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

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

From my family to yours, I’d like to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Like millions of Americans, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will spend the day eating great food, watching a little football, and reflecting on how truly lucky we truly are.

As Americans, each of us has our own list of things and people to be thankful for. But there are some blessings we all share.

We’re especially grateful for the men and women who defend our country overseas. To all the service members eating Thanksgiving dinner far from your families: the American people are thinking of you today. And when you come home, we intend to make sure that we serve you as well as you’re serving America.

We’re also grateful for the Americans who are taking time out of their holiday to serve in soup kitchens and shelters, making sure their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay. This sense of mutual responsibility – the idea that I am my brother’s keeper; that I am my sister’s keeper – has always been a part of what makes our country special. And it’s one of the reasons the Thanksgiving tradition has endured.

The very first Thanksgiving was a celebration of community during a time of great hardship, and we have followed that example ever since. Even when the fate of our union was far from certain – during a Civil War, two World Wars, a Great Depression – Americans drew strength from each other. They had faith that tomorrow would be better than today.

We’re grateful that they did. As we gather around the table, we pause to remember the pilgrims, pioneers, and patriots who helped make this country what it is. They faced impossible odds, and yet somehow, they persevered. Today, it’s our turn.

I know that for many of you, this Thanksgiving is more difficult than most. But no matter how tough things are right now, we still give thanks for that most American of blessings, the chance to determine our own destiny. The problems we face didn’t develop overnight, and we won’t solve them overnight. But we will solve them. All it takes is for each of us to do our part.

With all the partisanship and gridlock here in Washington, it’s easy to wonder if such unity is really possible. But think about what’s happening at this very moment: Americans from all walks of life are coming together as one people, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country.

If we keep that spirit alive, if we support each other, and look out for each other, and remember that we’re all in this together, then I know that we too will overcome the challenges of our time.

So today, I’m thankful to serve as your President and Commander-and-Chief. I’m thankful that my daughters get to grow up in this great country of ours. And I’m thankful for the chance to do my part, as together, we make tomorrow better than today.

Thanks, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


President Obama Pardons White House Turkey (Video/Transcipt)


THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Well, it is wonderful to see all of you here today. Happy Thanksgiving, and welcome to the White House.

Tomorrow is one of the best days of the year to be an American. It’s a day to count our blessings, spend time with the ones we love, and enjoy some good food and some great company. But it’s also one of the worst days of the year to be a turkey. (Laughter.) They don’t have it so good.

The rare exception, of course, are the two birds who’ve joined me today. Now, is Peace here, or just Liberty? Just Liberty is here, but Peace is back here somewhere. Some of you may know that recently I’ve been taking a series of executive actions that don’t require Congressional approval. (Laughter.) Well, here’s another one. We can’t wait to pardon these turkeys. (Laughter.) Literally. Otherwise they’d end up next to the mashed potatoes and stuffing.

I want to thank Richard Huisinga, the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and his wonderful family for donating this year’s turkey from his farm in Willmar, Minnesota. The turkey’s name is Liberty -- there he is -- and along with his understudy named Peace, he has the distinction of being the luckiest bird on the face of the Earth. Right now, he’s also probably one of the most confused. (Laughter.)

Liberty was chosen from a flock of about 30 other contestants for the honor of being here today. And for the first time in history, these two turkeys were raised by four students from nearby Willmar High School.

Now, I’m told that in order to prepare Liberty and Peace for their big day, the students exposed them to loud noises and flash bulbs so that they’d be ready to face the White House press corps. This is actually true. They also received the most important part of their media training, which involves learning how to gobble without really saying anything. (Laughter.)

So Liberty is ready for his turn in the spotlight. And after he finishes a round of cable hits and a few Sunday shows, he’s going to retire to a life of leisure at Mount Vernon -- the same place where George Washington spent his golden years.

And later today, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will also be taking two unnamed turkeys, who weren’t so lucky, to a local food bank here in D.C. that helps those in need. And I want to thank the folks at Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania, for donating these dressed birds for the third year in a row.

A great writer once called Thanksgiving the “one day that is ours … the one day that is purely American.”

When we gather around our tables tomorrow to share the fruits of our blessings, let’s remember what that means. Let’s be grateful for what we have. Let’s be mindful of those who have less. Let’s appreciate those who hold a special place in our lives, and make sure that they know it. And let’s think about those who can’t spend the holiday with their loved ones –- especially the members of our military serving overseas. I’d like to thank all our men and women in uniform and their families for their incredible service and devotion.

And that’s what being an American is all about. Even when times are tough, we look out for each other. We lift each other up. And we remind ourselves just how lucky we are here, together, in the greatest country on Earth.

So from our family to yours, I want to wish everybody a wonderful and happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

And now, since Liberty and Peace have been so patient, it is my privilege to grant them the official pardon. And I’m going to -- I’ve got to give them a little symbol. (Laughter.)

(The turkeys are pardoned.)

THE PRESIDENT: All right, you are hereby pardoned. (Laughter.) Give them a round of applause. (Applause.)


President Obama on Tax Cuts for the Middle Class (Video/Transcipt)

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, New Hampshire! (Applause.) It is good to be back. Hello, Little Green! (Applause.) It is good to be back in New Hampshire, although I have to say that I feel a little winter coming on around here. (Laughter.) This is what happens when you fly north.

It is wonderful to be here. I had a chance to see backstage Principal Mailhot, and he reminded me of what I said to him four years ago almost to the day that I was here. It was snowing that day; we were -- surprising enough, there was a snowstorm in New Hampshire. (Laughter.) And we ended up having to leave a little bit early. And we weren’t able to do everything that we wanted, talking to some of the students. And we were worried that folks were going to be disappointed, and I promised him that I would be back. I just want to point out, we’re keeping our promise -- we are back. (Applause.) We are back.

In addition to Principal Mailhot, I want to acknowledge the Superintendent, Tom Brennan, who is here with his lovely wife Wendy. Please give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)

Happy Thanksgiving a little bit early, everybody. To the -- I understand we got the senior class here at Central High. (Applause.)

STUDENTS: Seniors! Seniors! Seniors! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: All right. You guys are pretty excited about being seniors, aren’t you? (Applause.) I want to thank also somebody who is doing outstanding work each and every day, was doing it up here as a wonderful governor, is now one of your most outstanding senators in the country -- Jeanne Shaheen is in the house. (Applause.)

So before I came to school today, I had coffee --

(Audience interruption.)

THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. All right, okay, guys.

STUDENTS: Obama! Obama! Obama!

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, it’s okay. That’s all right. Listen, I’m going to be talking about a whole range of things today, and I appreciate you guys making your point. Let me go ahead and make mine, all right? And I’ll listen to you, you listen to me. All right?

Now, what I was saying was, I was having some coffee with some of your neighbors. And one of them was the Corkerys. You may know, as Mr. Corkery just said, that he’s a math teacher here at Central High. And even though a visit from me tends to disrupt things a little bit -- (laughter) -- he did want me to remind all his students you still have homework to do. (Laughter.)

But as Chris said, he’s also a colonel, recently retired after 26 years in the military; tours of duty in Iraq, in Kuwait, in Haiti. And I couldn’t thank him enough for his service, because obviously we know our service members, our veterans, they’re the ones who keep us safe, they’re the ones who are preserving our freedom -- at enormous sacrifice to themselves and their families. (Applause.) And in fact, this holiday season is going to be a season of homecomings for folks all across America, because by the end of next month, all of our troops will be out of Iraq. (Applause.)

Now, over coffee, we were joined by Chris’s wife of 16 years, Kathy, who owns part of a local business. And they’ve got two sons; they’re trying to save for their sons’ college education. And like millions of families all across the country, they’re doing the best that they can in some tough times.

