President Barack Obama Weekly Address April 28, 2012 (Video/Transcript)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday April 28, 2012
On Friday, I traveled to Ft. Stewart in Georgia to meet with soldiers from the Third Infantry Division.
These men and women have fought with bravery and honor in some of the most dangerous places on the planet.  Some of them didn’t make it back.  But those who did are now fighting a different kind of battle here at home.  They’re looking for new jobs, new opportunities, and new ways to serve.
For many, that means going back to school – and America has a long tradition of making sure our veterans and our men and women in uniform can afford to do that.  After World War II, we helped a generation of Americans – including my grandfather – go to school on the GI Bill.  Now, thanks to the 9/11 GI Bill and the Tuition Assistance program, last year we supported more than half a million veterans and over 300,000 service members who are pursuing a higher education.
That’s progress.  But it’s not enough to just help our veterans and service members afford school – we need to make sure they have all the tools they need to make an informed decision when it comes to picking the right program.
The sad truth is that there are people out there who are less interested in helping our men and women in uniform get ahead and more interested in making a buck.  They bombard potential students with emails and pressure them into making a quick decision.  Some of them steer recruits towards high-interest loans and mislead them about credit transfers and job placement programs.  One of the worst examples was a college recruiter who visited a Marine barracks and enrolled Marines with brain injuries so severe that some of them couldn’t recall what courses the recruiter had signed them up for.
That’s appalling.  It’s disgraceful.  And even though the vast majority of schools do the right thing, we need to guard against the bad actors who don’t.
That’s why, on Friday, I signed an Executive Order making life a whole lot more secure for our service members, veterans and their families – and a whole lot tougher for anyone who tries to prey on them.
We’re making sure veterans and service members get a simple fact sheet called “Know Before You Owe” that lays out all the information they need about financial aid and paying for college.  We’re requiring schools to offer counseling to help students finish their degree even if they have to move or deploy.  And we’re stepping up our efforts to fight dishonest recruiters by strengthening rules about who can come on base and making it easier to file complaints.
When our men and women in uniform succeed, our country succeeds.  They have our back – now it’s our turn to have theirs.  And as long as I’m President, I’m going to make sure that anyone who serves this country gets every opportunity they deserve.
Thank you, and have a great weekend.


President Obama Honors the 2012 National Teacher of the Year and Finalists (Video/Transcript)

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow, thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.

Before we get started, I want to recognize one of our greatest advocates for education and for teachers, our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is here.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

Now, let's face it, a lot of important people visit the White House.  (Laughter.)  But to young people in classrooms around the country, nobody is more important than the men and women that we honor here today -- the State and National Teachers of the Year.

These are the kind of teachers who change lives forever.  I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for teachers like these who challenged me, and pushed me, and put up with me, and inspired me -- and set me straight when they had to.  And I think everybody here can say the exact same thing.

Teachers matter.  That’s why I often tell young people:  If you want a guarantee that you're making a difference every single day, become a teacher.  A teacher is the key to a child reaching their potential.  And if we need more proof -- (baby chatters.)  Yes, it's true.  (Laughter.)  Yes.  She agrees.  (Laughter.)

And if we need more proof that teachers matter, all we've got to do is look around this room.  I’m honored to be here with teachers like Gay Barnes, from Madison, Alabama, one of the four finalists for this award.  There’s Angela Wilson, who teaches children of military families at Vicenza Middle School, in Italy.  Not a bad place to hang out.  (Laughter.)  There is Alvin Aureliano Davis, who teaches music in Florida.

And there is our 2012 National Teacher of the Year, Rebecca Mieliwocki, from Burbank, California.  So give Rebecca a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  And this is Rebecca's crew right here -- (laughter) -- who are very proud.  Auntie and cousins and -- (laughter) --


THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, boss.  (Laughter.)  Even more important.  (Laughter.)  

Now, you might say that teaching is in Rebecca’s DNA, because both her parents taught in public schools.  She saw how hard they worked, how much time and energy they devoted to their jobs, how much they gave to their students.

But when she was 18, of course, the last thing she wanted to be was a teacher.  What teenager wants to do what their parents are doing?  (Laughter.)  So in college, she really rebelled and went to law school.  (Laughter.)

Now, she then tried a few different careers after that.  After studying to become a lawyer, she went into publishing and floral design and event planning.  But ultimately, she found herself drawn back to the classroom, and her students are so lucky that she did.

She’s got high expectations for her 7th graders and for herself, but she also knows that school can be fun.  And that fits a personality that she describes as “a 12 year-old goofball dying to get out.”  (Laughter.)  And I have to say, she was a little goofy when I met her.  (Laughter.)  She was back there teasing me and asking Arne about our basketball games and stuff.  (Laughter.)  You can tell she’s just got a wonderful spirit.

And so in addition to everything they learn in her English class, Rebecca’s students have had a chance to film their own adaptations of an O. Henry short story.  They worked with a local writer to develop five-minute plays, which professional actors then performed.  Rebecca has led field trips to the science center, to the aquarium, to Chinatown, even the La Brea tar pits -- that’s a trip you really don’t want to lose track of anybody.  (Laughter.)  Only one kid?  (Laughter.)  They never showed up that morning -- (laughter) -- I was wondering where they were.  (Laughter.)

Rebecca knows that education also is a responsibility that begins at home.  So she hosts family nights to get parents involved.  She sends home weekly parent memos so moms and dads know what’s going on in school.  She maintains a Facebook page for her class, where families can get information and updates 24/7.

And all this extra work makes a huge difference.  When kids finish a year in Rebecca’s class, they’re better readers and writers than when they started.  But even more than that, they know how important they are.  And they understand how bright their futures can be.  And they know that if they work at it, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.

So Rebecca is the definition of “above and beyond.”  And so many teachers around the country are like her.  She throws herself into her work for a simple reason:  She knows that her students depend on her.  And as she puts it, “Life is too short and too difficult to have anything less than the most engaged, enthusiastic teachers in schools.”  I couldn’t agree more.  And I know Arne couldn’t agree more.

I also want to point something else out.  Rebecca said in applying for this award, she said that in some ways it’s harder than ever to be an educator.  Even in the best of times, teachers are asked to do more with less.  And today, with our economy still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression, states and communities have to stretch budgets tighter than ever.

So we’ve got a particular responsibility as elected officials in difficult times, instead of bashing teachers to support them.  We should be giving states the resources to keep good teachers on the job and reward the best ones.  And we should grant our educators the flexibility to teach with creativity and passion in the classroom and not just teaching to the test.  And we should allow schools to replace teachers, who, even with the right resources and support, just aren’t helping our kids to learn.

Because we’ve all got something at stake here.  Our parents, our grandparents -- they didn't build the world’s most prosperous economy and the strongest middle class in the world out of thin air.  It started with a world-class education system.  That was the foundation.  And in the long run, no issue will have a bigger impact in our success as a country and the success of our citizens.

So every day, when teachers like you put in long hours, or dig into your own pockets to pay for school supplies, or tweak lessons so they’re even better than they were last year, you’re not just serving your schools or your students, you’re also serving your country.  And you’re helping to preserve the basic promise of America, that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is, you can succeed.  You can make it if you try, if you put in the effort.

