Posts Tagged ‘transcript

20
Aug
14

‘The Same Kid Who Got Stopped On The Freeway Is Now the AG Of The United States’

@ryanjreilly

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Attorney General Eric Holder in Ferguson today

(Excerpts from his remarks, as provided by the Justice Department)

“We have seen a great deal of progress over the years. But we also see problems and these problems stem from mistrust and mutual suspicion.

I just had the opportunity to sit down with some wonderful young people and to hear them talk about the mistrust they have at a young age.

These are young people and already they are concerned about potential interactions they might have with the police.

I understand that mistrust.

I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a black man. …I think about my time in Georgetown — a nice neighborhood of Washington — and I am running to a picture at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin.

Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, ‘Where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to a movie.’

Now my cousin started mouthing off; I’m like, ‘This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.’

I’m angry and upset.

We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie.

At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor.

I worked at the United States Department of Justice.

So I’ve confronted this myself.

We are starting here a good dialogue. But the reality is the dialogue is not enough. We need concrete action to change things in this country. That’s what I have been trying to do. That’s what the President has been trying to do.

We have a very active Civil Rights Division. I am proud of what these men and women have done. As they write about the legacy of the Obama administration, a lot of it is going to be about what the Civil Rights Division has done.

So this interaction must occur. This dialogue is important. But it can’t simply be that we have a conversation that begins based on what happens on August 9, and ends sometime in December, and nothing happens.

As I was just telling these young people, change is possible. The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the Attorney general of the United States.

This country is capable of change.

But change doesn’t happen by itself.”

18
Aug
14

The President’s Remarks on Ferguson

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Transcript of the President remarks on the situation in Ferguson

 Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with Governor Nixon as well as Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill. I also met with Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Justice Department has opened an independent federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown. They are on the ground and along with the FBI, they are devoting substantial resources to that investigation.

The attorney general himself will be travelling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation and he will receive an update from them on their progress.

He will also be meeting with other leaders in the community who’s support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson.

Ronald Davis, the director of the DOJ’s Office of Community- oriented Policing Services, or COPS, is also traveling to Ferguson tomorrow to work with police officials on the ground. We’ve also had experts from the DOJ’s community relations service, working in Ferguson since the days after the shooting to foster conversations among the local stake holders and reduce tensions among the community.

So, let me close just saying a few words about the tensions there. We have all seen images of protesters and law enforcement in the streets. It’s clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting. What’s also clear is that a small minority of individuals are not.

While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice.

Let me also be clear that our constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to report in the press must be vigilantly safeguarded: especially in moments like these. There’s no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully.

Ours is a nation of laws: of citizens who live under them and for the citizens who enforce them. So, to a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call once again for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other. Let’s seek to heal rather than to wound each other.

As Americans, we’ve got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that’s been laid bare by this moment. The potential of a young man and the sorrows of parents, the frustrations of a community, the ideals that we hold as one united American family.

I’ve said this before. In too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear. And through initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, I’m personally committed to changing both perception and reality. And already, we’re making some significant progress, as people of good will of all races are ready to chip in. But that requires that we build, and not tear down. And that requires we listen, and not just shout. That’s how we’re going to move forward together — by trying to unite each other and understand each other, and not simply divide ourselves from one another. We’re going to have to hold tight to those values in the days ahead. And that’s how we bring about justice, and that’s how we bring about peace.

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QUESTION: The incident in Ferguson has led to a discussion about whether it’s proper to militarize the nation’s city police forces. And I’m wondering whether you wonder, or if you think that — you see that as a factor regarding the police response in Ferguson. And also, do you agree with the decision by the governor to send in the National Guard?

PRESIDENT: Well, I think one of the great things about the United States has been our ability to maintain a distinction between our military and domestic law enforcement. That helps preserve our civil liberties. That helps ensure that the military is accountable to civilian direction. And that has to be preserved.

After 9/11, I think understandably a lot of folks saw local communities that were ill-equipped for a potential catastrophic terrorist attack. And I think people in Congress, people of good will, decided we gotta make sure they get proper equipment to deal with threats that historically wouldn’t arise in local communities.

And some of that’s been useful. I mean, some law enforcement didn’t have radios that they could operate effectively in the midst of a disaster. Some communities needed to prepared if in fact there was a chemical attack, and they didn’t have hazmat suits.

Having said that, I think it’s probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars, to make sure that what they’re — what they’re purchasing is stuff that they actually need. Because, you know, there is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don’t want those lines blurred. That would be contrary to our traditions.

