President Obama Commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery (Video/Transcript)

Memorial Amphitheater
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Please be seated.  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you, Secretary Panetta, for your introduction and for your incredible service to our country.  To General Dempsey, Major General Linnington, Kathryn Condon, Chaplain Berry, all of you who are here today -- active duty, veterans, family and friends of the fallen -- thank you for allowing me the privilege of joining you in this sacred place to commemorate Memorial Day.
These 600 acres are home to Americans from every part of the country who gave their lives in every corner of the globe.  When a revolution needed to be waged and a Union needed to be saved, they left their homes and took up arms for the sake of an idea.  From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, they stepped forward and answered the call.  They fought for a home they might never return to; they fought for buddies they would never forget.  And while their stories may be separated by hundreds of years and thousands of miles, they rest here, together, side-by-side, row-by-row, because each of them loved this country, and everything it stands for, more than life itself.
Today, we come together, as Americans, to pray, to reflect, and to remember these heroes.  But tomorrow, this hallowed place will once again belong to a smaller group of visitors who make their way through the gates and across these fields in the heat and in the cold, in the rain and the snow, following a well-worn path to a certain spot and kneeling in front of a familiar headstone.
You are the family and friends of the fallen -- the parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters by birth and by sacrifice.  And you, too, leave a piece of your hearts beneath these trees.  You, too, call this sanctuary home.
Together, your footsteps trace the path of our history.  And this Memorial Day, we mark another milestone.  For the first time in nine years, Americans are not fighting and dying in Iraq.  (Applause.)  We are winding down the war in Afghanistan, and our troops will continue to come home.  (Applause.)  After a decade under the dark cloud of war, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.
Especially for those who've lost a loved one, this chapter will remain open long after the guns have fallen silent.  Today, with the war in Iraq finally over, it is fitting to pay tribute to the sacrifice that spanned that conflict.
In March of 2003, on the first day of the invasion, one of our helicopters crashed near the Iraqi border with Kuwait.  On it were four Marines:  Major Jay Aubin; Captain Ryan Beaupre; Corporal Brian Kennedy; and Staff Sergeant Kendall Waters-Bey.  Together, they became the first American casualties of the Iraq war.  Their families and friends barely had time to register the beginning of the conflict before being forced to confront its awesome costs.
Eight years, seven months and 25 days later, Army Specialist David Hickman was on patrol in Baghdad.  That’s when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.  He became the last of nearly 4,500 American patriots to give their lives in Iraq.  A month after David’s death -- the days before the last American troops, including David, were scheduled to come home -- I met with the Hickman family at Fort Bragg.  Right now, the Hickmans are beginning a very difficult journey that so many of your families have traveled before them -- a journey that even more families will take in the months and years ahead.
To the families here today, I repeat what I said to the Hickmans:  I cannot begin to fully understand your loss.  As a father, I cannot begin to imagine what it’s like to hear that knock on the door and learn that your worst fears have come true. But as Commander-In-Chief, I can tell you that sending our troops into harm’s way is the most wrenching decision that I have to make.  I can promise you I will never do so unless it's absolutely necessary, and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation. (Applause.)

And as a country, all of us can and should ask ourselves how we can help you shoulder a burden that nobody should have to bear alone.  As we honor your mothers and fathers, your sons and daughters, we have given -- who have given their last full measure of devotion to this country, we have to ask ourselves how can we support you and your families and give you some strength?
One thing we can do is remember these heroes as you remember them -- not just as a rank, or a number, or a name on a headstone, but as Americans, often far too young, who were guided by a deep and abiding love for their families, for each other, and for this country.
We can remember Jay Aubin, the pilot, who met his wife on an aircraft carrier, and told his mother before shipping out, "If anything happens to me, just know I’m doing what I love."
We can remember Ryan Beaupre, the former track star, running the leadoff leg, always the first one into action, who quit his job as an accountant and joined the Marines because he wanted to do something more meaningful with his life.
We can remember Brian Kennedy, the rock climber and lacrosse fanatic, who told his father two days before his helicopter went down that the Marines he served alongside were some of the best men he'd ever dealt with, and they’d be his friends forever.
We can remember Kendall Waters-Bey, a proud father, a proud son of Baltimore, who was described by a fellow servicemember as "a light in a very dark world."
And we can remember David Hickman, a freshman in high school when the war began, a fitness fanatic who half-jokingly called himself "Zeus," a loyal friend with an infectious laugh.
We can remember them.  And we can meet our obligations to those who did come home, and their families who are in the midst of a different, but very real battle of their own.
To all our men and women in uniform who are here today, know this:  The patriots who rest beneath these hills were fighting for many things -- for their families, for their flag -- but above all, they were fighting for you.  As long as I’m President, we will make sure you and your loved ones receive the benefits you’ve earned and the respect you deserve.  America will be there for you.  (Applause.)
And finally, for all of you who carry a special weight on your heart, we can strive to be a nation worthy of your sacrifice.  A nation that is fair and equal, peaceful and free.  A nation that weighs the cost of every human life.  A nation where all of us meet our obligations to one another, and to this country that we love.  That’s what we can do.
As President, I have no higher honor and no greater responsibility than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  And on days like this, I take pride in the fact that this country has always been home to men and women willing to give of themselves until they had nothing more to give.  I take heart in the strength and resolve of those who still serve, both here at home and around the world.  And I know that we must always strive to be worthy of your sacrifice.
God bless you.  God bless the fallen.  God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

President Obama Commemorates the Vietnam War (Video/Transcript)