And families like the Corkerys, families like yours, young people like the ones here today, including the ones who were just chanting at me, you’re the reason I ran for office in the first place. (Applause.) Because it’s folks like you who are why I spent so much time up here in the dead of winter four years ago. Because even then, we were going through a difficult decade for the middle class -- more good jobs in manufacturing that was leaving our shores. More of our prosperity was built on risky financial deals and homes that weren’t properly financed. And families watched their incomes fall, and wages flatline, and the cost of everything from college to health care kept on going up. And then the financial crisis hit in the closing weeks of the campaign -- and that made things even tougher.

Today, many Americans have spent months looking for work, and others are doing the best they can to get by. There are a lot of folks out there who are giving nights up -- nights out, they just can’t do that anymore because they’ve got to save on gas or make the mortgage. There are families who are putting off retirement to make sure their kids can go to college. And then there are young people who have gone to college, gotten a whole bunch of debt, and find themselves unable to find opportunity.

So a lot of the folks who have been down in New York and all across the country, in the Occupy movement, there is a profound sense of frustration -- (applause) -- there is a profound sense of frustration about the fact that the essence of the American Dream -- which is if you work hard, if you stick to it, that you can make it -- feels like that’s slipping away. And it’s not the way things are supposed to be. Not here. Not in America. (Applause.)

This is a place where your hard work and your responsibility is supposed to pay off. It’s supposed to be a big, compassionate country where everybody who works hard should have a chance to get ahead -– not just the person who owns the factory, but the men and women who work on the factory floor. (Applause.)

This is a place that’s always prospered most when we stay fundamental -- we stay true to a fundamental idea -– the idea that we’re all in this together.

That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s what is at stake right now.

So we’ve been weathering some hard years. We’ve been taking some tough punches. But one thing I know about folks in Manchester and folks in New Hampshire and folks all across the country is we’re tough. We’re fighting back. We are moving forward. And we are going to get this right so that every single American has opportunity in this country. (Applause.) We are not going to have an America in which only a sliver of folks have opportunity. We’re going to have an America where everybody has opportunity. And that’s going to take some time, because our economic problems weren’t caused overnight and they won’t be solved overnight.

It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy where hard work is valued and responsibility is rewarded. It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy that restores security for the middle class and renews opportunity for folks trying to reach the middle class. It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy that’s not based on outsourcing or tax loopholes or risky financial deals, but one that is built to last, where we invest in education and small business and manufacturing and making things that the rest of the world is willing to buy. (Applause.)

And we’re going to get it done. We’re going to get there. And right now, we’ve got to do everything we can to put our friends and neighbors back to work and help families like the Corkerys get ahead and give the economy the jolt that it needs.

And that’s why two months ago I sent Congress the American Jobs Act. It’s a jobs bill that will put more Americans to work, put more money back into the pockets of working Americans. It’s full of the kinds of ideas that in the past have been supported by Democrats and Republicans. And it’s paid for by asking our wealthiest citizens to pay their fair share. (Applause.) Independent economists said it would create nearly 2 million jobs, grow the economy by an extra 2 percent. That’s not my opinion, that’s not my team’s opinion; that’s the opinion of folks who evaluate these things for a living. But you know what? Some folks in Washington don’t seem to get the message that people care right now about putting folks back to work and giving young people opportunity.

So when this bill came up for a vote, Republicans in the Senate got together and blocked it. They refused to even debate it. A hundred percent of Republicans opposed it, even though almost two-thirds of Americans supported the ideas in this bill -– Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. Not one Republican in Washington was willing to say it was the right thing to do. Not one.

Now, what we’ve done is we’ve refused to quit. So I said I will do everything in my power to act on behalf of the American people –- with or without Congress. (Applause.) So over the past several weeks, we’ve taken steps on our own to give working Americans a leg up in a tough economy.

We announced -- on our own -- a new policy that will help families refinance their mortgages and save thousands of dollars. A lot of the young people who are in New York and around the country, they’re worrying about student loans. On our own, without Congress, we reformed the student loan process to make it easier for more young people to pay off their debt. (Applause.) By the way, that was building on top of legislation we passed a year ago that said instead of sending $60 billion to banks to manage the student loan program, let’s give it directly to students so that millions more young people can afford a college education. (Applause.)

We enacted several new initiatives to help our returning veterans find new jobs and get trained for those jobs. (Applause.) The kind of outstanding young men and women that Chris was talking about, who come home -- I was up in Minnesota, met a young man who had been an emergency medic Iraq, saving lives under the most severe circumstances. He came home and he was having to take nursing classes all over again, even though for the last two years he had been saving lives in the field. Didn’t get any credit for it. So we’re starting to make changes to say if you’re qualified to save a life on the battlefield, you can save a life in an ambulance. (Applause.)

And yesterday, I signed into law two new tax breaks for businesses that hire America’s vets –- because nobody who fights for America overseas should have to fight for a job when they come home. (Applause.) Now, I proposed these tax breaks back in September as part of my jobs bill, and thanks to folks like Jeanne Shaheen -- and some Republicans -- we actually got this part of the bill passed. We finally got them to say “yes” to taking action that will create jobs and boost this economy.

But there is a lot more that we’ve got to do if we’re going to get folks back to work and rebuild an economy that works for everybody. And next week, Congress is going to have another chance to do the right thing. Congress is going to have another chance to say “yes” to helping working families like the Corkerys.

You see, last year, both parties came together to cut payroll taxes for the typical household by $1,000 this year. That’s been showing up in your paychecks each week. You may not know it, but it’s been showing up because of the action that we took. Which reminds me, by the way, the next time you hear one of these folks from the other side coming in talking about raising your taxes, you just remind them that ever since I’ve gotten into office, I’ve lowered your taxes, haven’t raised them. That’s worth reminding them. (Applause.) But this payroll tax is set to expire at the end of next month. End of next month, end of the year, this tax cut ends. And if we allow that to happen -– if Congress refuses to act -– then middle-class families are going to get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time. For the average family, your taxes will go up $1,000 if Congress does not act by the end of the month.

Now, we can’t let that happen. Not right now. It would be bad for the economy. It would be bad for employment. That’s why my jobs bill extends that tax cut. In fact, it does it one better -– it expands the tax cut. Instead of a $1,000-a-year tax cut next year, the average working family would get a tax cut of more than $1,500. (Applause.) And that’s $1,500 that would have been taken out of your paycheck, would instead be going into your pocket. And that means you’d be spending in small businesses, and that would increase their business, which means they would potentially hire more people.

The American Jobs Act would also cut payroll taxes in half for small business owners. Say you have 50 employees making $50,000 apiece. You’d get a tax cut of nearly $80,000. That is real money that you can use to hire new workers or buy new equipment.

Now, the Republicans in the Senate voted “no” on my jobs bill and those tax cuts. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving -- (laughter) -- we are going to give them another chance. (Laughter and applause.) Absolutely. Next week, they’re going to get to take a simple vote.

If they vote “no” again, the typical family’s taxes will go up $1,000 next year. If they vote “yes,” the typical working family will get a $1,500 tax cut. All right? So I just wanted to be clear for everybody: “No” –- your taxes go up. “Yes” -– you get a tax cut. Which way do you think Congress should vote?


THE PRESIDENT: Pretty simple. And we set up a straightforward tax calculator on -- that’s our website -- so you can see what each vote would mean for your bottom line.

Now, I know Republicans like to talk about we’re the party of tax cuts. A lot of them have sworn an oath -- we’re never going to raise taxes on anybody for as long as we live –- even though they have already voted against these middle-class tax cuts once. But the question they’ll have to answer when they get back from Thanksgiving is this: Are they really willing to break their oath to never raise taxes, and raise taxes on the middle class just to play politics?

I sure hope not. This isn’t about who wins or loses in Washington. This is about delivering a win for the American people. (Applause.) Now, a $1,500 tax cut for middle-class families -- that isn’t a Band-Aid. That is a big deal for people. How many business owners could stand to see their customers taking $1,000 less next year? That’s $1,000 less that they can spend at a small business.

