Don't just talk or fight about it! Do something!

Despite whatever the Republican Party, the Tea-Party and the Congress are saying, President Obama knows what the problem is and he is going to do something about it and not just talk/fight about it!

Go Obama Go --- Go Americans Go!

P.S. Although the Republican Party was founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it seems like they are creating a new kind of slaves. Workers of American watch out!

President Obama at Linked In Town Hall (Video/Transcipt

Computer History Museum
Mountain View, California

MR. WEINER: Good morning, everyone.


MR. WEINER: Oh, very nice. (Laughter.) Thank you so much for joining us here today for a very special town hall discussion on a subject we all know to be truly important, and that's putting America back to work. In just a moment, I'm going to be introducing a very special guest, but before I do, just a few brief introductory remarks.

I think today's venue, the Computer History Museum, here in Silicon Valley, is a very fitting one for our discussion. There's a number of folks who've come to Silicon Valley not just for a job, or even a career path, but because they're interested in changing the world. And that's possible here because of the amazing technologies and companies that have been born in this area.

You think back to the semiconductor revolution, the age of computing, and of course, the Internet -- and most recently, with regard to the Internet, the rise of social networks connecting hundreds of millions of people around the world in milliseconds. Perhaps more importantly are the behavioral changes taking place as a result. The way in which we go online, represent our identities; stay connected to friends, family and colleagues; and of course, share information, knowledge, ideas and opinions is fundamentally transforming the world -- the way we live, the way we play, and the way we work.

And it's that last dynamic, changing the way we work, which is where LinkedIn is focused. We connect hundreds of millions of people ultimately around the world by connecting talent with opportunity -- today, 120 million members on a global basis, and that's growing north of two members per second, the fastest rate of growth in our history.

When we talk about connecting talent with opportunity we're not just referring to enabling people to find a job or their dream jobs. We're also talking about enabling people to be great at the jobs that they're already in. This is what we do, day in and day out. But our dream is even bigger than that. There are 153 million people in the American workforce; there are 3.3 billion people in the global workforce. Ultimately, our vision is to create economic opportunity for every one of them.

What's somewhat unusual about this vision is it won't simply be manifested by the employees of our company but by our members as well, because every individual that joins the LinkedIn network is in a position to, in turn, create economic opportunity for others. We're very fortunate today to be joined by several of our members and we're going to be hearing from them shortly.

Lastly, on the subject of economic opportunity, there seems to be one number on everybody's minds these days -- 9.1 percent, the unemployment rate in this country. Over 14 million Americans are unemployed, and that number grows to north of 25 million when you factor in those that are underemployed and marginally attached to the workforce.

There's one number you may be less familiar with, and that's 3.2 million, the number of available jobs in this country -- 3.2 million. We have everything we need to begin to put this country back to work -- the raw materials, the basic building blocks and, perhaps most importantly, the will of a nation. What we need is the way. With the American Jobs Act, our President is leading the way.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor and privilege to introduce the President of the United States. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. It’s a nice crowd. (Laughter.) And I have to say, Jeff, you warmed them up very well.

MR. WEINER: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much for your hospitality. And let me begin by just saying how excited I am to be here. Every time I come to Silicon Valley, every time that I come to this region, I am excited about America’s future. And no part of the country better represents, I think, the essence of America than here, because what you see is entrepreneurship and dynamism, a forward-orientation, an optimism, a belief that if you got a good idea and you’re willing to put in the sweat and blood and tears to make it happen, that not only can you succeed for yourself but you can grow the economy for everybody. And it’s that driving spirit that has made America an economic superpower.

But obviously we’re in a period of time right now where the economy is struggling, and a lot of folks all across the country are struggling. And so part of what I hope to do is to have a conversation with all of you about, how can we continue to spark the innovation that is going to ensure our economic success in the 21st century? How can we prepare our workforce to be able to plug in to this new economy? How do we recognize that, in this competitive environment, there are all kinds of opportunities that LinkedIn presents for interconnectedness and people being able to work together and spread ideas around the world and create value, but at the same time, understanding that there are some perils as well?

If our kids aren’t properly educated, if we don’t have an infrastructure that is world-class, if we are not investing in basic research in science -- if we’re not doing all the things that made us great in the past, then we’re going to fall behind.

And we’ve got a short-term challenge, which is how do we put people back to work right now. And so, as you mentioned, I put forward a proposal, the American Jobs Act, that would put thousands of teachers back into the classrooms who have been laid off due to downturns in state and local budgets; that would make sure that we are rebuilding our infrastructure -- taking extraordinary numbers of construction workers who have been laid off when the housing bubbles went bust and putting them to work rebuilding our roads and our airports and our schools, and laying broadband lines -- all the things that help us make a success; and also make sure that we’re providing small businesses the kinds of tax incentives that will allow them to hire and allow them to succeed.

And I have said to Congress, I understand that there’s an election 14 months away and it’s tempting to say that we’re not going to do anything until November of 2012, but the American people cannot afford to wait. The American people need help right now. And all the proposals we’ve put forward in the American Jobs Act will not only help us now, but will also help us in the future -- will lay the foundation for our long-term success.

Last point I'll make -- and then I want to get to questions -- it’s all paid for. And it’s paid for in part by building on some very tough cuts in our budget to eliminate waste and things we don't need -- that we’ve already made a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. We’ve proposed an additional half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years of spending cuts and adjustments on programs that we want to keep intact but haven’t been reformed in too long.

But what I’ve also said is in order to pay for it and bring down the deficit at the same time, we’re going to have to reform our tax code in a way that’s fair and makes sure that everybody is doing their fair share. I’ve said this before, I'll say it again: Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn't be paying a lower tax rate than Warren Buffett. Somebody who's making $50,000 a year as a teacher shouldn't be paying a higher effective tax rate than somebody like myself or Jeff, who've been incredibly blessed -- I don't know what you make Jeff, but I’m just guessing (laughter) -- who've been blessed by the incredible opportunities of this country.

And I say that because whenever America has moved forward, it’s because we’ve moved forward together. And we’re going to have to make sure that we are laying the foundation for the success of future generations, and that means that each of us are doing our part to make sure that we’re investing in our future.

So, with that, thank you so much for the terrific venue. I look forward to a bunch of great questions, both live and through whatever other linkages that we’ve got here. (Laughter.)

MR. WEINER: You’ve got it. So we’re going to be going back and forth between folks in the audience members and some previously generated questions from the LinkedIn group. So we’re going to start.

Our first question is from LinkedIn member Chuck Painter. And, Chuck we’re going to get you a mic --

Q Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

Q I’m from Austin, Texas. I’ve been in sales in the plastics industry for 20 years. I lost my job in 2009 and fortunate enough to have found another position, become reemployed. My question is what can we do as American citizens to unite ourselves and help the economy?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, are you a native of Austin? Because that’s one of my favorite cities in the country.

Q Actually, I’m a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, but just relocated to Austin, and I love it there.

THE PRESIDENT: Austin is great. Charlotte is not bad. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you, thank you, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s the reason why I’m having my convention in Charlotte, because I love North Carolina as well. But how long did it take you to find a new job after you had gotten laid off?

Q It took nine months.

THE PRESIDENT: It took nine months?

Q Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: And that’s one of the challenges that a lot of folks are seeing out there. You’ve got skilled people with experience in an industry. That industry changes, and you were fortunate enough to be able to move. Some folks, because of the decline in the housing industry, are having trouble with mobility in finding new jobs and relocating in pursuit of opportunity.

Q Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: The most important thing that we can do right now is to help jumpstart the economy, which has stalled, by putting people back to work. And so, not surprisingly, I think the most important thing we can do right now is pass this jobs bill.

Think about it. Independent economists have estimated that, if we pass the entire package, the American Jobs Act, we would increase GDP by close to 2 percent; we would increase employment by 1.9 million persons. And that is the kind of big, significant move in the economy that can have ripple effects and help a recovery take off.

There’s been a lot of dispute about the kind of impact that we had right after the financial crisis hit. But the fact is, the vast majority of economists who looked at it have said that the Recovery Act, by starting infrastructure projects around the country, by making sure that states had help on their budgets so they didn’t have to lay off teachers and firefighters and others, by providing tax cuts to small businesses -- and by the way, we’ve cut taxes about 16 times since I’ve been in office for small businesses to give them more capital to work with and more incentives to hire -- all those things made a big difference.

The American Jobs Act is specifically tailored to putting more of those folks back to work. It’s not going to solve all our problems. We’ve still got a housing situation in which too many homes are underwater. And one of the things that we’ve proposed as part of the American Jobs Act is, is that we’re going to help reduce the barriers to refinancing so that folks can get record-low rates. That will put more money into people’s pockets. It will provide tax cuts to not only small businesses, but almost every middle-class family. That means they’ve got more money in their pockets, and that means that they’re going to be able to spend it on products and services, which provide additional incentives for business to hire folks like you.

So it’s the right step to take right now. Long term, we’re going to have to pull together around making sure our education system is the best in the world, making sure our infrastructure is the best in the world, continuing to invest in science and technology. We’ve got to stabilize our finances, and we’ve got to continue to drive down health care costs, which are a drag on our whole economy. And we’ve got to continue to promote trade, but make sure that that trade is fair and that intellectual property protection, for example, is available when we’re doing business in other countries, like China.

