Archive for the 'Articles' Category

24
Aug
16

First Lady Michelle Obama: Leader. Icon. Change Maker.

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Ted Johnson: Michelle Obama Interview: How FLOTUS Used Pop Culture Stardom To Make An Impact

“What I have never been afraid of is to be a little silly, and you can engage people that way,” Obama says in an interview with Variety in her upstairs White House office, decorated in an eclectic mix of abstract art and framed mementos from her tenure. “My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen.  Has it worked? A case in point: The Carpool Karaoke segment highlighted one of Obama’s key initiatives, Let Girls Learn, a worldwide plan of action to promote girls’ access to education. She and Corden also sang “This Is for My Girls,” According to Nielsen, digital sales of “This Is for My Girls” climbed a whopping 1,562% in the week after the segment aired. And it generated almost 40 million views on YouTube. Her first major push to engage the entertainment community came in June 2011, when she appeared at the Writers Guild of America, West to talk about her initiative to support military families, called Joining Forces, and to encourage content creators to incorporate stories about military families in their shows and movies. “Army Wives” creator Katherine Fugate says that shows like “Glee” and “Grey’s Anatomy” followed suit by featuring episodes with military characters. She credits the first lady’s ability to connect with audiences — and with people individually.

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“For so many people, television and movies may be the only way they understand people who aren’t like them,” she says. “And when I come across many little black girls who come up to me over the course of this 7½ years with tears in their eyes, and they say: ‘Thank you for being a role model for me. I don’t see educated black women on TV, and the fact that you’re first lady validates who I am….’”She adds, “My mom says it all the time: ‘People are so enamored of Michelle and Barack Obama.’ And she says, ‘There are millions of Michelle and Barack Obamas.’ We’re not new. We’re not special. People who come from intact families who are educated, who have values, who care for their kids, who raise their kids — if you don’t see that on TV, and you don’t live in communities with people like me, you never know who we are, and you can make and be susceptible to all sorts of assumptions and stereotypes and biases, based on nothing but what you see and hear on TV. So it becomes very important for the world to see different images of each other, so that, again, we can develop empathy and understanding.”

More here

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08
Aug
16

‘This Is What A Feminist Looks Like’

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Barack Obama: “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like”

There are a lot of tough aspects to being President. But there are some perks too. Meeting extraordinary people across the country. Holding an office where you get to make a difference in the life of our nation. Air Force One. But perhaps the greatest unexpected gift of this job has been living above the store. for the past seven and a half years, that commute has been reduced to 45 seconds—the time it takes to walk from my living room to the Oval Office. As a result, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time watching my daughters grow up into smart, funny, kind, wonderful young women. The progress we’ve made in the past 100 years, 50 years, and, yes, even the past eight years has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers. And I say that not just as President but also as a feminist. Now, the most important people in my life have always been women. I was raised by a single mom, who spent much of her career working to empower women in developing countries.

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I watched as my grandmother, who helped raise me, worked her way up at a bank only to hit a glass ceiling. I’ve seen how Michelle has balanced the demands of a busy career and raising a family. Like many working mothers, she worried about the expectations and judgments of how she should handle the trade-offs, knowing that few people would question my choices. So we need to break through these limitations. We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs. We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women. As a parent, helping your kids to rise above these constraints is a constant learning process. Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard or feel unfairly judged based on their gender or race—or when they notice that happening to someone else. It’s important for them to see role models out in the world who climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose. And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.

More here

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31
Jul
16

What True Sacrifice Looks Like

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Ghazala Khan: Trump Criticized My Silence. He Knows Nothing About True Sacrifice

Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart. Donald Trump said I had nothing to say. I do. My son Humayun Khan, an Army captain, died 12 years ago in Iraq. He loved America, where we moved when he was 2 years old. He had volunteered to help his country, signing up for the ROTC at the University of Virginia. This was before the attack of Sept. 11, 2001. He didn’t have to do this, but he wanted to.

The last time I spoke to my son was on Mother’s Day 2004. We had asked him to call us collect whenever he could. I begged him to be safe. I asked him to stay back, and not to go running around trying to become a hero, because I knew he would do something like that. He said, “Mom, these are my soldiers, these are my people. I have to take care of them.” He was killed by a car bomber outside the gates of his base. He died trying to save his soldiers and innocent civilians. Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.

