinely believe that there are actually Republicans out there who would like to work with us but they’re fearful of their base and they’re concerned about what Rush Limbaugh might say about them, and as a consequence, we get the kind of gridlock that makes people cynical about government and inhibits our progress.
So the bottom line is this -- everybody is here to support the DNC, and I very much appreciate that. But I want everybody to understand that my intentions over the next three and a half years are to govern, because I don’t have another race left. If we’ve got folks on the other side who are prepared to cooperate, that is great and we are ready to go. On the other hand, if there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking about the next generation, then I want to make sure that there are consequences to that.
And what you all are here today to facilitate is our ability to make sure that the values and concerns that we all have for Dash and all the other babies that are out there -- Steve has got a new one, and I’m starting to feel like the old man around here because mine are this tall and everybody else has these little babies. But I want to make sure that that generation is getting everything and more that we can give them. And that’s going to require us to work hard. It’s going to require persistence. There are going to be ups and downs in this whole process.
But one of the benefits of a second term is you start taking the long view. And what I know is, is that as long as we are pointing towards that true North, that eventually we’ll get there. That’s what this country has always done. That’s what I expect will happen this time as well.
So with that, I’m going to stop and I’m just going to open it up for questions. (Applause.)
4:35 P.M. EDT
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House, May 13, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Today President Obama welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron to the White House, where the two leaders discussed issues ranging from economic development to the unfolding conflict in Syria.
"[T]he great alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom is rooted in shared interests and shared values, and it’s indispensable to global security and prosperity," President Obama said. "But as we’ve seen again recently, it's also a partnership of the heart."
The President thanked the people of the United Kingdom for their support in the wake of the bombings in Boston. In London, marathoners observed a moment of silence and dedicated their race to the victims in Massachusetts.
Prime Minister Cameron echoed the President's sentiments on the strength of the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom.
"[The] relationship between Britain and the United States is a partnership without parallel," the Prime Minister said. "Day in, day out across the world, our diplomats and intelligence agencies work together, our soldiers serve together, and our businesses trade with each other."
In his remarks today, Prime Minister Cameron made a point to focus on three issues under discussion: the economy, the G8, and Syria. The United Kingdom currently holds the presidency of the G8 and will host the group's next summit in June -- in Northern Ireland.
Watch the full video of the press conference here:
NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE:
Ryan Clark Crocker, of Washington, to be a Member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for a term expiring August 13, 2013, vice Victor H. Ashe, term expired.
Ryan Clark Crocker, of Washington, to be a Member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for a term expiring August 13, 2016. (Reappointment)
Aboard Air Force One
En Route New York, New York
2:34 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Thanks for joining us on this quick trip to New York City. You heard, obviously, the President today in his press conference with the Prime Minister. So I hope that you found that helpful and useful, but I am here also to take your questions. Anybody have anything?
Q Jay, the President said that he himself was unaware of the IRS targeting. But was anyone else at the White House aware as early as 2011, when this first came out, or of the testimony in March when an IRS official talked about it?
MR. CARNEY: No. My understanding is that the White House Counsel’s Office was alerted in the week of April 22nd of this year, only about the fact that the IG was finishing a review about matters involving the office in Cincinnati. But that’s all they were informed as a normal sort of heads up. And we have never -- we don’t have access to, nor should we, the IG’s report or any draft versions of it.
Q So what are the next steps on this for the White House? Should we expect the President to be -
MR. CARNEY: I think that there is -- from my understanding, it’s not about next steps for the White House. You heard the President’s views on this and his feelings -- very strong sentiment that if the actions that have been reported turn out to be what happened, that he finds it wholly inappropriate and that action needs to be taken to make sure people are held accountable. But the “if” is important here because this is an independent investigation by the IG, and we, like everyone else, are awaiting its results.
Q But if the facts do play out that way, would those consequences, would he expect that they would include people losing their jobs?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think you’re getting ahead of it. I think you heard from the President on this today and how he feels about it. But the “if” is very important, so we’re not going to start predicting outcomes if we don’t know what the conclusions of the IG report are.
Q But, Jay, as you know, the IRS does not currently have a full commissioner in place. Do these events increase the timetable for -- spur the timeframe to get a commissioner in place?
MR. CARNEY: I mean, that’s a fair question. I don’t know where that stands as a personnel matter. But you are correct to note that there is not currently a commissioner. The previous commissioner I believe left office in November of last year.
Q Is it unusual, if the general counsel, the special counsel knows about this, for the President not to be given a heads up, or is that just typical?
MR. CARNEY: I think this is, as I understand it, a normal kind of notification as the IG was concluding its report. And in those circumstances, when something like that would become public, there’s a notification and only the White House Counsel’s Office -- well, the President was certainly not made aware of it and found about it on Friday, as I did, from news reports.
Q Will there be a specific White House person who’s going to brief the President or who’s going to oversee the liaison with the IRS and update the White House at all?
MR. CARNEY: Obviously, there’s a White House Counsel’s Office and they monitor these things. But beyond that, not that I’m aware of.
Q Jay, there are a number of things going on now that have the White House on the defensive -- IRS, the Benghazi situation. How does this prevent the President from getting his agenda accomplished? He has a busy agenda that he wants to do in his second term, but yet now all the attention is focused on what happened, who knew what about Benghazi, the IRS situation.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you heard from the President about his view on Benghazi. And the fact that this is a political sideshow is an unfortunate distraction from the key issues about Benghazi and the fact that four Americans were killed, and that action needs to be taken and is being taken to ensure that that kind of thing never happens again when it comes to the security that exists for our diplomatic personnel and facilities around the world.
