President Barack ObamaHi, everybody. In 1620, a small band of pilgrims came to this continent, refugees who had fled persecution and violence in their native land. Nearly 400 years later, we remember their part in the American story -- and we honor the men and women who helped them in their time of need.
The White House
November 26, 2015
The White House
November 26, 2015
Thanksgiving is a day for food and football, and for hoping the turkey didn't turn out too dry. But it's also a day to count our blessings and give back to others -- a reminder that no matter our circumstances, all of us have something to be grateful for. Maybe it's good health, a new addition to the family, or a child taking a next step toward college or a career. Maybe it's a new job, or long overdue raise. Maybe it's something as simple, and as important, as the chance to spend time with the people who matter most.
Of course, every American can be thankful for the chance to live in a country founded on the belief that all of us are created equal. And as President, I'm thankful that I get to see the best of America every day -- the courage of our troops and veterans, the resilience of our families, and the basic goodness of the ordinary people who call this country.
On this uniquely American holiday, we also remember that so much of our greatness comes from our generosity. There's the generosity of Americans who volunteer at food banks and shelters, making sure that no one goes hungry on a day when so many plates are full. There's the generosity of Americans who take part not just in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but Giving Tuesday -- recognizing that in the holiday season, what you give is as important as what you get.
And I've been touched by the generosity of the Americans who've written me letters and emails in recent weeks, offering to open their homes to refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL.
Now, people should remember that no refugee can enter our borders until they undergo the highest security checks of anyone traveling to the United States. That was the case before Paris, and it's the case now. And what happened in Paris hasn't stopped Americans from opening their arms anyway.
One woman from Pennsylvania wrote me to say, "Money is tight for us in my household ... But i have a guest room. I have a pantry full of food. We can do this." Another woman from Florida told me her family's history dates back to the Mayflower -- and she said that welcoming others is part of "what it means to be an American."
Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims -- men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families. What makes America America is that we offer that chance. We turn Lady Liberty's light to the world, and widen our circle of concern to say that all God's children are worthy of our compassion and care. That's part of what makes this the greatest country on Earth.
I hope that you and your family have wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by loved ones, and full of joy and gratitude. And together, may we all play our own small part in the American story, and write a next chapter that future generations can be thankful for.
From the Obama family to yours, have a great Thanksgiving.
Vice President Joe Biden
The White House
November 21, 2015
And at the same time we saw the world come together in solidarity. Parisians opening their doors to anyone trapped in the street, taxi drivers turning off their meters to get people home safety, people lining up to donate blood. These simple human acts are a powerful reminder that we cannot be broken and in the face of terror we stand as one. In the wake of these terrible events, I understand the anxiety that many Americans feel. I really do. I don’t dismiss the fear of a terrorist bomb going off. There’s nothing President Obama and I take more seriously though, than keeping the American people safe.
In the past few weeks though, we’ve heard an awful lot of people suggest that the best way to keep America safe is to prevent any Syrian refugee from gaining asylum in the United States.
So let’s set the record straight how it works for a refugee to get asylum. Refugees face the most rigorous screening of anyone who comes to the United States. First they are finger printed, then they undergo a thorough background check, then they are interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security. And after that the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Defense and the Department of State, they all have to sign off on access.
And to address the specific terrorism concerns we are talking about now, we’ve instituted another layer of checks just for Syrian refugees. There is no possibility of being overwhelmed by a flood of refugees landing on our doorstep tomorrow. Right now, refugees wait 18 to 24 months while the screening process is completed. And unlike in Europe, refugees don’t set foot in the United States until they are thoroughly vetted.
Let’s also remember who the vast majority of these refugees are: women, children, orphans, survivors of torture, people desperately in need medical help.
To turn them away and say there is no way you can ever get here would play right into the terrorists’ hands. We know what ISIL – we know what they hope to accomplish. They flat-out told us.
Earlier this year, the top ISIL leader al-Baghdadi revealed the true goal of their attacks. Here’s what he said: “Compel the crusaders to actively destroy the gray zone themselves. Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one and two choices. Either apostatize or emigrate to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution.” So it’s clear. It’s clear what ISIL wants. They want to manufacture a clash between civilizations. They want frightened people to think in terms of “us versus them.”
They want us to turn our backs on Muslims victimized by terrorism. But this gang of thugs peddling a warped ideology, they will never prevail. The world is united in our resolve to end their evil. And the only thing ISIL can do is spread terror in hopes that we will in turn, turn on ourselves. We will betray our ideals and take actions, actions motivated by fear that will drive more recruits into the arms of ISIL. That’s how they win. We win by prioritizing our security as we’ve been doing. Refusing to compromise our fundamental American values: freedom, openness, tolerance. That’s who we are. That’s how we win.
May God continue to bless the United States of America and God bless our troops.
We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond. France is our oldest ally. The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again. And we want to be very clear that we stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism.
Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress. Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong. The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share. And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.
We’re going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.
