Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Vincent Gray Chooses Cabinet Members

Incoming Mayor Vincent Gray has named five more appointments to the senior leadership of his new administration.

De’Shawn A. Wright will be the Deputy Mayor for Education.  Wright worked previously as a senior advisor to Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey, and has worked to develop a comprehensive reform agenda for the Newark Public Schools and has a strong background in policy, management, and classroom teaching.

Hosanna Mahaley, will head the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.  Mahaley has worked the last few years developing innovative strategies for elevating teaching and assessing student progress.

Rochelle L. Webb will head the Department of Employment Services.  Dr. Webb has more than 20 years of leadership experience implementing state and federal initiatives related to employment and human services in Arizona and Texas.

Gustavo F. Velasquez will continue serving as the Director of the Office of Human Rights, while Clarence Brown will continue serving as the Executive Director of the Office on Aging. Brown has more than 33 years of academic and professional experience in the field of aging or gerontology, public administration, public policy and political science.

Gray, the District of Columbia's newest mayor won in a landslide victory over outgoing Mayor Adrian Fenty, will hold the traditional inaugural celebration on Sunday, January 2nd. 
Tickets to the “One City” inaugural event can be picked up on December 22, 28, 29 and 30 from 10 am to 2 pm each day in room 145 of Walter E. Washington Convention Center where the inaugural celebration will take place.  

A photo ID is required.

This event is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Before Christmas Break President Obama Recaps Accomplishments

Today the president signed  Don't Ask, Don't Tell into law, allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military.  The president said the signing was "the right thing to do for our security, and the right thing to do, period."

Today's event was one of several events the president deemed "progress for the American people".

"A lot of folks in this town predicted that after the midterm elections, Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock", said President Obama. 

"And instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people.  That progress is a reflection of the message that voters sent in November; a message that said it’s time to find common ground on challenges facing our country.  That’s a message that I will take to heart in the New Year, and I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same."

The president met briefly in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with reporters today before leaving with his family for Hawaii for the Christmas holiday.

He pointed out other moments of "progress" thanking both Republicans and Democrats for coming together on the New START treaty. 

"This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia", said Obama.  With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases.  So we will be able to trust but verify."

The president also praised both parties for passing the tax cuts bill, continuing unemployment insurance, and passing a food safety bill.   The president also signed into law the Hunger-Free Kids Act that encourages schools to provide healthier menu options to students for breakfast and lunches in schools around the country.

President Obama said the success of the above items was "the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades",and the "most productive two years that we’ve had in generations."

What continues to be a continuous task for the president and his cabinet?

Finding ways to decrease spending, jobs creation, and growing the economy. 

"I expect we’ll have a robust debate about this when we return from the holidays", said the president.

Friday, December 17, 2010

President Obama To Sign Middle Class Tax Cut Bill

President Obama is expected to sign the Middle Class Tax Cut Bill today in a ceremony at the White House.

The bill, with parts the president admits he his opposed to - but is satisfied with, nonetheness -  is expected to grow the economy, create jobs, and help middle class families across the country, ensuring that middle class families won't incur a tax hike at the end of the year.

One report explains the measure like this:
  • Tax rates will remain at their current levels -- 10%; 15%; 25%; 28%; 33%; and 35%, based on your income. It also maintains lower tax rates on your investments for the next two years.
  • If you make less than $90,000 a year, the bill provides an extension of the $2,500 credit you've been receiving to help pay for college tuition, which was begun under last year's economic stimulus bill.
  • It will be easier for you to provide for your children. Under the Bush bill, you got a child tax credit of $500. That has now increased to $1,000.
 Other measures of the bill as stated by the president earlier in the week include:

"Offering hope to millions of Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own by making sure that they won’t suddenly find themselves out in the cold without the unemployment insurance benefits that they were counting on; and it would offer real tax relief for Americans who are paying for college, parents raising their children, and business owners looking to invest in their businesses and propel our economy forward."

Former president Bill Clinton, who admitted he will benefit from the tax bill, said the bill is a good one, calling it "a net-plus", and expects that the portion extending unemployment benefits will circulate money back into the economy. 

The bill also continues the credits for manufacturing jobs related to energy coming in to America.

Many Democrats have expressed their opposition to the bill.   Members of the Congressional Black Caucus called the bill “bad for African Americans” and other vulnerable communities.

“You can’t give tax cuts away like you’re Oprah Winfrey or Santa Claus,” Virginia Democrat Rep. Bobby Scott, a member of the House Budget Committee, said during a Capitol Hill press conference. “Someone eventually has to pay for it.”

That somebody, as Caucus members explained, have been communities of color.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

President Signs Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

President Obama with Harriett Tubman Elementary student at signing of Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
It was a joyous occasion at Washington's Harriett Tubman Elementary School in Northwest DC on a cold and blustery school morning that saw many parents hurrying their kids off wrapped in scarfs, hats and gloves and plenty of backpacks.

On this special day, the kids were in for a special treat.  Times two.

President Obama is coming to their school for a special visit.

"This is monumental", said the school's principal Harry Hughes.  It's monumental for the whole community to be a part of history.   The kids are boiling over with excitement."

The president is there to sign the Hunger-Free Kids Act which means kids across the country, including the pre-K to fifth grade students at Tubman Elementary, will have better food menu choices during their busy days at school.

Already, the school has made changes.