On the other issue, again, you heard from the President and his feelings about it, but we have to let the IG review be completed, and we certainly await that. But, broadly speaking, the American people want Washington to focus on the issues that matter most to them, and that generally means focusing on growing the economy, helping it create jobs, strengthening the middle class, expanding opportunity, expanding security for middle-class families and seniors. And that’s what the President will continue to focus on.
He’ll continue to focus on those things that he is working with Congress to try to get done, like comprehensive immigration reform. And he'll continue to focus on the actions he can take, using executive authority to press forward on a range of issues aimed at that North Star, which is a thriving and growing middle class.
Q A follow-up question to that line of questioning is the President has been making a lot of overtures to Republicans in Congress with the dinners and luncheons and so on. And he has also talked about trying to create a permission structure for having Republicans allowed to sort of work with him on some of these key issues without having their base immediately sort of run away from that because he’s involved. Doesn’t this set that back in this idea that you have conservative groups being targeted by a federal government agency, and you have a number of senators who are even working with you on immigration who are now sort of some of the loudest critics on Benghazi and the IRS?
MR. CARNEY: Well, they have been the loudest critics from the beginning, as I think you'll recall. And the fact is we fully expect that we'll be able to continue to work with Congress on the bipartisan effort to reform our immigration system in a comprehensive way. And I think that the key participants in the Senate on that issue continue to work with their counterparts -- both Democrats and Republicans -- as well as with the White House on that issue, as well as on a number of other issues.
Look, I think -- you heard from the President on the IRS situation, and we obviously await the IG's report on the Benghazi situation. It's a political sideshow and it always has been. And as the President said, there's no there there. I mean, what is the -- you've seen I think an article today that says that John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, is obsessed with Benghazi, and yet he didn't even attend the briefing on the emails that were provided to members of Congress many months ago about which this latest iteration of the Benghazi story has been focused.
So they’re fundraising off of it. It really is pure politics. And that's an unfortunate distraction.
Q Getting in the way of getting stuff done?
MR. CARNEY: I don't think so, because I think that there are -- the imperatives to getting things done still exists, whether it's immigration reform, steps we can take to strengthen the economy, the need to find a balanced way to reduce our deficit that requires -- that protects our seniors and middle class, all the steps we need to take to improve our infrastructure, our education system and the like.
What is always the case is that members of Congress will embrace the opportunity to compromise if they see it as both the right thing to do and in their interest to do it. And we certainly believe that it should be in the interest of every member of Congress to work together to try to achieve these goals that the middle class wants achieved.
Q Jay, does the President think it's appropriate for Secretary Sebelius to be raising money from private groups for an outside group for Obamacare implementation?
MR. CARNEY: I saw that story this morning. I've been focused on other things, so I don’t know that much about it. But I can say we are obviously engaged in an effort to implement the Affordable Care Act. Quoting John Boehner, "Obamacare is the law.” It has been upheld by the Supreme Court, and we are in the process of implementing it and making sure that the American people know about and are aware of the process for signing up for the exchanges that will help provide health insurance for millions of Americans who don’t have it, and will confer numerous benefits upon millions and millions of Americans -- benefits that in many ways have already been conferred as pieces of the ACA have been implemented. So we're continuing about that process.
And again, I don’t have information about that story -- that much information about that story. I read it, but I think that we're engaged in a process that is about the business of educating the American people about the benefits that are available to them under the law, passed by Congress, signed into law by the President, upheld by the Supreme Court. And despite the considerable waste of time engaged in by the House of Representatives that we’ll see again this week in an effort to repeal it, going on 40 times, contradicting again the Speaker of the House after the election, it will remain the law and will be implemented.
Q On immigration, Jay -- a collection of advocates had a conference call today with reporters, and they called on the White House again to stop deportations. And what they’re saying is different this time is that you have a bipartisan framework that’s being debated in Congress that would allow most of the illegal immigrants to gain citizenship or legal status. And they're saying anybody who qualifies under that, you should stop the deportations now because it is tearing apart families for those who haven’t committed any other crimes. Is the President reconsidering that all? Would he? And why not, if he’s not?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'm not aware of this call that you mentioned. But I think that -- obviously we enforce the law as is appropriate. There is prosecutorial discretion when it comes to enforcing immigration laws, and those guidelines are in place.
And meanwhile, we're continuing working with Congress to try to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that will strengthen the border, hold employers accountable, create a legal pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people living here illegally. And that’s important work. But I don’t have anything specific in response to your question.
Q Jay, can you talk a little bit about the events tonight? Is there any sensitivity to the fact that the President, at the same time that he's putting his foot down about the perception that the IRS was used to target people politically, he's also going to New York and raising money for a bunch of Democrats to help unseat Republicans?
MR. CARNEY: That’s an interesting connection you drew in the question, but I think that the President is going to talk to supporters of Democratic candidates through the DNC, DSCC, DCCC, as is traditional and appropriate. And he looks forward to it.
2:50 P.M. EDT
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CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO YEMEN
On May 16, 2012, by Executive Order 13611, I declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Yemen and others that threatened Yemen's peace, security, and stability, including by obstructing the implementation of the agreement of November 23, 2011, between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provided for a peaceful transition of power that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people for change, and by obstructing the political process in Yemen.
The actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Yemen and others in threatening Yemen's peace, security, and stability continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared on May 16, 2012, to deal with that threat must continue in effect beyond May 16, 2013. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13611.
This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Mr. President:)
Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13611 of May 16, 2012, with respect to Yemen is to continue in effect beyond May 16, 2013.
The actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Yemen and others continue to threaten Yemen's peace, security, and stability, including by obstructing the implementation of the agreement of November 23, 2011, between the Government of Yemen and those in opposition to it, which provided for a peaceful transition of power that meets the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Yemeni people for change, and by obstructing the political process in Yemen. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13611 with respect to Yemen.
Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom in Joint Press Conference
11:41 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat. And to all our moms out there, I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day.
It’s always a great pleasure to welcome my friend and partner, Prime Minister David Cameron. Michelle and I have wonderful memories from when David and Samantha visited us last year. There was a lot of attention about how I took David to March Madness -- we went to Ohio. And a year later, we have to confess that David still does not understand basketball -- I still do not understand cricket.
As we’ve said before, the great alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom is rooted in shared interests and shared values, and it’s indispensable to global security and prosperity. But as we’ve seen again recently, it’s also a partnership of the heart. Here in the United States, we joined our British friends in mourning the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, a great champion of freedom and liberty and of the alliance that we carry on today. And after the bombings in Boston, we Americans were grateful for the support of friends from around the world, particularly those across the Atlantic. At the London Marathon, runners paused in a moment of silence and dedicated their race to Boston. And David will be visiting Boston to pay tribute to the victims and first responders.
So, David, I want to thank you and the British people for reminding us that in good times and in bad, our two peoples stand as one.
David is here, first and foremost, as he prepares to host the G8 next month. I appreciate him updating me on the agenda as it takes shape, and we discussed how the summit will be another opportunity to sustain the global economic recovery with a focus on growth and creating jobs for our people. Michelle and I are looking forward to visiting Northern Ireland, and I know that the summit is going to be a great success under David’s fine leadership.
We discussed the importance of moving ahead with the EU towards negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Our extensive trade with the U.K. is central to our broader transatlantic economic relationship, which supports more than 13 million jobs. And I want to thank David for his strong support for building on those ties, and I look forward to launching negotiations with the EU in the coming months. I believe we’ve got a real opportunity to cut tariffs, open markets, create jobs, and make all of our economies even more competitive.
With regard to global security, we reviewed progress in Afghanistan, where our troops continue to serve with extraordinary courage alongside each other. And I want to commend David for his efforts to encourage greater dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is critical to regional security.
As planned, Afghan forces will take the lead for security across the country soon -- this spring. U.S., British and coalition forces will move into a support role. Our troops will continue to come home, and the war will end by the end of next year, even as we work with our Afghan partners to make sure that Afghanistan is never again a haven for terrorists who would attack our nations.
Given our shared commitment to Middle East peace, I updated David on Secretary Kerry’s efforts with Israelis and Palestinians and the importance of moving towards negotiations. And we reaffirmed our support for democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, including the economic reforms that have to go along with political reforms.
Of course, we discussed Syria and the appalling violence being inflicted on the Syrian people. Together, we’re going to continue our efforts to increase pressure on the Assad regime, to provide humanitarian aid to the long-suffering Syrian people, to strengthen the moderate opposition, and to prepare for a democratic Syria without Bashar Assad.
And that includes bringing together representatives of the regime and the opposition in Geneva in the coming weeks to agree on a transitional body which would allow a transfer of power from Assad to this governing body. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work to establish the facts around the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and those facts will help guide our next steps.
We discussed Iran, where we agreed to keep up the pressure on Tehran for its continued failure to abide by its nuclear obligations. The burden is on Iran to engage constructively with us and our P5-plus-1 partners in order to resolve the world’s concerns about its nuclear program.
And, finally, today we’re reaffirming our commitment to global development. Specifically, we’re encouraged by the ambitious reforms underway at the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, where both of our nations are stepping up our efforts. And David has made it clear that the G8 Summit will be another opportunity to make progress on nutrition and food security.
So, David, thank you very much, as always, for your leadership and your partnership. As we prepare for our work in Northern Ireland, as we consider the challenges we face around the world, it's clear we face a demanding agenda. But if the history of our people show anything, it is that we persevere. As one of those London runners said at the marathon -- we're going to keep running, and we're going to keep on doing this. And that’s the spirit of confidence and resolve that we will continue to draw upon as we work together to meet these challenges.
So, David, thank you very much. And welcome.
PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Thank you very much, Barack. And thank you for the warm welcome. It's great to be back here with you in the White House. Thank you for what you said about Margaret Thatcher. It was a pleasure to welcome so many Americans to her remarkable funeral in the U.K.
I absolutely echo what you said about the appalling outrage in Boston. I look forward to going there to pay my tribute to the people of that remarkable city and their courage, and we will always stand with you in the fight against terrorism.
Thank you for the remarks about the cricket and the basketball. I haven't made much progress -- I made a bit of progress on baseball; I actually read a book about it this year, so maybe next time we'll get to work on that one.
It's good to be back for the first time since the American people returned you to office. And as you said, the relationship between Britain and the United States is a partnership without parallel. Day in, day out across the world, our diplomats and intelligence agencies work together, our soldiers serve together, and our businesses trade with each other.
In Afghanistan, our armed forces are together defending the stability that will make us all safer. And in the global economic race, our businesses are doing more than $17 billion of trade across the Atlantic every month of every year. And in a changing world, our nations share a resolve to stand up for democracy, for enterprise and for freedom.
We've discussed many issues today, as the President has said. Let me highlight three: the economy, the G8, and Syria.
Our greatest challenge is to secure a sustainable economic recovery. Each of us has to find the right solutions at home. For all of us, it means dealing with debt, it means restoring stability, getting our economy growing, and together seizing new opportunities to grow our economies.