We don’t yet know all the details of what has happened. We have been in contact with French officials to communicate our deepest condolences to the families of those who have been killed, to offer our prayers and thoughts to those who have been wounded. We have offered our full support to them. The situation is still unfolding. I’ve chosen not to call President Hollande at this time, because my expectation is that he’s very busy at the moment. I actually, by coincidence, was talking to him earlier today in preparation for the G20 meeting. But I am confident that I’ll be in direct communications with him in the next few days, and we’ll be coordinating in any ways that they think are helpful in the investigation of what’s happened.
This is a heartbreaking situation. And obviously those of us here in the United States know what it’s like. We’ve gone through these kinds of episodes ourselves. And whenever these kinds of attacks happened, we’ve always been able to count on the French people to stand with us. They have been an extraordinary counterterrorism partner, and we intend to be there with them in that same fashion.
I’m sure that in the days ahead we’ll learn more about exactly what happened, and my teams will make sure that we are in communication with the press to provide you accurate information. I don’t want to speculate at this point in terms of who was responsible for this. It appears that there may still be live activity and dangers that are taking place as we speak. And so until we know from French officials that the situation is under control, and we have for more information about it, I don’t want to speculate.
Thank you very much.
President Barack ObamaHi, everybody. This week, America came together to salute our veterans – to express our appreciation to all who served so that we might live free. But our gratitude should extend beyond what our veterans have done for us in the past. It should remind us of our responsibility to serve them as well as they have served us. It should compel us to keep our veterans central to the ongoing work of this nation.
The White House
November 14, 2015
The White House
November 14, 2015
In recent years, we’ve made historic investments to boost the VA budget, expand veterans’ benefits, and improve care for our wounded warriors. We’ve now slashed the disability claims backlog by nearly 90 percent from its peak. We’re reducing the outrage of veterans’ homelessness and we’ve helped tens of thousands of veterans get off the streets. The veterans’ unemployment rate is down to 3.9 percent – even lower than the national average.
Of course, we’re not satisfied. We’ve still got more work to do – and I’ve directed my Administration to keep doing everything it can to fulfill our promise to our veterans. But this isn’t just a job for government alone. We all have a role to play. Less than one percent of Americans are serving in uniform. So it’s true most Americans don’t always see and appreciate the incredible skills and assets that our veterans can offer. But every American should know that our veterans are some of the most talented, capable people in the world. They’ve mastered skills and technologies and leadership roles that are impossible to teach off the battlefield. They know how to get stuff done.
And as our veterans will tell you themselves, they’re not finished serving their country. They’re teachers and doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs, social workers and community leaders. They serve in statehouses across the country and in Congress. As I tell small business owners and CEOs on a regular basis, if you want to get the job done, hire a vet. Every sector, every industry, every community in this country can benefit from the incredible talents of our veterans.
Our troops and veterans give us their very best. That’s what a soldier named Captain Florent Groberg proved. Three years ago, on patrol in Afghanistan, Flo saw a suicide bomber coming toward his unit. Without hesitating, Flo grabbed him by his vest and helped push him to the ground. When the bomb went off, Flo was badly injured, and four of his comrades were killed. But many more were saved because of Flo’s sacrifice. Flo represents the very best of America – and this week, I was proud to present him with the Medal of Honor for his actions.
Veterans like Flo, they deserve our undying gratitude. They deserve the chance to keep serving the country they risked everything to defend. And so we must come together to keep giving them that chance, not just on Veterans Day, but on every single day of the year. May God bless all those who serve and all who have given their lives for our country. And may God bless the United States of America.
Helmut Schmidt, who served as West German Chancellor from 1974 to 1982, has died aged 96, his office says.
Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed him as a "political institution" in Germany.
He is seen as one of the most popular German leaders since WWII.
Mr Schmidt died on Tuesday afternoon in his home city of Hamburg, his doctor Heiner Greten was quoted as saying by German media.
The doctor provided no further details.
Obituary: West Germany's master of realpolitik
In a televised tribute, Ms Merkel said her predecessor was an authority "whose advice and judgement meant something to me".
She said Germans had developed a "deep affection" for him and were "impressed by his personal humility as well as his sense of duty".
Reacting to the news, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said he was "deeply affected" by the death.
"He was an outstanding chancellor, his death marks a turning point for Germany and Europe," he said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Mr Schmidt was "a special man whose political courage has moved many."
Paying tribute to Mr Schmidt, French President Francois Hollande described him as "a great European".
"He was a man who, until his final breath, knew how to give a speech and especially to tell Germans that they had a role to play... that it was within Europe that they should act", Mr Hollande said.
Helmut Schmidt was a far-sighted strategist who lived to see his ambitions for Germany fulfilled in 1990, the BBC's Jenny Hill in Berlin reports.
By 1972, Mr Schmidt was finance minister in the government of Willy Brandt, a brilliant manager of the economic miracle. Two years later he himself was chancellor.
The Berlin Wall dividing West and East Germany was the front line in a dangerous Cold War at the time.