More here

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30
Jul
16

Captain Humayun Khan: Son, Friend, Muslim, Hero

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Jacqueline O’Boomer

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Our Muslim Soldier

When he was young in his country of birth
His loving mother would tell her friends
This day my son took his first steps
And the next day he would
Try again and take two more
And within a short amount of time
In a year that seems like forever ago
He was walking toward me
One step, five, ten steps.
Ten steps.

The father wanted to pursue
Some of his own dreams
For higher education and
To provide a happy life
For his family
And brought them to our country.

They learned our culture
They made the most of it
They pocketed our Constitution
They became like us
Our neighbors, co-workers, friends
Exactly as some of our ancestors
Who were immigrants
To the land of the free
The home of the brave
The place most of us
Take for granted.

In time, this son took more steps
As an American
Learned from his parents
How to care for others around him
In high school helped disabled children
Learn to swim
Learned from the Army recruiter
How he could further give back
Could become a soldier, himself
Law school could wait as he would
Offer a few years to the country
Where he had walked and grown.

The young soldier served his tour
And was set to serve another
And traveled to what is referred to as
“The cradle of civilization”
To fulfill his wartime duties
And his parents asked him
To stay home where he had once been
And always would be
Cradled in their loving embrace.

He said he had to go.
Our young Muslim soldier had to go.
He had to support his troops
He had to go.
One day a challenge occurred
And he looked it in the eye
To save the Muslims on one side of the wall
And to save his troops on the other
He held up his hand and
Marched into battle alone
He marched into battle
They say he took ten steps
Ten steps
And saved everyone
Hearing the story we
Can only ask ourselves
How many of us
Would have had
Such courage.

As we sit and learn of his life
Of his parents’ grief and our country’s loss
One thing we know for sure
He believed in a God who would welcome him
If he lived a good life
A good and civil life
And if his constitution stayed strong
One thing we can imagine at the end
As his parents grieved and
Temporarily gave him up
Our Muslim Soldier heard the
Invitation into heaven
And it was a voice calling out to him
Or it was a feeling he got
That it was time to take
Those last ten steps
And he would indeed
Be home again.
Mission done.
Boots on.

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U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan
1976-2004
American Hero
Our Muslim Soldier

25
Jul
16

President Obama Gives A Progress Report On ObamaCare

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Barack Obama, JD: United States Health Care Reform. Progress To Date And Next Steps

Importance The Affordable Care Act is the most important health care legislation enacted in the United States since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The law implemented comprehensive reforms designed to improve the accessibility, affordability, and quality of health care. Objectives To review the factors influencing the decision to pursue health reform, summarize evidence on the effects of the law to date, recommend actions that could improve the health care system, and identify general lessons for public policy from the Affordable Care Act. Evidence Analysis of publicly available data, data obtained from government agencies, and published research findings. The period examined extends from 1963 to early 2016. Findings The Affordable Care Act has made significant progress toward solving long-standing challenges facing the US health care system related to access, affordability, and quality of care. Since the Affordable Care Act became law, the uninsured rate has declined by 43%, from 16.0% in 2010 to 9.1% in 2015, primarily because of the law’s reforms. Research has documented accompanying improvements in access to care (for example, an estimated reduction in the share of nonelderly adults unable to afford care of 5.5 percentage points), financial security (for example, an estimated reduction in debts sent to collection of $600-$1000 per person gaining Medicaid coverage),

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and health (for example, an estimated reduction in the share of nonelderly adults reporting fair or poor health of 3.4 percentage points). The law has also begun the process of transforming health care payment systems, with an estimated 30% of traditional Medicare payments now flowing through alternative payment models like bundled payments or accountable care organizations. These and related reforms have contributed to a sustained period of slow growth in per-enrollee health care spending and improvements in health care quality. Despite this progress, major opportunities to improve the health care system remain. Conclusions and Relevance Policy makers should build on progress made by the Affordable Care Act by continuing to implement the Health Insurance Marketplaces and delivery system reform, increasing federal financial assistance for Marketplace enrollees, introducing a public plan option in areas lacking individual market competition, and taking actions to reduce prescription drug costs. Although partisanship and special interest opposition remain, experience with the Affordable Care Act demonstrates that positive change is achievable on some of the nation’s most complex challenges.

