Posts Tagged ‘address

10
May
15

“We Can Overcome Anything That Stands In Our Way”

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The First Lady at Tuskegee University, May 09, 2015

“…… The road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me. Because while we’ve come so far, the truth is that those age-old problems are stubborn and they haven’t fully gone away. So there will be times, just like for those Airmen, when you feel like folks look right past you, or they see just a fraction of who you really are.

The world won’t always see you in those caps and gowns. They won’t know how hard you worked and how much you sacrificed to make it to this day – the countless hours you spent studying to get this diploma, the multiple jobs you worked to pay for school, the times you had to drive home and take care of your grandma, the evenings you gave up to volunteer at a food bank or organize a campus fundraiser. They don’t know that part of you.

Instead they will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world. And my husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be. We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives – the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the “help” – and those who have questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.

And I know that these little indignities are obviously nothing compared to what folks across the country are dealing with every single day – those nagging worries that you’re going to get stopped or pulled over for absolutely no reason; the fear that your job application will be overlooked because of the way your name sounds; the agony of sending your kids to schools that may no longer be separate, but are far from equal; the realization that no matter how far you rise in life, how hard you work to be a good person, a good parent, a good citizen – for some folks, it will never be enough.

And all of that is going to be a heavy burden to carry. It can feel isolating. It can make you feel like your life somehow doesn’t matter – that you’re like the invisible man that Tuskegee grad Ralph Ellison wrote about all those years ago. And as we’ve seen over the past few years, those feelings are real. They’re rooted in decades of structural challenges that have made too many folks feel frustrated and invisible. And those feelings are playing out in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson and so many others across this country.

But, graduates, today, I want to be very clear that those feelings are not an excuse to just throw up our hands and give up. Not an excuse. They are not an excuse to lose hope. To succumb to feelings of despair and anger only means that in the end, we lose.

But here’s the thing – our history provides us with a better story, a better blueprint for how we can win. It teaches us that when we pull ourselves out of those lowest emotional depths, and we channel our frustrations into studying and organizing and banding together – then we can build ourselves and our communities up. We can take on those deep-rooted problems, and together – together – we can overcome anything that stands in our way.”

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Posted already …. but these words can never be posted enough.

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The Full Speech

09
May
15

“I Can’t Wait To See How High You Soar”

@FLOTUS: These @TuskegeeUniv alums met Eleanor Roosevelt during her historic visit in 1941 to fly with the #TuskegeeAirmen

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The First Lady’s Commencement Address at Tuskegee University

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Thank you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much. (Applause.)  Let’s let our graduates rest themselves.  You’ve worked hard for those seats!  (Applause.)

Let me start by thanking President Johnson for that very gracious introduction, and for awarding me with this honorary degree from an extraordinary institution.  I am proud to have this degree — very proud.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

I want to recognize Major General Williams; Congresswoman Sewell; Zachary; Kalauna; to all of the trustees, the faculty, the staff here at Tuskegee University.  Thank you — thank you so much for this warm welcome, this tremendous hospitality.  And I’m so glad to be here.  (Applause.)

Before I begin, I just want to say that my heart goes out to everyone who knew and loved Eric Marks, Jr.  I understand he was such a talented young man, a promising aerospace engineer who was well on his way to achieving his dream of following in the footsteps of the Tuskegee Airmen.  And Eric was taken from us far too soon.  And our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with his family, his friends, and this entire community.  (Applause.)

I also have to recognize the Concert Choir.  Wow, you guys are good!  Well done!  (Applause.)  Beautiful song.  (Applause.) And I have to join in recognizing all the folks up in the stands — the parents, siblings, friends — (applause) — so many others who have poured their love and support into these graduates every step of the way.  Yeah, this is your day.  (Applause.)  Your day. (Applause.)

Now, on this day before Mother’s Day, I’ve got to give a special shout-out to all the moms here.  (Applause.)  Yay, moms! And I want you to consider this as a public service announcement for anyone who hasn’t bought the flowers or the cards or the gifts yet — all right?  I’m trying to cover you.  (Laughter.)  But remember that one rule is “keep mom happy.”  (Laughter.)  All right?  (Applause.)

And finally, most of all, I want to congratulate the men and women of the Tuskegee University Class of 2015!  (Applause.)    T-U!

AUDIENCE:  You know!