So on behalf of the American people, thank you all for everything that you do.  And congratulations.  I’m going to present this spiffy-looking award to Rebecca Mieliwocki.  (Applause.)

Girls in STEM: A New Generation of Women and Science

President Obama Speaks on Preventing Mass Atrocities (Video/Transcript)

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everyone.  It is a great honor to be with you here today.  Of course, it is a truly humbling moment to be introduced by Elie Wiesel.  Along with Sara Bloomfield, the outstanding director here, we just spent some time among the exhibits, and this is now the second visit I've had here.  My daughters have come here.  It is a searing occasion whenever you visit.  And as we walked, I was taken back to the visit that Elie mentioned, the time that we traveled together to Buchenwald.

And I recall how he showed me the barbed-wire fences and the guard towers.  And we walked the rows where the barracks once stood, where so many left this Earth -- including Elie’s father, Shlomo.  We stopped at an old photo -- men and boys lying in their wooden bunks, barely more than skeletons.  And if you look closely, you can see a 16-year old boy, looking right at the camera, right into your eyes.  You can see Elie.

And at the end of our visit that day, Elie spoke of his father.  "I thought one day I will come back and speak to him," he said, "of times in which memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill."  Elie, you've devoted your life to upholding that sacred duty.  You’ve challenged us all -- as individuals, and as nations -- to do the same, with the power of your example, the eloquence of your words, as you did again just now.  And so to you and Marion, we are extraordinarily grateful.

To Sara, to Tom Bernstein, to Josh Bolten, members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and everyone who sustains this living memorial -- thank you for welcoming us here today.  To the members of Congress, members of the diplomatic corps, including Ambassador Michael Oren of Israel, we are glad to be with you.

And most of all, we are honored to be in the presence of men and women whose lives are a testament to the endurance and the strength of the human spirit -- the inspiring survivors.  It is a privilege to be with you, on a very personal level.  As I’ve told some of you before, I grew up hearing stories about my great uncle -- a soldier in the 89th Infantry Division who was stunned and shaken by what he saw when he helped to liberate Ordruf, part of Buchenwald.   And I’ll never forget what I saw at Buchenwald, where so many perished with the words of Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil on their lips.

I’ve stood with survivors, in the old Warsaw ghettos, where a monument honors heroes who said we will not go quietly; we will stand up, we will fight back.  And I’ve walked those sacred grounds at Yad Vashem, with its lesson for all nations -- the Shoah cannot be denied.

During my visit to Yad Vashem I was given a gift, inscribed with those words from the Book of Joel:  "Has the like of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers?  Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs, and their children the next generation."  That’s why we’re here.  Not simply to remember, but to speak.

I say this as a President, and I say it as a father.  We must tell our children about a crime unique in human history.  The one and only Holocaust -- six million innocent people -- men, women, children, babies -- sent to their deaths just for being different, just for being Jewish.  We tell them, our children, about the millions of Poles and Catholics and Roma and gay people and so many others who also must never be forgotten.  Let us tell our children not only how they died, but also how they lived -- as fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who loved and hoped and dreamed, just like us. 

We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen -- because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent.  Let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations.  Among them was Jan Karski, a young Polish Catholic, who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself.

Jan Karski passed away more than a decade ago.  But today, I’m proud to announce that this spring I will honor him with America’s highest civilian honor -- the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  (Applause.)

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, "never again" is a challenge to us all -- to pause and to look within.

For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.  And we have seen it again -- madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.  The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur -- they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

"Never again" is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms -- including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world.  And today, just steps from where he gave his life protecting this place, we honor the memory of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, whose family joins us today.

"Never again" is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security -- and that includes the State of Israel.  And on my visit to the old Warsaw Ghetto, a woman looked me in the eye, and she wanted to make sure America stood with Israel.  She said, "It’s the only Jewish state we have."  And I made her a promise in that solemn place.  I said I will always be there for Israel.

So when efforts are made to equate Zionism to racism, we reject them.  When international fora single out Israel with unfair resolutions, we vote against them.  When attempts are made to delegitimize the state of Israel, we oppose them.  When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  

"Never again" is a challenge to societies.  We’re joined today by communities who’ve made it your mission to prevent mass atrocities in our time.  This museum’s Committee of Conscience, NGOs, faith groups, college students, you’ve harnessed the tools of the digital age -- online maps and satellites and a video and social media campaign seen by millions.  You understand that change comes from the bottom up, from the grassroots.  You understand -- to quote the task force convened by this museum -- "preventing genocide is an achievable goal."  It is an achievable goal.  It is one that does not start from the top; it starts from the bottom up.

It’s remarkable -- as we walked through this exhibit, Elie and I were talking as we looked at the unhappy record of the State Department and so many officials here in the United States during those years.  And he asked, "What would you do?"  But what you all understand is you don't just count on officials, you don't just count on governments.  You count on people -- and mobilizing their consciences.

And finally, "never again" is a challenge to nations.  It’s a bitter truth -- too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale.  And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.

Three years ago today, I joined many of you for a ceremony of remembrance at the U.S. Capitol.  And I said that we had to do "everything we can to prevent and end atrocities."  And so I want to report back to some of you today to let you know that as President I’ve done my utmost to back up those words with deeds.  Last year, in the first-ever presidential directive on this challenge, I made it clear that "preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America."

That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there’s an injustice in the world.  We cannot and should not.  It does mean we possess many tools -- diplomatic and political, and economic and financial, and intelligence and law enforcement and our moral suasion -- and using these tools over the past three years, I believe -- I know -- that we have saved countless lives.  

When the referendum in South Sudan was in doubt, it threatened to reignite a conflict that had killed millions.  But with determined diplomacy, including by some people in this room, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation.  And our diplomacy continues, because in Darfur, in Abyei, in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, the killing of innocents must come to an end.  The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to negotiate -- because the people of Sudan and South Sudan deserve peace.  That is work that we have done, and it has saved lives.

When the incumbent in Côte D’Ivoire lost an election but refused to give it up -- give up power, it threatened to unleash untold ethnic and religious killings.  But with regional and international diplomacy, and U.N. peacekeepers who stood their ground and protected civilians, the former leader is now in The Hague, and Côte D’Ivoire is governed by its rightful leader -- and lives were saved.

When the Libyan people demanded their rights and Muammar Qaddafi’s forces bore down on Benghazi, a city of 700,000, and threatened to hunt down its people like rats, we forged with allies and partners a coalition that stopped his troops in their tracks.  And today, the Libyan people are forging their own future, and the world can take pride in the innocent lives that we saved.

And when the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony continued its atrocities in Central Africa, I ordered a small number of American advisors to help Uganda and its neighbors pursue the LRA.  And when I made that announcement, I directed my National Security Council to review our progress after 150 days.  We have done so, and today I can announce that our advisors will continue their efforts to bring this madman to justice, and to save lives.  (Applause.)  It is part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA, and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family and no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier.