So there are a lot of long-term agendas that we’ve got to pursue. Right now, though, the most important thing I can do for you, even if you already have a job, is to make sure that your neighbors and your friends also have jobs, because those are ultimately the customers for your products.

Q Yes, sir. Yes, thank you Mr. President.

MR. WEINER: All right. Thank you, Chuck.

We’d now like to take a question from the audience. So anyone interested?

THE PRESIDENT: This young lady right here.

MR. WEINER: Okay. Could we get a mic over there, please? Thank you.

Q Hi. I have a question actually from my mother, who is going to be 65 next March. And she lives in Ohio, which has a very high unemployment rate. She has a GED, and she’s always worked in food service. She’s currently unemployed, just got approved for Section 8 housing, gets Social Security and food stamps. And she wants to know, when can she get a job, and what’s going to happen to Social Security and Medicare?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, where does you mom live in Ohio?

Q Mentor.

THE PRESIDENT: Mentor -- what part of Ohio is that?

Q It’s east side of Cleveland.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, tell mom hi. (Laughter.) You get points for being such a good daughter and using your question to tell me what’s on her mind.

Q Oh, you have no idea. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: My mother-in-law lives at home, and so I -- in the White House -- so I’ve got some idea. (Laughter.)

First of all, let me talk about Social Security and Medicare, because this has obviously been an issue that has been discussed a lot in the press lately as we think about our long-term finances. You can tell your mom that Medicare and Social Security will be there for her -- guaranteed. There are no proposals out there that would affect folks that are about to get Social Security and Medicare, and she’ll be qualifying -- she already is starting to qualify for Medicare, and she’ll be qualifying for Social Security fairly soon.

Social Security and Medicare, together, have lifted entire generations of seniors out of poverty. Our most important social safety net, and they have to be preserved. Now, both of them have some long-term challenges that we’ve got to deal with, but they’re different challenges.

Social Security is actually the easier one; it’s just a pure, simple math problem, and that is that right now the population is getting older, so more people are going on Social Security; you’ve got fewer workers supporting more retirees. And so if we don’t do anything, Social Security won’t go broke, but in a few years what will happen is that more money will be going out than coming in. And over time, people who are on Social Security would only be getting about 75 cents on every dollar that they thought they’d be getting.

And so the Social Security system is not the big driver of our deficits, but if we don’t want -- if we want to make sure that Social Security is there for future generations then we’ve got to make some modest adjustments. And when I say modest, I mean, for example, right now Social Security contributions are capped at a little over $100,000 of earnings, and that means the vast majority of people pay Social Security taxes on everything they earn. But if you're earning a million dollars, only one-tenth of your income is taxed for Social Security. We could make that modification; that would solve a big chunk of the problem.

Medicare is a bigger issue because not only is the population getting older and more people are using it, but health care costs have been going up way too fast. And that's why part of my health care reform bill two years ago was let's start changing how our health care system works to make it more efficient. For example, if your mom goes in for a test, she shouldn’t have to then, if she goes to another specialist, take the same test all over again and have Medicare pay for two tests. That first test should be emailed to the doctor who's the specialist. But right now that's not happening. So what we've said is let's incentivize providers to do a more efficient job and, over time, we can start reducing those costs.

I've made some suggestions about how we can reform Medicare, but what I'm not going to do is what, frankly, the House Republicans proposed, which was to voucherize the Medicare system, which would mean your mom might pay an extra $6,000 every year for her Medicare.

Q Which she doesn't have.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m assuming she doesn't have it.

Q No.

THE PRESIDENT: So we are going to be pushing back against that kind of proposal. And that raises the point I made earlier. If people like myself aren’t paying a little more in taxes, then the only way you balance the budget is on the backs of folks like your mom, who end up paying a lot more in Medicare and they can’t afford it, whereas I can afford to pay a little more in taxes.

So that’s on Medicare and Social Security. In terms of her finding a job, the most important thing we can do right now is to pass the American Jobs Act, get people back to work. Because, think about it, if she’s been in the food service industry, that industry is dependent on people spending money on food, whether it’s at a restaurant, or a cafeteria, or buying more groceries. And if a construction worker and a teacher or a veteran have a job because of the programs that we proposed in the American Jobs Act, they’re going to be spending more money in food services, and that means that those businesses are going to have to hire more, and your mom is going to be more likely to be hired. All right?

Q Yes. And one of the other issues, though, is just a matter that there’s a big age gap between her and the other folks who are willing to come in and work for less money. They’ve got less experience.

THE PRESIDENT: That is a challenge. It is tough being unemployed if you’re in your 50s or early 60s, before retirement. That’s the toughest period of time to lose your job. Obviously, it’s never fun to lose your job, and it’s always hard in this kind of really deep recession, but it’s scariest for folks who are nearing retirement and may also be worrying about whether they’ve got enough saved up to ever retire.

So that’s part of the reason why one of the things that we’re also proposing, separate and apart from the jobs bill, is we’ve got to do a better job of retraining workers so that they, in their second or third or fourth careers, are able to go back to a community college, maybe take a short six-month course or a one-year course that trains them on the kinds of skills that are going to be needed for jobs that are actually hiring, or businesses that are actually hiring right now.

We’ve done some great work working with community colleges to try to make sure that businesses help design the training programs so that somebody who enrolls -- like your mom, if she goes back to school, she knows that after six months she will be trained for the particular job that this business is looking for.
All right? Thanks so much.

Q Great.

THE PRESIDENT: Tell her I said hi.

Q Thank you. Okay.

MR. WEINER: We’re going to go to the group, the LinkedIn group. We had thousands of questions submitted, and here’s one of them from LinkedIn member Marla Hughes. Marla is from Gainesville, Florida. She is the owner of Meticulously Clean, home and apartment cleaning service, and her question is: As a small business owner, regulation and high taxes are my worst enemies when it comes to growing my business. What are you going to do to lessen the onerous regulations and taxation on small businesses?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s hard to say exactly what regulations or taxes she may be referring to, because obviously it differs in different businesses. But as I said, we’ve actually cut taxes for small business 16 times since I’ve been in office. So taxes for small businesses are lower now than they were when I came into office.

Small businesses are able to get tax breaks for hiring; they’re able to get tax breaks for investment in capital investments; they are able to get tax breaks for hiring veterans. They’re able to get tax breaks for a whole host of areas, including, by the way, a proposal we put forward that says there should be no capital gains tax on a start-up, to encourage more small businesses to go out there and create a business.

In terms of regulations, most of the regulations that we have been focused on are ones that affect large businesses, like utilities, for example. In terms of how they deal with safety issues, environmental issues, we have been putting forward some tough regulations with respect to the financial sector, because we can’t have a repeat of what happened in 2007.

And the fact of the matter is, is that if what happened on Wall Street ends up having a spillover effect to all of Main Street, it is our responsibility to make sure that we have a dynamic economy, we have a dynamic financial sector, but we don’t have a mortgage brokerage operation that ends up providing people loans that can never be repaid and end up having ramifications throughout the system.

So you’re going to hear from, I think, Republicans over the next year and a half that somehow if we just eliminated pollution controls, or if we just eliminated basic consumer protections, that somehow that, in and of itself, would be a spur to growth. I disagree with that. What I do agree with is that there's some regulations that have outlived their usefulness. And so what I've done is I've said to all the agencies in the federal government, number one, you have to always take cost as well as benefits into account when you're proposing new regulations. Number two, don't just be satisfied with applying that analysis to new regulations, look back at the old regulations to see if there are some that we can start weeding out.

And we initiated the most aggressive -- what we call look-back provisions -- when it comes to regulations, where we say to every agency, go through all the regulations that you have on your books that flow through your agencies and see if some of them are still necessary. And it turns out that a lot of them are no longer necessary. Well, let's get rid of them if they've outlived their usefulness.

I think that there were some regulations that had to do with the transportation sector, for example, that didn’t take into account that everybody operates on GPS now. Well, you've got to adjust and adapt to how the economy is changing and how technology has changed. And we've already identified about $10 billion worth of savings just in the initial review, and we anticipate that that's only going to be a fraction of some of the paperwork and bureaucracy and red tape that we're going to be able to eliminate.

But I will never apologize for making sure that we have regulations in place to ensure that your water is clean, that your food is safe to eat -- that the peanut butter you feed your kids is not going to be contaminated; making sure that if you take out a credit card there's some clarity about what it exactly is going to do and you're not seeing a whole bunch of hidden fees and hidden charges that you didn’t anticipate. That's always been part of what makes the marketplace work, is if you have smart regulations in place, that means the people who are providing good value, good products, good services, those businesses are going to succeed. We don't want to be rewarding folks who are gaming the system or cheating consumers.

And I think that's how most Americans feel about regulations as well. They don't want more than is necessary, but they know that there's some things that we've got to do to protect ourselves and our environment and our children.

MR. WEINER: Thank you for your question, Marla.