Now, how many of you could use an extra $1,000? (Applause.) An extra $1,500 in your pocket? It makes a big difference for families here in New Hampshire and all across America. And keep in mind, we’re going to do it responsibly -- because unlike several tax cuts that were instituted over the past several years, we’re going to make sure that it doesn’t add to our deficit. We’re asking the wealthiest Americans -– the folks who got the biggest tax cuts over the past decade, the folks who made it through the recession better than most, folks who have seen their incomes go up much more quickly than anybody else over the last three decades, exponentially -– we’re asking them to contribute a little bit more to get our economy working for everybody. (Applause.) We’re asking people like me to pay our fair share so middle-class families can get a tax cut. And I believe that most Americans are willing to do their part.

The truth of the matter is, I can’t tell you how many well-to-do Americans that I meet say to me, look, I want to do more because I know that the only reason I’m doing well is because somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a good education; somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a college scholarship; somewhere along the line, somebody gave me a chance. And I want to do the same thing for the young people who are coming up now. (Applause.) That is what America is all about. (Applause.)

So Congress has a very simple choice next week: Do you want to cut taxes for the middle class and those who are trying to get into the middle class? Or do you want to protect massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, many of whom want to actually help? Do you want to help working families get back on solid ground and grow this economy for all of us? Or do you really want to vote to raise taxes on nearly 160 million Americans during the holidays? When push comes to shove, are you willing to fight as hard for working families as you are for the wealthiest Americans? What’s it going to be? That’s the choice.

As I look around this room and I see these young people, but I also see their parents, I’m thinking, folks in Manchester, you guys work hard. You play by the rules. You’re meeting your responsibilities. (Applause.) And if you’re working hard and you’re meeting your responsibilities, at the very least you should expect Congress to do the same. They should be doing everything in their power to make our economy stronger, not weaker. They should be doing everything they can to protect the middle class from tax hikes -- not hike your taxes.

And this is where you can help. Now, your members of Congress, they work for you. You’ve got an outstanding senator here. She’s already on the program. (Applause.) But to everyone who’s here or watching at home or online -- if your members of Congress aren’t delivering, you’ve got to send them a message. Make sure they’re listening.

Tell them, “Don’t be a Grinch.” (Laughter.) Don’t vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays. Put the country before party. Put money back in the pockets of working families. Do your job. Pass our jobs bill.

The American people are with us on this. And it’s time for the folks who are running around spending all their time talking about what’s wrong with America to spend some time rolling up their sleeves to help us rebuild America and rebuild our middle class and give young people opportunity. (Applause.) There is nothing wrong with this country that we can’t fix.

I was just traveling in Asia over the last week, and let me tell you, this is the fastest-growing region in the world. But what was amazing was how everybody still looked to America. They did a poll in Asia. They said, what do you think about America compared to China? Eight out of nine countries in Asia, they said, America is the country that we look to.

They understand that this experiment in democracy -- this belief that everybody can make it if they try; this belief in a broad middle class that lifts everybody up, not just some -- they know that that idea of America is more powerful than anything else.

But we’ve got to have folks in Washington who have that same belief; that same sense that when this economy is going well it’s going well because it’s going well for everybody, and when it goes well for everybody, it’s good for folks at the top as well as folks at the bottom. And it’s certainly good for folks in the middle. (Applause.)

So those values that built this country, those values that all of you represent, that’s what we’re fighting for. That’s what the American Jobs Act is all about, that’s what the debates in Washington are all about. And we’ve got to constantly remind ourselves of who we are and what we believe in.

We are Americans. And our story has never been about doing things easy. It’s been about rising to the moment when the moment is hard. It’s about doing what’s right. It’s about making sure that everybody has a chance, not just a few.

So let’s do the right thing. Let’s meet the moment. Let’s prove once again that the best days of the United States of America are still ahead of us.

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


Below The Line: Portraits of American Poverty

Original published on
November 17, 2011 By Feifei Sun

In 2010, more Americans lived below the poverty line than at any time since 1959, when the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting this data. Last January, TIME commissioned photographer Joakim Eskildsen to capture the growing crisis, which now affects nearly 46.2 million Americans. Traveling to New York, California, Louisiana, South Dakota and Georgia over seven months, Eskildsen’s photographs of the many types of people who face poverty appear in the new issue of TIME. Eskildsen, who last visited America in 1986, says the poverty crisis was a side of the country he’d rarely seen in the media in Berlin, where he is based. “For Europeans living outside of America, it’s a mythical place because we’re breastfed with all those images of Coca-Cola and American culture,” Eskildsen says. “It was very heartbreaking to see all kinds of people facing poverty because many of these people were not only economically poor, but living in unhealthy conditions overall.”

Eskildsen was also surprised by how pervasive poverty is in America. “Once you start digging, you realize people in poverty are everywhere, and you can really go through your life without seeing them before you yourself are standing in the food stamp line,” he says. “So many people spoke about the disappointment of the American Dream—this, they said, was the American Reality.” In the accompanying magazine story, Barbara Kiviat argues that “there is no single archetype of America’s poor,” and that “understanding what poverty is in reality—and not in myth—is crucial” to efforts to erase the situation. Perhaps equally as crucial is the effort to put a face to the statistic, which Eskildsen has done here in haunting detail.

President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 19, 2011 (Video/Transcipt

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Bali, Indonesia
Saturday, November 19, 2011

Today, I’m speaking to you from Indonesia as I finish up my trip to the Asia Pacific – the region where we do most of our trade and sell most of our exports. And over the past week, the progress we’ve made in opening markets and boosting exports here will help create more jobs and more growth in the United States.

Here in Indonesia, I was proud to join leaders from some of our nation’s top companies as they announced trade deals that will support nearly 130,000 American jobs and potentially increase U.S. exports by up to $39 billion. Boeing, for example, will sell more than 200 planes to Indonesia that are built with parts from suppliers in more than 40 states. And a deal to export GE engines will support jobs at plants in Ohio and North Carolina.

These agreements will help us reach my goal of doubling American exports by 2014 – a goal we’re on pace to meet. And they’re powerful examples of how we can rebuild an economy that’s focused on what our country has always done best – making and selling products all over the world that are stamped with three proud words: “Made In America.”

This is important, because over the last decade, we became a country that relied too much on what we bought and consumed. We racked up a lot of debt, but we didn’t create many jobs at all.

If we want an economy that’s built to last and built to compete, we have to change that. We have to restore America’s manufacturing might, which is what helped us build the largest middle-class in history. That’s why we chose to pull the auto industry back from the brink, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process. And that’s why we’re investing in the next generation of high-tech, American manufacturing.

But building an economy that lasts isn’t just about making things – it’s about opening new markets for people to buy them. After all, 95% of the world’s consumers live outside our borders. And as the fastest-growing region in the world, no market is more important to our economic future than the Asia Pacific – a region where our exports already support five million American jobs.

This is why we recently signed a landmark trade agreement with South Korea that will support tens of thousands of American jobs. And it’s why I traveled here this week. In Hawaii, I hosted leaders from across the Asia Pacific, and we agreed to make it easier for American companies to do business overseas. I also worked with President Medvedev of Russia to pursue trade that would increase exports and jobs for American manufacturers and farmers. And working with other leaders, we made progress toward our most ambitious trade agreement yet – a partnership with Pacific nations that holds the potential for more exports and more jobs in a region of nearly three billion consumers.

We may be going through tough times, but as I’ve said time and time again, the United States still has the world’s most dynamic economy, the finest universities, the most innovative companies, and the hardest-working people on Earth. We can compete against anybody – and we can win. As President, I intend to make sure that happens by doing everything I can to give American workers and businesses the chance to succeed.


Burma Land of Shadows from Magnum Foundation on Vimeo.

“The Burmese continue to live a real-life version of Animal Farm. When I posed as a tourist to make these pictures, there always seemed to be shadows following me. Big Brother has many little brothers.” Chien-Chi Chang

President Obama’s News Conference with Prime Minister Gillard of Australia (Video/Transcipt)

PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Good evening, one and all. I take this opportunity to very warmly welcome President Obama to Australia for his first visit as President. President Obama is no stranger to our shores, having visited Australia before. But it is a special delight to have him here for his first visit as President. And it comes at an important time in our nation's history and in the history of our region.