The Vietnam War Memorial
National Mall
Washington, D.C.
THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Chuck, thank you for your words and your friendship and your life of service.  Veterans of the Vietnam War, families, friends, distinguished guests.  I know it is hot.  (Laughter.)  But you are here -- to honor your loved ones.  And Michelle and I could not be more honored to be here with you.
It speaks to the complexity of America’s time in Vietnam that, even now, historians cannot agree on precisely when the war began.  American advisors had served there, and died there, as early as the mid-'50s.  Major combat operations would not begin until the mid-'60s.  But if any year in between illustrated the changing nature of our involvement, it was 1962.
It was January, in Saigon.  Our Army pilots strapped on their helmets and boarded their helicopters.  They lifted off, raced over treetops carrying South Vietnamese troops.  It was a single raid against an enemy stronghold just a few miles into the jungle -- but it was one of America’s first major operations in that faraway land.
Fifty years later, we come to this wall -- to this sacred place -- to remember.  We can step towards its granite wall and reach out, touch a name.  Today is Memorial Day, when we recall all those who gave everything in the darkness of war so we could stand here in the glory of spring.  And today begins the 50th commemoration of our war in Vietnam.  We honor each of those names etched in stone -- 58,282 American patriots.  We salute all who served with them.  And we stand with the families who love them still.
For years you've come here, to be with them once more.  And in the simple things you’ve left behind -- your offerings, your mementos, your gifts -- we get a glimpse of the lives they led.  The blanket that covered him as a baby.  The baseball bat he swung as a boy.  A wedding ring.  The photo of the grandchild he never met.  The boots he wore, still caked in mud.  The medals she earned, still shining.  And, of course, some of the things left here have special meaning, known only to the veterans -- a can of beer; a packet of M&Ms; a container of Spam; an old field ration -- still good, still awful.  (Laughter.)       
It's here we feel the depth of your sacrifice.  And here we see a piece of our larger American story.  Our Founders -- in their genius -- gave us a task.  They set out to make a more perfect union.  And so it falls to every generation to carry on that work.  To keep moving forward.  To overcome a sometimes painful past.  To keep striving for our ideals.
And one of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam -- most particularly, how we treated our troops who served there.  You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor.  (Applause.)  You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised.  You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated.  It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.  And that's why here today we resolve that it will not happen again.  (Applause.) 
And so a central part of this 50th anniversary will be to tell your story as it should have been told all along.  It’s another chance to set the record straight.  That's one more way we keep perfecting our Union -- setting the record straight.  And it starts today.  Because history will honor your service, and your names will join a story of service that stretches back two centuries.
Let us tell the story of a generation of servicemembers -- every color, every creed, rich, poor, officer and enlisted -- who served with just as much patriotism and honor as any before you. Let’s never forget that most of those who served in Vietnam did so by choice.  So many of you volunteered.  Your country was at war, and you said, "send me."  That includes our women in Vietnam -- every one of you a volunteer.  (Applause.)  Those who were drafted, they, too, went and carried their burden -- you served; you did your duty.
You persevered though some of the most brutal conditions ever faced by Americans in war.  The suffocating heat.  The drenching monsoon rains.  An enemy that could come out of nowhere and vanish just as quickly.  Some of the most intense urban combat in history, and battles for a single hill that could rage for weeks.  Let it be said -- in those hellholes like Briarpatch, and the Zoo and the Hanoi Hilton -- our Vietnam POWs didn’t simply endure; you wrote one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history.  (Applause.)
As a nation, we've long celebrated the courage of our forces at Normandy and Iwo Jima, the Pusan Perimeter and Heartbreak Ridge.  So let us also speak of your courage -- at Hue and Khe Sanh, at Tan Son Nhut and Saigon, from Hamburger Hill to Rolling Thunder.  All too often it's forgotten that you, our troops in Vietnam, won every major battle you fought in.  (Applause.)
When you came home, I know many of you put your medals away -- tucked them in a drawer, or in a box in the closet.  You went on with your lives -- started families and pursued careers.  A lot of you didn’t talk too much about your service.  As a consequence, this nation has not always fully appreciated the chapter of your lives that came next.
So let us also tell a story of a generation that came home, and how -- even though some Americans turned their back on you -- you never turned your back on America.  (Applause.)  Like generations before you, you took off the uniform, but you never stopped serving.  You became teachers and police officers and nurses -- the folks we count on every single day.  You became entrepreneurs, running companies and pioneering industries that changed the world.  You became leaders and public servants, from town halls to Capitol Hill -- lifting up our communities, our states, our nation.
You reminded us what it was like to serve, what it meant to serve.  Those of you who stayed in uniform, you rose through the ranks, became leaders in every service, learned from your experience in Vietnam and rebuilt our military into the finest force that the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  And let’s remember all those Vietnam veterans who came back and served again -- in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  You did not stop serving.  (Applause.)
Even as you succeeded in all these endeavors, you did something more -- maybe the most important thing you did -- you looked after each other.  When your government didn’t live up to its responsibilities, you spoke out -- fighting for the care and benefits you had earned, and, over time, transforming the VA.  And, of course, one of these Vietnam veterans is now our outstanding Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Ric Shinseki.  (Applause.)
You looked after one another.  You cared for one another.  People weren’t always talking about PTSD at the time -- you understood it, and you were there for each other.  Just as importantly, you didn’t just take care of your own, you cared for those that followed.  You’ve made it your mission to make sure today’s troops get the respect and support that all too often you did not receive.  (Applause.)
Because of you, because our Vietnam veterans led the charge, the Post-9/11 GI Bill is helping hundreds of thousands of today’s veterans go to college and pursue their dreams.  (Applause.)  Because of you, because you didn’t let us forget, at our airports, our returning troops get off the airplane and you are there to shake their hands.  (Applause.)  Because of you, across America, communities have welcomed home our forces from Iraq.  And when our troops return from Afghanistan, America will give this entire 9/11 Generation the welcome home they deserve.  That happened in part because of you.  (Applause.)
This is the story of our Vietnam servicemembers -- the story that needs to be told.  This is what this 50th anniversary is all about.  It’s another opportunity to say to our Vietnam veterans what we should have been saying from the beginning:  You did your job.  You served with honor.  You made us proud.  You came home and you helped build the America that we love and that we cherish.
So here today, it must be said -- you have earned your place among the greatest generations.  At this time, I would ask all our Vietnam veterans, those of you who can stand, to please stand, all those already standing, raise your hands -- as we say those simple words which always greet our troops when they come home from here on out:  Welcome home.  (Applause.)  Welcome home. Welcome home.  Welcome home.  Thank you.  We appreciate you.  Welcome home.  (Applause.)
Today, we’re calling on all Americans, and every segment of our society, to join this effort.  Everybody can do something.  Five decades removed from a time of division among Americans, this anniversary can remind us of what we share as Americans.  That includes honoring our Vietnam veterans by never forgetting the lessons of that war.
So let us resolve that when America sends our sons and daughters into harm’s way, we will always give them a clear mission; we will always give them a sound strategy; we will give them the equipment they need to get the job done.  We will have their backs.  (Applause.)  We will resolve that leaders will be candid about the risks and about progress -- and have a plan to bring our troops home, with honor.
Let us resolve to never forget the costs of war, including the terrible loss of innocent civilians -- not just in Vietnam, but in all wars.  For we know that while your sacrifice and service is the very definition of glory, war itself is not glorious.  We hate war.  When we fight, we do so to protect ourselves because it's necessary.
Let’s resolve that in our democracy we can debate and disagree -- even in a time of war.  But let us never use patriotism as a political sword.  Patriots can support a war; patriots can oppose a war.  And whatever our view, let us always stand united in support of our troops, who we placed in harm's way.  (Applause.)  That is our solemn obligation.  (Applause.)
Let’s resolve to take care of our veterans as well as they’ve taken care of us -- not just talk, but actions.  Not just in the first five years after a war, but the first five decades. For our Vietnam veterans, this means the disability benefits for diseases connected to Agent Orange.  It means job opportunities and mental health care to help you stand tall again.  It means ending the tragedy of veterans' homelessness, so that every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America.  You shouldn’t have to fight for a roof over your heads when you fought on behalf of the country that you love.  (Applause.)
And when an American does not come back -- including the 1,666 Americans still missing from the Vietnam War -- let us resolve to do everything in our power to bring them home.  This is our solemn promise to mothers like Sarah Shay who joins us today, 93 years old, who has honored her son, Major Donald Shay, Jr., missing in action for 42 years.  There she is.  Sarah, thank you for your courage.  God bless you.  (Applause.)
This is the promise we’re fulfilling today to the Meroney family of Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Forty-three years after he went missing, we can announce that Army Captain Virgil Meroney, III, is coming home, and he will finally rest in peace.  (Applause.)
Some have called this war era a scar on our country, but here’s what I say.  As any wound heals, the tissue around it becomes tougher, becomes stronger than before.  And in this sense, finally, we might begin to see the true legacy of Vietnam. Because of Vietnam and our veterans, we now use American power smarter, we honor our military more, we take care of our veterans better.  Because of the hard lessons of Vietnam, because of you, America is even stronger than before.  (Applause.)  
And finally, on this anniversary and all the years to come, let us remember what binds us, as one people.  This is important for all of us, whether you fought in the Vietnam War or fought against it, whether you were too young to be shaped by it.  It is important that our children understand the sacrifices that were made by your troops in Vietnam; that for them, this is more than just a name in history books.  It’s important that we know the lesson of a gift once left at this Memorial.
It was towards the end of the day, and most of the tourists and visitors had departed.  And there it was -- a football helmet, black with white stripes, and a wristband.  And with them was a handwritten note.  And it was from a young man, still in high school.  And mind you, this was more than two decades after Vietnam.  That high school student was born years after the war had already ended.  But in that short, handwritten note he captured the reverence -- the bonds between generations -- that bring us here today.
The letter began, "Dear Vietnam Veterans, here are two things from me to you that I think you should have."   He explained that it was his helmet from midget football and his wristband from his senior year.  So today I want to close with the words he wrote:
In these two pieces of equipment, I was allowed to make mistakes, correct them, grow and mature as a person.  However, that was on my battlefield.  You didn’t get the chance to do that on your battlefield.  Some of you were forced to grow up too fast; all of you died too soon.  We do have many things in common, though.  We both have pride, heart and determination.  I'm just sorry you guys had to learn those qualities too fast.  That is why I'm giving you what I grew up with.  You are true heroes and you will never be forgotten.
That's from a high school kid, born decades after the end of the war.  And that captures the spirit that this entire country should embrace.
Veterans, families of the Vietnam War, I know the wounds of war are slow to heal.  You know that better than most.  But today we take another step.  The task of telling your story continues. The work of perfecting our Union goes on.  And decades from now, I hope another young American will visit this place and reach out and touch a name.  And she’ll learn the story of servicemembers  -- people she never met, who fought a war she never knew -- and in that moment of understanding and of gratitude and of grace, your legacy will endure.  For you are all true heroes and you will all be remembered.
May God bless you.  May God bless your families.  May God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless these United States of America.  (Applause.)