Now we're going to take a question from LinkedIn member Esther Abeyja (phonetic). Esther is an IT analyst from Chicago, Illinois --

THE PRESIDENT: There you go. Chicago is all right, too. (Laughter.)

MR. WEINER: Esther, what is your question for the President?

Q Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

Q As Jeff said, I'm from Chicago, recently unemployed, and my fear is that the longer I'm unemployed the harder it is going to be for me to get employed. It seems that nowadays employers are hiring people who are currently employed because they're in touch with their skill set. What programs do you think should be in place for individuals such as myself to keep in touch with our skills, be in demand, marketable and eventually get hired?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, you obviously are thinking ahead about how to keep your skills up. And the most important thing you can do is to make sure that, whether it's through classes or online training, or what have you, that you're keeping your skill sets sharp.

We, as part of the American Jobs Act, are actually supporting legislation in Congress that says employers can't discriminate against somebody just because they're currently unemployed -- because that doesn’t seem fair. That doesn’t make any sense. But the most important thing probably we can do for you is just make sure that the unemployment rate generally goes down, the labor market gets a little tighter so that employers start looking beyond just the people who are currently employed to folks who have terrific skills and just have been out of the market for a while.

So passing the American Jobs Act is going to be important. There's legislation in there that says you can't be discriminated against just because you don't have a job. The one other thing that we can do is, during this interim, as you're looking for a job, making it easier for you to be able to go back to school if you think there's some skill sets that you need -- making it economical for you to do it.

One of the things that we did during the last two and a half years -- it used to be the student loan program was run through the banks. And even though the federal government guaranteed all these loans, so the banks weren’t taking any risks, they were taking about $60 billion out of the entire program, which meant that there was less money to actually go directly to students. We ended that. We cut out the middleman and we said let's use that money to expand the availability of Pell Grants, to increase the amount that Pell Grants -- each Pell Grant a student could get. And through that process, you've got millions of people all across the country who are able to actually go back to school without incurring the huge debt loads that they had in the past -- although, obviously, the cost of a college education is still really high.

But if we can do more to make it easier for you to keep your skills up even when you're not already hired, hopefully that will enhance your marketability to employers in the future. All right? Just looking at you I can tell you're going to do great.

Q Thank you.


MR. WEINER: Thanks, Esther.

Our next question is from LinkedIn member Wayne Kulich (phonetic). Wayne is from Phoenix, Arizona. He spent 25 years flying aircraft for the U.S. Navy and is now program director for American Express. Wayne.

Q Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, sir.

Q I’m from Phoenix, Arizona, where I’m a program director, as Jeff had said. I retired in 2007. When I retired, networking was essentially how I got all my jobs after retirement. How do you envision the government’s role in integrating networking tools that aid veterans that are leaving the service and getting jobs?

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a great question. And first of all, let me thank you for your service to this country.

Q My honor.

THE PRESIDENT: We are very grateful to you for that. (Applause.) Thank you. But you were extraordinarily skilled, and even then it sounds like you had to rely on informal networks rather than a formal set of processes for veterans in order for you to find a job that used all your skills. We have not done as good of a job in the past in helping veterans transition out of the armed services as we should have.

I’ll give you an example. I actually had lunch with a group of veterans from the Iraq and Afghan wars up in Minnesota. And a young man I was talking to had just gone back to school. He was getting his nursing degree. He had worked in emergency medicine in Iraq, multiple deployments; had probably dealt with the most incredible kinds of medical challenges under the most extreme circumstances; had received years of training to do this. But when he went back to nursing school, he had to start as if he had never been involved in medicine at all. And so he had to take all the same classes and take the same debt burdens from taking those classes as if I had just walked in and could barely put a Band-Aid on myself. But he had to go through the same processes.
Well, that’s an example of a failure on the part of both DOD and the VA -- the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration -- to think proactively, how can we help him make the transition?

So what we’ve started to say is let’s have a sort of a reverse boot camp. As folks are thinking about retiring, as folks are thinking about being discharged, let’s work with them while they’re still in the military to say is there a way to credential them so that they can go directly into the job and work with state and local governments and employers, so that if they’ve got a skill set that we know is applicable to the private sector, let’s give them a certification, let’s give them a credential that helps them do that right away.

We’ve also then started to put together a network of business, and I actually asked for a pledge from the private sector, and we’ve got a commitment that 100,000 veterans will be hired over the next several years. And that creates a network -- and maybe they’ll end up using Linkedin, I don’t know. But what we want to do is to make sure that, whether it’s the certification process, whether it’s the job search process, whether it’s resume preparation, whether it’s using electronic networking, that we’re using the huge capacity of the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense, and all the federal agencies, to link up together more effectively.

Because not only is the federal government obviously a big employer itself -- and we’ve significantly increased the hiring of veterans within the federal government, including, by the way, disabled veterans and wounded warriors -- but the federal government is also a big customer of a lot of businesses. And there’s nothing wrong with a big customer saying to a business, you know what, we’re not going to tell you who to hire, but here’s a list of extremely skilled veterans who are prepared to do a great job and have shown incredible leadership skills. Now, you think of these -- you’ve got 23, 24, 25-year-olds who are leading men into battle, who are handling multimillion-dollar pieces of equipment, and they do so flawlessly. Those leadership skills, those technical skills should be able to translate directly into jobs.

The last thing I’ll say is, obviously, the American Jobs Act also would be helpful because it provides additional tax incentives for companies to hire our veterans.

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. WEINER: Thank you, Wayne. And thank you again for your service.

Let’s turn to the audience now. A lot of hands going up. Mr. President, want to pick someone?

THE PRESIDENT: Well -- (laughter) -- you kind of put me on the spot here. That guy -- the guy in the glasses right back in the -- right in the back there. Why not?

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I don’t have a job, but that’s because I’ve been lucky enough to live in Silicon Valley for a while and work for a small startup down the street here that did quite well. So I’m unemployed by choice. My question is would you please raise my taxes? (Laughter and applause.) I would like very much to have the country to continue to invest in things like Pell Grants and infrastructure and job training programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am. And it kills me to see Congress not supporting the expiration of the tax cuts that have been benefiting so many of us for so long. I think that needs to change, and I hope that you will stay strong in doing that.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate it. What was the startup, by the way? You want to give me a little hint?

Q It’s a search engine. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Worked out pretty well, huh?

Q Yes. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, let me just talk about taxes for a second. I’ve made this point before, but I want to reiterate this. So often the tax debate gets framed as “class warfare.” And, look, as I said at the outset, America’s success is premised on individuals, entrepreneurs having a great idea, going out there and pursuing their dreams and making a whole lot of money in the process. And that’s great. That’s part of what makes America so successful.

But as you just pointed out, we’re successful because somebody invested in our education, somebody built schools, somebody created incredible universities. I went to school on scholarship. Michelle -- her dad was what’s called a stationary engineer at the water reclamation district; never owned his own home, but he always paid his bills; had multiple sclerosis, struggled to get to work every day, but never missed a day on the job; never went to college, but he was able to send his daughter to Princeton and on to Harvard Law School. We benefited from somebody, somewhere making an investment in us. And I don’t care who you are, that’s true of all of us.

Look at this room. I mean, look at the diversity of the people here. A lot of us are -- parents came from someplace else, or grandparents came from someplace else. They benefited from a public school system, or an incredible university network, or the infrastructure that allows us to move products and services around the globe, or the scientific research that -- Silicon Valley is built on research that no individual company would have made on their own because you couldn’t necessarily capture the value of the nascent Internet.

So the question becomes: If we’re going to make those investments, how do we pay for it? Now, the income of folks at the top has gone up exponentially over the last couple of decades, whereas the incomes and wages of the middle class have flat-lined over the last 15 years. So this young lady’s mom, who’s been working in food services, she doesn’t have a lot of room to spare. Those of us who have been fortunate, we do. And we’re not talking about going to punitive rates that would somehow inhibit you from wanting to be part of a startup or work hard to be successful. We’re talking about going back to the rates that existed as recently as in the ‘90s, when, as I recall, Silicon Valley was doing pretty good, and well-to-do people were going pretty well. And it turns out, in fact, during that period, the rich got richer. The middle class expanded. People rose out of poverty, because everybody was doing well.

So this is not an issue of do we somehow try to punish those who have done well. That’s the last thing we want to do. It’s a question of how can we afford to continue to make the investments that are going to propel American forward.

If we don’t improve our education system, for example, we will all fall behind. We will all fall behind. That’s just -- that’s a fact. And the truth is, is that on every indicator -- from college graduation rates to math and science scores -- we are slipping behind other developed countries. And that’s going to have an impact in terms of, if you’re a startup, are you going to be able to find enough engineers? It’s going to have an impact in terms of, is the infrastructure here good enough that you can move products to market? It’s going to have an impact on your ability to recruit top talent from around the world. And so we all have an investment in improving our education system.

Now, money is not going to solve the entire problem. That’s why we’ve initiated reforms like Race to the Top that says we’re going to have higher standards for everybody. We’re going to not just have kids taught to the test, but we’re going to make sure that we empower teachers, but we’re also going to hold them accountable, and improve how we train our principals and our teachers. So we’re willing to make a whole bunch of reforms, but, at some point, money makes a difference. If we don't have enough science teachers in the classroom, we’re going to have problems. Somebody has got to pay for it.