We’ve stepped up our efforts in other ways.  We’re doing more to protect women and girls from the horror of wartime sexual violence.  With the arrest of fugitives like Ratko Mladic, charged with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the world sent a message to war criminals everywhere:  We will not relent in bringing you to justice.  Be on notice.  And for the first time, we explicitly barred entry into the United States of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now we’re doing something more.  We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities.  So I created the first-ever White House position dedicated to this task.  It’s why I created a new Atrocities Prevention Board, to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission.  This is not an afterthought.  This is not a sideline in our foreign policy.  The board will convene for the first time today, at the White House.  And I’m pleased that one of its first acts will be to meet with some of your organizations -- citizens and activists who are partners in this work, who have been carrying this torch.

Going forward, we’ll strengthen our tools across the board, and we'll create new ones.  The intelligence community will prepare, for example, the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide.  We're going to institutionalize the focus on this issue.  Across government, "alert channels" will ensure that information about unfolding crises -- and dissenting opinions -- quickly reach decision-makers, including me.

Our Treasury Department will work to more quickly deploy its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes.  Our military will take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning.  And the State Department will increase its ability to surge our diplomats and experts in a crisis.  USAID will invite people and high-tech companies to help create new technologies to quickly expose violations of human rights.  And we’ll work with other nations so the burden is better shared -- because this is a global responsibility.

In short, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities -- because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.  (Applause.)

We recognize that, even as we do all we can, we cannot control every event.  And when innocents suffer, it tears at our conscience.  Elie alluded to what we feel as we see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights.  And we have to do everything we can.  And as we do, we have to remember that despite all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them, the Syrian people still brave the streets.  They still demand to be heard.  They still seek their dignity.  The Syrian people have not given up, which is why we cannot give up.
And so with allies and partners, we will keep increasing the pressure, with a diplomatic effort to further isolate Assad and his regime, so that those who stick with Assad know that they are making a losing bet.  We’ll keep increasing sanctions to cut off the regime from the money it needs to survive.  We’ll sustain a legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice, and a humanitarian effort to get relief and medicine to the Syrian people.  And we’ll keep working with the "Friends of Syria" to increase support for the Syrian opposition as it grows stronger.
Indeed, today we’re taking another step.  I’ve signed an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence.  These technologies should not empower -- these technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them.  And it’s one more step that we can take toward the day that we know will come -- the end of the Assad regime that has brutalized the Syrian people -- and allow the Syrian people to chart their own destiny.
Even with all the efforts I’ve described today, even with everything that hopefully we have learned, even with the incredible power of museums like this one, even with everything that we do to try to teach our children about our own responsibilities, we know that our work will never be done. There will be conflicts that are not easily resolved.  There will be senseless deaths that aren’t prevented.  There will be stories of pain and hardship that test our hopes and try our conscience.  And in such moments it can be hard to imagine a more just world.

It can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to man’s endless capacity for cruelty.  It’s tempting sometimes to believe that there is nothing we can do.  And all of us have those doubts.  All of us have those moments -- perhaps especially those who work most ardently in these fields.

So in the end, I come back to something Elie said that day we visited Buchenwald together.  Reflecting on all that he had endured, he said, "We had the right to give up."  "We had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one's life with dignity, in a world that has no place for dignity."  They had that right.  Imagine what they went through.  They had the right to give up.  Nobody would begrudge them that.  Who’d question someone giving up in such circumstances?

But, Elie said, "We rejected that possibility, and we said, no, we must continue believing in a future."  To stare into the abyss, to face the darkness and insist there is a future -- to not give up, to say yes to life, to believe in the possibility of justice.

To Elie and to the survivors who are here today, thank you for not giving up.  You show us the way.  (Applause.)  You show us the way.  If you cannot give up, if you can believe, then we can believe.  If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there’s a place for dignity for every human being.  That has been the cause of your lives.  It must be the work of our nation and of all nations.

So God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

President Barack Obama Weekly Address April 21, 2012 (Video/Transcript)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Hi.  This week, I got the chance to sit down with some impressive students at Lorain County Community College in Ohio.  One of them was a woman named Andrea Ashley.  Two years ago, Andrea lost her job as an HR analyst.  Today, she’s getting certified in the fast-growing field of electronic medical records.  Before enrolling at Lorain, Andrea told me she was looking everywhere trying to find a new job.  But without a degree, she said that nobody would hire her.
Andrea’s story isn’t unique.  I’ve met so many Americans who are out there pounding the pavement looking for work only to discover that they need new skills.  And I’ve met a lot of employers who are looking for workers, but can’t find ones with the skills they’re looking for.
So we should be doing everything we can to put higher education within reach for every American – because at a time when the unemployment rate for Americans with at least a college degree is about half the national average, it’s never been more important.  But here’s the thing: it’s also never been more expensive.  Students who take out loans to pay for college graduate owing an average of $25,000.  For the first time, Americans owe more debt on their student loans than they do on their credit cards.  And for many working families, the idea of owing that much money means that higher education is simply out of reach for their children.
In America, higher education cannot be a luxury.  It’s an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford.  That’s why next week I’ll be visiting colleges across the country, talking to students about how we can make higher education more affordable – and what’s at stake right now if Congress doesn’t do something about it.  You see, if Congress doesn’t act, on July 1st interest rates on some student loans will double.  Nearly seven and half million students will end up owing more on their loan payments.  That would be a tremendous blow.  And it’s completely preventable.
This issue didn’t come out of nowhere.  For some time now, I’ve been calling on Congress to take steps to make higher education more affordable – to prevent these interest rates from doubling, to extend the tuition tax credit that has saved middle-class families millions of dollars, and to double the number of work-study jobs over the next five years.
Instead, over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have voted against new ways to make college more affordable for middle-class families, and voted for huge new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires – tax cuts that would have to be paid for by cutting things like education and job-training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.
We cannot just cut our way to prosperity.  Making it harder for our young people to afford higher education and earn their degrees is nothing more than cutting our own future off at the knees.  Congress needs to keep interest rates on student loans from doubling, and they need to do it now.
This is a question of values.  We cannot let America become a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of people struggle to get by.  We’ve got to build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  That’s how the middle class gets stronger.  That’s an economy that’s built to last.  And I’m not only going to take that case to college campuses next week – I’m going to take it to every part of the country this year.  Thanks, and have a great weekend.