President Barack Obama Weekly Address May 26, 2012 Honoring Our Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day (Video/Transcript)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
May 26, 2012
This weekend, folks across the country are opening up the pool, firing up the grill, and taking a well-earned moment to relax. But Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. In town squares and national cemeteries, in public services and moments of quiet reflection, we will honor those who loved their country enough to sacrifice their own lives for it.
This Memorial Day, Michelle and I will join Gold Star families, veterans, and their families at Arlington National Cemetery. We’ll pay tribute to patriots of every generation who gave the last full measure of devotion, from Lexington and Concord to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Later that day, we’ll join Vietnam veterans and their families at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—the Wall. We’ll begin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It’s another chance to honor those we lost at places like Hue, Khe Sanh, Danang and Hamburger Hill. And we’ll be calling on you—the American people—to join us in thanking our Vietnam veterans in your communities.
Even as we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we reaffirm our commitment to care for those who served alongside them—the veterans who came home.  This includes our newest generation of veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan.
We have to serve them and their families as well as they have served us: By making sure that they get the healthcare and benefits they need; by caring for our wounded warriors and supporting our military families; and by giving veterans the chance to go to college, find a good job, and enjoy the freedom that they risked everything to protect.
Our men and women in uniform took an oath to defend our country at all costs, and today, as members of the finest military the world has ever known, they uphold that oath with dignity and courage. As President, I have no higher honor than serving as their Commander-in-Chief.  But with that honor comes a solemn responsibility – one that gets driven home every time I sign a condolence letter, or meet a family member whose life has been turned upside down.
No words can ever bring back a loved one who has been lost. No ceremony can do justice to their memory. No honor will ever fill their absence.
But on Memorial Day, we come together as Americans to let these families and veterans know that they are not alone. We give thanks for those who sacrificed everything so that we could be free. And we commit ourselves to upholding the ideals for which so many patriots have fought and died.
Thank you, God bless you, and have a wonderful weekend.


C-SPAN's Washington Journal covers State Integrity Investigation

Watch the Center's Executive Director Bill Buzenberg answer questions on the ins and outs of the State Integrity Investigation on C-SPAN's Washington Journal program with John McArdle. Buzenberg explains how to read the investigation's report cards, which state legislators are already calling for reform and why New Jersey's government beat the entire nation in transparency laws.

President Barack Obama Weekly Address May 19, 2012 (Video/Transcript)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address

The White House

May 19, 2012
For the past three and a half years, we’ve been fighting our way back from an historic economic crisis – one caused by breathtaking irresponsibility on the part of some on Wall Street who treated our financial system like a casino.  Not only did that behavior nearly destroy the financial system – it cost our economy millions of jobs, hurt middle-class families, and left taxpayers holding the bag.
Since then, we’ve recovered taxpayer dollars that were used to stabilize troubled banks.  And we’ve put in place Wall Street reform with smarter, tougher, commonsense rules that serve one primary purpose:  to prevent a crisis like that from ever happening again.  And yet, for the past two years, too many Republicans in Congress and an army of financial industry lobbyists have actually been waging an all-out battle to delay, defund, and dismantle Wall Street reform.
Recently, we’ve seen why we can’t let that happen.  We found out that a big mistake at one of our biggest banks resulted in a two billion dollar loss.  While that bank can handle a loss of that size, other banks may not have been able to.  And without Wall Street reform, we could have found ourselves with the taxpayers once again on the hook for Wall Street’s mistakes.
That’s why it’s so important that Members of Congress stand on the side of reform, not against it; because we can’t afford to go back to an era of weak regulation and little oversight; where excessive risk-taking on Wall Street and a lack of basic oversight in Washington nearly destroyed our economy.  We can’t afford to go back to that brand of ‘you’re-on-your-own’ economics.  Not after the American people have worked so hard to come back from this crisis.
We’ve got to keep moving forward.
We’ve got to finish the job of implementing this reform and putting these rules in place.
These new rules say that, if you’rea big bank or financial institution, you now have to hold more cash on hand so that if you make a bad decision you pay for it, not the taxpayers.
You have to write out a “living will” that details how you’ll be wound down if you do fail.
The new law takes away big bonuses and paydays from failed CEOs, while giving shareholders a say on executive salaries.
And for the first time in our nation’s history, we have in place a consumer watchdog whose sole job is to look out for working families by protecting them from deceptive and unfair practices.
So unless you run a financial institution whose business model is built on cheating consumers, or making risky bets that could damage the whole economy, you have nothing to fear from Wall Street reform.  Yes, it discourages big banks and financial institutions from making risky bets with taxpayer-insured money.  And it encourages them to do things that actually help the economy – like extending loans toentrepreneurs with good ideas, to middle-class families who want to buy a home, to students who want to pursue higher education.
That’s what Wall Street reform is all about – making this economy stronger for you.  And we’re going to keep working – to recover every job lost to the recession; to build an economy where hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded; to restore an America where everyone has a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.
I believe the free market is one of the greatest forces for progress in human history; that businesses are the engine of growth; that risk-takers and innovators should be celebrated.  But I also believe that at its best, the free market has never been a license to take whatever you want, however you can get it.  Alongside our entrepreneurial spirit and rugged individualism, America only prospers when we meet our obligations to one another; and to future generations.
If you agree with me, let your Member of Congress know.  Tell them to spend less time working to undermine rules that are there to protect the economy, and spend more time actually working to strengthen the economy.  Thanks and have a great weekend.