And, right now, we’ve got the lowest tax rates we’ve had since the 1950s. And some of the Republican proposals would take it back -- as a percentage of GDP -- back to where we were back in the 1920s. You can’t have a modern industrial economy like that.

So I appreciate your sentiment. I appreciate the fact that you recognize we’re in this thing together. We’re not on our own. And those of us who’ve been successful, we’ve always got to remember that.

Q I know a lot of people in that same situation, and every one of them has said that they would support an increase in their taxes -- so, please. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re going to get to work. Thank you.

MR. WEINER: Thank you. Thank you for your question.

Next question was submitted to the Linkedin group -- it actually comes from a Linkedin employee named Theresa Sullivan. It’s a two-part question.

First, do you think our public education system and our unemployment rates are related? And second, what, if any, overhaul in education is necessary to get Americans ready for the jobs of tomorrow, rather than the jobs of 20 years ago?

THE PRESIDENT: There is no doubt that there is a connection, long term, between our economic success, our productivity, and our education system. That’s indisputable. When we were at our peak in terms of growth, back in the '60s and the '70s, in large part it was because we were doing a better job of training our workforce than anybody else in the world.

Now the rest of the world has caught up -- or is catching up. They’re hungry. And as I said before, we are slipping behind a lot of developed countries. So our proportion of college graduates has not gone up, while everybody else's has gone up. Our proportion of high school graduates has not gone up, while everybody else’s has gone up. And if you’ve got a billion Chinese and Indians and Eastern Europeans, all who are entering into a labor force and are becoming more skilled, and we are just sitting on the status quo, we’re going to have problems.

Now, what can we do? This is a decade-long project; it’s not a one-year project. And we’ve been pushing since we came into office to look at the evidence, to base reforms on what actually works. The single-most important ingredient in improving our schools is making sure we’ve got great teachers in front of the -- in front of every classroom.

And so what we’ve said is let’s make sure that we’ve hired enough teachers; let's train them effectively; lets pay them a good wage; let's make sure that we’re putting a special emphasis on recruiting more math and science teachers -- STEM education is an area where we’ve fallen significantly behind. Let’s make sure they’re accountable, but lets also give them flexibility in the classroom so that they don't have to do a cookie-cutter, teach-to-the-test approach that squashes their creativity and prevents them from engaging students. But at the end of the year, let’s make sure that they’re doing a good job. And if there are teachers out there who are not doing a good job, let’s work to retrain them. And if they’re not able to be retrained, then we should probably find them a different line of work. We’ve got to have top-flight principals and leadership inside the schools. That makes a big difference.

We’ve also got to focus on -- there are some schools that are just dropout factories where less than half of the kids end up graduating -- a lot of them, the students are black and brown, but that’s also the demographic that’s growing the fastest in this country. So if we don't fix those schools we’re going to have problems. So we’ve said to every state, you know what, focus on the lowest-performing schools and tell us what your game plan is to improve those schools’ performance.

And it may be that we’ve got to also, in some cases, rethink how we get students interested in learning. IBM is engaged in a really interesting experience in New York where they’re essentially setting up schools -- similar to the concept I was talking about with community colleges -- where they’re saying to kids pretty early on -- I think as early as 8th grade -- we’re going to design a program -- IBM worked with the New York public schools to design a program -- and this is not for the kids who are in the top 1 percent, this is for ordinary public school kids. You follow this program, you work hard, IBM will hire you at the end of this process. And it suddenly gives kids an incentive. They say, oh, the reason I'm studying math and science is there's a practical outcome here. I will have a job. And there are practical applications to what I'm doing in the classroom.

And that's true at high-end jobs, but it's also true -- we want to do more to train skilled workers even if they don't have a four-year degree. It may be that the more the concept of apprenticeship and the concept of a rigorous vocational approach is incorporated in the high schools so the kids can actually see a direct connection to what they're learning and a potential career, they're less likely to drop out and we're going to see more success.

So one last point I'll make about this is George Bush actually was sincere I think in trying to improve the education system across the country through something called No Child Left Behind, that said we're going to impose standards, there's going to be accountability; if schools don't meet those standards we're going to label them as failures and they're going to have to make significant changes. The intent was good. It wasn’t designed as well as it could have been. In some cases, states actually lowered their own standards to make sure that they weren’t labeled as failures. There wasn’t enough assistance given to these schools to meet the ambitious goals that had been set.

So what we've said is, look, we'll provide states some waivers to get out from under No Child Left Behind if you can provide us with a plan to make sure that children are going to be college and career ready. And we'll give you more flexibility but we're still going to hold you accountable and we will provide you the tools and best practices that allow you to succeed.

So, last point I'll make on this -- there is also a cultural component to this, though. We, as a country, have to recognize that all of us are going to have to up our game and we, as parents, have to instill in our kids a sense of educational excellence. We've got to turn off the TV set. I know it's dangerous to say in Silicon Valley, but put away the video games sometimes, and all the electronics, unless it's school-related. And we've just got to get our kids more motivated and internalizing that sense of the importance of learning.

And if we don't do that, we're going to continue to slip behind, even if some of these school reform approaches that we're taking are successful.

MR. WEINGER: Thank you, Theresa.

Our next question comes from LinkedIn member Robert Holly (phonetic) who is joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina. After a promising career in financial services, Robert was, unfortunately, recently laid off. Robert, what is your question?

Q Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

Q As Jeff mentioned, I have a 22-year, very successful career in IT management, but I find myself displaced. And not only that, I look at the statistics of unemployment -- 16.7 percent for African Americans. My question would be -- and not just for the African Americans, but also for other groups that are also suffering -- what would you be your statement of encouragement for those who are looking for work today?

THE PRESIDENT: What I would say is just, given your track record, given your history, seeing you stand here before this group, you're going to be successful. You've got a leg up on a lot of folks. You've got skills, you've got experience, you've got a track record of success. Right now your challenge is not you, it's the economy as a whole. And by the way, this is not just an American challenge; this is happening worldwide.

I hope everybody understands our biggest problem right now, part of the reason that this year, where at the beginning of the year, economists had estimated, and financial analysts had estimated that the economy was going to be growing at about 3.5 percent, and that has not happened, in part has to do with what happened in the Middle East and the Arab Spring, which disrupted energy prices and caused consumers to have to pull back because gas was getting so high; what's happening in Europe, which they have not fully healed from the crisis back in 2007 and never fully dealt with all the challenges their banking system faced. It's now being compounded by what's happening in Greece. So they're going through a financial crisis that is scaring the world. And they're trying to take responsible actions, but those actions haven't been quite as quick as they need to be.

So the point is, is that economies all around the world are not growing as fast as they need to. And since the world is really interconnected, that affects us as well. The encouraging thing for you is that when the economy gets back on track in the ways that it should, you are going to be prepared to be successful. The challenge is making sure that you hang in between now and then.

That's why things like unemployment insurance, for example, are important. And part of our jobs act is to maintain unemployment insurance. It's not a end all, be all, but it helps folks meet their basic challenges. And by the way, it also means that they're spending that money and they're re-circulating that into the economy so it's good for businesses generally.

Some of the emergency measures that we've been taking and we've proposed to take help to bridge the gap to where the economy is more fully healed. And historically, after financial crises, recessions are deeper and they last longer than after the usual business cycle recessions.

So I guess the main message I have for you is the problem is not you; the problem is the economy as a whole. You are going to be well equipped to succeed and compete in this global economy once it's growing again. My job is to work with everybody I can -- from the business community to Congress, to not-for-profits, you name it -- to see if we can speed up this process of healing and this process of recovery.

And in the meantime, we will make sure that things like unemployment insurance that are there to help people during tough times like this are going to continue to be available. And if there are -- since you’re in IT, if there are areas where you need to be sharpening your skills, as the young lady here mentioned, we are going to make sure that the resource is available for you to be able to go back to school and do that.

Thank you.

MR. WEINER: Thank you. That was our last question. We’re going to begin to wrap it up, and before I turn it over to you for some concluding remarks, I just wanted to say thank you, and let you know how much we appreciate the work that you’re doing. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say I can’t think of anything more important than creating economic opportunity when it comes to profoundly and sustain-ably improving the quality of an individual’s life, the lives of their family members, the lives of the people that they in turn can create jobs for.

And in hard-hit American cities and developing countries around the world, these folks are creating role models for the next generation of entrepreneurs and professionals that didn’t know it was possible.

So on behalf of myself, on behalf of our visionary founder, Reid Hoffman, without whom none of this would have been possible, on behalf of our employees, of course our members, on behalf of our country, thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, let me just say these have been terrific questions and I so appreciate all of you taking the time to do this. I appreciate LinkedIn helping to host this. And for those of you who are viewing, not in this circle but around the country, maybe around the world, I appreciate the chance to share these ideas with you.