And I think that there will be some bipartisan interest in reexamining some of those programs.

With respect to the National Guard, I think it’s important just to remember, this was a state-activated National Guard, so it’s under the charge of the governor. This is not something that we initiated at the federal level.

I spoke to Jay Nixon about this, expressed an interest in making sure that if in fact the National Guard is used, it is used in a limited and appropriate way. He described the support role that they’re gonna be providing to local law enforcement. And I’ll be watching over the next several days, to assess whether, in fact, it’s helping rather than hindering progress in Ferguson.

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ANN COMPTON: Let me ask you. This is an interesting time in your presidency …. and one of the things that you have so emphasized in the last few months, the last year or so, is this reach-out to Brothers — My Brother’s Keeper and to a generation that doesn’t feel that it has much chance. Sending the attorney general to Ferguson is a step. Has anyone there asked you, or have you considered going yourself? Is there more that you personally can do, not just for Ferguson, but for communities that might also feel that kind of tension and see it erupt in the way it has in Ferguson?

PRESIDENT: Well, Ann, obviously, we’ve seen events in which there’s a big gulf between community perceptions and law enforcement perceptions around the country. This is not something new. It’s always tragic when it involves the death of someone so young. I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed. Because, although these are, you know, issues of local jurisdiction — you know, the DOJ works for me. And then when they’re conducting an investigation, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other.

So, it’s hard for me to address a specific case, beyond making sure that it’s conducted in a way that isn’t (ph) transparent, where there’s accountability, where people can trust the process, hoping that, as a consequence of a fair and just process, you end up with a fair and just outcome.

But, as I think I’ve said in some past occasions, part of the ongoing challenge of perfecting our union has involved dealing with communities that feel left behind, who, as a consequence of tragic histories, often find themselves isolated, often find themselves without hope, without economic prospects.

You have young men of color in many communities who are more likely to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college.

And, you know, part of my job, that I can do, I think, without any potential conflicts, is to get at those root causes.

Now, that’s a big project. It’s one that we’ve been trying to carry out now for a couple of centuries. And we’ve made extraordinary progress, but we have not made enough progress.

And so, the idea behind something like My Brother’s Keeper is can we work with cities and communities and clergy and parents and young people themselves, all across the country, school superintendents, business, corporations, and can we find models that work, that move these young men on — on a better track?

Now part of that process is also looking at our criminal justice system to make sure that it is upholding the basic principle of everybody’s equal before the law.

And — and one of the things that we’ve looked at during the course of where we can make — during the course of investigating where we can make a difference is that there’re patterns that start early.

Young African American and Hispanic boys tend to get suspended from school at much higher rates than other kids, even when they’re in elementary school. They tend to have much more frequent interactions with the criminal justice system at an earlier age.

Sentencing may be different. How trials are conducted may be different.

And so, you know, one of the things that we’ve done is to include Department of Justice in this conversation under the banner of my brother’s keeper to see where can we start working with local communities to inculcate more trust, more confidence in the criminal justice system.

And — and I want to be — I want to be clear about this because sometimes I think there’s confusion around these issues and this dates back for — for decades.

There are young black men that commit crime. And — and — and we can argue about why that happens because of the poverty they were born into or the lack of opportunity or the school systems that failed them or what have you, but if they commit a crime, then they need to be prosecuted because every community has an interest in public safety.

And if you go into the African American community or the Latino community, some of the folks who are most intent on making sure that criminals are dealt with are people that have been preyed upon by them.

So, this is not an argument that there isn’t real crime out there and that law enforcement doesn’t have a difficult job. And you know, that they — you know, they have to be honored and respected for the danger and difficulty of law enforcement. But what is also true is that given the history of this country, where we can make progress in building up more confidence, more trust, making sure that our criminal justice system is acutely aware of the possibilities of disparities in treatment, there are safeguards in place to avoid those disparities where, you know, training and assistance is provided to local law enforcement who, you know, may just need more information in order to avoid potential disparity. All those things can make a difference.

One of the things I was most proud of when I was in the state legislature, way back when I had no grey hair and none of you could pronounce my name was, you know, I passed legislation requiring videotaping of interrogations and confessions. And I passed legislation dealing with racial profiling in Illinois.