With Money and Momentum, Scott Walker Gains Ground in Wisconsin Recall Campaign

"With Money and Momentum, Scott Walker Gains Ground in Wisconsin Recall Campaign" writes Brown Deer of the Time. Scott Walker is one good example why we have to worry about a possible return of the GOP in November.
During the last midterm, many people voted for similar Politician from the Tea Party because they had been disappointed with Obama. Many people had believed that President Barak Obama would be able to turn Washing simply around, not realizing that he has been and still is depended on the cooperation of the congress. Moreover Obama probably didn’t want to look like someone who would take advantage of the Democratic dominated congress of his first term. He had believed and probably still believes that good politics can only work in a democracy when one is working together as a whole country to solve problems as severe as the financial crises.   
What the President had not expected was an ever more stubborn and ideological congress that would simply block everything he proposed. Moreover Republicans are now simply saying that the President didn’t deliver on his promises.
Well, if we vote for the GOP this fall, we are going to have to expect a government that will act like Scott Walker who eliminated the unions and was called by Mitt Romney a “hero or Governor Rick Snyder who simply used his expanded “emergency” powers to eliminate democracy.
Do we really want to go this route?

President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with President Francois Hollande of France (Video/Transcript)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it is my great pleasure to welcome President Hollande to the United States, to the Oval Office, and this evening to Camp David.
We all watched the remarkable election, and I offered him hardy congratulations and assured him that the friendship and alliance between the United States and France is not only of extraordinary importance to me but is deeply valued by the American people.
I was interested, when I was reading the President's biography, that he actually spent some time in the United States in his youth, studying American fast food -- (laughter) -- and although he decided to go into politics, we'll be interested in his opinions of cheeseburgers in Chicago.  (Laughter.)
I also warned him that now that he's President, he can no longer ride a scooter in Paris.  (Laughter.)  I know because I've tried with the Secret Service and they don't let me do it.  (Laughter.)
Obviously we have had a lot to talk about.  Much of our discussion centered on the situation in the eurozone.  And President Hollande and I agree that this is an issue of extraordinary importance not only to the people of Europe, but also to the world economy.  And we're looking forward to a fruitful discussion later this evening and tomorrow with the other G8 leaders about how we can manage a responsible approach to fiscal consolidation that is coupled with a strong growth agenda.
We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, in anticipation of our NATO meeting in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday.  And we agreed that even as we transition out of a combat phase in Afghanistan that it's important that we sustain our commitment to helping Afghans build security and continue down the path of development.
We also identified the issues of Iran and Syria, the transition that's taking place in countries like Egypt and Tunisia as topics of critical importance.  And we'll be devoting extensive time to those issues throughout the G8 meeting.  France has shown great leadership on these issues, and as I indicated to President Hollande, when the United States and France, along with our other key allies, make up our minds to stand firm on the side of democracy and freedom and development, that enormous progress can be made.
So I'm grateful to President Hollande for being willing to come here so shortly after his election and the formation of his government.  He's gotten off to a very strong start.  And I hope that he will find my administration and the American people strong partners in delivering prosperity not only to the people of France but helping to provide peace and security throughout the world.
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE:  (As interpreted.)  I wanted my first visit outside Europe to be to the United States in order to meet President Obama.  The Camp David G8 summit as well as the meeting in Chicago was an outstanding opportunity, and I would like to thank President Obama for taking that opportunity to allow us to have a long conversation together.
This is the first time that we meet, and not the last one; there will be many other opportunities for as long as possible.  But it was important for me, on this occasion, to reaffirm the importance of the relationship between France and the United States.
Through history, we lived together some important events.  We've had our differences, but we always manage to overcome them because of that strong link between our two countries.  We also share some common causes -- freedom, democracy.  This is the reason why our history, our culture go back together a long way, and we managed to go through these differences when necessary and have these ties that mean that when France and the U.S. come together we can make progress.
I discussed the main topics with President Obama, including the economy and the fact that those must be a priority, at the same time as we put in place some fiscal compacts to improve our finances.  And President Obama was able to acknowledge shared views so that we can progress.
I also -- on the Greece -- the eurozone situation, and our concerns regarding Greece, and we share the same views, the fact that Greece must stay in the eurozone and that all of us must do what we can to that effect.  There will be elections in Greece and we wanted to send a message to that effect to the Greek people.
Our economies depend on one another.  What happens in Europe has an impact on the U.S., and vice versa.  So we are related, and the more coherent we are, the more efficient we can be.
We also discussed Afghanistan, and I reminded President Obama that I made a promise to the French people to the effect that our combat troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.  That being said, we will continue to support Afghanistan in a different way, our support will take a different format, and all of that will be done in good understanding with our allies within ISAF.  And so we will continue and comply with our commitment to that country, and supply and support, as I said, in a different way.
We will discuss that further in Chicago, and I'm pretty sure I will find the right means so that our allies can continue with their mission and at the same time I can comply to the promise I made to the French people.
And regarding Iran, we, again, noted that we share views and that we could start negotiations, but that being said, with the required firmness that Iran doesn't get the nuclear military capability.
Regarding Syria and Arab Spring countries, we talked about the Deauville partnership, and here again I said that we would comply with our commitments.
What was important to say today is that, as to our responsibilities, France and the U.S. are countries that have an impact on the destiny of the world, but we are great in friendship, cohesion and partnership.  France is an independent country and cares about its independence but in old friendship with the United States of America.  So it is with that friendship and with that independence that we can be both the most efficient when it comes to dealing with the current challenges.
And I would like to thank President Obama for the knowledge he has of my life before I took office.  I will say nothing against cheeseburgers, of course.  And as to my own vehicle, the one I used to have until I took office, I hope that I will not have to use it -- (laughter.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I just want to remember that cheeseburgers go very well with French fries.  (Laughter.)


Is this true Democracy?

While fifty-six percent of Americans think Barack Obama will win the 2012 presidential election, compared with 36% who think Mitt Romney, I wonder if this is really possible with the current voting system.

 As we have seen in the Al Gore election in 2000 (Al Gore 48.4% - George W. Bush 47.9%), winning the popular vote in the U.S. does not guarantee the win of the Presidency.

Looking around the world, Americans have been eager to teach others a lesson in Democracy. However, one must wonder if this aging voting system (with an Electoral College which consists of the electors appointed by each state who formally elect the President and Vice President of the United States.) is really a good example of true Democracy or just a way to stay in power longer and to avoid rise of smaller and more diverse parties and opinions.

 One must ask the question, why we Americans are holding on to a voting system that was created more than 200 years ago and has been proven over and over again to be out of touch with society.

 I think a change of this ancient voting system is overdue!


First Lady Michelle Obama Welcomes Kids to a Let’s Move! Event with the LA Galaxy (Video/Transcript)