MRS. OBAMA:  I love that.  (Applause.)  We can do that all day.  (Laughter.)  I’m so proud of you all.  And you look good.  (Applause.)  Well done!

You all have come here from all across the country to study, to learn, maybe have a little fun along the way — from freshman year in Adams or Younge Hall — (applause) — to those late night food runs to The Coop.  (Applause.)  I did my research.  (Applause.)  To those mornings you woke up early to get a spot under The Shed to watch the Golden Tigers play.  (Applause.)  Yeah!  I’ve been watching!  (Laughter.)  At the White House we have all kinds of ways.  (Laughter.)

And whether you played sports yourself, or sang in the choir, or played in the band, or joined a fraternity or sorority — after today, all of you will take your spot in the long line of men and women who have come here and distinguished themselves and this university.

You will follow alums like many of your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles — leaders like Robert Robinson Taylor, a groundbreaking architect and administrator here who was recently honored on a postage stamp.  (Applause.)  You will follow heroes like Dr. Boynton Robinson — (applause) — who survived the billy clubs and the tear gas of Bloody Sunday in Selma.  The story of Tuskegee is full of stories like theirs — men and women who came to this city, seized their own futures, and wound up shaping the arc of history for African Americans and all Americans.

And I’d like to begin today by reflecting on that history — starting back at the time when the Army chose Tuskegee as the site of its airfield and flight school for black pilots.  (Applause.)

Back then, black soldiers faced all kinds of obstacles.  There were the so-called scientific studies that said that black men’s brains were smaller than white men’s.  Official Army reports stated that black soldiers were “childlike,” “shiftless,” “unmoral and untruthful,” and as one quote stated, “if fed, loyal and compliant.”

So while the Airmen selected for this program were actually highly educated — many already had college degrees and pilots licenses — they were presumed to be inferior.  During training, they were often assigned to menial tasks like housekeeping or landscaping.  Many suffered verbal abuse at the hands of their instructors.  When they ventured off base, the white sheriff here in town called them “boy” and ticketed them for the most minor offenses.  And when they finally deployed overseas, white soldiers often wouldn’t even return their salutes.

Just think about what that must have been like for those young men.  Here they were, trained to operate some of the most complicated, high-tech machines of their day — flying at hundreds of miles an hour, with the tips of their wings just six inches apart.  Yet when they hit the ground, folks treated them like they were nobody — as if their very existence meant nothing.

Now, those Airmen could easily have let that experience clip their wings.  But as you all know, instead of being defined by the discrimination and the doubts of those around them, they became one of the most successful pursuit squadrons in our military.  (Applause.)  They went on to show the world that if black folks and white folks could fight together, and fly together, then surely — surely — they could eat at a lunch counter together.  Surely their kids could go to school together. (Applause.)

You see, those Airmen always understood that they had a “double duty” — one to their country and another to all the black folks who were counting on them to pave the way forward.  (Applause.)  So for those Airmen, the act of flying itself was a symbol of liberation for themselves and for all African Americans.

One of those first pilots, a man named Charles DeBow, put it this way.  He said that a takeoff was — in his words — “a never-failing miracle” where all “the bumps would smooth off… [you’re] in the air… out of this world… free.”

And when he was up in the sky, Charles sometimes looked down to see black folks out in the cotton fields not far from here — the same fields where decades before, their ancestors as slaves. And he knew that he was taking to the skies for them — to give them and their children something more to hope for, something to aspire to.

And in so many ways, that never-failing miracle — the constant work to rise above the bumps in our path to greater freedom for our brothers and sisters — that has always been the story of African Americans here at Tuskegee.  (Applause.)

Just think about the arc of this university’s history.  Back in the late 1800s, the school needed a new dormitory, but there was no money to pay for it.  So Booker T. Washington pawned his pocket watch to buy a kiln, and students used their bare hands to make bricks to build that dorm — and a few other buildings along the way.  (Applause.)

A few years later, when George Washington Carver first came here for his research, there was no laboratory.  So he dug through trash piles and collected old bottles, and tea cups, and fruit jars to use in his first experiments.

Generation after generation, students here have shown that same grit, that same resilience to soar past obstacles and outrages — past the threat of countryside lynchings; past the humiliation of Jim Crow; past the turmoil of the Civil Rights era.  And then they went on to become scientists, engineers, nurses and teachers in communities all across the country — and continued to lift others up along the way.  (Applause.)