And in both cases, we worked with local law enforcement. And the argument was that you can do a better job as a law enforcement official if you have built up credibility and trust. And there’s some basic things that can be done to promote that kind of trust, and you know, in some cases, it’s just a lack of information. And we want to make sure that we get that information to law enforcement.

So, there are things that can be done to improve the situation, but short term, obviously, right now what we have to do is make sure that the cause of justice and fair administration of the law is being brought to bear in Ferguson. In order to do that, we’ve got to make sure that we are able to distinguish between peaceful protesters who may have some legitimate grievances, and maybe longstanding grievances, and those who are using this tragic death as an excuse to engage in criminal behavior and tossing Molotov cocktails or looting stores. And that is a small minority of folks, and it may not even be residents of Ferguson, but they are damaging the cause. They are not advancing it.

All right? Thank you very much everybody.

03
Aug
14

The Economist: An Interview with the President

(Audio only)

Transcript here

Thank you @MagicalEarth

30
Jul
14

‘My Story Is The Story Of The Impossible Getting Done’

First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

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Remarks by the First Lady at the Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

“…. no matter where you all work, no matter what issue you focus on – whether it’s health or microfinance, human rights or clean energy – women’s equality must be a central part of your work.  It must. Because make no mistake about it, the work of transforming attitudes about women, it now falls on your shoulders. And it’s up to you all to embrace the future, and then drag your parents and grandparents along with you.

And I know this won’t be easy. I know that you will face all kinds of obstacles and resistance – you already have.  But when you get tired or frustrated, when things seem hopeless and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember the words of the man whom your fellowship is now named – and I know these words have been spoken many times.

As Madiba once said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

And I, oh, I know the truth of those words from my own history and from the history of my country.

My ancestors came here in chains. My parents and grandparents knew the sting of segregation and discrimination. Yet I attended some of the best universities in this country. I had career opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. And today, I live in the White House, a building — (applause) — but we must remember, we live in a home that was constructed by slaves.

Today, I watch my daughters – two beautiful African American girls – walking our dogs in the shadow of the Oval Office. And today, I have the privilege of serving and representing the United States of America across the globe.

So my story and the story of my country is the story of the impossible getting done. And I know that can be your story and that can be Africa’s story too. But it will take new energy, it will take new ideas, new leadership from young people like you.

We’ve done this because we believe in Africa, and we believe in all of you.  And understand we are filled with so much hope and so many expectations for what you will achieve.  You hold the future of your continent in your hands, and I cannot wait to see everything you will continue to accomplish in the years ahead.

Full transcript here

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 @JosephineKulea: Sitting next to you #FLOTUS round circle and listening your inspirational speech was the best moment

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Text of Remarks by the First Lady Before a Roundtable with Young African Leaders here

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27
Jul
14

10 Years Ago Tonight

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Barack Obama’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, July 27, 2004

Thank you so much. Thank you……

Thank you, Dick Durbin. You make us all proud.

On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely.

My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin- roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that’s shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before him.

While studying here my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas.

Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor, my grandfather signed up for duty, joined Patton’s army, marched across Europe. Back home my grandmother raised a baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA and later moved west, all the way to Hawaii, in search of opportunity.

And they too had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream born of two continents.

My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or “blessed,” believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success.

They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.

They’re both passed away now. And yet I know that, on this night, they look down on me with great pride.

And I stand here today grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my two precious daughters.

I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

That is the true genius of America, a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution; and that our votes will be counted — or at least, most of the time.

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and our commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers and the promise of future generations.

And fellow Americans, Democrats, Republicans, independents, I say to you, tonight, we have more work to do, for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that’s moving to Mexico, and now they’re having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay 7 bucks an hour; more to do for the father I met who was losing his job and chocking back the tears wondering how he would pay $4,500 a months for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits that he counted on; more to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her who have the grades, have the drive, have the will, but doesn’t have the money to go to college.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the people I meet in small towns and big cities and diners and office parks, they don’t expect government to solves all of their problems. They know they have to work hard to get a head. And they want to.

Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you: They don’t want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or by the Pentagon.

Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn.

They know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.

People don’t expect — people don’t expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John Kerry.

John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith and service because they’ve defined his life. From his heroic service to Vietnam to his years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we’ve seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us.

John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he offers them to companies creating jobs here at home.

John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves.

John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren’t held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields.

John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us.

And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option sometimes, but it should never be the first option.

You know, a while back, I met a young man named Seamus in a VFW hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, 6’2″, 6’3″, clear eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he’d joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week.