"We're seeing less packaged foods", said Dr. Amanda Alexander, Superintendent of the city's Cluster 3 schools.  "We're seeing less greasy foods and more vegetables and freshly made foods, lean meats, and salads."

The school, with roughly 500 students, has worked with White House chefs as part of the Chefs Move to School initiative and participated in a recent White House garden harvest event.

"What the kids have learned in the Chefs Move to School initiative has helped them make better food choices", added principal Hughes.
The signing was made possible by members of Congress as well as the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama who championed the cause to see that every child is eating healthier, nutritious meals in hopes ridding the national crisis of childhood obesity. 

"At a very basic level, this act is about doing what’s right for our children.  Right now, across the country, too many kids don’t have access to school meals", said Mrs. Obama.  And often, the food that’s being offered isn’t as healthy or as nutritious as it should be.   That’s part of the reason why one in three children in America today are either overweight or obese.

While the president has surely been met with opposition on this week's current legislative efforts, the passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act was not one of them.

"I also want to echo my husband’s thanks to leaders and members of Congress, many of whom are on the stage, many of whom are not and are down here, and you all have done just a tremendous thing in making this day possible.  As he said, this was truly a bipartisan effort, with passionate supporters from both parties putting in late nights and long weekends, working around the clock to make sure that this bill got passed, because while we may sometimes have our differences, we can all agree that in the United States of America, no child should go to school hungry."

Attending the signing was David Beckmann.  Beckmann is president of Bread For the World, a collective Christian voice urging members of Congress to help end hunger.   He called the signing of bill "the right thing to do", but warns that while there are those who have little access to healthy foods, there are many more who are without access to food altogether.

"One in four kids in America's households are without food", said Beckmann.   

He is hoping the Obama administration will take up the cause to help end hunger.

"The talk has been about obesity, but not too much about hunger", explained Beckmann.

Perhaps that will be upcoming on the president's agenda, one that also needs more of a national spotlight.

But for now, the focus was on improving the quality of school breakfasts, lunches and other foods sold in schools while also strengthening nutrition programs that serve young children, including WIC and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. 

"Even in times of discord", expressed Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, "America has always had a little red school house.  Today is a joyous one.  We are giving kids fuel for learning in school houses across the nation:  Good food.  And good food equals love."

"Children will know that they are loved."  

Changes in the school menu
What folks are saying

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lakers And President Obama Team Up For NBA Cares

President Obama and the Los Angeles Lakers helped kids from DC's Girls and Boys Club put together packages for U.S. service members and the homeless today at The ARC.   The President and the Lakers visited with the kids in partnership with NBA Cares

President Obama with 2010 NBA Champions, Los Angeles Lakers. Photo/CD Brown.
For fifteen year-old Tylan, one of the youth from the Boys and Girls Club, called the visit from the Lakers and President Obama his best day ever.   "It was so exciting!  It was so amazing - my favorite team, my favorite player.   To see President Obama, Tylan said, "It was good."

President Obama personally congratulated the Lakers for their achievements on and off the basketball court.

"Now, I have to say that there is a longstanding tradition of welcoming championship sports teams to the White House.  But here’s the thing:  These guys have been there so often; they were just there last year because they won the title.  And Kobe and Derek have been there so many times now, they could lead tours themselves.  The same is true for Coach Jackson", said the president.

Phil Jackson has eleven NBA championship rings, five with the Lakers.   

Laker guard Kobe Bryant shared with us that he thinks this season will be the last for Coach Jackson.   "There is no one like him", said Bryant.  "No one," adding his other selelction for best coach would be Vincent Lombardi.

The Lakers take on the Wizards this Tuesday at Verizon Center.  

We spoke to a few of the Lakers who shared their thoughts on the upcoming match up.

On meeting the Wizards for the second time this month, Laker guard Derek Fisher to us of the Wizards' young team that he's "expecting them to play better at home".  The Wizards were able to come back from a 19 point deficit against the Lakers earlier this month. 

"We had a big lead and they were able to work their way back into the game and make it somewhat close.  It will be a matter of how we're able to play in terms of our level", Fisher said.

Lakers' Kobe Bryant receives gifts from students of DC's Boys and Girls Club. Photo/CD Brown.
On visiting with the youth today, Fisher called it a "great experience".  "It always is. Anytime you can take some time away from the game - and in particular spend time with young people - to see the impact, to have the experience.  Today, doing the letters and making the care packages for the homeless, and for the soldiers and our service people, and having President Obama present added an even special touch to it."

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Christmas Time, Officially!

Christmas in Washington isn't official until the lighting of the national Christmas tree.

The First Family helped bring in the occasion with a few friends like Jordan Sparks, BB King, Cheryl Crow, and actor/rapper Common, the evening's emcee.

Mrs. Obama read 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.

The Obamas continue to celebrate the season with the taping of the annual Christmas In Washington event, as we recently noted, this Sunday at the National Building Museum.    The show will air on December 17th on TNT.

Watch the tree lighting ceremony here.

Marion Barry: 'Mayor For Life' Film Series

The same movie producer that bought us documentaries like Len Bias: Without Bias, and A Crack In The System is bringing a new film, Mayor For Life, which views on You Tube.

I guess it's chronicling the life and times of the embattled former mayor of the Nation's Capital, turned Ward 8 Councilmember, Marion Barry. 

Or is it about Barry's PR representative?

See for yourself, and decide.

President To Sign Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

On Monday, the President will sign into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  He will join the First Lady in delivering remarks.

