“The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government.” -- President Barack Obama, November 7, 2012
Since the first day of the Obama Administration, the Federal government has worked to make government more efficient, effective, and responsive to citizens’ needs. The Administration has harnessed new technology to engage the public, worked to disclose information more quickly, and given citizens a greater voice in decision-making.
In September 2011, the Administration’s work was launched on the world stage when President Obama and other world leaders endorsed the principles of the global Open Government Partnership (OGP). As part of our commitment to OGP, the United States launched the National Action Plan, a set of twenty-six concrete commitments that help increase public integrity, promote public participation, manage public resources more effectively, and improve public services. Praised by civil society organizations and the public, the Plan stands as a great example of what we can do as a country when government, civil society, and the public collaborate together. As the President has said, “Put simply, our countries are stronger when we engage citizens beyond the halls of government.”
Today, we are proud to report that the United States has fulfilled twenty-four of those commitments. You can read more about the implementation of our National Action Plan here. Some highlights include:
In September 2009, the President announced that—for the first time in history—White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in December 2012. This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 3.1 million—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.
Ed. note: For more information, check out Ethics.gov.
Newtown. Today, the name of the town itself immediately conjures many images and emotions for people throughout our country. After visiting Newtown myself yesterday I am left with the memory of two words specifically -- perseverance and character.
I was privileged to visit the Newtown Prevention Council, a drug free communities coalition dedicated to reducing substance abuse in Newtown, Connecticut. The Council has been in existence since 1986 and seeks to help young people and families make decisions in support of healthy and substance-free lifestyles. But as with all prevention focused coalitions they also strengthen family and build resiliency and self-reliance for a community.
I asked them if the presence of their Coalition had helped them since the tragedy that rocked their community on December 14. To a person, they agreed it had. Coalition members include faith leaders, the chief of the Newtown police department, public and private school principals, counselors, health care professionals including a school nurse and emergency room doctor, high school students and several other community members.
In the face of unspeakable tragedy, the strength of this community has come through. Community members and members of this coalition support one another and cultivate the core characteristics of a town that will be known not just for the tragedy it has been through but for its resilience and character. The community coalition has done great work in Newtown to reduce underage drinking and substance use. Using evidence based techniques they work to give parents and young people the tools they need to lead healthy lives. And they build trusting relationships among the participants, relationships that pay huge dividends when tragedy strikes.
Over the last four years, construction crews have built or improved more than 350,000 miles of road – enough to circle the world more than 14 times. We’ve upgraded more than 6,000 miles of rail – enough to go coast-to-coast and back. And American workers have repaired or replaced more than 20,000 bridges.
But we still have a long way to go.
While our national infrastructure got its best grade in 15 years from the American Society of Civil Engineers' annual report card in 2013, that grade is now a D+ instead of a D. We don’t have to accept that for America -- we can do better. And in a time of tight budgets, we can do it in a way that makes sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. Additionally, there are few more important things we can do to create jobs right now, and strengthen our economy than to put people back to work rebuilding America – our roads, bridges, schools, and ports.
In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama announced a three-part plan to encourage private investment in American infrastructure that will make our roads, bridges, and ports safer, give our businesses and workers the tools to compete successfully in the global economy, and create thousands of much-needed jobs in cities and towns across the country. Here’s how it works:
In honor of Women’s History Month, last week, we welcomed a group of high school students to participate in a conversation with a mentoring panel at the White House. It was followed by a celebration in the East Room with President Obama and the First Lady. Here are some of the highlights and interviews from the panelists and attendees:
This week, the President wrapped up an historic trip to the Middle East with stops in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan, and then returned home for a naturalization ceremony, visits with the LA Galaxy and Kings, African Leaders, young ambassadors and Spanish-language television. He finished the week by pressing for commonsense action to protect children from gun violence.
Earlier today, the White House invited innovators from around the country to join a Google+ Hangout to discuss the Maker Movement, a growing community of young people and adults who are designing and building things on their own time.
White House innovation advisor Tom Kalil moderated the conversation with participants including: 11-year-old Super Awesome Sylvia, creator of the Super Awesome Maker Show; Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE Magazine and creator of Maker Faire; Tara Tiger Brown, co-founder and executive director at LA Makerspace; Saul Griffith, co-founder of Otherlab; and Venkatesh Prasad, Ford technical leader. And in a first for White House Hangouts, a robot joined too.
During the Hangout, participants discussed the elements of an "all hands on deck" effort to elevate Making and also share their ideas on how we can get more young people interested in STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math). Here's what you missed:
We'll continue to host hangouts with key members of the Administration on a range of issues. Follow the White House on Google+ for updates from the Administration and opportunities to participate in upcoming Hangouts.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today released a new, easy-to-use interactive tool that gives anybody - researchers, physicians, public health professionals, policymakers, consumer advocates, tech innovators, and the public – the ability to find and examine data on multiple chronic conditions among Medicare beneficiaries. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chronic Conditions Dashboard furthers the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) goals for health promotion and the prevention and management of multiple chronic conditions and is an integral part of the Administration’s Health Data Initiative that seeks to release more health-related data in more usable formats to the public in order to promote innovation and improvement in health and care.