President Obama and I have both championed a free trade deal between the European Union and the United States. And there is a real chance now to get the process launched in time for the G8. So the next five weeks are crucial. To realize the huge benefits this deal could bring will take ambition and political will -- that means everything on the table, even the difficult issues, and no exceptions. It's worth the effort. For Britain alone, an ambitious deal could be worth up to 10 billion pounds a year, boosting industries from car manufacturing to financial services.
We discussed the G8 Summit in some detail. When we meet on the shores of Loch Erne in Northern Ireland five weeks from today, I want us to agree ambitious action for economic growth. Open trade is at the heart of this, but we have a broader agenda, too -- to make sure everyone shares in the benefits of this greater openness, not just in our advanced economies but in the developing world, too. I’m an unashamedly pro-business politician, but as we open up our economies to get business growing, we need to make sure that all companies pay their taxes properly and enable citizens to hold their governments and businesses to account.
Today we’ve agreed to tackle the scourge of tax evasion. We need to know who really owns a company, who profits from it, whether taxes are paid. And we need a new mechanism to track where multinationals make their money and where they pay their taxes so we can stop those that are manipulating the system unfairly.
Finally, we discussed the brutal conflict in Syria -- 80,000 dead; 5 million people forced from their homes. Syria’s history is being written in the blood of her people, and it is happening on our watch. The world urgently needs to come together to bring the killing to an end. None of us have any interest in seeing more lives lost, in seeing chemical weapons used, or extremist violence spreading even further.
So we welcome President Putin’s agreement to join an effort to achieve a political solution. The challenges remain formidable, but we have an urgent window of opportunity before the worst fears are realized. There is no more urgent international task than this. We need to get Syrians to the table to agree a transitional government that can win the consent of all of the Syrian people. But there will be no political progress unless the opposition is able to withstand the onslaught, and put pressure on Assad so he knows there is no military victory. So we will also increase our efforts to support and to shape the moderate opposition.
Britain is pushing for more flexibility in the EU arms embargo and we will double nonlethal support to the Syrian opposition in the coming year. Armored vehicles, body armor, and power generators are route to be shipped. We’re helping local councils govern the areas that they liberate, and we’re supporting Lebanon and Jordan to deal with the influx of refugees. We’ll also do more for those in desperate humanitarian need -- care for trauma injuries; helping torture victims to recover; getting Syrian families drinking clean water; having access to food, to shelter.
There is now, I believe, common ground between the U.S., U.K., Russia, and many others that whatever our differences, we have the same aim -- a stable, inclusive, and peaceful Syria, free from the scourge of extremism. There is real political will behind this. We now need to get on and do everything we can to make it happen.
Barack, thank you once again for your warm welcome and for our talks today.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. All right, we’ve got time for a couple of questions. We’re going to start with Julie Pace.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask about the IRS and Benghazi. When did you first learn that the IRS was targeting conservative political groups? Do you feel that the IRS has betrayed the public’s trust? And what do you think the repercussions for these actions should be? And on Benghazi, newly public emails show that the White House and the State Department appear to have been more closely involved with the crafting of the talking points on the attack than first acknowledged. Do you think the White House misled the public about its role in shaping the talking points? And do you stand by your administration’s assertions that the talking points were not purposely changed to downplay the prospects of terrorism? And, Prime Minister Cameron, on Syria, if the EU arms embargo that you mentioned is amended or lapses, is it your intention to send the Syrian opposition forces weapons? And are you encouraging President Obama to take the same step? Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me take the IRS situation first. I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday. And this is pretty straightforward.
If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous and there's no place for it. And they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they're applying it in a non-partisan way -- applying the laws in a non-partisan way.
And you should feel that way regardless of party. I don't care whether you're a Democrat, independent or a Republican. At some point, there are going to be Republican administrations. At some point, there are going to be Democratic ones. Either way, you don't want the IRS ever being perceived to be biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate. So this is something that I think people are properly concerned about.
The IG is conducting its investigation. And I am not going to comment on their specific findings prematurely, but I can tell you that if you've got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions. And people have to be held accountable, and it's got to be fixed. So we'll wait and see what exactly all the details and the facts are. But I've got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it. And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.
With respect to Benghazi, we've now seen this argument that's been made by some folks primarily up on Capitol Hill for months now. And I've just got to say -- here's what we know. Americans died in Benghazi. What we also know is clearly they were not in a position where they were adequately protected. The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism. And what I pledged to the American people was that we would find out what happened, we would make sure that it did not happen again, and we would make sure that we held accountable those who had perpetrated this terrible crime.
And that's exactly what we've been trying to do. And over the last several months, there was a review board headed by two distinguished Americans -- Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering -- who investigated every element of this. And what they discovered was some pretty harsh judgments in terms of how we had worked to protect consulates and embassies around the world. They gave us a whole series of recommendations. Those recommendations are being implemented as we speak.
The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow. What we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were. It happened at the same time as we had seen attacks on U.S. embassies in Cairo as a consequence of this film. And nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first few days.
And the emails that you allude to were provided by us to congressional committees. They reviewed them several months ago, concluded that, in fact, there was nothing afoul in terms of the process that we had used. And suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there’s something new to the story. There’s no “there” there.
Keep in mind, by the way, these so-called talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice five, six days after the event occurred pretty much matched the assessments that I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing. And keep in mind that two to three days after Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday shows, using these talking points, which have been the source of all this controversy, I sent up the head of our National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, up to Capitol Hill and specifically said it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it.
So if this was some effort on our part to try to downplay what had happened or tamp it down, that would be a pretty odd thing that three days later we end up putting out all the information that, in fact, has now served as the basis for everybody recognizing that this was a terrorist attack and that it may have included elements that were planned by extremists inside of Libya.
Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic. And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations. We've had folks who have challenged Hillary Clinton’s integrity, Susan Rice’s integrity, Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering’s integrity. It’s a given that mine gets challenged by these same folks. They’ve used it for fundraising.
And frankly, if anybody out there wants to actually focus on how we make sure something like this does not happen again, I am happy to get their advice and information and counsel. But the fact of the matter is these four Americans, as I said right when it happened, were people I sent into the field, and I've been very clear about taking responsibility for the fact that we were not able to prevent their deaths. And we are doing everything we can to make sure we prevent it, in part because there are still diplomats around the world who are in very dangerous, difficult situations. And we don’t have time to be playing these kinds of political games here in Washington. We should be focused on what are we doing to protect them.
And that’s not easy, by the way. And it's going to require resources and tough judgments and tough calls. And there are a whole bunch of diplomats out there who know that they're in harm's way. And there are threat streams that come through every so often, with respect to our embassies and our consulates -- and that’s not just us, by the way; the British have to deal with the same thing.
And we've got a whole bunch of people in the State Department who consistently say, you know what, I'm willing to step up, I'm willing to put myself in harm's way because I think that this mission is important in terms of serving the United States and advancing our interests around the globe.
And so we dishonor them when we turn things like this into a political circus. What happened was tragic. It was carried out by extremists inside of Libya. We are out there trying to hunt down the folks who carried this out, and we are trying to make sure that we fix the system so that it doesn’t happen again.
PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Thank you. On the issue of the opposition in Syria, we have not made the decision to arm opposition groups in Syria. What we've done is we have amended the EU arms embargo in order that we can give technical assistance and technical advice. And as I said in my statement, that’s exactly what we're doing.
We're continuing to examine and look at the EU arms embargo and see whether we need to make further changes to it in order to facilitate our work with the opposition. I do believe that there's more we can do, alongside technical advice, assistance, help, in order to shape them, in order to work with them. And to those who doubt that approach, I would just argue that, look, if we don’t help the Syrian opposition -- who we do recognize as being legitimate, who have signed up to a statement about a future for Syria that is democratic, that respects the rights of minorities -- if we don’t work with that part of the opposition, then we shouldn’t be surprised if the extremist elements grow.
So I think being engaged with the Syrian opposition is the right approach, and that is an approach I know I share with the President and with other colleagues in the European Union.
James Landale from the BBC.
Q James Landale, BBC. Prime Minister, you're talking here today about a new EU-U.S. trade deal, and yet members of your party are now talking about leaving the European Union. What is your message to them and to those pushing for an early referendum? And if there were a referendum tomorrow, how would you vote?
And, Mr. President, earlier this year you told David Cameron that you wanted a strong U.K. in a strong EU. How concerned are you that members of David Cameron's Cabinet are now openly contemplating withdrawal?
And on Syria, if I may, a question to both of you: What gives you any confidence that the Russians are going to help you on this?
PRIME MINISTER CAMERON: Well, first of all, on the issue of a referendum, look, there’s not going to be a referendum tomorrow. And there’s a very good reason why there’s not going to be a referendum tomorrow -- is because it would give the British public I think an entirely false choice between the status quo -- which I don’t think is acceptable. I want to see the European Union change. I want to see Britain’s relationship with the European [Union] change and improve. So it would be a false choice between the status quo and leaving. And I don’t think that is the choice the British public want or the British public deserve.
Everything I do in this area is guided by a very simple principle, which is what is in the national interest of Britain. Is it in the national interest of Britain to have a transatlantic trade deal that will make our countries more prosperous; that will get people to work; that will help our businesses? Yes, it is. And so we will push for this transatlantic trade deal.
Is it in our interests to reform the European Union to make it more open, more competitive, more flexible, and to improve Britain’s place within the European Union? Yes, it is in our national interest. And it’s not only in our national interest, it is achievable, because Europe has to change because the single currency is driving change for that part of the European Union that is in the single currency. And just as they want changes, so I believe Britain is quite entitled to ask for and to get changes in response.
And then finally, is it in Britain’s national interest, once we have achieved those changes but before the end of 2017, to consult the British public in a proper, full-on, in/out referendum? Yes, I believe it is. So that’s the approach that we take -- everything driven by what is in the British national interest.
That is what I’m going to deliver. It’s absolutely right for our country. It has very strong support throughout the country and in the Conservative Party, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
On the Syrian issue, you asked the question -- what are the signs of Russian engagement. Well, I had very good talks with President Putin in Sochi on Friday. And, look, we had a very frank conversation in that we have approached this -- and in some extent, still do approach this -- in a different way. I have been very vocal in supporting the Syrian opposition and saying that Assad has to go, that he is not legitimate, and I continue to say that. And President Putin has taken a different point of view.
But where there is a common interest is that it is in both our interests that at the end of this there is a stable, democratic Syria, that there is a stable neighborhood, and that we don’t encourage the growth of violent extremism. And I think both the Russian President, the American President, and myself -- I think we can all see that the current trajectory of how things are going is not actually in anybody’s interest and so it is worth this major diplomatic effort, which we are all together leading this major diplomatic effort to bring the parties to the table to achieve a transition at the top in Syria so that we can make the change that country needs.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to the relationship between the U.K. and the EU, we have a special relationship with the United Kingdom. And we believe that our capacity to partner with a United Kingdom that is active, robust, outward-looking and engaged with the world is hugely important to our own interests as well as the world. And I think the U.K.'s participation in the EU is an expression of its influence and its role in the world, as well as obviously a very important economic partnership.