As a precursor to Monday's event, the White House had a background conference call today to discuss the bill signing and what the new legislation means for millions of school children across the country.

On the call were Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sam Kass, White House Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, and Tim Cipriano, Executive Director of Food Services for New Haven public schools.

The legislation means increased funding for schools to improve menu choices in vending machines, school lunch lines, and À la carte menu items.

"Kids eating healthy equates to more kids learning, which equates to smarter kids down the line", said Cipriano.

The legislation, in conjunction with the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative, strives to decrease (or rid) childhood obesity within a generation.

One-in-four American school children lack access to healthy foods, while 1/3 of kids see their school lunch as the only meal of the day. 

One in three children are at risk of being obese.  If something isn't done America's future generations may not be fit enough to pass the required physical test to join the U.S. military.

"The president has been consistently aggressive in reversing these numbers", said US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak.

Mrs. Obama, who has billed her Let's Move! campaign a top priority during her tenure as The First Lady, remarked after the passing of the legislation earlier this year saying she was both "thrilled, and "proud" of the legislators who helped pass the bill.

"I’m proud of what we’re doing to support these efforts through our Let’s Move! initiative, and I am confident that, together, we can turn the tide on childhood obesity and give all our children the happy, healthy lives they deserve." 

Naysayers and political noise makers like Sarah Palin, who protested a Pennsylvania school's effort  to get students to eat healthier because she believes the Act would limit sweets in schools, will find that the Act does not discourage kids from having treats.

"The Act does not ban bake sales, nor does it prevent parents from bringing cookies to school", clarified Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsak.  "Read the bill."

The Act will provide healthier food ingredients like whole grains, include more fruits and vegetables, and offer fat free or reduced fat milk on school menus while improving the quality of school breakfasts, lunches and other foods sold in schools, while strengthening nutrition programs that serve young children like WIC and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.   

"Today is a great day for 32 million of America's kids", said Vilsak.

He called the bill a "critical step" in reducing hunger and obesity in America's children.

Earlier this week Janey Thornton, USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary,  recognized 11 Mississippi Public Schools in Purvis, Hattiesburg, Lumberton and Sumrall for their excellence in school nutrition that entailed meeting the highest standards for creating and maintaining healthy school environments by promoting good nutrition and physical activity.

Monday's remarks from the President and First Lady, as well as Monday's bill signing, will be streamed live at at 10:25am ET.

Bill Summary
'Recipes For Healthy Kids' Challenge

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards Passes

Elizabeth Edwards endured a lot while dealing with her diagnoses with breast cancer. 

Just Monday we learned that the cancer spread to her liver and that doctors had advised against seeking further treatment.

She was resting comfortably at her home in North Carolina with family, and former husband John Edwards by her side earlier this week.

Edwards helped propel her husband into the spotlight during his second bid - this time during the 2008 presidential campaign, only to find out that the man she revered had an affair with a campaign worker.

The details were painted out in a book written by former Edwards campaign manager, Andrew Young titled, The Politician.

Mrs. Edwards was also a writer, having authored two books:  Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers, and Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities.  She also shared her story with this year's Kennedy Center Honors recipient, Oprah Winfrey.  

Mrs. Edwards was a woman who had been scorned, not once, but at least twice, while being portrayed as a person of strength and courage during her most darkest of days. 

Both the President and Vice President have made comments on her passing:

President Obama: "In her life, Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain.  Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of such adversity would have given up.  But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will long remain a source of inspiration."

Vice President Biden: “Elizabeth Edwards fought a brave battle against a terrible, ravaging disease that takes too many lives every day.  She was an inspiration to all who knew her, and to those who felt they knew her."

In the days before her death, Edwards wrote these words on her FaceBook page: 

"You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. It isn't possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel towards everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know."

Elizabeth Edwards was 61.

Kennedy Center Honors

Oprah Winfrey and Steadman Graham at the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors.  Photo/CD Brown.
The Kennedy Center Honors came and went this past Sunday, and we were lucky enough to get a peek (literally, just a peek) at this year's honorees, and a few others.

The star-studded event, that each year, honors five individuals for their lifetime achievement in the performing arts was nothing short of amazing and included the likes of former recipient Ms. Diana Ross.

We saw a bevy of public figures, so mixed and assorted, ranging from politics (Congressman Charlie Rangel, General Colin Powell and wife Alma, and Newt Gingrich), to comedy (Chris Rock) to super heroes (Wonder Woman - aka Linda Carter).

We even caught up with powerhouse couple and star of The Real Housewives of DC, Jason and Stacie Turner.

John Travolta wowed fans just outside the Kennedy Center entrance by taking time to sign autographs and taking pictures.   (I'll admit, that dude still looks amazing!)  

Even Willie Nelson strutted his stuff on the Red Carpet, along with the amazing and beautiful Jennifer Hudson who wowed the audience with her musical talents, as did the Gay Men's Choir of Washington (who knew?).

This year's honorees included Oprah Winfrey, Merle Haggard, composer Jerry Herman, choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones, and The Beatles' Paul McCartney.

All the honorees were treated at the White House (as tradition dictates) for a celebratory pre-Kennedy Center Honor ceremony.

"This is a season of celebration and of giving.  And that’s why it’s my great privilege as President to honor the five men and women who have given our nation the extraordinary gift of the arts", said President Obama.