And while the history of this campus isn’t perfect, the defining story of Tuskegee is the story of rising hopes and fortunes for all African Americans.

And now, graduates, it’s your turn to take up that cause.  And let me tell you, you should feel so proud of making it to this day.  And I hope that you’re excited to get started on that next chapter.  But I also imagine that you might think about all that history, all those heroes who came before you — you might also feel a little pressure, you know — pressure to live up to the legacy of those who came before you; pressure to meet the expectations of others.

Continue reading ‘“I Can’t Wait To See How High You Soar”’

08
May
15

The President And First Lady’s Day

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President Barack Obama speaks to Nike Employees and other Oregonians at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. The President spoke about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pacts which include the U.S. in a trade agreement with 11 other nations

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U.S. President Barack Obama greets employees as he arrives to deliver remarks on trade at Nike's corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon May 8, 2015. Sports shoe maker Nike Inc put its weight behind Obama's push for a trade deal with Asian countries on Friday with a promise to create up to 10,000 U.S.-based manufacturing jobs if the pact is approved.    REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he arrives to deliver remarks on trade at Nike's corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon May 8, 2015. Sports shoe maker Nike Inc put its weight behind Obama's push for a trade deal with Asian countries on Friday with a promise to create up to 10,000 U.S.-based manufacturing jobs if the pact is approved.     REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

U.S. President Barack Obama high-fives employees after his remarks on trade at Nike corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon May 8, 2015. Obama on Friday pressed fellow Democrats to support his push for a trade deal with Asian countries, promoting the benefits he sees as attainable in a visit to sneaker maker Nike Inc, which promised the pact would help it create up to 10,000 U.S. jobs. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama takes off his coat after his remarks on trade at Nike corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon May 8, 2015. Obama on Friday pressed fellow Democrats to support his push for a trade deal with Asian countries, promoting the benefits he sees as attainable in a visit to sneaker maker Nike Inc, which promised the pact would help it create up to 10,000 U.S. jobs. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama high-fives a boy in the audience after his remarks on trade at Nike corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon May 8, 2015. Obama on Friday pressed fellow Democrats to support his push for a trade deal with Asian countries, promoting the benefits he sees as attainable in a visit to sneaker maker Nike Inc, which promised the pact would help it create up to 10,000 U.S. jobs. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President Barack Obama high-fives a little boy after his remarks on trade at Nike corporate headquarters

U.S. President Barack Obama bids farewell to employees after his remarks on trade at Nike corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon May 8, 2015. Obama on Friday pressed fellow Democrats to support his push for a trade deal with Asian countries, promoting the benefits he sees as attainable in a visit to sneaker maker Nike Inc, which promised the pact would help it create up to 10,000 U.S. jobs. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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First lady Michelle Obama, right, joined by Jill Biden speaks to an audience of mothers and children during their annual Mother’s Day Tea to honor military-connected mothers at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

First Lady Michelle Obama, joined by Dr. Jill Biden speaks to an audience of mothers and children during their annual Mother’s Day Tea to honor military-connected mothers at the White House

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First lady Michelle Obama poses for a selfie with Hannah Bajakian during the annual Mother’s Day Tea to honor military-connected mothers at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 8, 2015. Hannah's father, Todd Bajakian, leads the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Drum, N.Y. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

First lady Michelle Obama reacts as a little girl gives her a gift during the annual Mother’s Day Tea to honor military-connected mothers at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

First Lady Michelle Obama reacts as a little girl gives her a gift

Continue reading ‘The President And First Lady’s Day’

21
Jan
15

SOTU In 140 Characters

Obama JayZ

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This is President Obama’s anthem today. He is the illest of the ill!

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20
Jan
15

A Tweet Or Two: State Of The Union

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Continue reading ‘A Tweet Or Two: State Of The Union’

20
Nov
14

“We Were Strangers Once Too”

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My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities — people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.
Media strategy behind immigration speech

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President — the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me — that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.

First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.

Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.

Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable — especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants — in every state, of every race and nationality — will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest — tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.

As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”

President Obama speaks via video broadcast during the 15th annual Latin Grammy Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena

Now here’s the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes — you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.

That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive — only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today — millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.

That’s the real amnesty — leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability — a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose — a higher purpose.

Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.

Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?

Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America?

That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.

I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people — our neighbors, our classmates, our friends — they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.

Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant — so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows — until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid — or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?

Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal — that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

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