President Obama speaks before the start of the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride (Video/Transcript)

HE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Thank you, Ric, for that introduction.  More importantly, thank you for your service and for everything you do for our veterans and our wounded warriors. 
        We’ve also got here today Senator Tom Udall and Congresswoman Corrine Brown with us.  Thank you all for coming.
        This is the fourth time we’ve had the Soldier Ride here in the South Lawn.  And this year, you’ve already covered some ground -- 34 miles over the last few days, and another 24-mile ride tomorrow.  So our job is to give you a break, maybe even a little extra fuel, and get you back on the road.
        The reason I ask this group to stop by every year is because this is one of the most inspiring events that we have here at the White House.  As Commander-in-Chief, I can’t take sides, but I know the Army is represented here.  (Hooah!)  Navy is represented here.  (Navy!)  We’ve got some Air Force.  (Hooyah!)  We’ve got some Marines in the house.  (Ooh-rah!)  And we’ve got some Coast Guard.  (Applause.)  (Laughter.)  And there's some folks here who don’t wear a uniform, but who work just as hard and sacrifice just as much alongside you -- and that's our outstanding military families in the house.  (Applause.)
        So this is a pretty diverse group.  And I know you’re all doing this ride for different reasons.  Some of you may be athletes looking to get the competitive juices flowing again.  Maybe some of you are trying to see how far you can push yourselves.  Some of you are doing it for the camaraderie and the bond that comes when you work hard alongside people who know what you’re going through.  Maybe you’re doing it to honor a loved one or a buddy.  But all of you are here because you believe in living your lives to the fullest.  You know that each of us has a responsibility to seize the opportunities we’ve been blessed with.  You ride because you can, and you ride for those who can’t.  That’s what this is all about.
        And that’s what inspired Chris Carney to hop on a bike and head across country on the first Soldier Ride eight years ago to raise money and awareness for returning troops and wounded warriors.  Chris came up with the idea working as a bartender in Long Island.  And I have to say it's better than most of the ideas that come out of bars.  (Laughter.)  At least that's been my experience.  (Laughter.)
        Today, there are Soldier Rides all across the country.  They serve as a reminder that all of us can do our part to serve the men and women who serve us.  And I’m glad to see you’re all decked out in the stars and stripes, because I want anybody who sees this ride go by to know that they’re in the presence of heroes.
        Some of these guys I’ve had a chance to meet before.  I first met Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Max Rohn when he was in the hospital recovering from a grenade attack in Fallujah that cost him his leg.  And Max I think will admit he was in pretty rough shape at the time.  But the next time I saw him, at a dinner that we hosted here recently for Iraq War veterans, Max had gained 80 pounds -- or 40 pounds, and was training for the upcoming Wounded Warrior games.  I offered him two dinners after he finished the first one kind of quick, and he readily accepted.  (Laughter.)  After he finished the first dessert kind of quick, I offered him another one.  He accepted that one, too.  I am positive it is the most anybody has ever eaten in the White House.  (Laughter.)  And now he’s ready to ride.
        We’ve also got Captain Leslie Smith here today.  Leslie lost her leg and her eyesight after serving in Bosnia, and this is her first time back on a bike.  She’s going to be riding in tandem alongside Meghan Speicher-Harris, who works with the Wounded Warrior Project.  And it’s good to have them both here.
        And then there are the Schei brothers -- Erik and Deven.  When Erik enlisted in the Army, Deven made a promise that if anything bad ever happened, he would finish what his brother started.  And during his second tour in Iraq, Erik was shot in the head by a sniper.  So Deven enlisted.  Then two years ago, Deven was injured in Afghanistan.  And now the two brothers ride a specially-made tandem bike, with Deven leading the way.  They’re taking on this latest challenge just like they did every other one -- together.
        So these men and women, they're an inspiration.  And it’s also inspiring to meet the families behind them -- the moms and dads, and the brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters who are standing by their side through good times and bad.  You’re heroes, too.  And I know Michelle and I look forward to any time we get to spend with military families.
        So I want to encourage everybody who sees these riders going by this weekend to go out and cheer, and say thanks, and salute, and show your support.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I promise to do everything I can to make sure that you guys get the care and the benefits that you deserve, that you've earned.  All of you have served your country.  That's why now it's time for the country to serve you.  That's what you deserve, and here in America we take care of our own.
        So to all the riders here today, we are proud of you.  Your country is proud of you.  And now I'm going to see how you guys do taking some laps around the South Lawn.  But you got to do it on the horn -- I don't want anybody cheating.  (Laughter.)
        All right.  On your marks, get set -- (the President sounds the horn.)  Hey!  (Applause.)


Do you remember the global financial crisis ?

Inside Job, Narrated by Matt Damon (Full Length HD) from jwrock on Vimeo.