We will be looking back during this visit -- we'll be looking back at 60 years of the ANZUS alliance. We'll be looking back 10 years to the dreadful day of 9/11, a day we all remember with great sorrow. And we will be reflecting on those events. But we will be looking forward.

We live in the growing region of the world where its global -- contribution to global growth is a profound one. We live in a region which is changing, changing in important ways. And as a result of those changes, President Obama and I have been discussing the best way of our militaries cooperating for the future.

So I'm very pleased to be able to announce with President Obama that we've agreed joint initiatives to enhance our alliance -- 60 years old and being kept robust for tomorrow. It is a new agreement to expand the existing collaboration between the Australian Defence Force and the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force. What this means in very practical detail is from mid-2012, Australia will welcome deployments of a company-size rotation of 200 to 250 Marines in the Northern Territory for around six months at a time.

Over a number of years, we intend to build on this relationship in a staged way to a full force of around 2,500 personnel -- that is a four Marine Air Ground Task Force.

A second component of these initiatives which we have agreed is greater access by U.S. military aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force facilities in our country’s north. This will involve more frequent movements of U.S. military aircraft into and out of northern Australia. Now, taken together, these two initiatives make our alliance stronger, they strengthen our cooperation in our region.

We are a region that is growing economically. But stability is important for economic growth, too. And our alliance has been a bedrock of stability in our region. So building on our alliance through this new initiative is about stability. It will be good for our Australian Defence Force to increase their capabilities by joint training, combined training, with the U.S. Marines and personnel. It will mean that we are postured to better respond together, along with other partners in the Asia Pacific, to any regional contingency, including the provision of humanitarian assistance and dealing with natural disasters.

In addition to discussing this global force posture review by the United States and these new initiatives in our alliance, the President of the United States and I have had an opportunity to reflect on a number of other issues -- to reflect on circumstances in the global economy; to reflect on a clean energy future for our nations and for our planet; to reflect on the forthcoming East Asia Summit. President Obama will proceed from Australia to that summit in Indonesia, where he spent time growing up.

We’ve had a comprehensive discussion. I very much welcome President Obama to Australia. I think he’s already seen that the welcome he’s getting from Australians, including Australian schoolchildren, is a very warm one. And I know that that is going to be sustained during tonight’s events and the events of tomorrow.

President Obama, over to you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good day, everybody. And thank you, Madam Prime Minister, for your generous welcome, your friendship and your partnership. I am thrilled to be Down Under.

As you may know, this is not my first visit to Australia. In fact, I first visited Australia as a boy. And I’ve never forgotten the warmth and kindness that the Australian people extended to me when I was six and eight. And I can see that the Australian people have lost none of that warmth.

I very much wanted to take this trip last year, and although events back home prevented me from doing so, I was determined to come for a simple reason: The United States of America has no stronger ally than Australia. We are bound by common values, the rights and the freedoms that we cherish. And for nearly a century, we’ve stood together in defense of these freedoms. And I'm very happy to be here as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of our alliance, and as we work together to strengthen it for the future.

We are two Pacific nations, and with my visit to the region I am making it clear that the United States is stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia Pacific. In this work, we're deeply grateful for our alliance with Australia and the leadership role that it plays. As it has been for six decades, our alliance is going to be indispensable to our shared future, the security we need and the prosperity that we seek not only in this region but around the world.

I'm also very grateful for my partnership with Prime Minister Gillard. We've worked quite a bit together lately --


PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- spanning time zones -- the G20 in Cannes, APEC, and TPP in Hawaii, now here in Australia, and next onto Bali for the East Asia Summit. And this speaks to how closely our countries work together on a wide range of issues. And in my friend, Julia, I see the quality that we Americans admire most in our Australian friends: somebody who's down to earth, easy to talk to, and who says it like it is -- straight up. And that's why we achieved so much today.

We agreed to push ahead with our efforts to create jobs for our people by bringing our economies and those of the region even closer together. Building on our progress at APEC, we're going to keep striving for a seamless regional economy. And as the two largest economies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Australia and the United States are helping to lead the way to a new model for trade across the region. And along with our G20 partners, we agreed that we have to stay focused on the growth that creates jobs, and that every nation needs to play by the same economic rules of the road.

As two global partners, we discussed the whole range of challenges where we stand shoulder to shoulder, including Afghanistan. Obviously, this has not been an easy mission for either of our countries, and our hearts go out to the families that were affected on October 29th. But we both understand what's at stake -- what happens when al Qaeda has safe havens. We've seen the awful loss of life -- from 9/11 to Bali.

So I thanked the Prime Minister for Australia's strong commitment to this mission. I salute the extraordinary sacrifices of our forces who serve together, including your Australian troops who've shown that no job is too tough for your "Diggers." Today, the Prime Minister and I reaffirmed the way forward. The transition has begun. Afghans are stepping into the lead. As they do, our troops -- American and Australian -- will draw down responsibly together so that we preserve the progress that we've made, and by 2014, Afghans will take full responsibility for security in their country.

But our focus today, as the Prime Minister said, was on preparing our alliance for the future. And so I am very pleased that we are able to make these announcements here together on Australian soil. Because of these initiatives that are the result of our countries working very closely together as partners, we're going to be in a position to more effectively strengthen the security of both of our nations and this region.

As Julia described, we are increasing our cooperation -- and I'd add, America's commitment to this region. Our U.S. Marines will begin rotating through Darwin for joint training and exercises. Our Air Force will rotate additional aircraft through more airfields in Northern Australia. And these rotations, which are going to be taking place on Australian bases, will bring our militaries even closer and make them even more effective. We'll enhance our ability to train, exercise, and operate with allies and partners across the region, and that, in turn, will allow us to work with these nations to respond even faster to a wide range of challenges, including humanitarian crises and disaster relief, as well as promoting security cooperation across the region.

And this commitment builds upon the best traditions of our alliance. For decades, Australians have welcomed our service members as they've come here to work, train, and exercise together. And I'm looking forward to joining the Prime Minister in Darwin tomorrow to thank our troops -- Australians and Americans -- for the incredible work that they are doing.

Finally, as I'll discuss more in my speech to Parliament tomorrow, this deepening of our alliance sends a clear message of our commitment to this region, a commitment that is enduring and unwavering. It's a commitment that I'll reaffirm in Bali as the United States joins the East Asia Summit. And I want to thank our Australian friends who supported our membership so strongly and have worked to make sure that the EAS addresses regional challenges that affect all of us like proliferation and maritime security.

So, again, I'm very pleased that we're able to make these important announcements during my visit. Madam Prime Minister, I thank you for being such a strong partner and a champion of our alliance.

And once again, I want to thank the Australian people for the kindness they showed me about 40 years ago, and the kindness that they're showing me during my visit today. It's that friendship and that solidarity that makes and keeps our alliance one of the strongest in the world.


We'll turn to taking some questions. I think we'll probably take one from the Australian media first. Phil Hudson.

Q Philip Hudson from the Melbourne Herald Sun. Mr. President, welcome back to Australia.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much.

Q You and Prime Minister Gillard have outlined what is for us a significant new U.S. troop buildup. How much of this is because you're (inaudible) of China? And as of today's deal, U.S. Marines will be for the first time conducting exercises by themselves on Australian soil. Why is that, and what will they be doing?

And, Mr. President, you also mentioned in your remarks that Afghanistan is not an easy mission. In the past few months there have been three cases for Australia where our troops have been shot at by the Afghan soldiers who have been training and, sadly, four of our soldiers have died and many others have been injured. Australian public opinion is strongly against our involvement continuing. You've outlined the -- just then, the drawdown. What can you say to the Australian people who don't want to wait, who want to leave immediately?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first, with respect to these new initiatives, this rotational deployment is significant because what it allows us to do is to not only build capacity and cooperation between our two countries, but it also allows us to meet the demands of a lot of partners in the region that want to feel that they're getting the training, they're getting the exercises, and that we have the presence that's necessary to maintain the security architecture in the region.