Now, ultimately, the people of the U.K. have to make decisions for themselves. I will say this -- that David's basic point that you probably want to see if you can fix what's broken in a very important relationship before you break it off makes some sense to me. And I know that David has been very active in seeking some reforms internal to the EU. Those are tough negotiations. You've got a lot of countries involved, I recognize that. But so long as we haven't yet evaluated how successful those reforms will be, I at least would be interested in seeing whether or not those are successful before rendering a final judgment. Again, I want to emphasize these are issues for the people of the United Kingdom to make a decision about, not ours.
With respect to Syria, I think David said it very well. If you look objectively, the entire world community has an interest in seeing a Syria that is not engaged in sectarian war, in which the Syrian people are not being slaughtered, that is an island of peace as opposed to potentially an outpost for extremists. That's not just true for the United States. That's not just true for Great Britain. That's not just true for countries like Jordan and Turkey that border Syria, but that's also true for Russia.
And I'm pleased to hear that David had a very constructive conversation with President Putin shortly after the conversation that had taken place between John Kerry and President Putin. I've spoken to President Putin several times on this topic. And our basic argument is that as a leader on the world stage, Russia has an interest, as well as an obligation, to try to resolve this issue in a way that can lead to the kind of outcome that we’d all like to see over the long term.
And, look, I don't think it’s any secret that there remains lingering suspicions between Russia and other members of the G8 or the West. It's been several decades now since Russia transformed itself and the Eastern Bloc transformed itself. But some of those suspicions still exist.
And part of what my goal has been, John Kerry's goal has been -- and I know that David's goal has been -- to try to break down some of those suspicions and look objectively at the situation.
If, in fact, we can broker a peaceful political transition that leads to Assad’s departure but a state in Syria that is still intact; that accommodates the interests of all the ethnic groups, all the religious groups inside of Syria; and that ends the bloodshed, stabilizes the situation -- that’s not just going to be good for us; that will be good for everybody. And we’re going to be very persistent in trying to make that happen.
I’m not promising that it’s going to be successful. Frankly, sometimes once sort of the Furies have been unleashed in a situation like we’re seeing in Syria, it’s very hard to put things back together. And there are going to be enormous challenges in getting a credible process going even if Russia is involved, because we still have other countries like Iran and we have non-state actors like Hezbollah that have been actively involved. And frankly, on the other side we’ve got organizations like al Nusra that are essentially affiliated to al Qaeda that have another agenda beyond just getting rid of Assad.
So all that makes a combustible mix and it’s going to be challenging, but it’s worth the effort. And what we can tell you is that we’re always more successful in any global effort when we’ve got a strong friend and partner like Great Britain by our side and strong leadership by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Thank you very much, everybody.
12:11 P.M. EDT
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during the Eastern Kentucky University commencement at the EKU Alumni Coliseum in Richmond, Ky., May 11, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday celebrated a new class of graduates from Eastern Kentucky University.
"You all went through so much to make it to this day -- the highs and the lows, the triumphs, the challenges, the celebrations, the devastations -- and I'm not just talking about your love lives, either," the First Lady told the graduates. "I'm talking about all those papers you poured your heart into; all those caffeine-fueled all-nighters; those moments of anxiety as you set out on your own, looking to find new friends you clicked with and a new community to call your own."
I congratulate the people of Pakistan on the successful completion of yesterday’s parliamentary elections. The United States stands with all Pakistanis in welcoming this historic peaceful and transparent transfer of civilian power, which is a significant milestone in Pakistan’s democratic progress. By conducting competitive campaigns, freely exercising your democratic rights, and persevering despite intimidation by violent extremists, you have affirmed a commitment to democratic rule that will be critical to achieving peace and prosperity for all Pakistanis for years to come.
The United States and Pakistan have a long history of working together on mutual interests, and my Administration looks forward to continuing our cooperation with the Pakistani government that emerges from this election as equal partners in supporting a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for the people of Pakistan.
Eastern Kentucky University Alumni Coliseum
8:21 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Oh, my goodness. Good evening. Thank you. I am just overwhelmed. And as an honorary degree holder, it is now my pleasure to say, Go Colonels! (Applause.)
I want to start by thanking President Whitlock for that very kind introduction, but more importantly, for his decades of service to this university and to this country. And it is my honor to be here on your last commitment. And I also want to thank your wife and your family, because I know that they have served right along with you. So congratulations. I am so glad to be here today. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize Governor Beshear and his wife and dear friend of ours, Jane, as well as Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes, who is here; all of the elected officials we have with us tonight; also the University Singers for those beautiful selections -- just gifted individuals. And I don’t want to leave out Candace for her very inspiring remarks. And to the 14 men and women who just became the newest officers in the United States Army -- yes. (Applause.)
And of course, I want to join in in recognizing all of these beautiful people in the stands today –- the family members who supported you all every step of the way. And since tomorrow is what?
AUDIENCE: Mother's Day.
MRS. OBAMA: I'm sure everybody is on their jobs, right? Got flowers ordered, everything? I want to give a special greeting to my fellow moms, and congratulate you for successfully coming out on the other side of adolescence in one piece. You’ve done it. You have succeeded in raising college graduates. I welcome any advice you have on how you got it right.
But most of all -- yes, indeed, to the moms, and the grandmoms, and the godmoms, and all the mom figures in our lives who keep us going. (Applause.) Thank you all.
But most of all, I want to congratulate the stars of today’s show -- the EKU Class of 2013! Yes! (Applause.) You all should proud, very proud. As the president said, this is a true milestone in life. And I can only imagine the mix of emotions that you must be feeling at this moment -- the unbridled joy, the unmistakable sense of utter relief. (Laughter.)