Last year's honorees included Mel Brooks, Grace Mumbry, Dave Brubeck, Bruce Springsteen and Robert DeNiro. 

The 2010 KCHs will air December 28th on CBS from 9:00-11:00 p.m.

Michelle Obama, Defender of the Arts.
Defending The Arts

The President knows a little something about the Arts and has continued embracing the Arts via the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH).   

But... (and there's always that)

This year's Kennedy Center celebration of people in the Arts, shall we say, pales in comparison to this person who has been given the title as The Defender of The Arts by DC Magazine.

Mrs. Obama, honorary chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is featured in Super Hero-like fashion on this month's cover (how timely) flying beautifully atop our Nation's Capital securing the Arts for all mankind!

Watch out Wonder Woman!

Interestingly enough, we asked Linda Carter who she thought would do a great job of portraying her should the Wonder Woman series where to ever be remade.

We didn't get a response. 

Coming Together On Tax Cuts and Unemployment Benefits

The Obama administration has come to somewhat of a happy medium with Republicans on extending both tax cuts - and unemployment benefits - for millions of Americans.

Tax Cuts And The Federal Budget

The president said during his campaign that he originally planned tax cuts for the 'middle class' (a term that needs further defining in this current economic climate), but has since changed his stance.

"It would be a grave injustice to let taxes increase for these Americans right now.  And it would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery", the president said yesterday in remarks to the press.

Both parties voted to extend Bush-era tax cuts (for two years) while extending unemployment benefits for 13 months. 

Without the tax cuts Americans could see their taxes rise beginning January 1, 2011.

"I am not willing to let that happen.  I know there’s some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can't reach a compromise.  But I'm not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington.  And I'm not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we're pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession."

The White House is explaining the benefit of extending the tax cut like this, "
"The framework agreement includes a mutually agreed upon solution to the impasse over taxes by extending the 2001/2003 income tax rates for two years and reforming the AMT to ensure that an additional 21 million households will not be hit with a tax increase. These measures will provide relief to more than 100 million middle-class families and prevent a tax increase of over $2,000 for the typical family."
and states the measure has three key components that (1) will ensure that working families will not lose their tax cut; (2) focuses on high-impact job creation measures, and (3) does not worsen the medium- and long-term deficit.

As for the extending the unemployment benefits in a climate that has seen record unemployment numbers across the country, the White House says extending unemployment benefits will "create 600,000 jobs in 2011. "

The White House is reporting that had these benefits not been extended 2 million workers who would have lost benefits. 
The decision was made before the Holiday recess, and the new year.  One sure to bring relief and merriment to millions of Americans this Holiday season.  (Maybe not so much, however to the extremely wealthy segment of the American population).

Senior Administration Officials will hold a background briefing call today at 6:45 p.m (EST) to provide an update on the tax cuts and unemployment insurance. 


Question of the day:  If America's wealthiest are paying the most in taxes, why is there still homelessness and hunger in America?  What is the U.S. government doing with all that money where we, the richest country on the planet, can't feed and house every American?  No more homelessness in five to ten years? I say no more homelessness today!

You and Your Money
Bush-era Tax Cuts. What does it all mean, really?
The president's additional remarks to the press

Friday, December 3, 2010

President Obama's Surprise Visit To Troops In Afghanistan

ABC News (and now the White House) is reporting that President Obama, in a surprise visit, has just landed in Afghanistan to visit with U.S. troops.

First Pool Report- Excerpted. (11:33 am EST)

President Obama arrived in Afghanistan at 8:35 pm. Air Force One was wheels down at Bagram Air Base. POTUS stepped off the plane at 8:48 pm. He was greeted by Gen. David Petreaus and Amb. Eikenberry.

POTUS is expected to be on the ground for 3 hours. The schedule has changed and continues to. POTUS was initially expected to helo to Kabul to meet with Karzai. Cancelled. Then they were to do secure videoconference from Bagram. That is also cancelled.

From Robert Gibbs: Due to weather and technical problems, the secure videoteleconference is now a phone call.

The President, most noteably, wanted to visit with the troops during the holidays, citing, "It's a particularly tough time of year."

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Ssecurity Advisor for Strategic Communications, noted that the visit was planned over a month ago.

Second pool report - also excerpted.  (11:57 am EST)

POTUS is currently doing the phone call with Karzai, then he will meet with Eikenberry and Petraeus.

Then he will do the hospital visit.Then he will do the speech to troops - about 30-40 minutes from now.

Then TBD, possibly a smaller greet with troops.

POTUS's attire: brown leather bomber jacket, dark slacks.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Safe Food. Healthy Kids.

House Passes Child Nutrition Legislation

With a vote of 264 yays, and 157 nays the House passed the $4.5 billion child nutrition legislation that will improve the quality of meals that children receive at school.

We can't believe the 157 who voted against this bill.  Who doesn't want America's kids eating healthy food?

We share in the First Lady's comments on the passage of the bill.

"I am so thrilled that the House of Representatives has passed “The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” – a groundbreaking piece of bipartisan legislation that will significantly improve the quality of meals that children receive at school and will play an integral role in our efforts to combat childhood obesity."

The First Lady has been working feverishly to ensure that America's kids eat properly.

"Over  the past two years, I have had the privilege of speaking with parents, educators, governors and mayors, medical professionals, community and business leaders, and students all across the country – all of whom are determined to ensure that our children have access to the nutritious food they need to learn and grow and fulfill their potential."