And so, as Julia mentioned, this is a region that’s becoming increasingly important. The economy in this area is going to be the engine for world economic growth for some time to come. The lines of commerce and trade are constantly expanding. And it’s appropriate then for us to make sure that not only our alliance but the security architecture of the region is updated for the 21st century, and this initiative is going to allow us to do that.

It also allows us to respond to a whole host of challenges, like humanitarian or disaster relief, that, frankly, given how large the Asia Pacific region is, it can sometimes be difficult to do, and this will allow us to be able to respond in a more timely fashion and also equip a lot of countries, smaller countries who may not have the same capacity, it allows us to equip them so that they can respond more quickly as well.

And I guess the last part of your question, with respect to China, I’ve said repeatedly and I will say again today that we welcome a rising, peaceful China. What they’ve been able to achieve in terms of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the last two decades has been nothing short of remarkable. And that is good not just for China, but it’s potentially good for the region. And I know Australia’s economy, obviously, has benefitted by the increased demand that you’re seeing in China.

The main message that I’ve said not only publicly but also privately to the Chinese is that with their rise comes increased responsibilities. It’s important for them to play by the rules of the road and, in fact, help underwrite the rules that have allowed so much remarkable economic progress to be made over the last several decades. And that’s going to be true on a whole host of issues.

So where China is playing by those rules, recognizing its new role, I think this is a win-win situation. There are going to be times where they’re not, and we will send a clear message to them that we think that they need to be on track in terms of accepting the rules and responsibilities that come with being a world power.

With respect to Afghanistan, the impact of any loss of life among our troops is heartbreaking. And obviously, as President of the United States, there's no greater responsibility and nothing more difficult than putting our troops in harm’s way. I think Prime Minister Gillard feels the same way that I do, which is we would not be sending our young men and women into harm’s way unless we thought it was absolutely necessary for the security of our country.

What we have established is a transition process that allows Afghans to build up their capacity and take on a greater security role over the next two years. But it’s important that we do it right. As some of you are aware, I just announced that all remaining troops in Iraq will be removed. It would have been tempting, given that I have been opposed to the Iraq war from the start, when I came into office, to say, we’re going to get you all out right away. But what I recognized was that if we weren’t thoughtful about how we proceed, then the enormous sacrifices that had been made by our men and women in the previous years might be for naught.

And what I’d say to the Australian people at this point is, given the enormous investment that’s been made and the signs that we can, in fact, leave behind a country that’s not perfect, but one that is more stable, more secure, and does not provide safe haven for terrorists, it's appropriate for us to finish the job and do it right.

PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: If I could just add to that and say, every time I have met President Obama and we've talked about our alliance, we've talked about our work in Afghanistan, and in our meetings, both formal and informal, the President has shown the greatest possible concern for our troops in the field. The meetings we've had over the last few weeks at various international events have coincided with some of the most bitter and difficult news that we've had from Afghanistan, and every step of the way the President has gone out of his way to convey to me his condolences for the Australian people and particularly for the families that have suffered such a grievous loss.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Laura MacInnis, Reuters.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Chancellor Merkel said this week that Europe is in its toughest hour since World War II. Markets are now showing some anxiety about the possibility of instability spreading to France as well. Are you worried that the steps European leaders are taking are too incremental so far? Do you think something bolder or a more difficult set of decisions need to be taken to fully (inaudible) that crisis?

I have a question for Prime Minister Gillard as well. Are you concerned that the fiscal pressures the United States is under at the moment may compromise its ability to sustain its plans for the region, including the initiatives announced today? Do you have to take those with something of a grain of salt until the super committee process is concluded?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to Europe, I'm deeply concerned, have been deeply concerned, I suspect we'll be deeply concerned tomorrow and next week and the week after that. Until we put in place a concrete plan and structure that sends a clear signal to the markets that Europe is standing behind the euro and will do what it takes, we're going to continue to see the kinds of turmoil that we saw in the markets today -- or was it yesterday? I'm trying to figure out what -- (laughter) -- what time zone I'm in here.

PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: It's all of the time.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All of the -- right. (Laughter.) We have consulted very closely with our European friends. I think that there is a genuine desire, on the part of leaders like President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel, to solve this crisis. But they've got a complicated political structure.

The problem right now is a problem of political will; it's not a technical problem. We saw some progress with Italy and Greece both putting forward essentially unity governments that can implement some significant reforms that need to take place in those countries. But at this point, the larger European community has to stand behind the European project. And for those American readers or listeners, and those Australian readers or listeners, I think we all understand at this point we've got an integrated world economy and what happens in Europe will have an impact on us.

So we are going to continue to advise European leaders on what options we think would meet the threshold where markets would settle down. It is going to require some tough decisions on their part. They have made some progress on some fronts -- like their efforts to recapitalize the banks. But ultimately what they're going to need is a firewall that sends a clear signal: "We stand behind the European project, and we stand behind the euro." And those members of the eurozone, they are going to have the liquidity they need to service their debt. So there's more work to do on that front.

And just -- I don't want to steal your question, but I do want to just say, with respect to our budget, there's a reason why I'm spending this time out here in Asia and out here in the Pacific region. First and foremost, because this is the fastest-growing economic region in the world, and I want to create jobs in the United States, which means we've got to sell products here and invest here and have a robust trading relationship here, and Australia happens to be one of our strongest trading partners.

But the second message I'm trying to send is that we are here to stay. This is a region of huge strategic importance to us. And I've made very clear, and I'll amplify in my speech to Parliament tomorrow, that even as we make a whole host of important fiscal decisions back home, this is right up there at the top of my priority list. And we're going to make sure that we are able to fulfill our leadership role in the Asia Pacific region.

PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: And I was just going to make what I think is the common-sense point -- I'm not going to issue words of advice about the fiscal position in the United States -- but the common-sense point from the point of view of the leader is, ultimately, budgets are about choices and there are hard choices about the things you value. And I think, by President Obama being here, he is saying he values the role of the United States in this region and our alliance, and that's what the announcement we've made today is all about.

We've got a question from Mark Riley from the Australian media.

Q Thanks, Prime Minister. Mark Riley from 7News, Australia. Mr. President, I wanted to ask you about the other rising giant of our region -- India -- and the Prime Minister might like to add some comments. How significant is it for the U.S. that Australia is now considering selling uranium to India? And could you clear up for us what influence or encouragement your administration gave Australia as it made that decision? And also, the decision is so India can produce clean energy. In that regard, you're aware that our Parliament has passed a new bill, pricing carbon -- a carbon tax, if you like. But we're intrigued about where America is going on this issue.

And countries like Australia don’t see a carbon trading system in the world working unless America is a big part of it. Can you tell us, is it your wish that American will have an emissions trading scheme across the nation within the next five years or so? How heavily do you want to see America involved in an emissions trading scheme globally, or has this become too politically hard for you?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, with respect to India, we have not had any influence, I suspect, on Australia’s decision to explore what its relationship in terms of the peaceful use of nuclear energy in India might be. I suspect that you’ve got some pretty smart government officials here who figured out that India is a big player, and that the Australia-India relationship is one that should be cultivated. So I don’t think Julia or anybody else needs my advice in figuring that out. This is part of your neighborhood, and you are going to make bilateral decisions about how to move forward.

I think without wading into the details, the discussions that are currently taking place here in Australia around that relationship and the nuclear issue with India are ones that are compatible with international law, compatible with decisions that were made in the NPT. And I will watch with interest what’s determined. But this is not something between the United States and Australia; this is something between India and Australia.

With respect to carbon emissions, I share the view of your Prime Minister and most scientists in the world that climate change is a real problem and that human activity is contributing to it, and that we all have a responsibility to find ways to reduce our carbon emissions.