MRS. OBAMA:  Hey, again, guys.  I got to hang out with the kids earlier.  We got quick pictures, but we are excited to have you guys here at the White House.  We’re in the State Room.  The State Dining Room is where we greet special official guests, and you guys count as our special official guests.  We’re excited to have you here.
I want to start by thanking all of you kids for joining us here at the White House today.  Tell me -- yell out -- tell me the organizations you’re representing -- somebody?  See, you guys are from all over the place -- some here, some from all over the country, right?
Well, thanks for coming and visiting us.  I also want to thank the members of the L.A. Galaxy soccer team for taking the time to come and answer some questions, and share some wisdom and some advice for all of you.  So let’s give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)
So as soccer players, you know who these guys are, don’t you?
MRS. OBAMA:  They’re pretty cool, right?  They are some of the best soccer players in the entire country and the entire world.  Amazing, huh?  And they’re here!  They’re right there, they’re right there.
And I want to congratulate them -- join in with my husband in congratulating them on winning the third MLS Cup.  Very cool, very cool.
But one of the things I want you guys to remember -- all the kids here to remember, is that these stars were not born superstar athletes.  They weren’t superstar soccer players from the beginning.  In fact, many of them started out just like many of you -- playing on a team at school, or just kicking a ball around on the playground with their friends.  But they stuck with it.  And I tell this to my girls all the time.  I mean, you get to the point when there are things that you enjoy, they get to the point where they start getting hard -- that’s when you know you’re getting good, and you have to stick through it even when it starts getting hard.
For some of you, soccer has always been fun, will always be fun, but sometimes, when you start growing, you get to the point where you really have to work hard.  Well, they all hit that wall, and they stuck with it.  They practice for hours every day doing all their drills and scrimmages, doing everything that their coaches and mentors told them to do.  And that’s how they got to be national champions.  But remember, they didn’t do all of this just because they wanted to win their games.  Winning is great, right?  We all know how to win.  Winning is the easiest thing in the world to do.  But what is the toughest thing?  Is learning how to lose, right?
So they didn’t do it just to win.  They didn’t do it because they wanted to grow up to be famous.  They played soccer because they love the sport.  And they played because it was challenging and fun, and because it made they feel strong and healthy.  And that’s what sports like soccer are all about.  And they’re learning about new skills.  They’re learning how to compete.  They’re learning how to lose gracefully, how to win with dignity.  All of that stuff is important with sports.
And that’s one of the reasons why when the weather is nice -- because it was raining; we were supposed to be outside, but they said there were would be thunderstorms.  We’re usually outside.  We’ve been hosting all kinds of fitness activities and clinics on the South Lawn.  Have some of you guys participated in those?  Nobody has had -- I thought -- we’ve had -- (laughter) -- yes, we’ve had some fun on the South Lawn.  We were supposed out there today, but because they projected thunderstorms, we thought we wouldn’t have you out there getting struck by lightning.  That wouldn’t look good.  (Laughter.)  So we brought you inside.
But we’ve been hosting these clinics on the South Lawn, which is our backyard here at the White House, because we want to show kids just like you that there are all kinds of ways to be active, and that being active is also a whole lot of fun.  So a lot of what we do while there are soccer drills and things like that going on, we’re doing a lot of playing around and laughing, and realizing that that’s what being healthy is about.  It’s not always work; most of the time it’s a lot of fun.
And that’s also why in connection with the Olympic and Paralympic Games that are coming up -- you guys know about that?  You know that we’re going to be in London competing with teams all across the world.  You know that?  And I’m going to be leading the delegation.  I’m not playing a sport or anything -- (laughter) -- I am not an Olympian.  But I get to lead the delegation that represents the United States.
But as part of the Olympic Games, the U.S. Soccer Federation has made a really important commitment that I got to announce yesterday.  They’re going to be working to help increase opportunities for kids to get involved in a whole variety of sports, especially soccer.  Soccer has really stepped up.
They’re going to be hosting more clinics and more after-school programs in cities all across the country so that more kids like you get exposure to opportunities that maybe normally you wouldn’t, or it gives you even a little more excitement to get even more committed into your sport.
Because the Federation also knows and these guys up here know that being active and learning new skills doesn’t just help you become a better soccer player or a better athlete.  It gives you the energy that you need to keep you from getting sick, to do well in school, to be able to focus on your bigger dreams -- because there is life after soccer.  There is something more important than sports, and that’s becoming a well-rounded person.
And being healthy and eating the right foods, and staying active is a part of that.  And that’s what everybody here is trying to promote.  And that’s why I’m so pleased with our U.S. Olympic Federation and all the teams that have made a commitment to invest in kids like you across the country.
So that’s one of the reasons why we’re here.  But we’re also here because this team, these guys, they wanted to talk to you.  They’re here because they were getting congratulations from the President, but they also said they wanted to talk to kids just like you.  And I’m really pleased that you guys are so interested in taking the time not just to play the game but to spend time with young people, talking to them about a whole range of things.  So they are here for you.
And I’m going to leave and let them step up.  But feel free to ask them any kind of questions.  And I’ve already talked to you all -- you all are not shy.  None of them are.  Right?  So speak up, ask questions.  Ask about anything you have on your mind.  Don’t be nervous.  You’re at home.  And have fun, okay?  And keep playing hard, working hard, doing well in school, and eat your vegetables.  (Laughter.)  All right?
All right, I’m going to get out of here and let these guys take over.  Thanks so much.  (Applause.)


Weekly Address: Congress Must Act on "To-Do List" (Video/Transcript)

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address

The White House

May 12, 2012
We all know the past few years have been difficult for this country.  After the worst recession of our lifetimes, it will take longer than any of us would like for the economy to fully recover.  But there are plenty of steps we can take to speed up the recovery.  There are things we can do – right now – to help create jobs and restore some of the financial security that so many families have lost.
Now, the other side isn’t so optimistic.  They think all we can do is cut taxes – especially for the wealthiest Americans – and go back to letting banks and corporations write their own rules again.  That’s their plan.
But I think they’re wrong.  We tried their ideas for nearly a decade, and it didn’t work out so well.  We can’t go back to the same policies that got us into this mess.  We’ve got to move forward.  We need to build an economy where hard work and responsibility are rewarded – where you can find a good job, own your own home, maybe start a businesses, and give your kids the chance to do even better.
That’s where we need to go.  And I’ve been pushing Congress to help us get there by passing a few common-sense policies that would make a difference.  Democrats and Republicans have already done some important work together – from passing tax cuts for workers, to opening up new markets for American products, to reforming our patent system.  But now we need to do more.
That’s why we made Congress a handy “To-Do” list – just like the kind I get from Michelle.  It’s short, but each of the ideas on this list will help create jobs and build a stronger economy right now.
First, Congress should stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and use that money to cover moving expenses for companies that bring jobs back to America.
Second, Congress should help the millions of Americans who have worked hard and made their mortgage payments on time refinance their mortgages at lower rates and save at least $3,000 a year.
Third, Congress should help small business owners by giving them a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages.  Small businesses are the engine of economic growth in this country.  We shouldn’t be holding them back – we should be making it easier for them to succeed.
Fourth, if Congress fails to act soon, clean energy companies will see their taxes go up and could be forced to lay off employees.  These companies are putting Americans to work and helping break our dependence on foreign oil.  Congress should extend these tax credits.
And finally, Congress should help our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan by creating a Veterans Job Corps.  Our men and women in uniform have served this country with honor.  Now it’s our turn to serve them.
So that’s Congress’s “To-Do” List.  But now we need them to start crossing things off.  I need you to call your Members of Congress, write an email, tweet, and let them know we can’t afford to wait any longer to get things done.  Tell them now is the time to take steps we know will grow our economy and create jobs.
You’re working harder.  You’re meeting your responsibilities.  Your representatives in Washington should do the same.  Let’s push Congress to do the right thing.  Let’s keep moving this country forward together.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.