Look, we’re going through a very tough time. But the one thing I want to remind everybody is that we’ve gone through tougher times before. And the trajectory, the trend of not just this country but also the world economy is one that’s more open, one that’s more linked, one that offers greater opportunity, but also one that has some hazards. If we don’t prepare our people with the skills that they need to compete, we’re going to have problems. If we don’t make sure that we continue to have the best infrastructure in the world, we’re going to have problems. If we’re not continuing to invest in basic research, we’re going to have challenges. If we don’t get our fiscal house in order in a way that is fair and equitable so that everybody feels like they have responsibilities to not only themselves and their family but also the country that’s given them so much opportunity, we’re going to have problems.

And so I am extraordinarily confident about America’s long-term future. But we are going to have to make some decisions about how we move forward. And what’s striking to me is, when we’re out of Washington and I’m just talking to ordinary folks, I don’t care whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, people are just looking for common sense. The majority of people agree with the prescriptions I just offered. The majority of people by a wide margin think we should be rebuilding our infrastructure. The majority of folks by a wide margin think that we should be investing in education. The majority of people by a wide margin think we should be investing in science and technology. And the majority of people think by a wide margin that we should be maintaining programs like Social Security and Medicare to provide a basic safety net.

The majority of people by a significant margin think that the way we should close our deficit is a balance of cutting out those things that we don’t need, but also making sure that we’ve got a tax code that’s fair and everybody is paying their fair share.

So the problem is not outside of Washington. The problem is, is that things have gotten so ideologically driven and everybody is so focused on the next election and putting party ahead of country that we’re not able to solve our problems. And that’s got to change. And that’s why your voices are going to be so important.

The reason I do these kinds of events is I want you to hear from me directly. I want to hear from you directly, but I also want your voices heard in the halls of Congress. I need everybody here to be speaking out on behalf of the things that you care about, and the values that made this country great, and to say to folks who you’ve elected -- say to them, we expect you to act responsibly, and not act in terms of short-term political interest. Act in terms of what’s going to be good for all of us over the long term.

If that spirit, which all of you represent, starts asserting itself all across the country, then I’m absolutely confident the 21st century is going to be the American century just like the 20th century way.

So thank you very much everybody. God bless you.

MR. WEINER: Thank you, everybody.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner (Video/Transcipt)

Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, CBC! (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. Please, everybody have a seat. It is wonderful to be with all of you tonight. It's good to be with the conscience of the Congress. (Applause.) Thank you, Chairman Cleaver and brother Payne, for all that you do each and every day. Thank you, Dr. Elsie Scott, president and CEO of the CBC Foundation, and all of you for your outstanding work with your internship program, which has done so much for so many young people. And I had a chance to meet some of the young people backstage -- an incredible, unbelievably impressive group.

You know, being here with all of you -- with all the outstanding members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- reminds me of a story that one of our friends, a giant of the civil rights movement, Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery, told one day. Dr. Lowery -- I don't think he minds me telling that he turns 90 in a couple weeks. (Applause.) He’s been causing a ruckus for about 89 of those years. (Laughter.)

A few years back, Dr. Lowery and I were together at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma. (Applause.) We've got some Selma folks in the house. (Applause.) And Dr. Lowery stood up in the pulpit and told the congregation the story of Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. You know the story -- it’s about three young men bold enough to stand up for God, even if it meant being thrown in a furnace. And they survived because of their faith, and because God showed up in that furnace with them.

Now, Dr. Lowery said that those three young men were a little bit crazy. But there’s a difference, he said, between good crazy and bad crazy. (Applause.) Those boys, he said, were “good crazy.” At the time, I was running for president -- it was early in the campaign. Nobody gave me much of a chance. He turned to me from the pulpit, and indicated that someone like me running for president -- well, that was crazy. (Laughter.) But he supposed it was good crazy.

He was talking about faith, the belief in things not seen, the belief that if you persevere a better day lies ahead. And I suppose the reason I enjoy coming to the CBC -- what this weekend is all about is, you and me, we're all a little bit crazy, but hopefully a good kind of crazy. (Applause.) We’re a good kind of crazy because no matter how hard things get, we keep the faith; we keep fighting; we keep moving forward.

And we've needed faith over these last couple years. Times have been hard. It’s been three years since we faced down a crisis that began on Wall Street and then spread to Main Street, and hammered working families, and hammered an already hard-hit black community. The unemployment rate for black folks went up to nearly 17 percent -- the highest it’s been in almost three decades; 40 percent, almost, of African American children living in poverty; fewer than half convinced that they can achieve Dr. King’s dream. You’ve got to be a little crazy to have faith during such hard times.

It’s heartbreaking, and it’s frustrating. And I ran for President, and the members of the CBC ran for Congress, to help more Americans reach that dream. (Applause.) We ran to give every child a chance, whether he’s born in Chicago, or she comes from a rural town in the Delta. This crisis has made that job of giving everybody opportunity a little bit harder.

We knew at the outset of my presidency that the economic calamity we faced wasn’t caused overnight and wasn’t going to be solved overnight. We knew that long before the recession hit, the middle class in this country had been falling behind -– wages and incomes had been stagnant; a sense of financial security had been slipping away. And since these problems were not caused overnight, we knew we were going to have to climb a steep hill.

But we got to work. With your help, we started fighting our way back from the brink. And at every step of the way, we’ve faced fierce opposition based on an old idea -- the idea that the only way to restore prosperity can’t just be to let every corporation write its own rules, or give out tax breaks to the wealthiest and the most fortunate, and to tell everybody that they're on their own. There has to be a different concept of what America’s all about. It has to be based on the idea that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper, and we’re in this together. We are in this thing together. (Applause.)

We had a different vision and so we did what was right, and we fought to extend unemployment insurance, and we fought to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and we fought to expand the Child Tax Credit -- which benefited nearly half of all African American children in this country. (Applause.) And millions of Americans are better off because of that fight. (Applause.)

Ask the family struggling to make ends meet if that extra few hundred dollars in their mother’s paycheck from the payroll tax cut we passed made a difference. They’ll tell you. Ask them how much that Earned Income Tax Credit or that Child Tax Credit makes a difference in paying the bills at the end of the month.

When an army of lobbyists and special interests spent millions to crush Wall Street reform, we stood up for what was right. We said the time has come to protect homeowners from predatory mortgage lenders. The time has come to protect consumers from credit card companies that jacked up rates without warning. (Applause.) We signed the strongest consumer financial protection in history. That’s what we did together. (Applause.)

Remember how many years we tried to stop big banks from collecting taxpayer subsidies for student loans while the cost of college kept slipping out of reach? Together, we put a stop to that once and for all. We used those savings to make college more affordable. We invested in early childhood education and community college and HBCUs. Ask the engineering student at an HBCU who thought he might have to leave school if that extra Pell Grant assistance mattered. (Applause.)

We’re attacking the cycle of poverty that steals the future from too many children -- not just by pouring money into a broken system, but by building on what works -– with Promise Neighborhoods modeled after the good work up in Harlem; Choice Neighborhoods rebuilding crumbling public housing into communities of hope and opportunity; Strong Cities, Strong Communities, our partnership with local leaders in hard-hit cities like Cleveland and Detroit. And we overcame years of inaction to win justice for black farmers because of the leadership of the CBC and because we had an administration that was committed to doing the right thing. (Applause.)

And against all sorts of setbacks, when the opposition fought us with everything they had, we finally made clear that in the United States of America nobody should go broke because they get sick. We are better than that. (Applause.) And today, insurance companies can no longer drop or deny your coverage for no good reason. In just a year and a half, about one million more young adults have health insurance because of this law. (Applause.) One million young people. That is an incredible achievement, and we did it with your help, with the CBC’s help. (Applause.)

So in these hard years, we’ve won a lot of fights that needed fighting and we’ve done a lot of good. But we’ve got more work to do. So many people are still hurting. So many people are still barely hanging on. And too many people in this city are still fighting us every step of the way.

So I need your help. We have to do more to put people to work right now. We’ve got to make that everyone in this country gets a fair shake, and a fair shot, and a chance to get ahead. (Applause.) And I know we won’t get where we need to go if we don’t travel down this road together. I need you with me. (Applause.)

That starts with getting this Congress to pass the American Jobs Act. (Applause.) You heard me talk about this plan when I visited Congress a few weeks ago and sent the bill to Congress a few days later. Now I want that bill back -- passed. I’ve got the pens all ready. I am ready to sign it. And I need your help to make it happen. (Applause.)

Right now we’ve got millions of construction workers out of a job. So this bill says, let’s put those men and women back to work in their own communities rebuilding our roads and our bridges. Let’s give these folks a job rebuilding our schools. Let’s put these folks to work rehabilitating foreclosed homes in the hardest-hit neighborhoods of Detroit and Atlanta and Washington. This is a no-brainer. (Applause.)

Why should we let China build the newest airports, the fastest railroads? Tell me why our children should be allowed to study in a school that’s falling apart? I don’t want that for my kids or your kids. I don’t want that for any kid. You tell me how it makes sense when we know that education is the most important thing for success in the 21st century. (Applause.) Let’s put our people back to work doing the work America needs done. Let’s pass this jobs bill. (Applause.)