Again we ask, who doesn't want that?

"This is an historic victory for our nation's youngsters", said U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak.

"This legislation will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children."

The USDA will now begin to implement the following provisions under the legislation.

1. Upgrading nutritional standards for school meals by increasing the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by 6 cents for districts who comply with federal nutrition standards. This is the first real reimbursement rate increase in over 30 years.

2. Improving the nutritional quality of all food in schools by providing USDA with the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including in vending machines, the “a la carte” lunch lines, and school stores.

3. Increases the number of eligible children enrolled in the school meals programs by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements without requiring individual applications connecting approximately 115,000 new students to the school meals program.

4. Enhances universal meal access for eligible children in high poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school wide income eligibility.

5. Provides more meals for at-risk children nationwide by allowing Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) providers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to be reimbursed for providing a meal to at-risk children after school paving the way for an additional 21 million meals to children annually.

6. Empowering parents by requiring schools to make information more readily available to parents about the nutritional quality of school meals, as well as the results of any audits.

7. Improving the quality of foods supplied to schools by building on and further advancing the work USDA has been doing to improve the nutritional quality of the commodities that schools get from USDA and use in their lunch and breakfast programs.

8. Improving WIC by making it easier for children to get recertified as eligible for the program, requiring greater use of EBT technology (debit cards), and expanding support for breastfeeding.

Earlier this week Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act to protect our nation’s food supply.  The legislation ensures more frequent inspections of food manufacturing facilities and will require these facilities to take preventative actions to reduce the risks of outbreaks and foodborne illness.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Lady Prepares For 'Christmas Time'

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and The White House is checking its list.  On the list, a pre-holiday peep at holiday decorations for the media and many families of the military.

"It’s Christmas!   It’s exciting!", the First Lady exclaimed.

Decorations include 19 Christmas trees in every corner of the White House, a giant Bo (the family dog) made out of pipe cleaners, and a 350 pound gingerbread house.

The White House is expecting more than 100,000 people to enjoy the White House decorations.

The First Lady welcomed the White House Christmas tree on last Friday.  The 18 ½ foot Douglas-fir arrived from the Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Leighton, Pennsylvania.

Having trouble viewing this video?  Click here.

Christmas In Washington 2010
Simple Gifts

President Obama Meets With....

Another busy day for President Obama as his scheduled included meetings with two prominent D.C. area figures: Mayor-elect Vincent Gray, and General Colin Powell.

Gray and President Obama discussed funding for infrastructure for Ward 8, D.C. license plates, the city's high unemployment rate, and voting rights.

The two spoke on the 55th anniversary of Rosa Parks' giving up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus - an act that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and catapulted the Civil Rights movement.

'I'm unequivocally in support of voting rights for the District of Columbia", Obama told Gray.

The District faces a $188 million gap in the Fiscal Year 2011 operating budget.

Gray expects to have future meetings with the president.

On meeting with General Powell the president explained, "Most of the discussion we had was around national security issues.  We talked about some of the challenges across the landscape, from North Korea to Iran to Afghanistan.  But we spent, in particular, a lot of time talking about the START treaty."

President Obama and Vice President meet with General Colin Powell at the White House.

He also thanked Powell and his wife Alma for the contributions to America’s Promise, and most recently the couple's report, 'Building a Grad Nation'.

The president is expected to meet with newly elected governors at the Blair House on Thursday.

The Republican Case For Ratifying New START

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Don't Ask, Dont Tell"

President Obama Repeals The Don't Ask, Dont Tell" Law. 

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conduct a press briefing at the Pentagon discussing the public release of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Comprehensive Working Group report on Nov. 30, 2010. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

In a statement today, President Obama comments on  DOD's Don't Ask, Don't Tell Report
As Commander in Chief, I have pledged to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell law because it weakens our national security, diminishes our military readiness, and violates fundamental American principles of fairness and equality by preventing patriotic Americans who are gay from serving openly in our armed forces. At the same time, as Commander in Chief, I am committed to ensuring that we understand the implications of this transition, and maintain good order and discipline within our military ranks. That is why I directed the Department of Defense earlier this year to begin preparing for a transition to a new policy.
Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families—more than two thirds—are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian. This report also confirms that, by every measure—from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness—we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security. And for the first time since this law was enacted 17 years ago today, both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have publicly endorsed ending this policy.
With our nation at war and so many Americans serving on the front lines, our troops and their families deserve the certainty that can only come when an act of Congress ends this discriminatory policy once and for all. The House of Representatives has already passed the necessary legislation. Today I call on the Senate to act as soon as possible so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally. Our troops represent the virtues of selfless sacrifice and love of country that have enabled our freedoms. I am absolutely confident that they will adapt to this change and remain the best led, best trained, best equipped fighting force the world has ever known.

African American Farmers To Receive Compensation

For America's Black farmers the tenth time is the charm.

African American farmers will finally receive the $1.15 billion owed to them that was settled out of court over 11 years ago in a case that involved discrimination on the part of the U.S. Agricultural Department.

Under a federal judge's terms, dated in 1999, qualified farmers could receive $50,000 each to settle the claims of racial bias.

John Boyd, farmer and founder of the web site, has been in the forefront of this battle, having been on many TV and radio shows, and on Capitol Hill (see our coverage here) to bring the plight of America's Black farmers to the national stage.

Boyd called the historic announcement "vindication and justice".