President Obama - Gay Marriage: 'Gay Couples Should Be Able to Get Marriage" (Video/Transcript)

"I have to tell you as I said, I have gone through an evolution on this issue, I have always been adamant that gay and lesbian American should be treated fairly and equally. And that's why in addition to everything we have done in this administration rolling back don't ask don't tell so that outstanding Americans can serve our country, whether it's no longer defending the defense against the marriage act which try to federalize uh what is historically state law. I have stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBG (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community and I hesitated, on  gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient, but that was something that would give people hospital visitation rights and other elements that we take for granted, uh  and I was sensitive to the fact, that for a lot of people the word marriage was something that evokes very powerful tradition, religious beliefs and so forth.
 But I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married. "

President Obama Speaks on the Economy (Video/Transcript)

College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering
State University of New York
Albany, New York

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, New York!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  It is great to be back in Albany.  It is wonderful to be with all of you here today.
And I want to thank Governor Cuomo not only for the outstanding introduction, but also for the extraordinary leadership that he's showing here in the great state of New York. Please give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  He is doing outstanding work.
I also want to thank Mayor Jennings, who's here.  Give the Mayor a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Don't be shy.  We've got Chancellor Zimpher -- (applause) -- we appreciate very much. Dr. Kaloyeros -- I want to make sure I say that right, folks mess up my name all the time -- (laughter) -- Kaloyeros for hosting us here today.  (Applause.)  We’ve got a couple members of Congress here -- Paul Tonko.  (Applause.)  And also, Representative Chris Gibson is here.  (Applause.)
And all of you are, and I'm happy about that.  (Applause.)  Yes.  So it is wonderful to be here at the University of Albany NanoCollege.  This is one of the only colleges in the world dedicated to nanotechnology.  And it’s a incredible complex.  But you’re working on particles as small as an atom, and you’re doing it in rooms that are 10,000 times cleaner than a hospital operating room –- which is very impressive, since "clean" is not usually a word I associate with college students.  (Laughter.)  Maybe things have changed since I was in school.
Now, the reason I came here today is because this school -- bless you -- and this community represents the future of our economy.  Right now, some of the most advanced manufacturing work in America is being done right here in upstate New York.  Cutting-edge businesses from all over the world are deciding to build here and hire here.  And you’ve got schools like this one that are training workers with the exact skills that those businesses are looking for.
Now, we know the true engine of job creation in this country is the private sector -- it's not Washington.  But there are steps we can take as a nation to make it easier for companies to grow and to hire, to create platforms of success for them -- everything from giving more people the chance to get the right training and education to supporting new research projects into science and technology.  In fact, there was a substantial investment made here -- I was talking to Governor Cuomo about the investment his father made here to help get this center started.
There are things we can do to make sure that if you’re willing to work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can find a job, own a home, maybe start a business, and most importantly, give your kids a chance to do even better than you did.  And that’s something we believe has to be available to everybody, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like.  We can make a difference.  And at this make-or-break moment for America's middle class, there’s no excuse for inaction.  There’s no excuse for dragging our feet.  None.
Now, over the last few years, there are certain steps that I’ve been able to take on my own to help spur the kind of innovation that we're seeing here, and also to help the overall economy grow.  So we announced a new policy several months back that will help families refinance their mortgages, save up to thousands of dollars a year.  We sped up loans and competitive grants for new projects all across the country so thousands of construction workers can get back on the job.  We simplified the student loan process to help roughly 5.8 million students -- like the students here -- save money on repayments.  (Applause.)
So these are some steps that the administration has been able to take on its own.  But the truth is, the only way we can accelerate the job creation that takes place on a scale that is needed is bold action from Congress.
Because of the Recovery Act, because of all the work we've done, we've created over 4 million jobs over the last two years. We've created hundreds of thousands of jobs each month over the last several months.  So we're making progress, but everybody knows we need to do more.  And in order to do that, we're going to need some more action from Congress.  Democrats and Republicans have to come together.  And they've shown that they can do it.  I mean, they did some important work.  They passed tax cuts for workers, approved trade deals to open up new markets for American products.  We reformed our patent system to make it easier for innovative ideas to come to market.  Those are all good things.  But the size of the challenges we face requires us to do more.
So back last September, I sent Congress a jobs bill that included all sorts of policies that we knew would help grow our economy and put more Americans back to work.  That wasn't just my opinion, that wasn't just the opinion of Democrats.  It was the opinion of independent, nonpartisan experts -- economists who do this for a living, and analysts on Wall Street who evaluate what's going to really make the economy grow.  The one big piece that we were able to get done was make sure that we didn't see payroll tax go up and people get 40 bucks taken out of their paychecks each time.
But most of it didn't get done in Congress.  Just about every time we put these policies up for a vote, the Republicans in Congress got together and they said no.  They said no to putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job repairing our roads and our bridges and our schools and our transit systems.  No to a new tax cut for businesses that hire new workers.  No to putting more teachers back in our classrooms, more cops back on the beat, more firefighters back to work.  And this is at a time when we know one of the biggest drags on our economy has been layoffs by state and local governments -- that's true all across the country.
And it's worth noting, by the way -- this is just a little aside -- after there was a recession under Ronald Reagan, government employment went way up.  It went up after the recessions under the first George Bush and the second George Bush.  So each time there was a recession with a Republican President, compensated -- we compensated by making sure that government didn't see a drastic reduction in employment.
The only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me.  (Applause.)  So I make that point just so you don't buy into this whole bloated government argument that you hear.  And frankly, if Congress had said yes to helping states put teachers back to work and put the economy before our politics, then tens of thousands more teachers in New York would have a job right now.  That is a fact.  And that would mean not only a lower unemployment rate, but also more customers for business.
Now, I know this is an election year.  But it's not an excuse for inaction.  Six months is plenty of time for Democrats and Republicans to get together and do the right thing, taking steps that will spur additional job creation right now.  Just saying no to ideas that we know will help our economy isn’t an option.  There’s too much at stake.  We've all got to pull in the same direction.
So even if Republicans are still saying no to some of the bigger proposals we made in the jobs act, there are some additional ideas that could help people get to work right now and that they haven't said no to yet -- so I'm hoping they say yes.  And they’re simple ideas.  They’re the kinds of things that, in the past, have been supported by Democrats and Republicans.  These are traditionally ideas that have had bipartisan support.  They won’t have as big of an impact as rebuilding our infrastructure or helping states hire back teachers, but together, all of these ideas will do two things:  They'll grow the economy faster and they'll create more jobs.
So today I’m announcing a handy little "To-Do" list that we’ve put together for Congress.  (Laughter.)  You can see it for yourselves at whitehouse.gov.  It’s about the size of a Post-It note, so every member of Congress should have time to read it -- (laughter) -- and they can glance at it every so often.  And hopefully we'll just be checking off the list -- just like when Michelle gives me a list, I check it off.  (Laughter.)  Each of the ideas on this list will help accelerate our economy and put people back to work -- not in November, not in next year, but right now.