And as I listened to him explain why he had enlisted — the absolute faith he had in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service — I thought, this young man was all that any of us might ever hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Seamus as well as he’s serving us?

I thought of the 900 men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors who won’t be returning to their own hometowns. I thought of the families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one’s full income or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but still lacked long-term health benefits because they were Reservists.

When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they are going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return and to never, ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace and earn the respect of the world.

Now, let me be clear. Let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued. And they must be defeated.

John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure.

John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it’s not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.

If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child.

If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent.

If there’s an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief — it is that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper — that makes this country work.

It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: “E pluribus unum,” out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.

There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?

John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism here, the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it.

That’s not what I’m talking. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.

I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity.

I believe we can provide jobs for the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.

I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us.

America, tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do, if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president. And John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president. And this country will reclaim it’s promise. And out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.

Thank you very much, everybody.

God bless you.

Thank you.

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21
Jun
14

Governor O’Malley at the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention

 Gov. Martin O’Malley at today’s Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention – excerpts:

…. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of the cynicism. I’ve had enough of the apathy. I’ve had enough of us giving in to self-pity, small solutions and low expectations of one another.

Let’s remember who we are.

For 235 years, we have been the country that thrilled the world – and led the world – over and over again, in large part, by making ourselves stronger at home.

Don’t you think it’s time to do it again?

The patriots who made America great – did not pray for their president to fail, they prayed for their president to succeed.

Our founders didn’t belittle science and learning; they aspired to it.

They didn’t appeal to America’s fears; they inspired American courage.

And they would never — ever — abandon the war on poverty in order to declare a war on women,… a war on workers,… a war on immigrants,… a war on the sick,… and a war on hungry children.

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America is the greatest job-generating, opportunity-expanding nation ever created in the history of the free world.

But America cannot serve our children’s needs if our Republican brothers and sisters in Congress keep shutting us down and selling us short.

As Democrats – as Americans – we have an urgent responsibility today.

It’s about jobs.

It’s about a stronger middle class.

And it’s about giving our children a better future now.

The truth is, after Hoover, America needed Roosevelt. After Eisenhower, we needed Kennedy. After Reagan, we needed Clinton…

And after eight miserable years of George W. Bush, America needed Barack Obama.

No President since FDR inherited a worse economy, bigger job losses, as many wars, or as large a deficit as President Obama.

Thanks to his leadership – and to the leadership of Sen. Harkin and Congressional Democrats – America is moving forward again.

This month – our 51st month in a row of positive private sector job growth – the United States created 217,000 new jobs.

Job growth exceeded 200,000 for the fourth straight month last month, and businesses have now added over a million jobs so far this year.

But urgent work remains to be done.

And the cynical few who have hacked our democracy are digging in.

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Continue reading ‘Governor O’Malley at the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention’

07
Jun
14

The Warmest of Tributes

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First Lady Michelle Obama’s remarks at the Memorial Service for Dr Maya Angelou

Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  My heart is so full.  My heart is so full.  Bebe — Oprah, why did you do that?  Just why did you put me after this?  (Laughter.)

To the family, Guy, to all of you; to the friends; President Clinton; Oprah; my mother, Cicely Tyson; Ambassador Young — let me just share something with you.  My mother, Marian Robinson, never cares about anything I do.  (Laughter.)  But when Dr. Maya Angelou passed, she said, you’re going, aren’t you?  I said, well, Mom, I’m not really sure, I have to check with my schedule.  She said, you are going, right?  (Laughter.)  I said, well, I’m going to get back to you but I have to check with the people, figure it out.  I came back up to her room when I found out that I was scheduled to go, and she said, that’s good, now I’m happy.  (Laughter.)

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It is such a profound honor, truly, a profound honor, to be here today on behalf of myself and my husband as we celebrate one of the greatest spirits our world has ever known, our dear friend, Dr. Maya Angelou.

In the Book of Psalms it reads:  “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the Earth.”  What a perfect description of Maya Angelou, and the gift she gave to her family and to all who loved her.

She taught us that we are each wonderfully made, intricately woven, and put on this Earth for a purpose far greater than we could ever imagine.   And when I think about Maya Angelou, I think about the affirming power of her words.

The first time I read “Phenomenal Woman”, I was struck by how she celebrated black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before.  (Applause.)  Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace.  Her words were clever and sassy; they were powerful and sexual and boastful.  And in that one singular poem, Maya Angelou spoke to the essence of black women, but she also graced us with an anthem for all women –- a call for all of us to embrace our God-given beauty.