"This case was about justice for Black farmers who waited for so very long."  

Boyd pointed out that many African American farmers died and others lost land waiting for Congress, (specifically Tom Coburn) to make a decision.

Senator Harry Reid, along with other members of Congress (Bobby Scott, John Conyers, and Kay Hagan) who worked to see that justice was upheld said, "The agreement that we reached shows what can happen when Democrats and Republicans come together to do the right thing."

The bill (Claims Settlement Act of 2010) also provides funding for settlements reached in four separate water rights suits brought by Native American tribes, as well as represents a significant step forward in addressing the water needs of Indian Country.

Despite the bill's passing, President Obama remarked that while the vote "demonstrates important progress, there is more work that needs to be done."

The USDA has several other claims that must be paid, not just to Black farmers, but Indian (Cobell lawsuit)and Latino farmers as well.

The president said his administration will continue its efforts to "resolve claims of past discrimination made by women and Hispanic farmers, and others, in a fair and timely manner."

USDA Secretary Reacts

Monday, November 29, 2010

Talkin' Turkey, Duck, Pay Freezes and More

The Thanksgiving break is over and President Obama says "it's time to get back to work."  Two days after he pardons Apple the Thanksgiving turkey, has a run in with the elbow of Rey Decerega, director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in a pick up basketball game at the Department of Interior, the President is rolling up his sleeves, and making waves.

After the midterm elections that saw the Republicans regain control of the House, the president promised to  meet with both political parties in a lame duck session to discuss ways to move the country forward.  Most noticeably, the president plans to address growing the economy, securing the American people from the ongoing threat of terrorism, Bush-era tax cuts, and the ratification of the New START treaty.

With Congress convening this week, the president will meet Tuesday with bipartisan Congressional leadership that include the likes of both Democrats and Republicans.   Scheduled to attend are Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Representative John Boehner (R-OH) , Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD, Majority Leader Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), Republican Whip Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Assistant Majority Leader Senator Jon Kyl  (R-AZ), Republican Whip.

The president has called for a freeze on the salaries of federal workers in an attempt to rid-down the national debt.  A freeze he calls a sacrifice that "must be shared by employees of the federal government." 

"After all, small businesses and families are tightening their belts.  Their government should, too", said the president making remarks today in the Eisenhower Executive Building. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Auto Industry Poised To Make A Comeback?

Earlier today, President Obama visited the Chrysler Indiana Transmission Plant in Kokomo, Indiana.

With money given to the auto industry last year, many are seeing what could be the fruit from the Obama administration's "anti-recession" bail out.

There were more than 461,000 automobile-related job losses before President Obama took office.

''And now you see the result, said the president. "An old industry adapting to a whole new era, competing again, leading again, and most importantly, hiring again. Hiring again."

Just last week GM announced its initial public offering of its stock.   The auto manufacturing raised its shares from 365 million to 478 million.

"General Motors’ initial public offering (IPO) marks a major milestone in the turnaround of not just an iconic company but the entire American auto industry", said Obama.

"Through the IPO, the government will cut its stake in GM by nearly half, continuing our disciplined commitment to exit this investment while protecting the American taxpayer. Supporting the American auto industry required tough decisions and shared sacrifices, but it helped save jobs, rescue an industry at the heart of America's manufacturing sector, and make it more competitive for the future."

Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Austan Goolsbee, discusses the IPO, and more, below in the latest edition of  The White House White Board.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Big Brother Watching: Even In The 'Friendly' Skies.

You've probably seen the video of a young boy being put through what the TSA says is them "just doing their job" to secure America.  The boy is practically stripped search (and left with his dignity on the floor) as he and his dad prepare to take flight.

Some call it disturbing (we do too), and a total invasion of privacy.  TSA calls it protecting Americans from possible terrorist attacks. 
What George Orville wrote about in Nineteen Eighty-Four, about a society that Orwell describes as everyone being under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens, is a system on the brink of violating our civil liberties.  (Or guilty of crossing the line altogether).

Oddly enough the society of which Orville writes is called  Airstrip One.  

The White House has responded on this issue and has said the following:

TSA searches woman before flight. Has the TSA gone too far?
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:  "Well, look, I will say that we have all seen over the course of the past year that there are organizations like al Qaeda that continue with the intent on inflicting harm and damage in this country through airliners.  I think what TSA has set up and what the public greatly supports -- I think there was a CBS poll that said four out of five Americans are supportive of increased security to ensure that you feel rightly safe when you get on an airplane.  I think the way -- I think TSA administering this in a way that makes the public feel safe and comfortable is important, as well as implementing it to ensure the protection of privacy is important."

President Obama, who flies aboard the friendly skies on AirForce One supports such searches.

"I understand people’s frustrations, and what I’ve said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we’re doing is the only way to assure the American people’s safety. And you also have to think through are there other ways of doing it that are less intrusive."

"But at this point, TSA in consultation with counter terrorism experts have indicated to me that the procedures that they have been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing."

Complaints about TSA searches have sparked a national 'Opt Out Day' where citizens are being asked not to allow body screenings, but rather consent to pat downs instead.

Related:  When TSA Searches Go Wrong
Man Left In Urine After Being Searched
TSA Makes Woman Remove Her Prosthetic Breast [Video]
Don't Touch My Junk!

Vice President Biden On What We Must Do Now For Iraq

Vice President Joe Biden wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, published this weekend.   The piece discusses what Congress and the current administration must do to ensure a stabe, self-reliant nation for Iraq.