With skilled diplomacy, Mr Schmidt pursued detente with communist leaders on the other side, but when the Soviet Union stepped up the arms race, he stood firm, our correspondent says.
Braving fierce protests at home, he let America deploy medium-range nuclear missiles on West German soil to keep the military balance.
President Barack Obama
The White House
November 7, 2015
We’ve begun to change that. As the Affordable Care Act has taken effect, we’ve covered 17.6 million Americans. Since 2010, the uninsured rate has decreased by 45%. And for the first time, more than 90% of Americans are covered.
If you haven’t gotten covered yet, or if you care about someone who hasn’t gotten covered yet, now’s your chance. It’s open enrollment season for the Health Insurance Marketplace.
What that means is, with a few clicks on HealthCare.gov, you’ll find private insurance companies competing for your business. You can compare plans and choose the one that’s right for your family. In fact, most Americans will find an option that costs less than $75 a month. Even if you already have insurance through the Marketplace, check it out. Shopping around can save you a lot of money -- last year, consumers who shopped saved almost $400.
Take the story of a man named Phil Viso, who emailed me earlier this year. Phil’s a software developer from my hometown of Chicago. Last winter, he had an idea for a new app and decided to start his own company. And that can be scary when you need to get your own insurance. But Phil logged on to HealthCare.gov, answered a few questions, picked a plan, and even found out he was eligible for a tax credit that saved him money.
Here’s what he wrote: “I’m still sort of in shock about how great the experience of signing up for health care was…I will have a lot to worry about over the course of the year as I try to get my app released, but thankfully, good health care will not be one of those worries.”
After he sent me that email, Phil ended up getting a new and better job anyway. But that’s the whole point of health insurance. Peace of mind. And under the Affordable Care Act, if you want to change jobs, go back to school, or chase that new idea, you can do it without worrying about going broke if you get sick. If you’ve got a pre-existing condition -- diabetes or cancer or heartburn or a heart attack -- you can no longer be charged more or denied coverage. You can no longer be charged more just for being a woman. And preventive care like checkups and immunizations now come with no additional out-of-pocket costs.
What we’re talking about is no longer just a law, and it's certainly not the myths and scare tactics that the cynics have peddled our way for years. This is reality. This is health care in America. And the bottom line is, Americans like it. They’re happy with their plans and their premiums.
So join them. Give it a shot. Check out HealthCare.gov, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, or call 1-800-318-2596 to find a plan that’s right for you or someone you care about.
And by the way -- if you live in one of the 20 cities participating in our Healthy Communities Challenge, I want to see how many of your neighbors you can get signed up. I’ll come visit the city that enrolls the highest percentage of folks who aren’t covered right now. That’s a promise.
After all, this country is at its best when we look out for each other. And together, we can help more Americans get the security that they and their families deserve.
Thanks everybody. Have a great weekend.
President Barack ObamaHi, everybody. Today, there are 2.2 million people behind bars in America and millions more on parole or probation. Every year, we spend $80 billion in taxpayer dollars to keep people incarcerated. Many are non-violent offenders serving unnecessarily long sentences.
The White House
October 31, 2015
The White House
October 31, 2015
I believe we can disrupt the pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails. I believe we can address the disparities in the application of criminal justice, from arrest rates to sentencing to incarceration. And I believe we can help those who have served their time and earned a second chance get the support they need to become productive members of society.
That’s why over the course of this year, I’ve been talking to folks around the country about reforming our criminal justice system to make it smarter, fairer, and more effective.
In February, I sat down in the Oval Office with police officers from around the country. In the spring, I met with police officers and young people in Camden, New Jersey, where they’re using community policing and data to drive down crime. Over the summer, I visited a prison in Oklahoma to talk with inmates and corrections officers about rehabilitating prisoners, and preventing more people from ending up there in the first place. Two weeks ago, I visited West Virginia to meet with families battling prescription drug and heroin abuse, as well as people who are working on new solutions for treatment and rehabilitation. Last week, I traveled to Chicago to thank police chiefs from across the country for all that their officers do to protect Americans, to make sure they’ve got the resources to get the job done, and to call for commonsense gun safety reforms that would make officers and their communities safer.
And we know that having millions of people in the criminal justice system, without any ability to find a job after release, is unsustainable. It’s bad for communities and it’s bad for our economy.
So on Monday, I’ll travel to Newark, New Jersey to highlight efforts to help Americans who’ve paid their debt to society reintegrate back into their communities. Everyone has a role to play, from businesses that are hiring ex-offenders to philanthropies that are supporting education and training programs. And I’ll keep working with people in both parties to get criminal justice reform bills to my desk, including a bipartisan bill that would reduce mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders and reward prisoners with shorter sentences if they complete programs that make them less likely to commit a repeat offense.
There’s a reason that good people across the country are coming together to reform our criminal justice system. Because it’s not about politics. It’s about whether we as a nation live up to our founding ideal of liberty and justice for all. And working together, we can make sure that we do.
Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend. And have a safe and Happy Halloween.