Read all posts from February 2013

  • Today, I had the opportunity to speak at the 1 is 2 Many Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month event at the White House. In attendance were family members of victims who were killed by teen dating violence, high school and college students, and a variety of organizations and school association representatives. The program featured speakers from the Departments of Education and Justice and ended with a group discussion with the students.

    Ending violence against all women is a priority of this administration. And today’s reauthorization on the Violence Against Women Act will help further reduce teen dating violence. The author of the original legislation, Vice President Biden also dropped by to speak to the teens and families at the event.

    Unfortunately, teen dating violence is still far too common. As many as one in 10 high school students nationwide have reported that they were intentionally physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend, and still more experienced verbal or emotional abuse like shaming, intimidation, or threats. That’s why it was so important to hear from young people who are committed to stopping the violence. Their advocacy and action inspires us to fight to end teen dating violence

    Addressing teen dating violence is critical in our broader efforts to empower young women. I chair the White House Council on Women and Girls, which President Obama created nearly four years ago. He gave the Council an important mission – to make sure that all federal agencies consider the needs of women and girls in every policy, every program and every piece of legislation.

  • Ed. note: This op-ed by First Lady Michelle Obama was first published by the Wall Street Journal

    For years, America's childhood obesity crisis was viewed as an insurmountable problem, one that was too complicated and too entrenched to ever really solve. According to the conventional wisdom, healthy food simply didn't sell—the demand wasn't there and higher profits were found elsewhere—so it just wasn't worth the investment.

    But thanks to businesses across the country, today we are proving the conventional wisdom wrong. Every day, great American companies are achieving greater and greater success by creating and selling healthy products. In doing so, they are showing that what's good for kids and good for family budgets can also be good for business.

    Take the example of Wal-Mart. In just the past two years, the company reports that it has cut the costs to its consumers of fruits and vegetables by $2.3 billion and reduced the amount of sugar in its products by 10%. Wal-Mart has also opened 86 new stores in underserved communities and launched a labeling program that helps customers spot healthy items on the shelf. And today, the company is not only seeing increased sales of fresh produce, but also building better relationships with its customers and stronger connections to the communities it serves.

  • Secretary Duncan at High-Quality Emergency Management Event

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan takes part in “Taking Action: Creating Model Emergency Management Plans for Schools, Institutions of Higher Education, and Houses of Worship”, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Feb. 27, 2013. The meeting was held as part of the President’s plan to protect our children and communities by reducing gun violence. Answering questions were, from left: John McDonald, Executive Director of Security and Emergency Management, Jefferson County Public Schools; Marleen Wong, Associate Dean, University of Southern California School of Social Work; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Major Ian A. Moffett, Miami Police Department; Robert Fein, Forensic and National Security Psychologist; and Natalie Hammond, Teacher, Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    Yesterday, over 100 leaders from across the country came to the White House to join Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano for a discussion about how to make our schools, institutions of higher education, and houses of worship safer through the creation of high-quality emergency management plans.

    Secretary Duncan noted that, “Some tough lessons we’ve learned over time, some inspiring lessons as well, but if we can all learn from each other, learn together, and go back home to our communities, it makes me hopeful about where we can go despite the tremendous challenges we face.”

    On January 16th, President Obama, through an executive action, directed the Departments of Education, Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services to work together to create model emergency management plans for these communities. Yesterday’s event helped inform the agencies’ work to implement that executive action. The President’s plan to reduce gun violence includes a total of 23 executive actions, as well as specific proposals that he has called on Congress to act on right away.

  • Ed. note: This was originally published on the Let's Move website. You can see the original post here

    Today, Rachael Ray joined First Lady Michelle Obama and 400 elementary school students in Clinton, Mississippi to celebrate the new, healthier school meals being served in cafeterias across the country. Two teams -- cafeteria chef Fannie and celebrity chef Sunny Anderson versus cafeteria chef Wendy and celebrity Ryan Scott -- competed in a Let's Move! Cafeteria Cook-off to make the most delicious, healthy school lunch. 