You all went through so much to make it to this day -- the highs and the lows, the triumphs, the challenges, the celebrations, the devastations -- and I’m not just talking about your love lives, either. (Laughter.) I’m talking about all those papers you poured your heart into; all those caffeine-fueled all-nighters; those moments of anxiety as you set out on your own, looking to find new friends you clicked with and a new community to call your own.
And for so many of you, I know that graduating from college was not a foregone conclusion. Some of you came from high schools that don’t send a lot of kids to college. Some of you had to work full time so that you could not only pay for your degree, but also support your family. And so many of you, as I have seen, are first in your families to graduate from college.
So I know you faced all kinds of doubts and uncertainties when you first showed up on this campus. And I know a little bit about that from my own experiences.
As you've heard, my parents were working folks who never earned a degree past high school. They didn’t have a lot of money, so sending me and my brother to school was a huge sacrifice for them. The vast majority of our tuition came from loans and grants, but let me tell you, every month, my father would write out his small check. He was determined to pay his portion of that tuition right on time, even if it meant taking out loans when he fell short.
See, what our parents had to offer us was a whole lot of love. And while we could always call home and talk through the ups and downs of our lives with our parents, the truth is they couldn’t give us a lot more than that. They couldn’t give us a lot of guidance when it came to choosing classes and professors, or finding internships and jobs.
So when I first set foot on college, my campus, it was all a bit of a mystery to me. And honestly, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t shake the voices from some of the people at my high school who told me that I could never make it at the school I’d chosen.
When I first set foot on campus, oh, it all seemed so big and overwhelming. I didn’t even know where to start -- how to pick out the right classes, how to even find the right buildings. So I began to think that maybe all those doubters might have been right.
I didn’t even know how to furnish my own dorm room. I saw all these other kids moving in all sorts of couches and lamps and decorations for their rooms, but when I unpacked my belongings, I realized that I didn’t even have the right size sheets for my bed –- mine were way too short. So that first night, I stretched the sheets down as far as they could go, then I draped the covers over the foot of my bed so when I crawled into bed my legs were sticking out past the sheets, rubbing up against that cold, plastic mattress. And I slept that way for the entire freshman year.
But when you come from a family like mine, that’s what you do. You make the most of what you’ve got. (Applause.) You use all that good common sense and you don’t make excuses. You work hard, and you always finish what you start. And no matter what, you give everybody a fair shake, and when somebody needs a hand, you offer yours.
See, those were the gifts my parents gave me -- their values. And I quickly learned that those gifts were far more valuable than money or connections. Because once I got to college, I found that when I applied all those values to my studies, I was able to set -- develop an entirely new set of skills that I would use for the rest of my life -- skills like resilience, problem solving, time management.
I learned to turn stumbles and missteps into sources of motivation. A week with three tests and two papers wasn’t a reason to stress out, but a reason to plan. A negative comment from a professor in class wasn’t a reason to shut down, but a reason to ask even more questions. Most importantly, I realized that what really mattered wasn’t how much money my parents made or what those people in my high school said about me. What mattered was what was in my mind and what was in my heart. So my four years in school gave me the confidence to know that if I could make it on a college campus, I could make it anywhere.
So graduates, this day is huge for kids like us -- it's huge. So you should be incredibly proud. And I hope that you never lose sight of what brought you to this day -– those values that you came here with, and those skills and talents you developed while you were here. Because when you pair those two things together, you will be prepared for whatever comes next.
And that brings me to an important question: What does come next?
As I thought about the journey you all are about to embark upon, it reminded me of a conversation I had with my daughter Malia -- she's my oldest. This conversation we had when she was 10 years old. We were talking about college and her future, and I told her -- I always tell my kids, I said, once you graduate from college, you cannot come back home again -- cannot. (Laughter.) Now, of course I was joking, but I still don’t want here to know that. (Laughter.) But her response -- she took it in -- was one I’ll never forget. She said, well, Mom, where do you go after college? She said, I mean, literally, the day after you graduate? She said, because you’re not in school, and you can’t come home, so where do you go?
Now, I hope that all of you have an answer for that question today, and hopefully nobody is sleeping out in The Ravine. But I think there was also something profound about her question. Where are you going to go? And so today, in the spirit of my daughter’s question, I want to pose a few questions of my own as you begin the next chapter of your lives.
And my first question is: Who are you going to be? And if you’ll notice, I’m not asking what are you going to do, but who are you going to be? I’m asking you about how you plan to live your life every day. How are you going to respond when you don’t get that job you had your heart set on?
For all of you who are going on to be teachers, what are you going to do if the students in your class next year just don’t respond to your lessons? For all of you going into business, how will you react when your boss gives you a goal that feels way too high?
These are the moments that define us -- not the day you get the promotion, not the day you win teacher of the year, but the times that force you to claw and scratch and fight just to get through the day; the moments when you get knocked down and you’re wondering whether it’s even worth it to get back up. Those are the times when you’ve got to ask yourself, who am I going to be?
And I want to be clear, this isn’t just some vague platitude about building character. In recent years, we’ve actually been seeing a growing body of research that shows that skills like resilience and conscientiousness can be just as important to your success as your test scores, or even your IQ.
For instance, West Point cadets who scored high on things like grit and determination were more likely to complete basic training than those who ranked high on things like class rank, SAT scores, and physical fitness. So what we’re seeing is that if you’re willing to dig deep, if you’re willing to pick yourself up when you fall, if you’re willing to work and work until your weaknesses become your strengths, then you’ll develop a set of skills that you can mold and apply to any situation you encounter, any job you might have, any crisis you might confront.
But you’ve got to make that choice -- who are you going to be? And then once you answer that question, I want you to answer a second question, and that is: How are you going to take those skills and experiences that you’ve gained and use them to serve others?