All right, so I'm going to go through the list.  First, Congress needs to help the millions of Americans who have worked hard, made their mortgage payments on time, but still have been unable to refinance their mortgages with these historically low rates.  This would make a huge difference for the economy.  (Applause.)
Families could save thousands of dollars, and that means they've got more money in their pocket, which means they can either build their equity back up on their homes or they go out and use that money to do things like helping their kids finance a college education.  So Congress should give those responsible homeowners a chance to refinance at a lower rate.  We estimate they'd save at least $3,000 a year.  So that’s on our "To-Do" list.  It's not complicated.  (Applause.)
Second, if Congress fails to act soon, clean energy companies will see their taxes go up and they could be forced to lay off employees.  In fact, we're already hearing from folks who produce wind turbines and solar panels and a lot of this green energy that they're getting worried because there's uncertainty out there.  Congress hasn't renewed some of the tax breaks that are so important to this industry.  And since I know that the other side in Congress have promised they'll never raise taxes as long as they live, this is a good time to keep that promise when it comes to businesses that are putting Americans to work and helping break our dependence on foreign oil.  (Applause.)  So we should extend these tax credits.  That’s on the "To-Do" list. That’s number two.
Number three, Congress should help small business owners by giving them a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages.  (Applause.)  We believe small businesses are the engine of economic growth in this country.  We should not hold them to a situation where they may end up having to pay higher taxes just by hiring more workers.  We should make it easier for them to succeed.  So that’s on our "To-Do" list.  That’s number three.
Number four, Congress should help our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find a good job once they come home.  (Applause.)  Our men and women in uniform have served this country with such honor and distinction -- a lot of them come from upstate New York.  Now it’s our turn to serve them.  So we should create a Veterans Job Corps that helps them find work as cops and firefighters, employees at our national parks.  That’s on our "To-Do" list.
Then the last item, the fifth item, which bears especially on what's going on here -- the last item on our congressional "To-Do" list is something that will help a lot of you in particular.  You know better than anybody that technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last few decades.  And that’s a great thing.  Businesses are more productive; consumers are getting better products for less.  But technology has also made a lot of jobs obsolete.  Factories where people once thought they’d retire suddenly left town.  Jobs that provided a decent living got shipped overseas.  And the result has been a lot of pain for a lot of communities and a lot of families.
There is a silver lining to all of this, though.  After years of undercutting the competition, now it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China.  Wages are going up.  Shipping costs are going up.  And meanwhile, American workers are getting more and more efficient.  Companies located here are becoming more and more competitive.  So for a lot of businesses, it’s now starting to make sense to bring jobs back home.  (Applause.)
And here in the tri-city area, you’ve got companies like IBM and Global Foundries that could have decided to pack up and move elsewhere, but they chose to stay in upstate New York because it made more sense to build here and to hire here.  You have more to offer -- got some of the best workers in the world, you've got an outstanding university.
Now I want what’s happening in Albany to happen all across the country -- places like Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. (Applause.)  I want to create more opportunities for hardworking Americans to start making things again, and selling them all over the world stamped with those proud words:  Made in America.  That’s the goal.  (Applause.)
So the good news is we’re already starting to see it happen. American manufacturers are creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s.  And that’s good for you, but it’s also good for the businesses that supply the materials you use.  It’s good for the construction workers who build the facilities you work in.  It’s good for communities where people are buying more houses and spending more money at restaurants and stores.  Everybody benefits when manufacturing is going strong.
So you’ve heard about outsourcing.  Today, more and more companies are insourcing.  One recent study found that half of America’s largest companies are thinking of moving their manufacturing operations from China back to the United States of America.  (Applause.)  That’s good news.  Because even when we can’t make things cheaper than other countries because of their wage rates, we can always make them better.  That’s who we are.  That’s what America is all about.  (Applause.)
So this brings me back to our "To-Do" list.  What we need to do now is to make it easier for more companies to do the right thing, and one place to start is our tax code.  At the moment, companies get tax breaks for moving factories, jobs and profits overseas.  They can actually end up saving on their tax bill when they make the move.  Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay here are getting hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  That doesn’t make sense.
And politicians from both parties have been talking about changing it for years, so I’ve put forward my own plan to make it right in the long term.  But in the short term, before we completely rework the tax code, before we've done a full-blown tax reform, at the very least what we can do right away is stop rewarding companies who ship jobs overseas and use that money to cover moving expenses for companies that are moving jobs back here to America.  (Applause.)  So we're putting that on Congress’s "To-Do" list.  This is something simple to do.  We shouldn’t wait.  We should get it done right now.
So that’s the fifth item.  That's all on our "To-Do" list.  I'm not trying to overload Congress here.  (Laughter.) 
So over the next few weeks, I’m going to be taking about this "To-Do" list when I'm on the road.  I’m going to be talking about all the things that Congress can do right now to boost our economy and accelerate even more job growth.  Of course, it’s not enough just to give them the list -- we've also got to get them to start crossing things off the list.  And that’s where all of you come in.
I'm going to need you to pick up the phone, write an email, tweet, remind your member of Congress we can’t afford to wait until November to get things done.  Tell them now is the time to help more Americans save money on their mortgages; time for us to invest more in clean energy and small businesses; it's time for us to help more veterans find work; and it's time to make it easier for companies to bring jobs back to America.  It's the right thing to do.
Now, I'm cheating a little bit.  I said that was my "To-Do" list.  There actually is one other thing they've got to do.  Before they do anything else, Congress needs to keep student loan rates from doubling for students who are here and all across the country.  (Applause.)  That has to happen by January 1st [sic] or rates on Stafford loans double.  These young people are nodding their heads -- they don't like that.  They've heard about this.  (Laughter.)
And we need to pass a transportation bill that guarantees almost a million construction workers can stay on the job.  (Applause.)  The good news is both parties say they want to make this happen.  We’ve done this before.  So Congress just needs to work out the details.  Don't let politics get in the way.  Get this done before July 1st.  Those bills should be passed right now.
So I'm cheating a little bit.  There are actually seven items on the "To-Do" list.  (Laughter.)  But two of them are old business and folks have already said they want to get them done.
Albany, we’ve got a long way to go if we’re going to make sure everybody who wants a job can find one, and every family can feel that sense of security that was the essence of America's middle-class experience.  But we can't just go back to the way things used to be.  We've got to move forward -- to an economy where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules.
And that's what you guys are doing here in Albany.  You're investing in your future.  You're not going backwards, you're going forward.  With your help, I know we can get there -- because here in America, we don’t give up.  We keep moving.  We look out for one another.  We pull each other up.  That’s who we are.  And if we work together with common purpose, I've got no doubt we can keep moving this country forward and remind the world just why it is the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)
Thank you so much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)