President Obama Speaks on Skills for American Workers (Video/Transcript)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Everybody, please have a seat.
Well, hello, Ohio!
THE PRESIDENT:  It is good to be back here at Lorain.  Last time I was here I had an outstanding burger at Smitty's.  (Laughter.)  I got my own presidential football helmet at Riddell.  I got a feeling I may need it between now and November. (Laughter.)
It's also great to be back at Lorain Community College.  I want to thank Bronson for that wonderful introduction.  He is -- (applause) -- I had a chance to meet Bronson and Andrea and David and Duane.  And I just want Bronson's wife to know that he gives her all the credit in the world.  So just in case you're watching -- (laughter) -- Gladys, he loves you to death.
I also want to thank your president, Dr. Roy Church --  (applause) -- your Mayor, Holly Brinda, for hosting us here today.  (Applause.)  I want to recognize my outstanding Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, in the house.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all of you for coming.
I came here for a simple reason.  In an economy that’s still recovering from the worst financial crisis and the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, the work that's going on here could not be more important.  I meet business owners all the time who want to hire in the United States, but they can’t always find the workers with the right skills.  You've got growing industries in science and technology that have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job.  That makes no sense -- openings at a time when there's still a lot of Americans, including some on this stage, who are looking for work.  So we've got to do a better job training more people for the skills that businesses are looking for.
When I met with manufacturers a while back, they said it's starting to make economic sense to bring jobs back to Ohio, to bring jobs back to Michigan, to bring jobs back to Illinois and Iowa and Indiana, because even if the labor costs are lower there, the workers are better here.  And when you factor in transportation costs, a lot of times it makes sense to insource now, but that's only going to be true if we can make sure that we've got workers who have higher skills and can manage fancier machinery than folks in other places.  And all that starts with community colleges like this one.
So I just had a chance to listen to four of your classmates and hear a little bit about how they got here, where they’re headed.  I talked to Duane, who was laid off at a packaging company, is now learning how to operate high-tech machinery.  Andrea lost her job as an HR analyst, but she's now getting certified in the fast-growing field of electronic medical records.  David, who in addition to being a truck driver for 23 years was also a Marine, so we know he can do the job -- he's here to retrain for a higher-paying job.  And you just heard from Bronson, who was laid off two years ago, and you heard what he said.  He was at a dead end in his life, and this program -- along with his wife -- (laughter) -- gave him an opportunity.  So he's going to be learning hands-on machining over the next few weeks, after having already done some of the bookwork.
I have to tell you, when I meet these folks, these folks inspire me, because a lot of them have gone through tough times. Andrea is still dealing with the aftermath of the flood that damaged her home.  All of them have supportive family members.   And it's hard being out of work.  It's hard especially when you're mid-career, when you're having to change jobs.  And the resilience they show and the determination they show, that’s what America's about.  That’s our defining spirit.  We don't quit.
And so the question now is, how do we make sure that all of America is expressing that spirit through making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?  Because that’s going to be a major debate that we have in this country not just for the next few months, but for the next few years:  Should we settle for an economy where a few people do really well and then a growing number are struggling to get by?  Or do we build an economy where people like Duane and Andrea and David and Bronson, they've got a chance to get ahead, where there are ladders of opportunity, where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules?  (Applause.)
And this is not just another run-of-the-mill political debate.  There's always chatter in Washington.  Folks argue about whether the sun rises in the east and whether it sets in the west, whether the sky is blue.  (Laughter.)  There's always going to be arguments in Washington.  But this one is different, because we're talking about the central challenge of our time.  Right now, we have two competing visions of our future, and the choice could not be clearer.  And let me say, those folks on the other side, I am sure they are patriots, I'm sure they're sincere in terms of what they say.  But their theory, I believe, is wrong.
See, I’ve never believed that government can or should try to solve every problem we've got.  I believe that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history.  I agree that everybody has personal responsibility for their own lives.  Everybody has got to work hard.  Nothing is ever handed to us.  But I also agree with our first Republican President -- a guy named Abraham Lincoln – who said that, through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well on our own.
There’s some things we don't do well on our own.  That’s why we’ve got a strong military to keep us safe.  That's why we have fire departments because we never know when we might have a fire in our house.  That's why we’ve got public schools to educate our children.  That's how we laid down railroads and highways, and supported research and technology that’s saved lives and helped create entire industries.  That's why we have programs like Medicare and Social Security and unemployment insurance, because any one of us -- I don't care how lucky you are, how rich you are, how blessed you are -- you never know, you could face a layoff, or a crippling illness, or a run of bad luck, or a tragedy.
Folks in Ohio know about that.  Nothing is given.  And that's why we’re helping more community colleges like this one to become community career centers, so folks who are looking for a new job or a better-paying job can learn the skills that businesses need right now.  And that's good for all of us.
Investing in a community college, just like investing in a new road or a new highway or broadband lines that go into rural communities, these investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth.  They’ve been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations because they benefit all of us.  That's what leads to strong, durable economic growth.  That's how America became an economic superpower.  That's how we built the Transcontinental Railroad.  That's why we’ve got the best universities and colleges in the world.  That's why we have cutting-edge research that takes place here, and that then gets translated into new jobs and new businesses, because somebody did the groundwork.  We created a foundation for those of us to prosper.
Somebody gave me an education.  I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  Michelle wasn’t.  But somebody gave us a chance -- just like these folks up here are looking for a chance.
When you take classes at a community college like this one and you learn the skills that you need to get a job right away, that does not just benefit you; it benefits the company that ends up hiring and profiting from your skills.  It makes the entire region stronger economically.  It makes this country stronger economically.
In this country, prosperity does not trickle down; prosperity grows from the bottom up.  And it grows from a strong middle class out.  (Applause.)  That’s how we grow this economy. And that’s why I’m always confused when we keep having the same argument with folks who don’t seem to remember how America was built.  They keep telling us, well, if we just weaken regulations that keep our air and water clean and protect our consumers, if we just cut everybody’s taxes and convert these investments in community colleges and research and health care into tax cuts especially for the wealthy, that somehow the economy is going to get stronger -- and Ohio and the rest of the country will prosper. That’s the theory.
Ohio, we tested this theory.  Take a look at what happened in Ohio between 2000 and 2008.  It’s not like we didn’t try it. And instead of faster job growth, we had the slowest job growth in half a century.  Instead of broad-based prosperity, the typical American family saw their incomes fall by about six percent.  Outsourcing, rampant; phony financial profits all over the place.  And instead of strengthening our economy, our entire financial system almost collapsed.  We spent the last three and a half years cleaning up after that mess.  So their theory did not work out so well.  Maybe they haven’t been paying attention, but it didn’t work out so well.
And instead of kind of stepping back and saying to themselves, well, maybe this didn’t work so well, maybe we should try something different, they decided to double down.  Instead of moderating their views even slightly, you now have Republicans in Washington and the ones running for President proposing budgets that shower the wealthiest Americans with even more tax cuts -- folks like me don’t need them, weren’t looking for them.  And when you give somebody like me a tax cut, there are only two ways of paying for it:  Either it adds to our deficit, meaning it’s not paid for, or you end up -- which is what they’ve proposed -- gutting investments in education and medical research and clean energy and job training programs like this one.
If these cuts are spread out evenly, then 10 million college students -- including some of you -- would see your financial aid cut by an average of more than $1,000 each.  Thousands of medical research grants for things like Alzheimer’s and cancer and AIDS would be eliminated.  Our investments in clean energy that are helping to break our dependence on foreign oil and are creating jobs here in Ohio would be cut by nearly a fifth.  By the time you retire, Medicare would turn into a voucher system that likely would not cover the doctors or the care that you need -- that would have to come out of your pocket.  Job training programs like this one would be forced to cut back.  Thousands of Americans would lose out on critical employment and training services.  That's the truth.
When you ask the Republicans, well, what do you say about that, they say, well, no, no, Obama is making this up because we didn't specify which cuts we'd make.  Well, the reason they didn't specify it is because they know folks wouldn't like it.  (Laughter.)  But if you've got to cut a certain amount of money  -- and they've already said they're not going to cut defense spending, and they're going with their tax cuts -- then you've got to go to all the other stuff that's left over, or else you're going to add to the deficit.  That's just math.  That's not theorizing on my part.
They'll tell you, well, we've got to do this because the deficit is so bad.  The deficit is bad.  We've got to deal with the deficit in a serious way, and that means all of us are going to have to make tough choices.  But it's one thing to deal with the deficit in a way that is fair and asks everybody to do their fair share, and dealing with the deficit as an excuse to do what you wanted to do anyway.
Their argument might fly if it weren't for the fact that they're also proposing to spend $4.6 trillion on lower tax rates on top of the $1 trillion they would spend on tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year or more.  That’s their priority. They want to give me more of a tax break.  Now, I just paid taxes, so I'm -- it's not like I love paying taxes.  (Laughter.) But I can afford it.  I don't need another tax break.
Right now, companies can’t find enough qualified workers for the jobs they need to fill.  So programs like this one are training hundreds of thousands of workers with the skills that companies are looking for.  And it’s working.  And it's going to help America grow.  I’ve seen it.  Here in Lorain County, 90 percent of people who graduate from this program have a job three months later -- 90 percent.  That’s a big deal.  (Applause.)  Why would we want to cut this program to give folks like me a tax cut that we don’t need and that the country can't afford?
What's the better way to make our economy stronger?  Give more tax breaks to every millionaire and billionaire in the country, or make investments in education and research and health care and job training -- make investments in Bronson and Duane and Andrea and David and put folks back to work?  This is just common sense.
Understand this is not a redistribution argument.  This is not about taking from rich people to give to poor people.  This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody has got a fair shot.  And that will make all of us better off.  (Applause.)
Now, on Monday, nearly every Republican in the Senate voted to block what’s called the Buffett Rule.  Think about this.  The Buffet Rule says if you make a $1 million or more -- I'm not saying you got $1 million -- let's say you're a small business person, you saved, you worked, and after 10, 20, 30 years of working you finally saved up your little nest egg -- that’s not what I'm talking about.  I'm saying you make $1 million a year.  And we said you should at least pay the same percentage in income tax as middle class families do -- as a teacher or a bus driver. (Applause.)  And by doing that, that helps us afford being to say to the 98 percent of families who make $250,000 a year or less, your taxes won't go up.
This was an idea that was supported by a strong majority of the American people -- including nearly half of Republicans.  The majority of millionaires supported it.  And Senate Republicans didn’t listen.  They refused to even let it come up for a vote; refused to ask the wealthiest among us to do their fair share.  Meanwhile, Republicans in the House just signaled their willingness to gut programs like this one that make a real difference in people’s lives -- thousands of middle-class families or folks who are trying to get into the middle class.
And my point is the middle class has sacrificed enough over the last few decades.  They're having enough trouble.  (Applause.)  And as I travel around the country, people aren’t just concerned about their immediate circumstances.  They're also concerned about our future.  They're thinking how do we make sure that America stays ahead?  How do we make sure that if somebody is willing to work hard, they can get ahead in this country?
And people understand government is not all the answer, and if they see taxpayer money wasted, that makes them angry.  They know the government has got to be lean and mean and do smart things.  But they also understand we can't stop investing in the things that are going to create real, lasting growth in this country.  And we certainly can't do it just as an excuse to give me another tax cut.  That’s not who we are as a country.  We’re better than that.
Everybody here, we’re here because somebody, somewhere, felt a sense of larger responsibility -- not just to themselves; to their family, first of all, but then also to their community, also to their country.  Maybe they served like Dave.  Maybe they worked in a local charity.  They understood -- like my grandparents understood, like my mother understood, like Michelle’s parents understood -- that we do what we do not just for ourselves but also for this larger project we call America.  And now it’s our turn to be responsible.  Now it’s our turn to make sure the next generation has the same opportunities that we do.
And I know we can do it.   And the reason I know is because of the folks I had a chance to meet.  It’s because of you.  You’re working hard.  You’ve haven’t given up.  You’ve gone through some struggles, but you’re resilient.  Ohio is a great example of the core strength and decency of the American people.
You believe in our future.  You believe in this country.  (Applause.)
And if we work together in common purpose, I guarantee you we will make this an American Century just like the 20th century was the American Century.  (Applause.)
Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless America.