And, oh, how desperately black girls needed that message.  As a young woman, I needed that message.  As a child, my first doll was Malibu Barbie.  (Laughter.)  That was the standard for perfection.  That was what the world told me to aspire to.  But then I discovered Maya Angelou, and her words lifted me right out of my own little head.

Her message was very simple.  She told us that our worth has nothing to do with what the world might say.  Instead, she said, “Each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory.”  She reminded us that we must each find our own voice, decide our own value, and then announce it to the world with all the pride and joy that is our birthright as members of the human race.

Dr. Angelou’s words sustained me on every step of my journey –- through lonely moments in ivy-covered classrooms and colorless skyscrapers; through blissful moments mothering two splendid baby girls; through long years on the campaign trail where, at times, my very womanhood was dissected and questioned.  For me, that was the power of Maya Angelou’s words –- words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the White House.  (Applause.)

And today, as First Lady, whenever the term “authentic” is used to describe me, I take it as a tremendous compliment, because I know that I am following in the footsteps of great women like Maya Angelou.  But really, I’m just a beginner — I am baby-authentic.  (Laughter.)  Maya Angelou, now she was the original, she was the master.  For at a time when there were such stifling constraints on how black women could exist in the world, she serenely disregarded all the rules with fiercely passionate, unapologetic self.  She was comfortable in every last inch of her glorious brown skin.

But for Dr. Angelou, her own transition was never enough.  You see, she didn’t just want to be phenomenal herself, she wanted all of us to be phenomenal right alongside her.  (Applause.)  So that’s what she did throughout her lifetime -– she gathered so many of us under her wing.  I wish I was a daughter, but I was right under that wing sharing her wisdom, her genius, and her boundless love.

I first came into her presence in 2008, when she spoke at a campaign rally here in North Carolina.  At that point, she was in a wheelchair, hooked up to an oxygen tank to help her breathe.  But let me tell you, she rolled up like she owned the place.  (Laughter.)  She took the stage, as she always did, like she’d been born there.  And I was so completely awed and overwhelmed by her presence I could barely concentrate on what she was saying to me.

But while I don’t remember her exact words, I do remember exactly how she made me feel.  (Applause.)  She made me feel like I owned the place, too.  She made me feel like I had been born on that stage right next to her.  And I remember thinking to myself, “Maya Angelou knows who I am, and she’s rooting for me.  So, now I’m good.  I can do this.  I can do this.”  (Applause.)

And that’s really true for us all, because in so many ways, Maya Angelou knew us.  She knew our hope, our pain, our ambition, our fear, our anger, our shame.  And she assured us that despite it all –- in fact, because of it all -– we were good.  And in doing so, she paved the way for me and Oprah and so many others just to be our good, old, black-woman selves.  (Applause.)

She showed us that eventually, if we stayed true to who we are, then the world would embrace us.  (Applause.)  And she did this not just for black women, but for all women, for all human beings.  She taught us all that it is okay to be your regular old self, whatever that is –- your poor self, your broken self, your brilliant, bold, phenomenal self.

(Dr Angelou’s final tweet)

That was Maya Angelou’s reach.  She touched me.  She touched all of you.  She touched people all across the globe, including a young white woman from Kansas who named her daughter after Maya, and raised her son to be the first black President of the United States.  (Applause.)

So when I heard that Dr. Angelou had passed, while I felt a deep sense of loss, I also felt a profound sense of peace.  Because there is no question that Maya Angelou will always be with us, because there was something truly divine about Maya.  I know that now, as always, she is right where she belongs.

May her memory be a blessing to us all.  Thank you.  God bless.  (Applause.)

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04
May
14

President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner

President Obama speaks at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner

Thank You. Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Everyone, please have a seat. Have a seat.

Before I get started, can we get the new presidential set up out here? [Laughter] It has worked before. [Laughter] That is more like it.

It is great to be back. What a year, huh? I usually start these dinners with a few self-deprecating jokes. After my stellar 2013, what can I possibly talk about? [Laughter]

I admit it — last year was rough. Sheesh. [Laughter]

At one point, things got so bad, the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize. [Laughter]

Of course, we rolled out Healthcare.gov. That could have gone better. [Laughter]

In 2008, my slogan was “Yes, we can.” In 2013, my slogan was “Control, alt, delete.” [Laughter]

On the plus side, they did turn the launch of Healthcare.gov into one of the year’ s biggest movies. [Laughter] But rather than dwell on the past, I would like to pivot to this dinner.