We’ve got millions of unemployed Americans and young people looking for work but running out of options. So this jobs bill says, let’s give them a pathway, a new pathway back to work. Let’s extend unemployment insurance so that more than six million Americans don’t lose that lifeline. But let’s also encourage reforms that help the long-term unemployed keep their skills sharp and get a foot in the door. Let’s give summer jobs for low-income youth that don’t just give them their first paycheck but arm them with the skills they need for life. (Applause.)

Tell me why we don’t want the unemployed back in the workforce as soon as possible. Let’s pass this jobs bill, put these folks back to work. (Applause.)

Why are we shortchanging our children when we could be putting teachers back in the classroom right now, where they belong? (Applause.) Laying off teachers, laying off police officer, laying off firefighters all across the country because state and local budgets are tough. Why aren’t we helping? We did in the first two years. And then this other crowd came into Congress and now suddenly they want to stop. Tell me why we shouldn’t give companies tax credits for hiring the men and women who’ve risked their lives for this country -- our veterans. There is no good answer for that. They shouldn’t be fighting to find a job when they come home. (Applause.)

These Republicans in Congress like to talk about job creators. How about doing something real for job creators? Pass this jobs bill, and every small business owner in America, including 100,000 black-owned businesses, will get a tax cut. (Applause.) You say you’re the party of tax cuts. Pass this jobs bill, and every worker in America, including nearly 20 million African American workers, will get a tax cut. (Applause.) Pass this jobs bill, and prove you’ll fight just as hard for a tax cut for ordinary folks as you do for all your contributors. (Applause.)

These are questions that opponents of this jobs plan will have to answer. Because the kinds of ideas in this plan in the past have been supported by both parties. Suddenly Obama is proposing it -- what happened? (Laughter.) What happened? You all used to like to build roads. (Laughter.) Right? What happened? Reverend, you know what happened? I don’t know. They used to love to build some roads. (Laughter.)

Now, I know some of our friends across the aisle won’t support any new spending that’s not paid for. I agree that’s important. So last week, I laid out a plan to pay for the American Jobs Act, and to bring out -- down our debt over time. You say the deficit is important? Here we go. I’m ready to go. It’s a plan that says if we want to create jobs and close this deficit, then we’ve got to ask the folks who have benefited most -- the wealthiest Americans, the biggest, most profitable corporations -- to pay their fair share. (Applause.)

We are not asking them to do anything extraordinary. The reform we’re proposing is based on a simple principle: Middle-class folks should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) That’s not crazy -- or it’s good crazy. (Laughter.) Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. A teacher or a nurse or a construction worker making $50,000 a year shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than somebody making $50 million. That’s just common sense.

We’re not doing this to punish success. This is the land of opportunity. I want you to go out, start a business, get rich, build something. Out country is based on the belief that anybody can make it if they put in enough sweat and enough effort. That is wonderful. God bless you. But part of the American idea is also that once we've done well we should pay our fair share -- (applause) -- to make sure that those schools that we were learning in can teach the next generation; that those roads that we benefited from -- that they're not crumbling for the next bunch of folks who are coming behind us; to keep up the nation that made our success possible.

And most wealthy Americans would agree with that. But you know the Republicans are already dusting off their old talking points. That's class warfare, they say. In fact, in the next breath, they’ll complain that people living in poverty -- people who suffered the most over the past decade -- don’t pay enough in taxes. That's bad crazy. (Laughter and applause.) When you start saying, at a time when the top one-tenth of 1 percent has seen their incomes go up four or five times over the last 20 years, and folks at the bottom have seen their incomes decline -- and your response is that you want poor folks to pay more? Give me a break. If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor. I have no problem with that. (Applause.) It's about time.

They say it kills jobs -- oh, that's going to kill jobs. We’re not proposing anything other than returning to the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans that existed under Bill Clinton. I played golf with Bill Clinton today. I was asking him, how did that go? (Laughter.) Well, it turns out we had a lot of jobs. The well-to-do, they did even better. So did the middle class. We lifted millions out of poverty. And then we cut taxes for folks like me, and we went through a decade of zero job growth.

So this isn't speculation. We've tested this out. We tried their theory; didn’t work. Tried our theory; it worked. We shouldn’t be confused about this. (Applause.)

This debate is about priorities. If we want to create new jobs and close the deficit and invest in our future, the money has got to come from somewhere. And so, should we keep tax loopholes for big oil companies? Or should we put construction workers and teachers back on the job? (Applause.) Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we invest in our children’s education and college aid? Should we ask seniors to be paying thousands of dollars more for Medicare, as the House Republicans propose, or take young folks’ health care away? Or should we ask that everybody pay their fair share? This is about fairness. And this is about who we are as a country. This is about our commitment to future generations.

When Michelle and I think about where we came from -- a little girl on the South Side of Chicago, son of a single mom in Hawaii -- mother had to go to school on scholarships, sometimes got food stamps. Michelle's parents never owned their own home until she had already graduated -- living upstairs above the aunt who actually owned the house. We are here today only because our parents and our grandparents, they broke their backs to support us. (Applause.) But they also understood that they would get a little bit of help from their country. Because they met their responsibilities, this country would also be responsible, would also provide good public schools, would also provide recreation -- parks that were safe, making sure that they could take the bus without getting beat over the head, making sure that their kids would be able to go to college even if they weren’t rich.

We're only here because past generations struggled and sacrificed for this incredible, exceptional idea that it does not matter where you come from, it does not matter where you’re born, doesn’t matter what you look like -- if you’re willing to put in an effort, you should get a shot. You should get a shot at the American Dream. (Applause.)

And each night, when we tuck in our girls at the White House, I think about keeping that dream alive for them and for all of our children. And that’s now up to us. And that’s hard. This is harder than it’s been in a long, long time. We’re going through something we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.

And I know at times that gets folks discouraged. I know. I listen to some of you all. (Laughter.) I understand that. And nobody feels that burden more than I do. Because I know how much we have invested in making sure that we’re able to move this country forward. But you know, more than a lot of other folks in this country, we know about hard. The people in this room know about hard. (Applause.) And we don’t give in to discouragement.

Throughout our history, change has often come slowly. Progress often takes time. We take a step forward, sometimes we take two steps back. Sometimes we get two steps forward and one step back. But it’s never a straight line. It’s never easy. And I never promised easy. Easy has never been promised to us. But we’ve had faith. We have had faith. We’ve had that good kind of crazy that says, you can’t stop marching. (Applause.)

Even when folks are hitting you over the head, you can’t stop marching. Even when they’re turning the hoses on you, you can’t stop. (Applause.) Even when somebody fires you for speaking out, you can’t stop. (Applause.) Even when it looks like there’s no way, you find a way -- you can’t stop. (Applause.) Through the mud and the muck and the driving rain, we don’t stop. Because we know the rightness of our cause -- widening the circle of opportunity, standing up for everybody’s opportunities, increasing each other’s prosperity. We know our cause is just. It’s a righteous cause.

So in the face of troopers and teargas, folks stood unafraid. Led somebody like John Lewis to wake up after getting beaten within an inch of his life on Sunday -- he wakes up on Monday: We’re going to go march. (Applause.)

Dr. King once said: “Before we reach the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. We must still face prodigious hilltops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance. But with patient and firm determination we will press on.” (Applause.)

So I don’t know about you, CBC, but the future rewards those who press on. (Applause.) With patient and firm determination, I am going to press on for jobs. (Applause.) I'm going to press on for equality. (Applause.) I'm going to press on for the sake of our children. (Applause.) I'm going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I am going to press on. (Applause.)

I expect all of you to march with me and press on. (Applause.) Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. (Applause.) Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC. (Applause.)

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)


Citizens, it's time to get involved!

Just recently "Voice of Choice.org" was established as a calm, measured response to anti-abortion activists who engage in misguided raging protest tactics.

I guess it’s time to establish “Voice of People.org” as a calm, measured response to the gridlock tactics of the US-Congress with the screaming naysayers of the Tea-Party and the Republican Party who want the United States to get worse than a third world country with broken Highways, Runways and Train-tracks and Schools. Their idea is, just give it to the wealthiest and they will fix the country with their own money. (what a dream) Just don’t tax the super-rich, take it from the poor because they are useless anyway.

So let's organize against these kind of politicians!


President Barack Obama Weekly Address September 24, 2011 (Video/Transcipt)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
September 24, 2011

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been making the case that we need to act now on the American Jobs Act, so we can put folks back to work and start building an economy that lasts into the future.

Education is an essential part of this economic agenda. It is an undeniable fact that countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Businesses will hire wherever the highly-skilled, highly-trained workers are located.

But today, our students are sliding against their peers around the globe. Today, our kids trail too many other countries in math, science, and reading. As many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. And we’ve fallen to 16th in the proportion of our young people with a college degree, even though we know that sixty percent of new jobs in the coming decade will require more than a high school diploma.

What this means is that if we’re serious about building an economy that lasts – an economy in which hard work pays off with the opportunity for solid middle class jobs – we had better be serious about education. We have to pick up our game and raise our standards.

As a nation, we have an obligation to make sure that all children have the resources they need to learn – quality schools, good teachers, the latest textbooks and the right technology. That’s why the jobs bill I sent to Congress would put tens of thousands of teachers back to work across the country, and modernize at least 35,000 schools. And Congress should pass that bill right now.