    Rachael Ray and Mrs. Obama watched as student judges scored the lunches from blind taste tests. Before the winner was announced, the First Lady applauded the work of Fannie, Wendy, and their peers in school cafeterias across the country.

    “These are major, major achievements. And I know that getting to this point hasn’t been easy. I know that a lot of folks had to put in a lot of time and effort to make all this possible. And I’m particularly proud of all of the school chefs, the food service workers at schools like this one all across this state, and all across this country. And I want to take time to recognize those folks in the kitchen who do the hard work of cooking for our kids and loving every minute of it. When we passed historic legislation to improve school lunches for the first time in 15 years, these were the folks who had to totally transform their menus in a matter of months. They went from frying to baking. They had to work with totally new ingredients. And they had to satisfy both strict nutrition requirements and, as we know, picky eaters.”

  • President Obama participates in the Rosa Parks statue unveiling ceremony in Statuary Hall (February 27, 2013)

    President Barack Obama touches the Rosa Parks statue after the unveiling during a ceremony in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2013. Helping with the unveiling, were, from left: Sheila Keys, niece of Rosa Parks; Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Assistant Democratic Leader Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.; and Elaine Eason Keys. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    National Statuary Hall inside the U.S. Capitol was once the meeting place of the House of Representatives. Now it's home to a collection of statues and monuments -- two from each state -- representing some of the defining figures in our nation's history.

    Today those sculptures were joined by that of a civil rights icon. One hundred years after she was born and 58 years after she refused to give up her seat on an Alabama city bus, Rosa Parks has a permanent place in the halls of Congress.

    President Obama was one of the leaders on hand for the unveiling of the statue this morning.

    "Rosa Parks held no elected office," he said. "She possessed no fortune; lived her life far from the formal seats of power. And yet today, she takes her rightful place among those who’ve shaped this nation’s course."

    The statue is close to nine feet tall and depicts Rosa Parks in bronze wearing the same clothes she wore on the day she was arrested. The monument consisting of both her statue and the granite pedestal on which it rests weighs 2,100 pounds.

    "Rosa Parks's singular act of disobedience launched a movement," President Obama told today's crowd. "The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind. It is because of these men and women that I stand here today. It is because of them that our children grow up in a land more free and more fair; a land truer to its founding creed. And that is why this statue belongs in this hall -- to remind us, no matter how humble or lofty our positions, just what it is that leadership requires; just what it is that citizenship requires."

    Read the President's full remarks here

  • To mark African American History Month, as well as the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, we talked with White House Curator Bill Allman about a painting called Watch Meeting--Dec. 31st 1862--Waiting for the Hour that hangs near the Oval Office in the West Wing.

    The painting, completed in 1863 by William Carlton, shows a group of African American men, women and children waiting for the clock to strike midnight -- the hour the Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect. 

    Check it out, and learn why President Obama chose this painting to hang in the West Wing. 

  • President Barack Obama at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., Feb. 26, 2013

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks to highlight the devastating impact the sequester will have on jobs and middle class families, at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., Feb. 26, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Unless Congress takes action, over the next few weeks our economy will be hit with harmful automatic cuts that threaten hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs. These cuts will slash vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and health care for our troops and military families

    President Obama strongly believes we need to replace these arbitrary cuts with balanced deficit reduction, and today he was at a shipyard in Newport News, VA to talk about what these cuts -- which are known as the sequester -- will mean for middle class families. 

    While the full damage of these cuts will spread to nearly every corner of our economy over the next few months, some workers will receive layoff or furlough notices within days. Many of the 5,000 companies and small businesses from across the country that supply Newport News Shipbuilding with parts and equipment will be impacted, which will affect the firm's productivity. And down the road at the Norfolk Naval Station, the threat of these cuts has already forced the Navy to cancel the deployment and delay the repair of certain aircraft carriers, and postpone building on additional vessels. If the cuts are implemented, about 90,000 Virginians who work for the Department of Defense will be forced to take unpaid leave from their jobs, creating a ripple effect on thousands of other jobs, businesses, and services throughout the Commonwealth – and not just in the defense industry. 