Let’s welcome our headliner this evening, Joel McHale. [Applause] On “Community,” Joel plays a preening, self-obsessed narcissist, so this dinner must be a real change of pace for you. [Laughter] I want to thank the White House Correspondents Association for hosting us here tonight. I am happy to be here, even though I am a little jet-lagged from my trip to Malaysia. The lengths we have to go to to get CNN coverage these days. [Laughter] [applause]

I think they are still searching for their tables. [Laughter] [applause]

MSNBC is here. [Applause] They are a little overwhelmed. They’ve never seen an audience this big before. [Laughter]

Look, everyone is trying to keep up with this incredibly fast-changing media landscape. For example, I got a lot of grief on cable news for promoting Obamacare to young people on “Between Two Ferns.” But that’s what young people like to watch. And to be fair, I am not the first person on television between two potted plants. [Laughter] [applause]

Sometimes I do feel disrespected by you reporters. But that’s OK. Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman is here tonight, and he gave me some great tips on how to handle it. Jake Tapper, don’t you ever talk about me like that! I am the best president in the game! What do you think, Richard, was that good? [Laughter] A little more feeling next time. [Laughter]

While we are talking sports, just last month, a wonderful story. An American won the Boston Marathon for the first time in 30 years. [Applause] Which was inspiring and only fair since a Kenyan has been president for the last six. We have to even things out.

We have some other athletes here tonight, including Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Jamie Anderson is here. We are proud of her. Incredibly talented young lady. Michelle and I watch the Olympics, we cannot believe what these folks do. Death-defying feats. We haven’t seen somebody pull a 180 that fast since Rand Paul disinvitied that disgruntled rancher from this dinner. [laughter]

As a general rule, things don’t end well if the sentence starts, “Let me tell you something I know about the negro.” You don’t really need to hear the rest of it. [Laughter] Just a tip for you. Don’ t start your sentence that way. [Laughter]

Speaking of Rand Paul, — [laughter] Colorado legalized marijuana this year. An interesting social experiment. I do hope it does not lead to a bunch of paranoid people who think the federal government is out to get them and listening to their phone calls. [Laughter] That would be a problem. [Laughter]

And speaking of conservative heroes, the Koch brothers bought a table here tonight. But they used a shadowy right-wing organization as a front. Hello, Fox News. [Laughter] [applause] I’m just kidding. Let’s face it, Fox, you’ l miss me when I’ m gone. [Laughter] It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya. [Laughter] [applause]

A lot of us really are concerned about the way that money is influencing our politics. I remember when a super pack with me was buying Marlboro 100s instead of regulars. [Laughter] Of course, now that it is 2014, Washington is obsessed on the midterms. Folks are saying that with my sagging poll numbers, my fellow democrats don’t really want me campaigning with them. I don’t think that is true, although I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a speaker at career day and she invited Bill Clinton. [Laughter] I was a little hurt by that.

Both sides are doing whatever it takes to win. The ruthless game. Republicans — this is a true story. Republicans actually brought in a group consultant to teach their candidates how to speak to women. This is true. I don’t know if it’ll work for women, but I understand America’s teenage boys are signing up to run for the Senate in droves. [Laughter] [applause]

Anyway, while you guys focus on the horse race, I’m going to do what I do. I will be focused on everyday Americans. Just yesterday I read a heartbreaking letter. I get letters from folks around the country every day. I get 10 that I read. This one got me. A Virginia man who’s been stuck in the same part-time job for years. No respect from his boss. There was no chance to get ahead. I really wish Eric Cantor would stop writing me. You can just pick up the phone, Eric. [Laughter] [applause]

I am feeling sorry, believe it and not, for the Speaker of the House. These days, the House Republicans give John Boehner a harder time than they give me. Which means orange really is the new black. [Laughter] [applause]

But I have not given up the idea of working with Congress. In fact, two weeks ago, Senator Ted Cruz and I, we got a bill done together and I have to say the signing ceremony was something special. We got a picture of it I think. [Laughter]

Look, I know. Washington seems more dysfunctional than ever. Gridlock has gotten so bad in this town, you have to wonder what did we do to piss off Chris Christie so bad? [Laughter]

One issue, for example, we haven’t been able to agree on is unemployment insurance. Republicans continue to refuse to extend it. You know what, I am beginning to think they have a point. If you don’t want to get paid while not working, you should have to run for Congress just like everybody else. [Laughter] [applause]

There is one thing that keeps Republicans busy. They have tried more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare. Despite that, 8 million people signed up for healthcare in the first open enrollment. [Applause] Which does lead one to ask, how well does Obamacare have to work before you don’t want to repeal it? What if everyone’s cholesterol drops to 120? What if your yearly checkup came with tickets to a Clippers’ game? Not the old Donald Sterling Clippers, the new Oprah Clippers. What if it gave Mitch McConnell a pulse? What is it going to take?