President Obama Delivers Remarks at CEO Summit Of The Americas (Video/Transcript)

  Gran Salon Bolivar
Hilton Hotel
Cartagena, Colombia
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, I want to thank President Santos and the people of Colombia for the extraordinary hospitality in the beautiful city of Cartagena.  We're having a wonderful time.  And usually when I take these summit trips, part of my job is to scout out where I may want to bring Michelle back later for vacation.  So we'll make sure to come back sometime in the near future.  (Applause.)
I want to acknowledge Luis Moreno of IDB, as well as Luis Villegas of the National Business Association of Colombia, for helping to set this up, and everybody who's participating.
As President Rousseff indicated, obviously we've gone through some very challenging times.  These last three years have been as difficult for the world economy as anything that we've seen in our lifetimes.  And it is both a result of globalization and it is also a result of shifts in technology.  The days when we could think of each of our economies in isolation, those days are long gone.  What happens in Wall Street has an impact in Rio. What happens in Bogota has an impact in Beijing.
And so I think the challenge for all of our countries, and certainly the challenge for this hemisphere, is how do we make sure that that globalization and that integration is benefiting a broad base of people, that economic growth is sustainable and robust, and that it is also giving opportunity to a growing, wider circle of people, and giving businesses opportunities to thrive and create new products and new services and enjoy this global marketplace.
Now, I think the good news is this hemisphere is very well positioned in this global economy.  It is remarkable to see the changes that have been taking place in a relatively short period of time in Latin and Central America and in the Caribbean.  When you look at the extraordinary growth that's taken place in Brazil, first under President Lula and now under President Rousseff, when you think about the enormous progress that's been made here in Colombia under President Santos and his predecessor, what you see is that a lot of the old arguments on the left and the right no longer apply.
And what people are asking is, what works?  How do we think in practical terms about delivering prosperity, training our people so that they can compete in the global economy?  How do we create rule of law that allows businesses to invest with some sense of security and transparency?  How do we invest in science and technology?  How do we make sure that we have open and free trade at the same time as we're making sure that the benefits of free trade are distributed both between nations but also within nations?
And the good news is I think that, through various international organizations and organizations here within the hemisphere, we've seen enormous progress.  Trade between the United States and Latin, Central -- South America, Central America and the Caribbean has expanded 46 percent since I came into office -- 46 percent.
Before I came to Cartagena, I stopped in Tampa, Florida, which is the largest port in Florida.  And they are booming and expanding.  And the reason is, is because of the enormous expansion of trade and commerce with this region.  It's creating jobs in Florida, and it's creating jobs in Colombia, and it's creating jobs in Brazil and throughout the region.  Businesses are seeing that if they have an outstanding product or an outstanding service, they don’t have to restrict themselves to one market, they now have a regional market and ultimately a global market in which they can sell their goods and succeed.
A couple of things that I think will help further facilitate this productive integration:  Number one, the free trade agreement that we've negotiated between Colombia and the United States is an example of a free trade agreement that benefits both sides.  It's a win-win.  It has high standards -- (applause) -- it's a high-standards agreement.  It's not a race to the bottom, but rather it says each country is abiding by everything from strong rules around labor and the environment to intellectual property protection.  And so I have confidence that as we implement this plan, what we're going to see is extraordinary opportunities for both U.S. and Colombian businesses.
So trade agreements of the sort that we have negotiated, thanks to the leadership of President Santos and his administration, I think point the way to the future.
In addition, I think there is the capacity for us to cooperate on problems that all countries face, and I'll take just one example -- the issue of energy.  All of us recognize that if we're going to continue to grow our economies effectively, then we're going to have to adapt to the fact that fossil fuels are a finite resource and demand is going up much faster than supply.  There are also, obviously, significant environmental concerns that we have to deal with.  So for us to cooperate on something like joint electrification and electric grid integration, so that a country like Brazil, that is doing outstanding work in biofuels or hydro-energy, has the ability to export that energy but also teach best practices to countries within the region, create new markets for clean energy throughout the region -- which benefits those customers who need electricity but also benefit those countries that are top producers of energy -- that's another example of the kind of progress that we can make together.
On the education front, every country in the region recognizes that if we're going to compete with Asia, if we're going to compete with Europe, we've got to up our game.  We have to make sure that we've got the best-trained workers in the world, we've got the best education system in the world.  And so the work that President Rousseff and I are doing together to try to significantly expand educational exchanges and send young people who are studying science and engineering and computer science to the United States to study if they're Brazilian, down to Brazil to study best practices in clean energy in Brazil -- there's enormous opportunity for us to work together to train our young people so that this hemisphere is filled with outstanding entrepreneurs and workers, and allows us to compete more effectively.
So there are a number of areas where I think cooperation is proceeding.  Sometimes it's not flashy.  I think that oftentimes in the press the attention in summits like this ends up focusing on where are the controversies.  Sometimes those controversies date back to before I was born.  (Laughter.)  And sometimes I feel as if in some of these discussions or at least the press reports we're caught in a time warp, going back to the 1950s and gunboat diplomacy and Yanquis and the Cold War, and this and that and the other.  That's not the world we live in today.
And my hope is, is that we all recognize this enormous opportunity that we've got.  And I know the business leaders who are here today, they understand it; they understand that we're in a new world, and we have to think in new ways.
Last point I want to make -- I think when you think about the extraordinary success in Brazil, the success in Colombia, a big piece of that is governance.  You can't, I believe, have, over the long term, successful economies if you don't have some basic principles that are being followed:  democracy and rule of law, human rights being observed, freedom of expression.  And I think -- and also personal security, the capacity for people to feel as if they work hard then they're able to achieve, and they have motivation to start a business and to know that their own work will pay off.
And I just want to compliment both Brazil and Colombia, coming from different political traditions, but part of the reason why you've seen sustained growth is governments have worked effectively in each country.  And I think that when we look at how we're going to integrate further and take advantage of increased opportunity in the future, it's very important for us not to ignore how important it is to have a clean, transparent, open government that is working on behalf of its people.
And that's important to business as well.  The days when a business feels good working in a place where people are being oppressed -- ultimately that's an unstable environment for you to do business.  You do business well when you know that it's a well-functioning society and that there's a legitimate government in place that is going to be looking out for its people.
So I just want to thank both of my outstanding partners here.  They're true leaders in the region.  And I can speak, I think, for the United States to say that we've never been more excited about the prospects of working as equal partners with our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean, because that's going to be the key to our success.  (Applause.)
* * * *
MR. MATTHEWS:  President Santos, I guess there are some issues in America -- we have a very large Hispanic population.  Ten percent of our electorate is going to be Hispanic in background.  We are the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world after Mexico.  People have dual languages in the United States, of course, but there is so much Spanish speaking. You have the chance to sit next to President Obama now.  Do you want to ask him about the ways you think the United States could help your country in the drug war?
* * * *
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Do you want me to respond?
MR. MATTHEWS:  Yes, sir.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, this is a conversation that I've had with President Santos and others.  Just as the world economy is integrated, so, unfortunately, the drug trade is integrated.  And we can't look at the issue of supply in Latin America without also looking at the issue of demand in the United States.  (Applause.)
And so whether it's working with President Santos or supporting the courageous work that President Calderón is doing in Mexico, I, personally, and my administration and I think the American people understand that the toll of narco-trafficking on the societies of Central America, Caribbean, and parts of South America are brutal, and undermining the capacity of those countries to protect their citizens, and eroding institutions and corrupting institutions in ways that are ultimately bad for everybody.