  • Twenty years ago today, an improvised explosive contained in a truck was detonated in the public parking garage below the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Improvised explosive devices (IED) continue to pose an ongoing threat, both here at home and abroad.  Our capability to identify and disrupt them before they occur, as well as to respond after an attack, has improved greatly. We have come a long way in twenty years. 

    Today, with the publication of the policy statement on Countering Improvised Explosive Devices, we both recognize the progress we have made, and rededicate ourselves to the next phase in our efforts to implement measures to discover, prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate IED attacks and their consequences.

    We will seek to develop even smarter solutions, and make the most efficient use of our resources, by enhancing our capability to share information regarding these threats, synchronizing standards and procedures, prioritizing and aligning activities according to risk management principles, and leveraging the expertise and resources of industry and foreign partners in pursuit of our shared interests.

    The threat from IED use is likely to remain high in the near future, and will continue to evolve in response to our abilities to counter them. A whole-of-government approach that integrates Federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, private sector, and global participation in counter-IED activities will best position the United States to discover plots to use IEDs in the United States, or against U.S. persons abroad, before those threats become imminent.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama with Robin Roberts and Marcus Samuelsson on Good Morning America

    First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Robin Roberts and chef Marcus Samuelsson, participate in a “Good Morning America” cooking segment at the GMA Studios in New York, N.Y., Feb. 22, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Ed. note: this post was originally published on the official Let's Move website. You can read it here

    MyPlate is one of the easiest ways to learn about healthy eating. It's simple to look at the icon and recognize how to pile up your own plate. But can you cook with it? Mrs. Obama thinks so. Today, the First Lady joined Robin Roberts and Chef Marcus Samuelsson on Good Morning America to announce a new partnership that highlights healthier recipes that align with MyPlate. 

    Your favorite recipe sites -- and Pinterest, an online tool millions use to find the inspiration for their lives-- have teamed up with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to make it easier to find healthier recipes online. Each of the sites will indicate which of their recipes meet nutrition guidance from the US Department of Agriculture, meaning you can now find delicious MyPlate-inspired recipes on the sites you already visit for cooking inspiration. Thousands of recipes will also be featured on new Pinterest boards that launched today. This one-stop-shop for home cooks will give parents the information and tools they need to make healthy choices for their families.

    "As a mom, I know how challenging it can be to think of new meal ideas that your kids will like and that will be good for them,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “This partnership takes the guess work out of finding healthier recipes and gives parents the information and the tools they need to make healthy choices for their families every day.”

  • This evening the Senate confirmed Robert Bacharach to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Oklahoma. Judge Bacharach waited 263 days for a Senate floor vote, only to be approved overwhelmingly, by a vote of 93-0. Not only was Judge Bacharach supported by the two Republican Senators from Oklahoma, he was recommended to the White House for this judgeship by Senator Coburn in October 2011. Yet, early last summer, Senate Republicans blocked Judge Bacharach from even getting an up or down vote – the first successful filibuster of a judicial nominee who had bipartisan support in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    In short, Republicans recommended Robert Bacharach for this important position, endorsed him publicly, supported him nearly unanimously out of the Judiciary Committee, then blocked him from getting a vote – and now, after almost a year of pointless delay, joined in unanimously confirming him. Even Senator Coburn, himself a participant in this partisan chicanery, called this “stupid.”  

    Unfortunately this is not a unique case. On February 13, the Senate confirmed William Kayatta for the First Circuit from Maine. His nomination languished for 300 days, yet he was easily confirmed with 88 Senators supporting him. And next up is Richard Taranto for the Federal Circuit, whose nomination has been pending for 333 days.

    To put this obstruction in some perspective, the average wait time for President George W. Bush’s federal appellate judicial nominees, from Committee vote to confirmation, at this point in his presidency was 35 days. By contrast, the average wait time for President Obama’s federal appellate judicial nominees has been 147 days.