But money alone won’t solve our education problems. We also need reform. We need to make sure that every classroom is a place of high expectations and high performance.

That’s been our vision since taking office. And that’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.”

For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, Race to the Top has led states across the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning. These standards were developed, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And since then, we have seen what’s possible when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals; school boards and communities.

That’s why in my State of the Union address this year, I said that Congress should reform the No Child Left Behind law based on the same principles that have guided Race to the Top.

While the goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable, experience has taught us that the law has some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping them. Teachers are being forced to teach to a test, while subjects like history and science are being squeezed out. And in order to avoid having their schools labeled as failures, some states lowered their standards in a race to the bottom.

These problems have been obvious to parents and educators all over this country for years. But for years, Congress has failed to fix them. So now, I will. Our kids only get one shot at a decent education. And they can’t afford to wait any longer.

Yesterday, I announced that we’ll be giving states more flexibility to meet high standards for teaching and learning. It’s time for us to let states, schools and teachers come up with innovative ways to give our children the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future.

This will make a huge difference in the lives of students all across the country. Yesterday, I was with Ricky Hall, the principal of a school in Worcester, Massachusetts. Every single student who graduated from Ricci’s school in the last three years went on to college. But because they didn’t meet the standards of No Child Left Behind, Ricci’s school was labeled as failing last year.

That will change because of what we did yesterday. From now on, we’ll be able to encourage the progress at schools like Ricci’s. From now on, people like John Becker, who teaches at one of the highest-performing middle schools in D.C., will be able to focus on teaching his 4th graders math in a way that improves their performance instead of just teaching to a test. Superintendents like David Estrop from Ohio will be able to focus on improving teaching and learning in his district instead of spending all his time on bureaucratic mandates from Washington that don’t get results.

This isn’t just the right thing to do for our kids – it’s the right thing to do for our country, and our future. It is time to put our teachers back on the job. It is time to rebuild and modernize our schools. And it is time to raise our standards, up our game, and do everything it takes to prepare our children succeed in the global economy. Now is the time to once again make our education system the envy of the world.

Thanks for listening.


President Obama Addresses the UN General Assembly (Video/Transcipt)

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations
New York, New York

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: It is a great honor for me to be here today. I would like to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United Nations -- the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world.

War and conflict have been with us since the beginning of civilizations. But in the first part of the 20th century, the advance of modern weaponry led to death on a staggering scale. It was this killing that compelled the founders of this body to build an institution that was focused not just on ending one war, but on averting others; a union of sovereign states that would seek to prevent conflict, while also addressing its causes.

No American did more to pursue this objective than President Franklin Roosevelt. He knew that a victory in war was not enough. As he said at one of the very first meetings on the founding of the United Nations, “We have got to make, not merely peace, but a peace that will last.”

The men and women who built this institution understood that peace is more than just the absence of war. A lasting peace -- for nations and for individuals -- depends on a sense of justice and opportunity, of dignity and freedom. It depends on struggle and sacrifice, on compromise, and on a sense of common humanity.

One delegate to the San Francisco Conference that led to the creation of the United Nations put it well: “Many people,” she said, “have talked as if all that has to be done to get peace was to say loudly and frequently that we loved peace and we hated war. Now we have learned that no matter how much we love peace and hate war, we cannot avoid having war brought upon us if there are convulsions in other parts of the world.”

The fact is peace is hard. But our people demand it. Over nearly seven decades, even as the United Nations helped avert a third world war, we still live in a world scarred by conflict and plagued by poverty. Even as we proclaim our love for peace and our hatred of war, there are still convulsions in our world that endanger us all.

I took office at a time of two wars for the United States. Moreover, the violent extremists who drew us into war in the first place -- Osama bin Laden, and his al Qaeda organization -- remained at large. Today, we've set a new direction.

At the end of this year, America’s military operation in Iraq will be over. We will have a normal relationship with a sovereign nation that is a member of the community of nations. That equal partnership will be strengthened by our support for Iraq -- for its government and for its security forces, for its people and for their aspirations.

As we end the war in Iraq, the United States and our coalition partners have begun a transition in Afghanistan. Between now and 2014, an increasingly capable Afghan government and security forces will step forward to take responsibility for the future of their country. As they do, we are drawing down our own forces, while building an enduring partnership with the Afghan people.

So let there be no doubt: The tide of war is receding. When I took office, roughly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this year, that number will be cut in half, and it will continue to decline. This is critical for the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s also critical to the strength of the United States as we build our nation at home.

Moreover, we are poised to end these wars from a position of strength. Ten years ago, there was an open wound and twisted steel, a broken heart in the center of this city. Today, as a new tower is rising at Ground Zero, it symbolizes New York’s renewal, even as al Qaeda is under more pressure than ever before. Its leadership has been degraded. And Osama bin Laden, a man who murdered thousands of people from dozens of countries, will never endanger the peace of the world again.

So, yes, this has been a difficult decade. But today, we stand at a crossroads of history with the chance to move decisively in the direction of peace. To do so, we must return to the wisdom of those who created this institution. The United Nations’ Founding Charter calls upon us, “to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security.” And Article 1 of this General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us that, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights.” Those bedrock beliefs -- in the responsibility of states, and the rights of men and women -- must be our guide.

And in that effort, we have reason to hope. This year has been a time of extraordinary transformation. More nations have stepped forward to maintain international peace and security. And more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in freedom and dignity.

Think about it: One year ago, when we met here in New York, the prospect of a successful referendum in South Sudan was in doubt. But the international community overcame old divisions to support the agreement that had been negotiated to give South Sudan self-determination. And last summer, as a new flag went up in Juba, former soldiers laid down their arms, men and women wept with joy, and children finally knew the promise of looking to a future that they will shape.

One year ago, the people of Côte D’Ivoire approached a landmark election. And when the incumbent lost, and refused to respect the results, the world refused to look the other way. U.N. peacekeepers were harassed, but they did not leave their posts. The Security Council, led by the United States and Nigeria and France, came together to support the will of the people. And Côte D’Ivoire is now governed by the man who was elected to lead.

One year ago, the hopes of the people of Tunisia were suppressed. But they chose the dignity of peaceful protest over the rule of an iron fist. A vendor lit a spark that took his own life, but he ignited a movement. In a face of a crackdown, students spelled out the word, "freedom." The balance of fear shifted from the ruler to those that he ruled. And now the people of Tunisia are preparing for elections that will move them one step closer to the democracy that they deserve.

One year ago, Egypt had known one President for nearly 30 years. But for 18 days, the eyes of the world were glued to Tahrir Square, where Egyptians from all walks of life -- men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian -- demanded their universal rights. We saw in those protesters the moral force of non-violence that has lit the world from Delhi to Warsaw, from Selma to South Africa -- and we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the Arab world.

One year ago, the people of Libya were ruled by the world’s longest-serving dictator. But faced with bullets and bombs and a dictator who threatened to hunt them down like rats, they showed relentless bravery. We will never forget the words of the Libyan who stood up in those early days of the revolution and said, “Our words are free now.” It’s a feeling you can’t explain. Day after day, in the face of bullets and bombs, the Libyan people refused to give back that freedom. And when they were threatened by the kind of mass atrocity that often went unchallenged in the last century, the United Nations lived up to its charter. The Security Council authorized all necessary measures to prevent a massacre. The Arab League called for this effort; Arab nations joined a NATO-led coalition that halted Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks.

In the months that followed, the will of the coalition proved unbreakable, and the will of the Libyan people could not be denied. Forty-two years of tyranny was ended in six months. From Tripoli to Misurata to Benghazi -- today, Libya is free. Yesterday, the leaders of a new Libya took their rightful place beside us, and this week, the United States is reopening our embassy in Tripoli.

This is how the international community is supposed to work -- nations standing together for the sake of peace and security, and individuals claiming their rights. Now, all of us have a responsibility to support the new Libya -- the new Libyan government as they confront the challenge of turning this moment of promise into a just and lasting peace for all Libyans.

So this has been a remarkable year. The Qaddafi regime is over. Gbagbo, Ben Ali, Mubarak are no longer in power. Osama bin Laden is gone, and the idea that change could only come through violence has been buried with him. Something is happening in our world. The way things have been is not the way that they will be. The humiliating grip of corruption and tyranny is being pried open. Dictators are on notice. Technology is putting power into the hands of the people. The youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and rejecting the lie that some races, some peoples, some religions, some ethnicities do not desire democracy. The promise written down on paper -- “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” -- is closer at hand.

But let us remember: Peace is hard. Peace is hard. Progress can be reversed. Prosperity comes slowly. Societies can split apart. The measure of our success must be whether people can live in sustained freedom, dignity, and security. And the United Nations and its member states must do their part to support those basic aspirations. And we have more work to do.