Anyway, this year I have promised to use more executive actions to get things done without Congress. My critics call this the imperial presidency. Truth is I just show up every day at my office and do my job. We have a picture of this, I think? [Laughter] [applause]

You would think they would appreciate a more assertive approach, considering that the new conservative darling is non other than Vladimir Putin. Last year, Pat Buchanan said Putin’s headed straight for the Nobel Peace Prize. He said this. Now I know it sounds crazy but to be fair they give those to just about anybody these days. It could happen. [Laughter] [applause]

But it’s not just Pat, Rudy Giuliani said, “Putin is what you would call a leader. Mike Huckabee and Shawn Hannity keep talking about his bare chest, which is kind of weird. [Laughter] [applause] Look it up. They talk about it a lot. [Laughter]

It is strange to think that I have just two and a half years left in this office. Everywhere I look there are reminders that I only hold this job temporarily. [Laughter] But, it is a long time between now and 2016. And anything can happen. You may have heard the other day that Hillary had to dodge a flying shoe at a press conference. [Laughter]

I love that picture.

Regardless of what happens, I’ve run my last campaign. I’m beginning to think about my legacy. Some of you know that Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced that he’s naming a high school after me in Chicago. I was even more flattered to hear that Rick Perry, who is here tonight, is doing the same thing in Texas. Take a look. [Laughter] Thank you, Rick. It means a lot to me.

I intend to enjoy all the free time that I will have. George W. Bush took up painting after he left office. It inspired me to take up own artistic side. I am sure we have a shot of this. Maybe not. The joke does not work without the slide. [Laughter] Oh well. Assume that it was funny. [Laughter] Does this happen to you Joel? It does, OK.

On a serious note, tonight reminds us that we are lucky to live in a country where reporters can give a head of state a hard time on a daily basis. And once a year give him or her the chance at least to return the favor. We also know that not every journalist or photographer or crew member is so fortunate. Even as we celebrate the free press tonight, our thoughts are with those in places around the globe like Ukraine and Afghanistan and Syria and Egypt. People who risk everything. In some cases even give their lives to report the news. And what tonight also reminds us is that the fight for full and fair access goes beyond the chance to ask a question.

As Steve mentioned, decades ago an African-American who wanted to cover his or her president might be barred from journalism school. Burdened by Jim Crow. And once in Washington banned from press conferences. After years of effort, black editors and publishers began meeting with FDR’s press secretary, Steve Irving. They met with the president himself, who declared that a black reporter would get a credential. Even when Harry McAlpin made history as the first African-American to attend a presidential news conference, he was not always welcomed by the other reporters. But he was welcomed by the president, who told him, “I’m glad to see you McAlpin.” I’m very happy to have you here.” Now that sentiment might have worn off once Harry asked him a question or two. And Harry’s battles continued, but he made history.

We are so proud of Sherman and his family for being here tonight and the White House Correspondents Association for creating the scholarship in Harry’s name. [Applause] For over 100 years, even as the White House Correspondents Association has told the story of America’s progress, you’ve lived it too. Gradually allowing equal access to women, minorities, gays and Smericans with disabilities. Yes, radio and television and Internet reporters as well. Through it all you’ve helped make sure that even as societies change, our fundamental commitment to the interaction between those who govern and those who ask questions doesn’t change. And as Jay will attest, it’s a legacy that you carry on enthusiastically every single day.

Because this is the 100th anniversary of the Correspondents Association, I actually recorded an additional brief video thanking you for all your hard work. Can we run the video?

What is going on? I was told this would work. Does anybody know how to fix this? Thank you. [Laughter] Do you have it?

Kathleen Sebelius: I got this. I see it all the time. There. That should work.

Congratulations to the White House Correspondents. Here is to 100 more years.