    Today, there are 14 judicial nominees pending before the Senate, most of whom were approved by the Judiciary Committee unanimously and several of whom would fill judicial emergency seats.  An additional 21 nominees are pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee. These 35, highly-qualified nominees signify the President’s unprecedented commitment to a judiciary that reflects the nation it serves: 17 are women; 6 are African American; 6 are Hispanic; 4 are Asian American; and 5 are openly gay. 

    The Senate should move to confirm all of the judicial nominees pending before it. These nominees deserve immediate consideration by the full Senate, and the interest of justice demands it.

  • President Barack Obama has a meeting with the National Governors Association in the White House, Feb. 25, 2013

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks and participates in a Q&A during a meeting with the National Governors Association (NGA) in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 25, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    In a meeting with the National Governors Association today at the White House, President Obama stressed the need for bipartisan cooperation, and pressed the leaders in attendance to work together with their partners in Washington to put the focus back on the next generation, rather than the next election.

    All of us are elected officials. All of us are concerned about our politics, both in our own party’s as well as the other party’s. But at some point, we've got to do some governing. And certainly what we can't do is keep careening from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis. As I said in the State of the Union, the American people have worked hard and long to dig themselves out of one crisis; they don't need us creating another one. And unfortunately, that's what we've been seeing too much out there.

    The American people are out there every single day, meeting their responsibilities, giving it their all to provide for their families and their communities.  A lot of you are doing the same things in your respective states. Well, we need that same kind of attitude here in Washington. At the very least, the American people have a right to expect that from their representatives.  

  • Too often the talented men and women who have served our country face barriers that make it difficult to find jobs that capitalize on the skills they have gained through their military education and experience. Many service members and veterans are required to repeat education or training in order to receive industry certifications and state occupational licenses, even though much, and in some cases, all, of their military training and experience overlaps with credential requirements.

    The members of our Armed Forces and their families make great sacrifices, and when their service is concluded, we owe it to our veterans and their families to help them accomplish a successful transition to the civilian labor force. That is why over the past year and a half, President Obama has taken significant action to create a “career-ready military” and streamline the transition process.

    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden highlighted the work that has been done across the country to change laws that require military spouses to attain new credentials when they move to a new state, and challenged the governors of all 50 states to take legislative or executive action to help our troops get the credentials they need by the end of 2015. Speaking to the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room, Mrs. Obama talked about the pressing need to take action and fulfill our responsibilities to the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much over the past decade:

    In the coming years, more than one million service members will make the transition to civilian life. 

    Think about that – a million people hanging up their uniforms… figuring out what’s next… and doing everything they can to make that change as seamless as possible for their families.

    So the fact is, while this time of war may be ending, our responsibilities to our troops and their families will only be ramping  up.

    And that’s what I want to talk to you about today—how we can fulfill what is perhaps our most pressing responsibility to our troops: making sure that when they come home, they can find a job—and not just any job, but a good job, a job they can raise a family on.

  • President Obama urges Congress to stop the sequester -- the harmful automatic cuts that threaten thousands of jobs and affect our national security from taking effect on March 1.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

    Learn more: 

  • Ed. note: To see state-by-state effects of the sequester on jobs and middle-class families, click here.

    In less than a week, harmful automatic cuts — known as the sequester — take effect, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs, and cutting vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform.

    To prevent a costly, self-inflicted wound to our economy and middle class families, President Obama put forward a plan to avoid these cuts and reduce the deficit by cutting spending and closing tax loopholes. Now it's up to Congress to act. Learn more about President Obama's plan here.

    Still have questions about what the sequester is, and why American famillies and our national economy face this threat? We've put together the explainer below using some helpful background information President Obama laid out in a statement on Tuesday. Check it out:

    $2.5 Trillion in Deficit Reduction

    "Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion. More than two-thirds of that was through some pretty tough spending cuts. The rest of it was through raising taxes — tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. And together, when you take the spending cuts and the increased tax rates on the top 1 percent, it puts us more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances."




    So What's the Sequester? Why Now?

    "Now, Congress, back in 2011, also passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach that $4 trillion goal, about a trillion dollars of additional, arbitrary budget cuts would start to take effect this year. And by the way, the whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing taxloopholes and so forth. And so this was all designed to say we can't do these bad cuts; let’s do something smarter. That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration."