In Iran, we've seen a government that refuses to recognize the rights of its own people. As we meet here today, men and women and children are being tortured, detained and murdered by the Syrian regime. Thousands have been killed, many during the holy time of Ramadan. Thousands more have poured across Syria’s borders. The Syrian people have shown dignity and courage in their pursuit of justice -- protesting peacefully, standing silently in the streets, dying for the same values that this institution is supposed to stand for. And the question for us is clear: Will we stand with the Syrian people, or with their oppressors?

Already, the United States has imposed strong sanctions on Syria’s leaders. We supported a transfer of power that is responsive to the Syrian people. And many of our allies have joined in this effort. But for the sake of Syria -- and the peace and security of the world -- we must speak with one voice. There's no excuse for inaction. Now is the time for the United Nations Security Council to sanction the Syrian regime, and to stand with the Syrian people.

Throughout the region, we will have to respond to the calls for change. In Yemen, men, women and children gather by the thousands in towns and city squares every day with the hope that their determination and spilled blood will prevail over a corrupt system. America supports those aspirations. We must work with Yemen’s neighbors and our partners around the world to seek a path that allows for a peaceful transition of power from President Saleh, and a movement to free and fair elections as soon as possible.

In Bahrain, steps have been taken toward reform and accountability. We’re pleased with that, but more is required. America is a close friend of Bahrain, and we will continue to call on the government and the main opposition bloc -- the Wifaq -- to pursue a meaningful dialogue that brings peaceful change that is responsive to the people. We believe the patriotism that binds Bahrainis together must be more powerful than the sectarian forces that would tear them apart. It will be hard, but it is possible.

We believe that each nation must chart its own course to fulfill the aspirations of its people, and America does not expect to agree with every party or person who expresses themselves politically. But we will always stand up for the universal rights that were embraced by this Assembly. Those rights depend on elections that are free and fair; on governance that is transparent and accountable; respect for the rights of women and minorities; justice that is equal and fair. That is what our people deserve. Those are the elements of peace that can last.

Moreover, the United States will continue to support those nations that transition to democracy -- with greater trade and investment -- so that freedom is followed by opportunity. We will pursue a deeper engagement with governments, but also with civil society -- students and entrepreneurs, political parties and the press. We have banned those who abuse human rights from traveling to our country. And we’ve sanctioned those who trample on human rights abroad. And we will always serve as a voice for those who've been silenced.

Now, I know, particularly this week, that for many in this hall, there's one issue that stands as a test for these principles and a test for American foreign policy, and that is the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

One year ago, I stood at this podium and I called for an independent Palestine. I believed then, and I believe now, that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that a genuine peace can only be realized between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May of this year. That basis is clear. It’s well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.

Now, I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress. I assure you, so am I. But the question isn’t the goal that we seek -- the question is how do we reach that goal. And I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations -- if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians -- not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

Ultimately, peace depends upon compromise among people who must live together long after our speeches are over, long after our votes have been tallied. That’s the lesson of Northern Ireland, where ancient antagonists bridged their differences. That’s the lesson of Sudan, where a negotiated settlement led to an independent state. And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state -- negotiations between the parties.

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There’s no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. It is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state.

But understand this as well: America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day.

Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied.

The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

That is the truth -- each side has legitimate aspirations -- and that’s part of what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other’s shoes; each side can see the world through the other’s eyes. That’s what we should be encouraging. That’s what we should be promoting.

This body -- founded, as it was, out of the ashes of war and genocide, dedicated, as it is, to the dignity of every single person -- must recognize the reality that is lived by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The measure of our actions must always be whether they advance the right of Israeli and Palestinian children to live lives of peace and security and dignity and opportunity. And we will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and each other’s fears. That is the project to which America is committed. There are no shortcuts. And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.

Now, even as we confront these challenges of conflict and revolution, we must also recognize -- we must also remind ourselves -- that peace is not just the absence of war. True peace depends on creating the opportunity that makes life worth living. And to do that, we must confront the common enemies of humanity: nuclear weapons and poverty, ignorance and disease. These forces corrode the possibility of lasting peace and together we're called upon to confront them.

To lift the specter of mass destruction, we must come together to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Over the last two years, we've begun to walk down that path. Since our Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, nearly 50 nations have taken steps to secure nuclear materials from terrorists and smugglers. Next March, a summit in Seoul will advance our efforts to lock down all of them. The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia will cut our deployed arsenals to the lowest level in half a century, and our nations are pursuing talks on how to achieve even deeper reductions. America will continue to work for a ban on the testing of nuclear weapons and the production of fissile material needed to make them.

And so we have begun to move in the right direction. And the United States is committed to meeting our obligations. But even as we meet our obligations, we’ve strengthened the treaties and institutions that help stop the spread of these weapons. And to do so, we must continue to hold accountable those nations that flout them.

The Iranian government cannot demonstrate that its program is peaceful. It has not met its obligations and it rejects offers that would provide it with peaceful nuclear power. North Korea has yet to take concrete steps towards abandoning its weapons and continues belligerent action against the South. There's a future of greater opportunity for the people of these nations if their governments meet their international obligations. But if they continue down a path that is outside international law, they must be met with greater pressure and isolation. That is what our commitment to peace and security demands.

To bring prosperity to our people, we must promote the growth that creates opportunity. In this effort, let us not forget that we’ve made enormous progress over the last several decades. Closed societies gave way to open markets. Innovation and entrepreneurship has transformed the way we live and the things that we do. Emerging economies from Asia to the Americas have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty. It’s an extraordinary achievement. And yet, three years ago, we were confronted with the worst financial crisis in eight decades. And that crisis proved a fact that has become clearer with each passing year -- our fates are interconnected. In a global economy, nations will rise, or fall, together.

And today, we confront the challenges that have followed on the heels of that crisis. Around the world recovery is still fragile. Markets remain volatile. Too many people are out of work. Too many others are struggling just to get by. We acted together to avert a depression in 2009. We must take urgent and coordinated action once more. Here in the United States, I've announced a plan to put Americans back to work and jumpstart our economy, at the same time as I’m committed to substantially reducing our deficits over time.

We stand with our European allies as they reshape their institutions and address their own fiscal challenges. For other countries, leaders face a different challenge as they shift their economy towards more self-reliance, boosting domestic demand while slowing inflation. So we will work with emerging economies that have rebounded strongly, so that rising standards of living create new markets that promote global growth. That’s what our commitment to prosperity demands.

To combat the poverty that punishes our children, we must act on the belief that freedom from want is a basic human right. The United States has made it a focus of our engagement abroad to help people to feed themselves. And today, as drought and conflict have brought famine to the Horn of Africa, our conscience calls on us to act. Together, we must continue to provide assistance, and support organizations that can reach those in need. And together, we must insist on unrestricted humanitarian access so that we can save the lives of thousands of men and women and children. Our common humanity is at stake. Let us show that the life of a child in Somalia is as precious as any other. That is what our commitment to our fellow human beings demand.

To stop disease that spreads across borders, we must strengthen our system of public health. We will continue the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. We will focus on the health of mothers and of children. And we must come together to prevent, and detect, and fight every kind of biological danger -- whether it’s a pandemic like H1N1, or a terrorist threat, or a treatable disease.

This week, America signed an agreement with the World Health Organization to affirm our commitment to meet this challenge. And today, I urge all nations to join us in meeting the HWO’s [sic] goal of making sure all nations have core capacities to address public health emergencies in place by 2012. That is what our commitment to the health of our people demands.

To preserve our planet, we must not put off action that climate change demands. We have to tap the power of science to save those resources that are scarce. And together, we must continue our work to build on the progress made in Copenhagen and Cancun, so that all the major economies here today follow through on the commitments that were made. Together, we must work to transform the energy that powers our economies, and support others as they move down that path. That is what our commitment to the next generation demands.

And to make sure our societies reach their potential, we must allow our citizens to reach theirs. No country can afford the corruption that plagues the world like a cancer. Together, we must harness the power of open societies and open economies. That’s why we’ve partnered with countries from across the globe to launch a new partnership on open government that helps ensure accountability and helps to empower citizens. No country should deny people their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.

And no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs. This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down the economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. This is what our commitment to human progress demands.

I know there’s no straight line to that progress, no single path to success. We come from different cultures, and carry with us different histories. But let us never forget that even as we gather here as heads of different governments, we represent citizens who share the same basic aspirations -- to live with dignity and freedom; to get an education and pursue opportunity; to love our families, and love and worship our God; to live in the kind of peace that makes life worth living.

It is the nature of our imperfect world that we are forced to learn these lessons over and over again. Conflict and repression will endure so long as some people refuse to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Yet that is precisely why we have built institutions like this -- to bind our fates together, to help us recognize ourselves in each other -- because those who came before us believed that peace is preferable to war, and freedom is preferable to suppression, and prosperity is preferable to poverty. That’s the message that comes not from capitals, but from citizens, from our people.

And when the cornerstone of this very building was put in place, President Truman came here to New York and said, “The United Nations is essentially an expression of the moral nature of man’s aspirations.” The moral nature of man’s aspirations. As we live in a world that is changing at a breathtaking pace, that’s a lesson that we must never forget.

Peace is hard, but we know that it is possible. So, together, let us be resolved to see that it is defined by our hopes and not by our fears. Together, let us make peace, but a peace, most importantly, that will last.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)