Here at Eastern, you have an extraordinary culture of service. Many of you spent your spring break volunteering in places like New Orleans and Washington D.C. Your journalism society donated all the money they had raised for a trip to a regional conference to a newspaper that had been hit by a tornado.
Altogether, EKU students volunteered 107,000 hours of service, earning you a place on my husband the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. (Applause.) And on top of all of that, you have also given back to our country by opening your arms and welcoming our nation’s veterans into your community. And everyone here is involved in that -- everyone. (Applause.)
The administration awards college credit for military experience. Faculty members reach out to veterans in their classrooms. Students donate to the veterans’ book exchange every semester. So it is no wonder that two out of the last three years, Military Times EDGE magazine has named you the nation’s number one four-year school for our veterans. (Applause.) So you all should be very proud of this community.
But graduates, you can’t stop serving once you leave here. Whether you’ve worn our country’s uniform or not, we’re all called to serve and to give back to those around us. And you don’t have to travel across the globe or even across the country to find ways to serve. All you have to do is take a look around your own community.
Are there kids in your neighborhood who could use a mentor? Can you volunteer with an organization that serves military families? Can you pick up a few extra cans of vegetables and donate them to a food bank? I mean, these may seem so small, but they really make a difference. Because when you’ve worked hard and done well, as I said, the least you can do is reach back and give a hand to somebody else who could use that help. (Applause.) We can all find a way to open our arms and welcome folks around us into our lives and our communities.
And that leads me to my third question: Who are you going to include in your life?
The EKU community’s outreach to veterans offers part of the answer to this question. Now, just imagine what it’s like for these veterans to go from combat to campus. Just put yourself in their shoes for one second -- one minute you’re wearing a rucksack, carrying a firearm, and facing gunfire in the middle of the desert; the next minute you’re wearing a backpack, carrying a textbook, and hanging out at Powell Corner. Your friends from the platoon are scattered across the country. Most of the people you see on a day-to-day basis have never experienced and could never imagine the things you’ve experienced. It would be so easy to feel isolated, like no one understands, like you’re an outsider.
But here at Eastern, you didn’t let that happen. Instead, you reached out to these men and women. You made sure they felt comfortable and welcomed. And you’ve seen that your community has become stronger, even more vibrant because these men and women, because they are part of this community.
So graduates, think about how this will apply to your own lives in the future. As you move on, you’re going to come across all kinds of people from all different places and faiths and walks of life. And you can choose to pass them by without a word, or you can choose to reach out to them, no matter who they are or where they come from or what ideas they might have.
That’s what’s always made this country great –- embracing the diversity of experience and opinion that surrounds us everywhere we go. So I encourage you all -- seek it out. Don’t just spend time with people your own age -– go to the local senior center and talk with folks who have a little life experience under their belts. You would be amazed at the wisdom they have to offer.
Try visiting a different congregation every once in a while; you might just hear something in the sermon that stays with you. If you’re a Democrat, spend some time talking to a Republican. And if you’re a Republican, have a chat with a Democrat. (Applause.) Maybe you’ll find some common ground, maybe you won’t. But if you honestly engage with an open mind and an open heart, I guarantee you’ll learn something. And goodness knows we need more of that, because we know what happens when we only talk to people who think like we do -- we just get more stuck in our ways, more divided, and it gets harder to come together for a common purpose. (Applause.)
But here's the thing, graduates -- as young people, you all can -- you can get past all that. You’ve got the freedom of an open mind, and thanks to today’s technology, you’re connected to each other and to the world like never before.
So you can either choose to use those opportunities to continue fighting the fights that we’ve been locked in for decades, or you can choose to reject those old divisions and embrace folks with a different point of view. And if you do that, the latter, who knows where it might take you -- more importantly, where it might take our country.
So those are my three questions: Who do you want to be? How will you serve others? And who will you include in your lives? And let me just share just a little secret before I end -- as someone who has hired and managed hundreds of young people over the course of my career, the answers to those questions, believe me, are far more important than you can ever imagine.
Whether it was during my time as a lawyer, as an administrator at a university, a nonprofit manager, even now as First Lady, I’ve never once asked someone I was interviewing to explain a test score or a grade in a class -- never. (Applause.) I’ve never once made a hire just because someone went to an Ivy League school instead of a state school -- never. What I have looked for is what kind of person you are. Are you a hard worker? Are you reliable? Are you open to other viewpoints? Have you stepped outside of your own self-interest to serve others? Have you found a way to serve our country, whether in uniform or in your community?
Again and again, I’ve seen that those are the qualities that I want on my team, because those are the qualities that move our businesses and schools and our entire country forward. And just understand this -- those are the qualities that you all already embody. They’re the values you learned from your parents, from the communities you grew up in. They’re the skills you developed here at EKU as you worked so hard to make it to this day.
And today, more than ever before, that’s what the world needs. We need more people like you. So after you’ve come this far, after all of the ups and downs, I hope that it is no longer a question of whether or not you can make it in this world, but how and where you’re going to make your mark.
And that brings me back to Malia’s original question: Where are you going to go?
Graduates of this university have gone on to become generals in our military, some of our nation’s best CEOs and educators and law enforcement officers. Let me tell -- Abraham Lincoln was a Kentucky kid; so were Muhammad Ali, George Clooney, Diane Sawyer. (Applause.)
So, graduates, make no mistake –- you can go anywhere you choose. So be proud, and never, ever doubt yourselves. Walk boldly on that road ahead, no matter where it takes you. And please spread those values everywhere you go. We need it more than ever before.
So congratulations again, graduates. It has been a true pleasure. Best of luck on the road ahead. I love you all. (Applause.)
END 8:43 P.M. EDT