    "Unfortunately, Congress didn’t compromise. They haven't come together and done their jobs, and so as a consequence, we've got these automatic, brutal spending cuts that are poised to happen next Friday."

  • Since taking office, President Obama has made clear that his Administration is committed to Open Government—that the Nation is made stronger by making the Federal Government accountable to citizens and by giving those citizens opportunities to participate in their government. 

    That’s why, in September 2011, President Obama, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and the leaders of six other governments launched the global Open Government Partnership – a global effort to encourage transparent, effective, and accountable governance driven by citizens and civil society around the world.  Demonstrating the Nation’s domestic commitment to the Partnership, President Obama launched the U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government that same day, saying:

    “We pledge to be more transparent at every level -- because more information on government activity should be open, timely, and freely available to the people. We pledge to engage more of our citizens in decision-making -- because it makes government more effective and responsive. We pledge to implement the highest standards of integrity -- because those in power must serve the people, not themselves. And we pledge to increase access to technology -- because in this digital century, access to information is a right that is universal.”

    In just over a year, the Administration has made significant progress toward implementing the National Action Plan, working closely and in partnership with American citizens and organizations. 

  • Watch the West Wing Week here.

    Sequester Looming: On Tuesday, with just days left until a set of deep, across-the-board budget cuts are set to take effect, President Obama discussed what’s at stake for our country’s economy, security and future and pushed lawmakers to work out a deal for the American people.

    “So these cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls,” said President Obama, as emergency respondents stood behind him. “This is not an abstraction -- people will lose their jobs. The unemployment rate might tick up again.”

    The President called for “a balanced approach to deficit reduction,” which ends tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthy, while targeting wasteful spending in the process.

    Giving Every Child a Chance: Last Friday, President Obama headed home to Chicago to promote his proposals from the State of the Union address and emphasized the importance of protecting our children from gun violence, illustrating the importance of family in our communities.

    “And so that means that this is not just a gun issue. It’s also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building. And for that, we all share a responsibility, as citizens, to fix it.”

  • President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan deliver press statements

    President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan deliver press statements and take questions following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 22, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    Today, President Obama held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. "The U.S.-Japan alliance is the central foundation for our regional security and so much of what we do in the Pacific region," President Obama said.

    In the meeting, the two leaders discussed a range of security issues in the Asia Pacific region, and over lunch, talked about the close economic cooperation between our two countries. 

    "I know that Prime Minister Abe and I both agree that our number-one priority has to be making sure that we are increasing growth and making sure that people have the opportunity to prosper if they're willing to work hard in both our countries."

    Read the full remarks here.

  • In September 2009, the President announced that—for the first time in history—White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in November 2012. Today’s release also includes visitor records generated prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public in January 2013 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy. This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 3 million—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

    Ed. note: For more information, check out

  • This week, the President visited his old neighborhood in Chicago, conferred one of the nation's highest civilian honors, met with the President of Italy, and continued to urge Republicans to close tax loopholes for the wealthy to prevent dangerous across-the-board budget cuts that are slated to take effect on March 1st.

  • In eight days, harmful automatic cuts are slated to take effect, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs, and cutting vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform.

    Only Congress can avoid this self-inflicted wound to our economy and middle class families, and the only thing standing in the way of a solution today is Congressional Republicans’ refusal to even consider closing tax loopholes that benefit wealthy Americans and well-connected corporations. The President and Congressional Democrats have put forward solutions to avoid these cuts and allow time for both sides to work on a long-term, balanced solution to our deficit challenges. 

    The President is serious about cutting spending, reforming entitlements and the tax code to reduce the deficit in a balanced way.  The question is, will Congressional Republicans come to the table to get something done?

    Let’s take a moment to look what we’ve done so far: The President has already reduced the deficit by over $2.5 trillion, cutting spending by over $1.4 trillion, bringing domestic discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower era [see below]. As a result of these savings, together with a strengthening economy, the deficit is coming down at the fastest pace of anytime in American history other than the demobilization from World War II.