Biden writes that in the six visits he's made the country's police and soldiers have made progress.

"Iraq today is far safer and more stable than at any time since the outbreak of war in 2003", writes Biden. "In recent months, using their own intelligence, Iraqi forces have killed or captured dozens of senior leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups. The weekly tally of violent incidents throughout Iraq has dropped to about 160, from nearly 1,600 in 2007."

Notwithstanding those accomplishments Biden notes that more needs to be done and calls on Congress to  "fulfill the budget requests to support America’s continued engagement, including our broader diplomatic presence, a modernization plan for the Iraqi security forces and financing for a police development program."

The Iraq has cost the lives of more than  4,430 people.  That's more than any war in U.S. history.

Read the entire piece here.

Kristina Schake Named First Lady's Communications Director

Kristina Schake joins the staff as Special Assistant to the President and Communications Director to the First Lady. She will start in the East Wing in December, 2010.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Kristina to the team. Kristina brings a wealth of expertise that I know will make her a tremendous asset in the East Wing,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “Kristina has done extensive work throughout her career on child nutrition and community health issues, and that paired with her experience as part of a military family will bring invaluable insight to our work on childhood obesity and our efforts to support military families. I look forward to working with Kristina on these efforts and more in the months and years ahead.”

Kristina Schake is co-founder and principal of Griffin Schake, a California-based public affairs and strategic communications firm. She is a seasoned expert in helping major foundations, non-profit organizations and civic leaders bring about critical social change through policy, legislative, social marketing and media initiatives. Ms. Schake served for several years as the senior communications strategist for First Lady Maria Shriver, the Women’s Conference and the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities Initiative. Ms. Schake and her company also helped make issues such as stem cell research and early childhood education a national priority and helped change California's political landscape on renewable energy and civil rights. Before forming her firm, she was the Director of the Governor’s Summit on Obesity and the Communications Director for First 5 California, which provides education, health care, child care and nutrition programs for the state’s youngest children. A native Californian, Kristina is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

Other changes in the First Lady's administration this year have included the resigning of Susan Sher as Chief of Staff to Mrs. Obama.  Sher will be returning to Chicago after the first of the year (2011), after nearly two years of service.  Ms. Sher started in the White House Counsel’s Office in January, 2009, to support the Office of the First Lady.  In this role, she also worked on the Administration's health care reform efforts.  In June, 2009, Sher moved to the East Wing to serve as Chief of Staff to the First Lady. 

Former Social Secretary for First Lady Obama, Desiree Rogers, resigned in March after a mix up that involved the crashing of the president's first State Dinner last year in which couple Tareq and Micheale Salahi gained entrance into the White House without being on the formal State Dinner guest list.

Rogers currently works for Johnson Publishing as its new CEO.  Johnson Publishing company publishes Ebony/Jet magazines.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vice President Biden to Hold Middle Class Task Force Event

This Friday, November 19th, at 10:30 AM, Vice President Biden will hold a Middle Class Task Force event to announce new initiatives to help middle class and low income families secure their legal rights.

Following the Vice President’s remarks, there will be a series of panel discussions on these initiatives. Panel participants will include Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis; Larry Tribe, Senior Counselor for Access to Justice at the Department of Justice; senior administration officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Housing and Urban Development; and representatives from the legal advocacy community. Attorney General Eric Holder will make remarks at the conclusion of the program.

The event will also be streamed live on

Former President George H. W. Bush To Receive Medal of Freedom

George Herbert Walker Bush is one of fifteen award recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award.

The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Bush was the 41st President of the United States. Prior to that, he was Vice President in the Reagan Administration, Director of Central Intelligence, Chief of the U.S. Liaison’s Office to the People’s Republic of China, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and a Member of the House of Representatives from the 7th District of Texas. He served in the Navy during World War II. President Bush and President Clinton worked together to encourage aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

Other named recipients include Boston Celtics' Bill Russell, Congressman John Lewis, Chancellor Angela Merkel (Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany), Dr. Maya Angelou, John H. Adams (Natural Resources Defense Council), Warren Buffett, and artist Jasper Johns.

“These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place.  I look forward to awarding them this honor”, said President Obama.
The awards will be presented at a White House ceremony early next year.

President Obama awarded Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta with the prestigious Medal of Honor award yesterday in a ceremony in the East Room.

The Medal of Honor has been awarded nine times for conspicuous gallantry in an ongoing or recent conflict. Staff Seargeant Giunta is the first recipient in nearly 40 years to receive the honor in person. Other recipients received the award posthumously.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Seoulful Veteran's Day

President Obama made remarks yesterday celebrating Veteran's Day at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul Korea, as he and the First Lady continue their G-20 Summit tour of Asia.

On Veteran's Day, (and back home) Vice President Biden will host a Veteran's Day breakfast at the White House and will visit Arlington National Cemetery where he will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at 11AM. (See here).

The Vice President will then deliver remarks at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

The President will participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, South Korea. and will later attend the official G-20 welcome reception and dinner at the National Museum of Korea.

The President's remarks, to a seemingly rousing crowd, in Seoul is below.   
We are so proud to have with us U.S. and Republic of Korea vets of the Korean War who are here. And we are greatly honored by their presence.

And I want to make special mention of one of them -- Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Hector Cafferata, Jr. Please give him an extraordinary round of applause.