Each country is trying to figure out how to do that most effectively. Here in Australia, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, you’ve moved forward with a bold strategy. In the United States, although we haven’t passed what we call a cap-and-trade system, an exchange, what we have done is, for example, taken steps to double fuel efficiency standard on cars, which will have an enormous impact on removing carbon from the atmosphere.

We’ve invested heavily in clean energy research. We believe very strongly that we’ve improved efficiencies and a whole step range of steps that we can meet and the commitments that we made in Copenhagen and Cancun. And as we move forward over the next several years, my hope is, is that the United States, as one of several countries with a big carbon footprint, can find further ways to reduce our carbon emissions. I think that’s good for the world. I actually think, over the long term, it’s good for our economies as well, because it’s my strong belief that industries, utilities, individual consumers -- we’re all going to have to adapt how we use energy and how we think about carbon.

Now, another belief that I think the Prime Minister and I share is that the advanced economies can’t do this alone. So part of our insistence when we are in multilateral forum -- and I will continue to insist on this when we go to Durban -- is that if we are taking a series of step, then it’s important that emerging economies like China and India are also part of the bargain. That doesn’t mean that they have to do exactly what we do. We understand that in terms of per capita carbon emissions, they’ve got a long way to go before they catch up to us. But it does mean that they’ve got to take seriously their responsibilities as well.

And so, ultimately, what we want is a mechanism whereby all countries are making an effort. And it’s going to be a tough slog, particularly at a time when the economies are -- a lot of economies are still struggling. But I think it’s actually one that, over the long term, can be beneficial.

Jackie Calmes.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Prime Minister Gillard. I wanted to double back to the topic of China. It seems there’s a bit of a schizophrenic aspect to this week of summitry in the Asian Pacific, where China is participating from Hawaii to Indonesia, but then you have all the rest of you who are talking about, on one hand, a trade bloc that excludes China, and now this -- and an increased military presence for the United States, which is symbolized most by this agreement the two of you have made for a permanent U.S. presence in Australia.

What is it everyone fears so much from China? And isn’t there some risk that you would increase tensions in a way that would take some of the -- China might take some of the very actions you fear?

PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: I’m happy to start with that and then go to the President. I don’t -- I think there’s actually a theme throughout the work we’ve been involved with at APEC, some of the discussion here and what we will take to the East Asia Summit. We may be on a journey from saying “aloha” to “good day” to "Bali hai*” or something like that. But I actually think in terms of a strategic outlook, it remains the same -- which is both of our nations deeply engaged with China as it rises and we want to see China rise into the global rules-based order.

That’s our aspiration. I understand it to be the aspiration of the United States. It’s something that we pursue bilaterally with China. It’s something that we pursue multilaterally in the various forums that we work in.

This East Asia Summit will have a particular significance, coming for the first time with the President of the United States there and of course Russia represented around the table, so all of the players with the right mandate to discuss strategic, political and economic questions for our region.

So I actually believe there’s a continuity here: APEC fundamentally focused on trade and economic liberalization; here in Australia, longtime allies, talking about the future of their alliance and building for that future, as you would expect, but also preparing for a set of discussions in Bali, which will bring us together again with our friends across the region.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Just to pick up on this theme, Jackie, I think the notion that we fear China is mistaken. The notion that we are looking to exclude China is mistaken. And I’ll take TPP as a perfect example of this. We haven’t excluded China from the TPP. What we have said is the future of this region depends on robust trade and commerce, and the only way we're going to grow that trade is if we have a high-standards trade agreement where everybody is playing by the same rules; where if one set of markets is open then there's reciprocity among the other trading partners; where there are certain rules that we abide by in terms of intellectual property rights protection or how we deal with government procurement -- in addition to the traditional areas like tariffs.

And what we saw in Honolulu, in APEC, was that a number of countries that weren't part of the initial discussions -- like Japan, Canada, Mexico -- all expressed an interest in beginning the consultations to be part of this high-standard trade agreement that could potentially be a model for the entire region.

Now, if China says, we want to consult with you about being part of this as well, we welcome that. It will require China to rethink some of its approaches to trade, just as every other country that's been involved in the consultations for the TPP have had to think through, all right, what kinds of adjustments are we willing to make?

And so that's the consistent theme here. This is a growing region. It is a vital region. The United States is going to be a huge participant in both economic and security issues in the Asia Pacific region, and our overriding desire is that we have a clear set of principles that all of us can abide by so that all of us can succeed. And I think it's going to be important for China to be a part of that. I think that's good for us.

But it's going to require China, just like all the rest of us, to align our existing policies and what we've done in the past with what's needed for a brighter future.

PRIME MINISTER GILLARD: Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much, everybody.



President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with President Hu of China (Video/Transcipt)

Hale Koa Hotel
Honolulu, Hawaii

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I want to extend a warm welcome to President Hu as he attends this APEC Summit, and we are glad to host him and the other world leaders who are attending.

This will be the first extensive discussions that we’ve had since our very successful state visit by President Hu to Washington.

As we emphasized at that state visit, as two of the world’s largest countries and largest economies, cooperation between the United States and China is vital not only to the security and prosperity of our own people but is also vital to the world.

Such cooperation is particularly important to the Asia Pacific region, where both China and the United States are extraordinarily active. We are both Pacific powers. And I think many countries in the region look to a constructive relationship between the United States and China as a basis for continued growth and prosperity.

As we did at the G20 in Cannes, President Hu and I I’m sure will be discussing issues related to economic growth, how we can continue to rebalance growth around the world, emphasize the importance of putting people back to work, and making sure that the trade relationships and commercial relationships between our two countries end up being a win-win situation.

And I look forward to the opportunity to also discuss a range of both regional and global security issues, including nonproliferation and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, ways that we can work together on issues like climate change, and our efforts to jointly assure that countries like Iran are abiding by international rules and norms.

And although there are areas where we continue to have differences, I am confident that the U.S.-China relationship can continue to grow in a constructive way based on mutual respect and mutual interests. And I want to extend my appreciation to President Hu for the continuous engagement not only of him but also of the entire Chinese government in addressing a wide range of these issues.

So, welcome, President Hu, and I look forward to not only a good discussion here but also an outstanding APEC Summit.

PRESIDENT HU: (As interpreted.) I wish to thank you, Mr. President, for your warm invitation and welcome. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to come to the beautiful state of Hawaii to attend the APEC economic leaders meeting and to meet with you, Mr. President.

This is the ninth meeting between you and I, Mr. President, since you took office, and I look forward to a extensive and in-depth discussion on China-U.S. relations, as well as major regional and international issues of shared interest.

As things stand, the international situation is undergoing complex and profound changes. There is growing instability and uncertainty in the world economic recovery, and regional security threat has become more salient. Under these circumstances, it is all the more important for China and the United States to increase their communication and coordination.

China looks forward to maintaining and strengthening dialogue and cooperation with the United States, to respect each other’s major concerns, appropriately manage sensitive issues, and ensure that the China-U.S. relationship will continue to grow on a sustainable and stable path.

This APEC meeting has drawn a lot of attention worldwide and we appreciate the tremendous work the United States has done in preparing for this meeting. The Asia Pacific region is the most dynamic region in today’s world, with the biggest development potential. This region should become a region of active cooperation between China and the United States.

I sincerely wish this meeting a full success, and I hope that this meeting here will send out a positive message to the international community that economies in the Asia Pacific region will reach out to each other like passengers on the same boat, and work together to ensure the continued, steady growth of the economies.

Thank you once again, Mr. President.

President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 12, 2011 (Video/Transcipt)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
San Diego, California
Saturday, November 12, 2011

I’m speaking to you from the bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. This is one of the biggest ships in the Navy, and on Friday it was home to one of the most unique college basketball games I’ve ever seen. It also gave members of our military and our veterans a chance to unwind a little bit, and on this Veterans Day, I want to take this opportunity to thank all our men and women in uniform for their service and their sacrifice.

But this day isn’t just about thanking our veterans. It’s about rededicating ourselves to serving our veterans as well as they’ve served us. And right now, that’s more important than ever.