President Obama Speaks at a Cinco de Mayo Reception (Video/Transcript)

Rose Garden

THE PRESIDENT: Hola, hola! (Applause.) Gracias y bienvenidos. I am honored to welcome you to Cinco de Mayo at the White House. (Applause.) Even though it’s only tres de Mayo. We just like to get the fiesta started early around here. (Laughter.)
It is a pleasure to be joined by so many Latinos and Latinas -– and those who wish they were Latino and Latina. (Laughter.) I knew you wouldn’t miss an opportunity for great music and dancing at the White House, especially with the outstanding Ballet Folklórico from Georgetown University. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Our great friend Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán and his lovely wife Veronica are here. I’m honored to welcome Hispanic Americans serving at every level of my administration, including Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. (Applause.) I want to recognize Charlie Gonzalez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. As all of you know, Charlie’s birthday is on Cinco de Mayo, so don’t forget to wish him a feliz cumpleaños.
Finally, thank you to the White House Hispanic Summit steering committee for your hard work to engage thousands of Latino leaders across the country this year. Good job. Your work demonstrates that this celebration is all about pride in the heritage and contributions of Hispanics in all aspects of American life.
Cinco de Mayo marks a singular moment in Mexican history. Exactly 150 years ago, General Zaragoza and his ragtag band of patriots made a brave stand against the invading forces of a world-renowned European army. Sounds familiar. And the story goes that after these heroic citizens and soldiers beat the odds and turned back the invaders, General Zaragoza found time to sit down and write a brief note to the war minister. He celebrated the glory of the national army, noting that they never turned their backs. And today, we honor their valor.
When the news of the Mexican victory at Puebla reached this house, this country was in the midst of its own struggles. But soon after, the U.S. lent assistance to help Mexico definitively expel the French from their land. And ever since, the United States and Mexico have lived intersecting and overlapping histories. Our two countries share the ties of history and familia and values and commerce and culture. And today, we are more united than ever -- in friendship and in common purpose.
Right now, there are more than 50 million Americans of Latino descent -- one sixth of our population. You’re our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, our friends. You’re starting businesses. You’re teaching in classrooms. You’re defending this country. You’re driving America forward.
And for our part, we know that securing our future depends on making sure that all Americans have the opportunity to reach their potential. And that’s why we’ve worked hard over the last
three and a half years to create jobs; to make sure you get the care you need when you get sick; to make college affordable for everybody; to ensure that no matter where you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is -- even if it’s Obama -- (laughter) -- you can make it if you try. Applause.)
These are victories for Latinos, but they’re, more importantly, victories for America. We could not have come this far without you. Of course, there is still plenty of unfinished business, including fixing our broken immigration system. And it is long past the time that we unleash the promise of all our young people and make the DREAM Act a reality. (Applause.)
A lot of you remember, over a year ago, we brought the DREAM Act to a vote in Congress, thanks to the hard work of many of you. And it passed the House and a majority of votes in the Senate. Unfortunately, we had some on the other side of the aisle that got together and blocked it. But we didn’t come this far just to let partisan politics stand in our way.
So we’re going to keep fighting for this common-sense reform -- not just because hundreds of thousands of talented young students depend on it, but because ultimately America depends on it. “No” is not an option. I want to sign the DREAM Act into law. I’ve got the pens all ready. I’m willing to work with anybody who is serious to get this done, and to achieve bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that solves this challenge once and for all. (Applause.)
It’s worth remembering, America is and always will be a nation of immigrants. We are richer because of the men and women and children who have come to our shores and joined our union. So as we mark Cinco de Mayo, on both sides of the border, we pay tribute to our shared heritage and our future partnership.
We honor what brings us together. We are mothers and fathers of a great generation, and we’re going to keep on making sure that our sons and daughters have every opportunity to realize the American Dream. That’s what drives me every day. That’s what I know drives a lot of you. And I look forward for us making future progress together.
So with that, let’s party. Let’s have a good time. Feliz Cinco de Mayo.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)


Money, Power and Wall Street: Part Four

Money, Power and Wall Street: Part Three

Money, Power and Wall Street: Part Two

Money, Power and Wall Street: Part One

President Obama Speaks on Ending the War in Afghanistan (Video/Transcript)

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening from Bagram Air Base. This outpost is more than 7,000 miles from home, but for over a decade it's been close to our hearts. Because here, in Afghanistan, more than half a million of our sons and daughters have sacrificed to protect our country.
Today, I signed a historic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defines a new kind of relationship between our countries -- a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation, and we build an equal partnership between two sovereign states; a future in which war ends, and a new chapter begins.
Tonight, I'd like to speak to you about this transition. But first, let us remember why we came here. It was here, in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden established a safe haven for his terrorist organization. It was here, in Afghanistan, where al Qaeda brought new recruits, trained them, and plotted acts of terror. It was here, from within these borders, that al Qaeda launched the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children.
And so, 10 years ago, the United States and our allies went to war to make sure that al Qaeda could never again use this country to launch attacks against us. Despite initial success, for a number of reasons, this war has taken longer than most anticipated. In 2002, bin Laden and his lieutenants escaped across the border and established safe haven in Pakistan. America spent nearly eight years fighting a different war in Iraq. And al Qaeda’s extremist allies within the Taliban have waged a brutal insurgency.
But over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda’s leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set -- to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild -- is now within our reach.
Still, there will be difficult days ahead. The enormous sacrifices of our men and women are not over. But tonight, I’d like to tell you how we will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan.
First, we've begun a transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Already, nearly half of the Afghan people live in places where Afghan security forces are moving into the lead. This month, at a NATO Summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward.
As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year, we removed 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace, with more and more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.
Second, we are training Afghan security forces to get the job done. Those forces have surged, and will peak at 352,000 this year. The Afghans will sustain that level for three years, and then reduce the size of their military. And in Chicago, we will endorse a proposal to support a strong and sustainable long-term Afghan force.
Third, we’re building an enduring partnership. The agreement we signed today sends a clear message to the Afghan people: As you stand up, you will not stand alone. It establishes the basis for our cooperation over the next decade, including shared commitments to combat terrorism and strengthen democratic institutions. It supports Afghan efforts to advance development and dignity for their people. And it includes Afghan commitments to transparency and accountability, and to protect the human rights of all Afghans -- men and women, boys and girls.
Within this framework, we’ll work with the Afghans to determine what support they need to accomplish two narrow security missions beyond 2014 -- counter-terrorism and continued training. But we will not build permanent bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its cities and mountains. That will be the job of the Afghan people.
Fourth, we’re pursuing a negotiated peace. In coordination with the Afghan government, my administration has been in direct discussions with the Taliban. We’ve made it clear that they can be a part of this future if they break with al Qaeda, renounce violence and abide by Afghan laws. Many members of the Taliban -- from foot soldiers to leaders -- have indicated an interest in reconciliation. The path to peace is now set before them. Those who refuse to walk it will face strong Afghan security forces, backed by the United States and our allies.
Fifth, we are building a global consensus to support peace and stability in South Asia. In Chicago, the international community will express support for this plan and for Afghanistan’s future. And I have made it clear to its neighbor -- Pakistan -- that it can and should be an equal partner in this process in a way that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty, interests and democratic institutions. In pursuit of a durable peace, America has no designs beyond an end to al Qaeda safe havens and respect for Afghan sovereignty.
As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline. The answer is clear: Our goal is not to build a country in America’s image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and most importantly, many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that. Afghans want to assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear timeline to wind down the war.
Others will ask, why don’t we leave immediately? That answer is also clear: We must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise, our gains could be lost and al Qaeda could establish itself once more. And as Commander-in-Chief, I refuse to let that happen.
I recognize that many Americans are tired of war. As President, nothing is more wrenching than signing a letter to a family of the fallen, or looking into the eyes of a child who will grow up without a mother or father. I will not keep Americans in harm’s way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly.
My fellow Americans, we’ve travelled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq war is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will soon be coming home. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda.
This future is only within reach because of our men and women in uniform. Time and again, they have answered the call to serve in distant and dangerous places. In an age when so many institutions have come up short, these Americans stood tall. They met their responsibilities to one another, and to the flag they serve under. I just met with some of them and told them that as Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder. And in their faces, we see what is best in ourselves and our country.
Our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians in Afghanistan have done their duty. Now we must summon that same sense of common purpose. We must give our veterans and military families the support they deserve, and the opportunities they have earned. And we must redouble our efforts to build a nation worthy of their sacrifice.
As we emerge from a decade of conflict abroad and economic crisis at home, it’s time to renew America -- an America where our children live free from fear and have the skills to claim their dreams. A united America of grit and resilience, where sunlight glistens off soaring new towers in downtown Manhattan, and we build our future as one people, as one nation.
Here in Afghanistan, Americans answered the call to defend their fellow citizens and uphold human dignity. Today, we recall the fallen and those who suffered wounds, both seen and unseen. But through dark days, we have drawn strength from their example and the ideals that have guided our nation and led the world -- a belief that all people are treated equal and deserve the freedom to determine their destiny. That is the light that guides us still.
This time of war began in Afghanistan and this is where it will end. With faith in each other and our eyes fixed on the future, let us finish the work at hand and forge a just and lasting peace.
May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.