So this is part of the reason why we've invested, Chris, about $30 billion in prevention programs, drug treatment programs looking at the drug issue not just from a law enforcement and interdiction issue, but also from a public health perspective. This is why we've worked in unprecedented fashion in cooperation with countries like Mexico on not just drugs coming north, but also guns and cash going south.
This is one of the reasons why we have continued to invest in programs like Plan Colombia, but also now are working with Colombia, given their best practices around issues of citizen security, to have not just the United States but Colombia provide technical assistance and training to countries in Central America and the Caribbean in finding ways that they can duplicate some of the success that we've seen in Colombia.
So we're mindful of our responsibilities on this issue.  And I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.
I personally, and my administration's position, is that legalization is not the answer; that, in fact, if you think about how it would end up operating, that the capacity of a large-scale drug trade to dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint could be just as corrupting if not more corrupting then the status quo.
Nevertheless, I'm a big believer in looking at the evidence, having a debate.  I think ultimately what we're going to find is, is that the way to solve this problem is both in the United States, us dealing with demand in a more effective way, but it's also going to be strengthening institutions at home.
You mentioned earlier, the biggest thing that's on everybody's minds -- whether it's the United States, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica -- is, can I find a job that allows me to support my family and allows my children to advance and feel secure.  And in those societies where you've got strong institutions, you've got strong business investment, you've got rule of law, you have a law enforcement infrastructure that is sound, and an economy that's growing -- that country is going to be like a healthy body that is more immune than countries that have weak institutions and high unemployment, in which kids see their only future as participating in the drug trade because nobody has actually trained them to get a job with Google, or Pepsi, or start their own small business.
And so I think that it's important for us not to think that if somehow we look at the drug issue in isolation, in the absence of dealing with some of these other challenges -- institutional challenges and barriers to growth and opportunity and the capacity for people to climb their way out of poverty, that we're going to be able to solve this problem.  The drug issue in this region is, in some ways, a cause, but it's also, in some ways, an effect of some broader and underlying problems.  And we as the United States have an obligation not only to get our own house in order but also to help countries in a partnership to try to see if we can move in a better direction.  (Applause.)
* * * *
MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. President, do you want to respond?  I think the question that seems to be apparent here in the last couple of days is, first of all, tremendous enthusiasm, a zeitgeist here that's almost unusual in the world for positive optimism about the development in this part of the world.  It's not like it was -- just isn't the way it was we grew up with.
The challenge I think you just heard from the President of Brazil was the notion that Latin America is not interested in being our complementary economy anymore -- the agricultural end while we do the industrial end; they do the provision of raw materials and we do the finest and highest-level high-tech work. How do we either respond to Brazil's demand, really, to be partners and rivals -- they want to use our educational resources, they want to come north to learn how to compete with us -- right, Madam President?  You want to be equals.  You want to learn everything we know, and then take it back and shove it at us, right?  (Laughter.)  Isn't that it?
Well, anyway, that's the response -- I'd ask you for your response.  (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Chris, I'm not sure you're characterizing what President Rousseff said -- (laughter) -- but this is what happens when you get some of our U.S. political commentators moderating a panel.  (Laughter.)  They try to stir up things that may not always be there.  (Applause.)  And Chris is good at it.  He's one of the best.  (Laughter.)
But, look, this is already happening.  This is already happening.  Brazil has changed, Colombia has changed -- and we welcome the change.  The notion somehow that we see this as a problem is just not the case, because if we've got a strong, growing, prosperous middle class in Latin America, those are new customers for our businesses.  (Applause.)
Brazil is growing and that opportunity is broad-based, then suddenly they're interested in buying iPads, and they're interested in buying Boeing airplanes and -- (laughter.)
PRESIDENT ROUSSEFF:  Boeing -- Embraer.  (Laughter and applause.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I was just trying to see how she'd respond to that.  (Laughter.)  But the point is, is that that's a market for us.  So we in the United States should welcome not just growth, but broad-based growth, of the sort that President Rousseff described.
I'll give you just -- I said I was in Tampa.  All those containers that are coming in, they have, in some cases, commodities coming from Latin America, but they also have finished products that are coming in from Latin America.  We have commodities that are going into Latin America that we're sending back on those containers, as well as finished products.  And so this is a two-way street.
When I came into office, one of my first decisions was to say that the G20 was not a temporary thing to respond to the world economic crisis; this should be the permanent forum for determining and coordinating direction in the world economy.  And frankly, there were some folks who were members of the G8 who were upset with me about that determination, but realistically you can't coordinate world economic issues if you don't have China and Brazil and India and South Africa at the table -- and Mexico.  That's not possible.
So the world has changed.  I think the United States and U.S. businesses stand to benefit from those changes.  But it does mean that we have to adapt to that competitive environment.  And all the advantages that President Rousseff mentioned we have as the United States -- its flexibility, our scientific edge, our well-educated workforce, our top universities -- those are the things that we continue to have to build and get better at.  And that's true for every country here.
Every one of the businesses here are going to be making determinations about where you locate based on the quality of the workforce, how much investment you have to make in training somebody to handle a million-dollar piece of equipment.  Do you feel as if your intellectual property is going to be protected?  Do you feel as if there's a good infrastructure to be able to get your products to market?  And so I think this is a healthy competition that we should be encouraging.
And what I've said at the first summit that I came to, Summit of the Americas that I came to, was we do not believe there are junior partners and senior partners in this situation. We believe there are partners.  And Brazil is in many ways ahead of us on something like biofuels; we should learn from them.  And if we're going to be trying to mount a regional initiative, let's make sure that Brazil is taking the lead.  It doesn’t have to be us in every situation.
Now, the flip side is -- and I'll close with this -- I think in Latin America, part of the change in mentality is also not always looking to the United States as the reason for everything that happens that goes wrong.  (Applause.)
I was in an interview -- several interviews yesterday.  These were actually with Spanish-speaking television stations that have broadcast back in the United States.  And the first interviewer said, why hasn't the United States done more to promote democracy in the region, because you've done a lot in the Arab Spring but it seems as if you're not dealing with some of the problems here in Latin America.  The next questioner said, why are you being so hard on Cuba and promoting democracy all the time?  (Laughter and applause.)  That’s an example, I think, of some of the challenges we face that are rooted in legitimate historical grievances.  But it gets -- it becomes a habit.
When it comes to economic integration and exchanges, I am completely sympathetic to the fact that there are challenges around monetary policy in developed and less-developed countries. And Brazil, for example, has seen the Real appreciate in ways that had been hurtful.  I would argue a lot of that has to do with the failure of some other countries to engage in rebalancing, not the United States.  But having said that, I think there's not a country in Latin America who doesn’t want to see the United States grow rapidly because we're your major export market.
And so most of these issues end up being complicated issues. Typically, they involve both actions in the United States as well as actions in the other countries if we're going to optimize the kind of growth and prosperity and broad-based opportunity that both President Santos and President Rousseff have spoken about.
And the United States comes here and says:  We're ready to do business.  We are open to a partnership.  We don’t expect to be able to dictate the terms of that partnership, we expect it to be a negotiation based on mutual interest and mutual respect.  And I think we're all going to benefit as a consequence of that. (Applause.)
MR. MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, President Rousseff, President Santos, and my President, President Obama.  Thank you. It's been an honor.