More here

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Good summary in the NYT

15
Jul
16

The President’s Thinking Hours

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Michael D. Shear: Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone

“Are you up?” The emails arrive late, often after 1 a.m., tapped out on a secure BlackBerry from an email address known only to a few. The weary recipients know that once again, the boss has not yet gone to bed. The late-night interruptions from President Obama might be sharply worded questions about memos he has read. Sometimes they are taunts because the recipient’s sports team just lost. Last month it was a 12:30 a.m. email to Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, and Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, telling them he had finished reworking a speechwriter’s draft of presidential remarks for later that morning. Mr. Obama had spent three hours scrawling in longhand on a yellow legal pad an angry condemnation of Donald J. Trump’s response to the attack in Orlando, Fla., and told his aides they could pick up his rewrite at the White House usher’s office when they came in for work. Mr. Obama calls himself a “night guy,” and as president, he has come to consider the long, solitary hours after dark as essential as his time in the Oval Office.

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He works on speeches. He reads the stack of briefing papers delivered at 8 p.m. by the National Security Council staff secretary. He reads 10 letters from Americans chosen each day by his staff. “He is thoroughly predictable in having gone through every piece of paper that he gets,” said Tom Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser from 2010 to 2013. “You’ll come in in the morning, it will be there: questions, notes, decisions.”  One night last June, Cody Keenan, the president’s chief speechwriter, had just returned home from work at 9 p.m. and ordered pizza when he heard from the president: “Can you come back tonight?” Mr. Keenan met the president in the usher’s office on the first floor of the residence, where the two worked until nearly 11 p.m. on the president’s eulogy for nine African-Americans fatally shot during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Three months earlier, Mr. Keenan had had to return to the White House when the president summoned him — at midnight — to go over changes to a speech Mr. Obama was to deliver in Selma, Ala., on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when protesters were brutally beaten by the police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. “There’s something about the night,” Mr. Keenan said, reflecting on his boss’s use of the time. “It’s smaller. It lets you think.”

More here

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14
Jul
16

Children In Search Of Refuge

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Gazelle’s thoughts on the recent events

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Gazelle

Children In Search Of Refuge

As a child, a refugee child,
My Mama taught me Caution.
Run from the marauders of the streets,
Especially those carrying guns
Beyond their natural height.
Run from machete wielding persona.
Run from The Toothless Angered,
They’re mastered by the powers du jour.
Run for dear life.
If speed is of essence,
Drop your school books upon the dusty path,
Run!
Make it home,
To your Mama’s anxious arms.
Pray you do,
And live another hour

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As a child, an American child,
The ghosts of yonder history hovered.
Waiting their turn to fully manifest,
Yet again.

My Mama taught me,
Before I was double digits,
To be cautious out there.
The marauders, the ghosts, the egregious,
The Toothless Angered
Will menace my being.
Don’t run for dear life.
Learn to stay still

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There is nowhere to run.
Nowhere to stay still,
Except in shocked death.
No school books dropped on a dusty road,
They lay stained in unrequited blood along the school hallway.
Bullet strewn sidewalks splatter my paths.
The Toothless Angered
Are again mastered,
The daily Puppets of Avarice

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets children in audience of the obstacle course during the National Day of Play on the Ellipse outside the White House in Washington, DC Sept. 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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Sanctuary is a scarcity in my universe
While The Toothless Angered,
With ample, unjustified impunity,
Continue to menace my being.

Pray I make it home Today, and all Tomorrows,
To my Mama’s anxious arms,
So I can hug her.
And just once, of many more, say
I love you Always

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13
Jul
16

Ieshia Evans On The Bayou

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Jacqueline OBoomer

Ieshia Evans on the Bayou

The ones who were afraid in Baton Rouge
Were the ones carrying the “red sticks”
Not the warrior queen who visited from the north
On behalf of her five-year old son
So she might invest in
His having a better life.

A better life
Than the sons of other mothers
She had gone there to mourn with
And stand proudly for.

She repelled the “red sticks”
Who were few in number
But seemed to grow into
A wall before her
As she stood her ground
Quietly in front of them.

She was a nurse who cared for others
Who said she was now “a vessel”
Doing God’s work.