Last month, I announced that, as promised, we will end the war in Iraq by the end of the year. Many of our military families will be welcoming loved ones home for the holidays. At the same time, we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. And in the next five years, over a million servicemembers will transition back into civilian life – joining the 3 million who have already done so over the last decade.

These are men and women who have served with distinction in some of the most dangerous places on the planet. But for many of them, the challenges don’t end when they take off the uniform. Today, more than 850,000 veterans remain unemployed. And too many are struggling to find a job worthy of their talents and experience.

That’s not right. We ask these men and women to leave their families and their jobs and risk their lives to fight for our country. The last thing they should have to do is fight for a job when they get home.

To give our veterans the opportunities they’ve earned, I’ve directed the federal government to lead by example – and already, we’ve hired 120,000 veterans. We’ve also challenged private companies to hire or train 100,000 post-9/11 veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. So far, many patriotic companies have answered the call, hiring more than 16,000 Americans. And yesterday, thanks to the hard work of Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden, companies announced their commitment to train or hire 125,000 more over the next two years.

But we need to do more. That’s why, as part of the American Jobs Act, I called on Congress to pass a Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which would give businesses a tax break for each unemployed veteran they hire; and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit, which would give businesses a tax break for hiring an unemployed veteran with a disability related to their service in uniform.

These proposals will go a long way towards putting our veterans back to work. And on Thursday, I was pleased to see the Senate put partisanship aside and come together to pass these tax credits. After all, standing up for our veterans isn’t a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility – it’s an American responsibility. It’s one that all of us have an obligation to meet. And the House should pass this bill as soon as possible so I can sign it into law.

As Commander-in-Chief, I want every veteran to know that America will always honor your service and your sacrifice – not just today, but every day. And just as you fought for us, we’re going to keep fighting for you – for more jobs, for more security, for the opportunity to keep your families strong and America competitive in the 21st century.

So to all our veterans – thank you for your service. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.


President Obama Honors Veterans at Arlington National Cemetery(Video/Transcipt)

(Please wait for 21:20 min for the President's speech to start)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Ric Shinseki, for your extraordinary service to our country and your tireless commitment to our veterans; to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta; to Chairman Dempsey and Mrs. Dempsey; to our wonderful veterans service organizations for the extraordinary work that you do for our nation’s heroes; to all who tend to and watch over this sacred cemetery; and above all, to every active duty member, Guardsman, Reservist, and veteran of the United States Armed Forces.

There are many honors and responsibilities that come with this job. But none are more humbling than serving as your Commander-in-Chief. And I’m proud to be with so many of you here today.

Here, where our heroes come to rest, we come to show our gratitude. A few moments ago, I laid a wreath to pay tribute to all who have given their lives to our country. For even though this is a day we rightly honor America’s veterans, we gather today in solemn respect -– mindful that we are guests here; mindful that we share this hallowed space with a family’s moment of quiet grief; mindful that many veterans not far from here are tracing their fingers over black granite for friends who never came home –- and expect us to do all we can to bring every missing American service member home to their families.

To all our nation’s veterans: Whether you fought in Salerno or Samarra, Khe Sanh or the Korengal, you are part of an unbroken chain of men and women who have served this country with honor and distinction. On behalf of a proud and grateful nation, we thank you.

When I spoke here on this day two years ago, I said there would be a day before long when this generation of servicemen and women would begin to step out of uniform. And I made them a promise. I said that when your tour ends, when you see our flag, when you touch our soil -– you will be home in an America that is forever here for you, just as you’ve been there for us. (Applause.)

For many, that day has come. Over the past decade, more than 5 million Americans have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Forces. Of these, 3 million stepped forward after the attacks of September 11th, knowing full well that they could be sent into harm’s way. And in that time, they have served in some of the world’s most dangerous places. Their service has been selfless. Their accomplishments have been extraordinary.

In Iraq, they have battled a brutal insurgency, trained new security forces and given the Iraqi people the opportunity to forge a better future. In Afghanistan, they have pushed back the Taliban, decimated al Qaeda, and delivered the ultimate justice to Osama bin Laden. In concert with our allies, they have helped end Qaddafi’s brutal dictatorship and returned Libya to its people.

Because of their incredible efforts, we can stand here today and say with confidence -– the tide of war is receding. In just a few weeks, the long war in Iraq will finally come to an end. (Applause.) Our transition in Afghanistan is moving forward. My fellow Americans, our troops are coming home. (Applause.)

For many military families, this holiday season will be a season of homecomings. And over the next five years, more than 1 million Americans in uniform will transition back to civilian life, joining the nearly 3 million who have done so over the past decade and embraced a proud new role, the role of veteran.

This generation of service members -– this 9/11 Generation -– has borne the burden of our security during a hard decade of sacrifice. Our servicemen and women make up less than 1 percent of Americans, but also more than 1 million military spouses and 2 million children and millions more parents and relatives -- all of whom have shared the strains of deployment and sacrificed on behalf of the country that we love.

Only 27 years old on average, these young men and women have shattered the false myth of their generation’s apathy, for they came of age in an era when so many institutions failed to live up to their responsibilities. But they chose to serve a cause greater than their selves. They saw their country threatened. But they signed up to confront that threat. They felt some tug, they answered some call, and they said, Let’s go. And they’ve earned their place among the greatest of generations. (Applause.)

That is something for America to be proud of. That is the spirit America needs now -- a stronger, newer spirit of service and of sacrifice. That spirit that says, What can I do to help? What can I do to serve? That spirit that says, When my country is challenged, I will do my part to meet that challenge.

So on this Veterans Day, let us commit ourselves to keep making sure that our veterans receive the care and benefits that they have earned; the opportunity they defend and deserve; and above all, let us welcome them home as what they are -- an integral, essential part of our American family. (Applause.)

See, when our men and women sign up to become a soldier or a sailor, an airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman, they don’t stop being a citizen. When they take off that uniform, their service to this nation doesn’t stop, either. Like so many of their predecessors, today’s veterans come home looking to continue serving America however they can. At a time when America needs all hands on deck, they have the skills and the strength to help lead the way.

Our government needs their patriotism and sense of duty. And that’s why I’ve ordered the hiring of more veterans by the federal government. (Applause.) Our economy needs their tremendous talents and specialized skills. So I challenged our business leaders to hire 100,000 post-9/11 veterans and their spouses over the next few years and yesterday, many of these leaders joined Michelle to announce that they will meet that challenge. (Applause.)

Our communities have always drawn strength from our veterans’ leadership. Think of all who have come home and settled on in a quiet life of service -- as a doctor or a police officer, an engineer or an entrepreneur, as a mom or a dad -- and in the process, changed countless lives. Other veterans seek new adventures from taking on a new business to building a team of globetrotting veterans who use skills learned in combat to help after a natural disaster.

There are also so many in this young generation who still feel that tug to serve, but just don’t quite know where to turn. So on this Veterans Day, I ask every American, recruit our veterans. If you’re a business owner, hire them. If you’re a community leader -- a mayor, a pastor or a preacher -- call on them to join your efforts. Organize your community to make a sustained difference in the life of a veteran because that veteran can make an incredible difference in the life of your community.

If you’re a veteran looking for new ways to serve, check out If you’re a civilian looking for new ways to support our veterans and our troops, join Michelle and Jill Biden at Find out what you can do. There is no such thing as too small a difference. That effort you make may have the biggest impact.

I say this because recently, I received a letter from a Vietnam veteran. She wasn’t writing to tell me about her own experience. She just wanted to tell me about her son, Jeremy. Now, Jeremy isn’t deployed, Jeremy’s not a veteran, or even in the military at all, as badly as he wants to follow in the footsteps of his family and enlist. You see, Jeremy has Down Syndrome.

So Jeremy chooses to serve where he can best -– with his local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter in Beaver, Pennsylvania. He calls them “the soldiers”. And one day last spring, Jeremy spent the day with several of these veterans cleaning up a local highway.