Thank you very much, everybody.. Bless you. [Applause] [laughter] [laughter] [applause]

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18
Dec
13

Remarks by the President and First Lady on Obamacare

@FLOTUS: Today, the First Lady joined President Obama to meet with moms who are doing great work to help kids #GetCovered

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Remarks by the President and First Lady after Meeting with Moms on the Affordable Care Act

THE PRESIDENT: Michelle and I just had a wonderful conversation with this group of moms and one aunt who have been working tirelessly out there on behalf of our mission, which is to make sure that everybody in America, regardless of where they live, their background, that they are able to get high-quality health care coverage that provides them with financial protection and looks after them when they get sick.

And obviously, over the last couple of months, we had a rocky start with the website and all this. Despite that, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people signing up, more and more every single day, in part because we’ve got these wonderful folks like the people we met with today who are out there telling their personal stories — what it’s like when a son gets sick and you have to make sure that not only are you providing the care that they need now, but also making sure that in the future they’re going to be able to get health care because they’ve got a preexisting condition; knowing what it’s like to be in a position where your child is transitioning from college to the workplace and maybe their first job is part-time or they’re working two part-time jobs, so they’re doing everything they can to be responsible but they still can’t get health care on the job.

And I think this conversation really drove home in a very personal way why this is important. Sometimes here in Washington, this is a very abstract conversation or an entirely political conversation. But when you boil it down to stories and people hear what it means to have the security of solid health insurance at an affordable price when you need it, it reminds me at least of why we’ve been fighting so hard to get this done.

And we anticipate that there’s still going to be challenges over the coming months and we’re going to continue to find ways to smooth out this transition and make sure that people know what the Affordable Care Act is actually about. But we’re absolutely confident that the demand is there, the need is there, and the more people learn about the fact that we’ve got 3 million young people who are able to stay on their parents’ plan until they’re 26, or the more they learn about the free preventive care that can avoid illness in the first place, or the more that they hear about the fact that there are no lifetime limits so if you end up having a really severe illness you’re not going to be hurt with a bunch of fine print — the more information they get I think the more satisfied they’re going to be that this was the right thing to do and that it’s been worth the fight.

And the last point I would just make — and I know, Michelle, you want to say a little bit — is what we communicated to the women here is there’s something about moms — (laughter) — that, number one, they’ve got credibility generally; number two, women oftentimes are the ones who are making the health care decisions of the family; number three, moms can tell young people who think they’re invincible that they’re not and prod them to at least get information.

So as much as here in the White House we’re going to continue to promote the Affordable Care Act, as much as we’re going to be working hard with other organizations like AARP and others around the country to make sure people are signing up, nothing can replace the story that Mary Todd is telling in the grocery store to somebody who may be skeptical. And that kind of face-to-face interaction makes this concrete and it describes exactly why this is so important.

So I just want to say to all the women here who have been telling their stories and working with others to make sure that people get good information, we are grateful. It’s a great gift, what you’re doing, and we’re really, really appreciative.

MRS. OBAMA: The words that come to mind for me are peace of mind. And what the Affordable Care Act provides and can provide for so many families out there is peace of mind. This isn’t about politics; it’s about making sure that every family has the peace of mind to know that if a child gets sick, or someone loses a job, or someone has an illness that requires hundreds of thousands of dollars in coverage, that they’re going to have the safety net that they need to make sure that they don’t lose their home, that they aren’t spending the rest of their lives paying off medical fees.

And as Barack said, your stories are powerful. And it’s our job as mothers to make sure that our young people are informed about their “invincibility,” to make sure that other moms and families out there really understand what this law provides and that they can take advantage of it. This is the beauty of it. People have choices. They can go on to the website; they can talk to a navigator; they can learn for themselves what the law means and what it doesn’t mean. And that’s really, really what we want people to do, is educate yourselves. Get that education. Make the choice that’s best for your family, because the options are there.

So we are, again, very grateful to you all. And we urge everyone out there who has a story to share it. And we urge people to reach out. And if they’ve signed up their child, then sign up their friends. If you’ve got grandkids, make it a Christmas treat around the table to talk about a little health care. (Laughter.) Ring in the New Year with new coverage. (Laughter.)

But we can really change the face of health care in this country. We can be a country that focuses on prevention. We can be a country where no one goes bankrupt because they get sick. And that is a worthwhile goal. So thank you all for being a part of this.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you guys.

Q Mrs. Obama, why did you want to be involved in the health care push?

MRS. OBAMA: Because I’m a mom.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you guys. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year.

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