The young queen arrived in regal garb
Regal in that it adorned her presence
Regal in that it could almost be said
To adorn ours.
She dressed for the moment
So that – standing in the hot sun
Of righteousness and pride –
She could feel as though
She were floating
In God’s air
In Baton Rouge.

The “red sticks” took her away
Took her away from her son
Took her away from her duties
Took her away from the cameras
And the tributes.

But the imprint she left
In the hearts and minds and souls
Of all of us
Remains
As though someone had gone out
And built a statue
Of a modern-day goddess
In every town in America.

The young queen
In the flowing garb
With diamonds in her closed eyes
With grief in her open heart
Sharing the secret:
How to be a woman
How to be a mother
How to be the vessel
How to show us the way
To Baton Rouge.

She stood silently on the gravel
She never spoke
But when we close our eyes
We can almost hear her say
“Ain’t I a woman?”
So that someday her son may say
“I am a man.”

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26
Jun
16

The Intimacy Of A Hug

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Julie Hirschfeld Davis: Long And Genuine’ Hugs: Shooting Victims’ Relatives Recall Obama’s Empathy

The wrenching ritual has become all too familiar to President Obama. His armored limousine deposits him at a nondescript building big enough to hold a large number of families whose loved ones have died in a mass shooting somewhere in America. Away from the news cameras that normally track his every interaction, he enters rooms thick with grief and the hushed voices of people in shock. He grasps for words of sympathy, comfort and condolence and offers long, tight embraces that the mourners will remember far more vividly than his words. Mr. Obama will travel to Orlando, Fla., on Thursday for the latest round of mass consoling, four days after a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 at a gay nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in American history. “He hugged each one of us individually — and I mean hug, so that I was able to smell his cologne,” said Sharon Risher, 57, who lost her mother,

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Ethel Lance, and two cousins in the shooting in Charleston, S.C., last year, and met privately with Mr. Obama the next week. “It was not a little pat on the back. The intimacy of that hug is what I’ll always remember.”  Roxanna Green — whose 9-year-old daughter, Christina-Taylor Green, was one of six people killed in a 2011 shooting in a supermarket parking lot in Tuscon, Ariz., where Representative Gabrielle Giffords was holding an event — said she had campaigned for Mr. Obama with her daughter and mother and had often dreamed of meeting him. “But you never want to receive a visit like that from anybody,” Ms. Green, 50, said in an interview. “Their hugs were just long and genuine, like something you receive from a family member,” she said of Mr. and Mrs. Obama. “He said she was a beautiful girl, and he’s so sorry, and it was just a horrible loss and his girls are about the same age,” she recalled. “They were both very, very emotional. It was like it happened to someone in their family.”

More here

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U.S. President Barack Obama sheds a tear while delivering a statement on steps the administration is taking to reduce gun violence in the East Room of the White House in Washington January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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19
Jun
16

Happy Father’s Day: Dad-In-Chief

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Joshua Kendall: Obama’s Most Unusual Legacy? Being A Good Dad

Shortly before the 2004 Illinois Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, which he was to win by a landslide, Barack Obama was riding high. After about a year of nonstop campaigning, the Illinois state senator had raised far more money than any of his rivals, and his path both to the nomination and to the floor of the U.S. Senate seemed assured. But his closest advisers sensed that the 42-year-old candidate and father of two — 5-year-old Malia and 2-year-old Sasha — was feeling a bit down and listless. As Valerie Jarrett later told biographer Richard Wolfe, she suggested that the candidate meet her for lunch at Chicago’s posh gym, the East Bank Club.

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“What’s wrong?” Obama asked “the principal,” as he referred to his chief aide. Jarrett replied, “Your heart isn’t in it. What’s wrong with you?” “I miss my girls,” Obama said as tears welled up. “I don’t want to be the kind of father I had.” But after composing himself, he added, “I’ll work it out. I’ll be okay.” This hands-on dad, who helped coach Sasha’s grammar school basketball team, puts a high premium on both connecting with and providing direction to his girls. At 6:30, Obama and his wife sit down with the girls for a family dinner without any outsiders. The evening meal, observed Obama’s former body-man Reggie Love, was treated “like a meeting in the Situation Room. There’s a hard stop before that dinner.” While aides sometimes call him back to work at 8:30 or 9, they rarely dare to go upstairs to bother him during the sacred dinner hour.

More here

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