The Dashboard includes data for 2011 and presents summarized information on the prevalence of chronic conditions, as well as aggregate Medicare costs and utilization measures for beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions at various geographic levels – national, state, and hospital referral region. Examples of what you can find in the Dashboard include:
President Barack Obama meets with, from left, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde in the Cabinet Room of the White House, March 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Today President Obama welcomed President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde to the White House. The United States has strong partnerships with these countries based on shared democratic values and shared interests. Each of these leaders has undertaken significant efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, protect and expand human rights and civil liberties, and increase economic opportunities for their people.
President Obama and the visiting leaders discussed how the United States can expand our partnership to support their efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and promote economic opportunity, both in their countries and across sub-Saharan Africa. A particular focus of the conversation was on the importance of transparency and respect for human rights, and President Obama commended each leader for their work in these areas and their commitment to join the Open Government Partnership. President Obama also commended these leaders for their leadership on food security and engaged the leaders in a fruitful conversation about how the United States can help Africa harness the potential of its young people and empower the next generation of African leaders.
Today, President Obama promised the American people that he had not forgotten the 20 innocent chidlren and six brave educators who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary more than 100 days ago. Standing with parents and teachers of gun violence victims, he urged Congress to take action that will protect other children and families from the pain and grief these families have experienced.
“As I said when I visited Newtown just over three months ago, if there is a step we can take that will save just one child, just one parent, just another town from experiencing the same grief that some of the moms and dads who are here have endured, then we should be doing it,” President Obama said. “We have an obligation to try.”
In January, the President put forward a series of common-sense proposals to reduce the epidemic of gun violence and keep our kids safe, and in his State of the Union address, the President called on Congress to give these proposals a vote. “And in just a couple of weeks, they will,” he said.
In the coming weeks, members of Congress will vote on whether we should require universal background checks for anyone who wants to buy a gun so that criminals or people with severe mental illnesses can’t get their hands on one. They’ll vote on tough new penalties for anyone who buys guns only to turn around and sell them to criminals. They’ll vote on a measure that would keep weapons of war and high-capacity ammunition magazines that facilitate these mass killings off our streets. They’ll get to vote on legislation that would help schools become safer and help people struggling with mental health problems to get the treatment that they need.
Last month, President Obama said in a speech in Chicago, “There is no surer path to success in the middle class than a good education.”
Today, I had the opportunity to speak at the Department of Education’s Higher Education Program Project Directors’ Meeting, which gathered thousands of people who work every day to ensure that more students receive a good education.
Project directors from across the country came together in Washington, DC to discuss how to better serve students in their three program and grant administration areas: Institutional Service (IS), which strengthens institutions that serve largely minority or low-income populations and first-generation college students; Student Service (SS), which works to provide academic preparation, support and career development; and Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), which seeks to help implement, evaluate, and share innovative reforms to improve productivity, efficiency, and completion in higher education.
Their work supports President Obama’s goal for the United States to again lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by the year 2020.
To reach this target, we project that the proportion of college graduates in the U.S. will need to increase by 50 percent nationwide by the end of the decade. That means that eight million more young adults will need to earn associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and postsecondary certificates by 2020.
Earlier this month, President Obama met with 40 of the nation’s top scientists and engineers—discoverers of new drug candidates to treat common cancers; inventors of tools to help surgeons in the operating room; developers of complex algorithms that can help robots navigate; and more. All of these innovators were finalists in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search competition, and all of them are still in high school.
These students are living proof that with the right skills, tools, and opportunities, innovation and discovery can happen at any age. That’s why the Obama Administration is placing a stronger emphasis than ever on equipping the next generation of American innovators in science, technology, engineering, and math—the “STEM” fields.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the screening of excerpts from an extraordinary new documentary, “Makers: Women Who Make America.” College and high school students from all over the Washington, DC area came together to watch the documentary, and hear a panel discussion with two incredible women – former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, and former President of Brown University, Ruth Simmons – both of whom were also featured in Makers.
Linda Douglass, Senior Vice President for Global Communications for Atlantic Media Company, moderated the panel. Linda is a former broadcast journalist who has covered six presidential campaigns.
President Barack Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson during a swearing-in ceremony in the Oval Office, March 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
A highly respected veteran of the Secret Service was sworn in as head of that agency today in a ceremony in the Oval Office. President Obama watched as Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath to Julia Pierson, and praised her dedication, professionalism and commitment to her work:
"I have to say that Julia’s reputation within the Service is extraordinary," President Obama said following the ceremony. "She’s come up through the ranks. She’s done just about every job there is to do at the Secret Service."
"Obviously, she’s breaking the mold in terms of directors of the agency, and I think that people are all extraordinarily proud of her. And we have the greatest confidence in the wonderful task that lies ahead and very confident that she is going to do a great job. So we just want to say congratulations."
This week, the White House will continue a series of conversations with Administration officials on Google+. On Thursday, March 28th at 3:00 pm ET, White House innovation advisor Tom Kalil will join a Google+ Hangout to discuss the Maker Movement with leading innovators and Makers from around the country.
More and more Americans are becoming Makers, a growing community of young people and adults who are designing and building things on their own time. For example, 120,000 people participated in the May 2012 Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, sharing projects such as a flame-powered pipe organ, a fully automated ragtime band, and a 12-foot-tall aluminum robotic face controlled by 12 joysticks.
President Obama believes we need to give more young people the ability to become Makers. As the President said at the launch of his Educate To Innovate campaign to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, "I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it's science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent—to be makers of things, not just consumers of things." The Maker Movement can also promote innovation in manufacturing, one of President Obama’s top priorities.