“He worked tirelessly,” wrote his mother. “He never asked to take a break. He didn’t stop to talk about his beloved Steelers. He didn’t even ask for anything to eat or drink. He only asked for one thing, several times –- ‘Mom, will President Obama be proud of me for helping the soldiers?’”

Well, Jeremy, I want you to know, yes, I am proud of you. I could not be prouder of you, and your country is proud of you. Thank you for serving our veterans by helping them to continue their service to America.

And Jeremy’s example -- one young man’s example -- is one that we must all now follow. Because after a decade of war, the nation we now need to build is our own. And just as our Greatest Generation left a country recovering from Depression and returned home to build the largest middle class in history, so now will the 9/11 Generation play a pivotal role in rebuilding America’s opportunity and prosperity in the 21st century.

We know it will be hard. We have to overcome new threats to our security and prosperity, and we’ve got to overcome the cynical voices warning that America’s best days are behind us. But if there is anything our veterans teach us, it’s that there is no threat we cannot meet; there is no challenge we cannot overcome. America’s best days are still ahead. And the reason for that is because we are a people who defy those voices that insist otherwise. We are a country that does what is necessary for future generations to succeed. (Applause.)

You, our veterans, fight so our children won’t have to. We build and we invent and we learn so that we will know greater opportunity. America leads so that the next generation, here and around the world, will know a more hopeful life on this Earth.

So today, I thank you all for making that possible. God bless you. God bless our veterans and our troops, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)


Funding U.S. Infrastructure Improvements

Lindsay: Bachmann on Iran and more

Editor's Note(Fareed Zakaria): Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.

By James M. Lindsay

Michele Bachmann gave The Street a video interview on foreign policy. She says that her ultimate foreign policy goal is “to see peace in the world.” Her strategy for achieving that end is a “peace through strength policy.” She criticized the New Start Treaty, called Iran a “third-world basket case,” and speculated that Tehran would share its nuclear weapons technology with nations like Sudan and “state sponsors of terror.” Bachmann also condemned President Obama’s decision to send U.S. troops to central Africa:

We don’t know where that will go…Once we get involved in a foreign entanglement, if there’s anything we’ve learned in the last twelve years it’s that it’s very difficult to extricate once we get involved.

Bachmann plans to give a major foreign policy speech this Thursday on board the USS Yorktown, which is anchored in Charleston, South Carolina. (The Yorktown, which is named after one of the most significant battles in American history, is a decommissioned ship, so no federal laws about political speeches on federal property are being violated.)

The latest IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear weapons program has put Iran back in the news. As the New York Times reports, the GOP candidates—with the notable exception of Ron Paul—are taking a hard line on the issue. The candidates don’t necessarily have any better ideas for dealing with Tehran than the White House does, but as the Times notes, “projecting toughness on Iran may offer one of the few political openings on foreign policy that Republicans can use to attack President Obama.”

Rick Perry got a pat on the back he might not want. In an interview with USA Today, former president Bill Clinton said it’s “crazy” that Republican candidates are attacking Perry for “one of the best things he did”—support a Texas law granting in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants.

Gallup’s latest poll shows Herman Cain even with Mitt Romney; both men have 21 percent support from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

Although the CNN-AEI-Heritage Foundation national security debate has been pushed back to November 22, CBS and the National Journal are going ahead with their foreign policy debate scheduled for this Saturday, November 12 at 8 pm. The National Journal asked its National Security Insiders, a pool of defense and foreign policy experts, to suggest some questions to ask, and it has kindly posted some of them. We’ll see if any of the questions get asked—or more importantly, answered.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Jim Lindsay.
Post on globalpublicsquare.blogs by James Lindsay

One more step in the right direction!

Signing this executive order is one more step to cut down the deficit without hurting the poor or middle-class. However, it’s not enough to get to  the level before former president J.W. Bush took office.

I still believe that President Obama has to push harder to finally reverse the tax give-away for the wealthiest Americans as well as close those tremendous number of loopholes for corporations.

After that President Obama needs to come back to his promises to write “a new chapter in American’s leadership on climate change”. It is inexcusable, despite all the domestic problems and  the political wrangling,  that it appears that climate change has been pushed of the American agenda!

Almost every country around the world, including India and China, have made strives to tackle this problem. In 2010, India passed a carbon tax on coal and China’s newest five-year-plan contains a pilot cap-and-trade system, under which polluters pay for excess pollution.

What’s wrong with our politicians in the United States?
Why is money more important than the survival of our planet?

President Obama Signs Order to Cut Waste and Promote Efficiency(Video/Transcipt)

Well, from the day I took office, one of the commitments that I made to the American people was that we would do a better job here in Washington in rooting out wasteful spending. At a time when families have had to cut back, have had to make some tough decisions about getting rid of things that they don’t need in order to make the investments that they do, we thought that it was entirely appropriate for our governments and our agencies to try to root out waste, large and small, in a systematic way.

Obviously, this is even more important given the deficits that we’ve inherited and that have grown as a consequence of this recession. This makes these efforts even more imperative.

Now, this does mean making some tough choices. It means cutting some programs that I think are worthy but we may not be able to afford right now. A lot of the action is in Congress and legislative and budget. I know the joint committee on trying to reduce our deficits are engaged in a very difficult conversation right now, and we want to encourage them to complete their work. But in the meantime, we don’t need to wait for Congress in order to do something about wasteful spending that’s out there.

Cutting waste, making government more efficient, is something that leaders in both parties have worked on, from Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican, to Democrat Claire McCaskill. We haven’t seen as much action out of Congress as we’d like, and that’s why we launched on our own initiative the campaign to cut waste. Not just to cut spending but to make government work better for the American people.

For example, we’ve identified thousands of government buildings that we don’t need. Some have sat empty for years. So we’re getting rid of those properties, and that’s going to save the American people billions of dollars.

As part of this campaign, I’ve also asked federal employees to do their part and share their ideas on making government more efficient and more effective. And two of them are here today, so I want to introduce them.

Roger Rhoads works at the Department of Commerce. Raise your hand, Roger. There’s Roger. He found a way to save the Department almost $2 million a year on its cellphone bills. And I’m sure that there probably is some consumers out there that would like to talk to him and find out what they can save on their cellphone bills.

Celeste Steele is here. Celeste, raise your hand. Celeste works at the Department of Homeland Security, and she’s helping save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by changing the way the Department buys goods and services.

So we’ve received nearly 20,000 suggestions from federal employees. I just completed a videoconference with the four finalists of our annual SAVE award -- 20,000 submissions of ideas from federal employees about how we can reduce waste, eliminate duplication, redundancy, paperwork. And these four finalists have some terrific ideas: putting books that have been ordered every year online instead of continuing to incur the shipping costs, to having a tool library over at NASA so that instead of buying very specialized tools over and over again for different projects, we actually keep an inventory of those tools.

In addition to soliciting ideas from federal employees, I’ve also tasked Vice President Biden to work with the Secretaries of all our agencies to identify some systemic areas of potential improvement -- travel, transportation, IT services -- all of which we know can save us potentially billions of dollars. And in September Joe convened the Cabinet and has really pushed them hard in finding savings across all our agencies.

So today I’m signing an executive order that builds on their good work. It directs agencies to slash spending in each of these areas -- travel, printing, IT -- because we believe that we can get better results for less using technology. And overall, spending in the areas covered by this executive order will shrink by 20 percent. And members of my Cabinet will keep reporting on their progress to Joe Biden, and ultimately to me. And we’re going to hold them accountable for meeting this 20 percent reduction goal.

These are important steps that can save taxpayers billions of dollars over the next several years. It doesn’t replace the importance of the work that Congress needs to do in coming up with a balanced, bold plan to reduce our deficit, but it indicates once again that there are things that we can do right now that will actually deliver better government more efficiently, more consumer-friendly for less money. And we’re going to keep on finding every possible way that we can do that even if Congress is not acting.

So with that, I’m going to sign the bill, but I want to thank all the officials who are behind me here today for taking this project so seriously.

(The executive order is signed.)

There you go. Thank you very much.