President Barack Obama Weekly Address April 14, 2012 (Video/Transcript)

Remarks of President Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
April 14, 2012
One of the fundamental challenges of our time is building an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.
And as many Americans rush to file their taxes this weekend, it’s worth pointing out that we’ve got a tax system that doesn’t always uphold the principle of everyone doing their part.
Now, this is not just about fairness.  This is also about growth.  It’s about being able to make the investments we need to strengthen our economy and create jobs.  And it’s about whether we as a country are willing to pay for those investments.
In a perfect world, of course, none of us would have to pay any taxes. We’d have no deficits to pay down.  And we’d have all the resources we needed to invest in things like schools and roads and a strong military and new sources of energy – investments that have always bolstered our economy and strengthened the middle class.
But we live in the real world, with real choices and real consequences. Right now, we’ve got significant deficits to close.  We’ve got serious investments to make to keep our economy growing.  And we can’t afford to keep spending more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them.
Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest men in the world.  But he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.  That’s just the way the system is set up.  In fact, one in four millionaires pays a lower tax rate than millions of hardworking middle-class households.
As Warren points out, that’s not fair and it doesn’t make sense.  It’s wrong that middle-class Americans pay a higher share of their income in taxes than some millionaires and billionaires.
This week, Members of Congress are going to have a chance to set things right.  They get to vote on what we call the Buffett Rule.
It’s simple:  If you make more than $1 million every year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle-class families do.  On the other hand, if you make less than $250,000 a year -- like 98 percent of American families do -- your taxes shouldn’t go up.
That’s all there is to it.  It’s pretty sensible.  Most Americans support this idea. One survey found that two-thirds of millionaires do, too.  So do nearly half of all Republicans.
We just need some Republican politicians to get on board with where the country is.
I know they’ll say that this is all about wanting to raise people’s taxes.  They probably won’t tell you that if you belong to a middle-class family, then I’ve cut your taxes each year that I’ve been in office, and I’ve cut taxes for small business owners 17 times.
But the thing is, for most Americans like me, tax rates are near their lowest point in 50 years. In 2001 and 2003, the wealthiest Americans received two huge new tax cuts.  We were told these tax cuts would lead to faster job growth. Instead, we got the slowest job growth in half a century, and the typical American family actually saw its income fall.
On the flip side, when the most well-off Americans were asked to pay a little more in the 1990s, we were warned that it would kill jobs. Instead, tens of millions of jobs followed.
So we’ve tried this trickle-down experiment before. It doesn’t work. And middle class families have seen too much of their security erode over the past few decades for us to tell them they’re going to have to do more because the wealthiest Americans are going to do less.  We can’t stop investing in the things that will help grow our economy and create jobs – things like education, research, new sources of energy – just so folks like me can get another tax cut.
So I hope you’ll ask your Member of Congress to step up and echo that call this week by voting for the Buffett Rule. Remind them that in America, prosperity has never just trickled down from a wealthy few.  Prosperity has always been built by a strong, thriving middle class.  That’s a principle worth reaffirming right now.
Thank you, God bless you, and have a great weekend.


President Obama Speaks on Tax Fairness

President Obama explains why we need the Buffett Rule, which would ensure that people making more than $1 million a year pay at least the same share of their income in taxes as middle-class families.


President Barack Obama Weekly Address April 7, 2012 (Video/Transcript)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
April 7, 2012
For millions of Americans, this weekend is a time to celebrate redemption at God’s hand.  Tonight, Jews will gather for a second Seder, where they will retell the story of the Exodus.  And tomorrow, my family will join Christians around the world as we thank God for the all-important gift of grace through the resurrection of His son, and experience the wonder of Easter morning.
These holidays have their roots in miracles that took place thousands of years ago.  They connect us to our past and give us strength as we face the future.  And they remind us of the common thread of humanity that connects us all.
For me, and for countless other Christians, Easter weekend is a time to reflect and rejoice.  Yesterday, many of us took a few quiet moments to try and fathom the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for all of us.
Tomorrow, we will celebrate the resurrection of a savior who died so that we might live.
And throughout these sacred days, we recommit ourselves to following His example.  We rededicate our time on Earth to selflessness, and to loving our neighbors.  We remind ourselves that no matter who we are, or how much we achieve, we each stand humbled before an almighty God.
Christ’s triumph over death holds special meaning for Christians.  But all of us, no matter how or whether we believe, can identify with elements of His story.  The triumph of hope over despair.  Of faith over doubt.
The notion that there is something out there that is bigger than ourselves.
These beliefs help unite Americans of all faiths and backgrounds.  They shape our values and guide our work.  They put our lives in perspective.
So to all Christians celebrating the Resurrection with us, Michelle and I want to wish you a blessed and Happy Easter.  And to all Americans, I hope you have a weekend filled with joy and reflection, focused on the things that matter most.  God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.