It is an enormous honor to be here at Yongsan Garrison. As President of the United States, I have no greater privilege than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military that the world has ever known.  And on this Veterans Day, there’s no place I’d rather be than right here with U.S. Forces Korea.

We’ve got the 8th Army in the house. We’ve got members of the 7th Air Force. We’ve got U.S. Navy Forces Korea. We’ve got just about every Marine in South Korea here today. (Laughter.) Happy birthday, Marines, by the way. And we’ve got a whole lot of DOD civilians, too. So we are very proud of you. 

It’s good to see some spouses and family members in the audience. You bear the burden of your loved one’s service in ways that are often immeasurable –- an empty chair at the dinner table or another holiday where mom and dad are someplace far away. So I want you to know that this nation recognizes the sacrifices of families, as well. And we are grateful for your service, as well.

Now, on this day, we honor every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States of America. We salute fallen heroes, and keep in our prayers those who are still in harm’s way -– like the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We recall acts of uncommon bravery and selflessness. But we also remember that honoring those who’ve served is about more than the words we say on Veterans Day or Memorial Day. It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.

This has been one of my highest priorities since taking office. It’s why I asked for one of the largest increases in the VA budget in the past 30 years. It’s why we’ve dramatically increased funding for veterans’ health care. It’s why we’re improving care for wounded warriors, especially those with Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. It’s why we’re working to eliminate the backlog at the VA and reforming the entire process with electronic claims and medical records. It’s why there are fewer homeless veterans on the streets than there were two years ago.

That's why there are nearly 400,000 veterans and their families who are going to college because of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

So I want all of you to know when you come home your country is going to be there for you. That is the commitment I make to you as Commander-in-Chief. That is the sacred trust between the United States of America and all who defend its ideals.

It’s a trust that’s been forged in places far from our shores: from the beaches of Europe to the jungles of Vietnam, from the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to the peninsula where we stand today.

Sixty years have come and gone since the communist armies first crossed the 38th Parallel. Within three days, they’d captured Seoul. By the end of the next month, they had driven the Korean army all the way south, to Pusan. And from where things stood in the summer of 1950, it didn’t appear that the Republic of Korea would survive much longer.

At the time, many Americans had probably never heard of Korea. It had only been five years since we had finished fighting the last war. But we knew that if we allowed the unprovoked invasion of a free nation, then all free nations would be threatened. And so, for the first time since its creation, the United Nations voted to use armed forces to repel the attack from North Korea.

And so on September 15, 1950, American forces landed at Inchon. The conditions they fought under were some of the worst that Americans had ever experienced. The temperature reached more than 30 below zero in the winter, over 100 degrees in the summer. In many places, Americans and our Korean allies were outgunned and outmanned, sometimes by as much as 20 to 1. At one point, they were hit with 24,000 artillery shells a day. By the end, the fighting had sometimes devolved into trench warfare, waged on hands and knees in the middle of the night.

And yet, our soldiers fought on. Nearly 37,000 Americans would give their lives in Korea -- 37,000. But after three years of fighting, our forces finally succeeded in driving the invading armies back over the 38th Parallel. (Hoaa!) One war historian said that while he believed Korea was “the greatest of all trials” for American troops, their performance was “nothing short of miraculous.”

Many of the men responsible for this miracle were only teenagers. Others had just finished fighting in the Second World War. Most would go home to raise their families and live out their lives. And sixty-two veterans of the Korean War have returned to be with us here today.
Gentlemen, we are honored by your presence. We are grateful for your service. The world is better off because of what you did here. And for those who can, I would ask that, again, you receive the thanks of a grateful nation. If any -- actually, they’re all standing now so it looks like they’re doing great. (Hoaa!) But please give them a big round of applause.

I also want to recognize the Korean soldiers who battled side by side with our own. These men fought bravely and sacrificed greatly for their country, and some of them have joined us here as well. So, thank you, friends. (Applause.) Katchi Kapshida. We go together.

The veterans who have traveled here today saw battle at the Inchon landing and the Pusan Perimeter. They survived the bloodshed at Heartbreak Ridge and the ambush at Chosin Reservoir. At one point in that battle, the enemy tossed a grenade into a trench where multiple Marines lay wounded. And that is where Private Hector Cafferata ran into that trench, picked up that grenade and threw it back. It detonated in his hand and severely injured his arm. But because of what he did, Private Cafferata served the lives of his fellow Marines. (Applause.) He received the Medal of Honor for his heroism. He is here today.

Each of these men served their nation with incredible courage and commitment. They left their homes and their families and risked their lives in what’s often been called “the forgotten war.” So today, we all want you to know this: We remember. We remember your courage. We remember your sacrifice. And the legacy of your service lives on in a free and prosperous Republic of Korea.

Real change comes slowly. Many people don’t live to see the difference they’ve made in the lives of others. But for the men and women who have served on this peninsula, all you have to do is look around. Whether you’re a veteran who landed in 1950 or one of the Yongsan troops today, the security you’ve provided has made possible one of the great success stories of our time.

There are Koreans who can still remember when this country was little more than rice paddies and villages that would flood during monsoon season. Not two generations later, highways and skyscrapers line the horizon of one of the most prosperous, fastest-growing democracies in all of the world. That progress has transformed the lives of millions of people.

And you should know, one of these people is a man who went from grinding poverty to the presidency of this country. When I visited last year, I had lunch with President Lee, who I’ll be seeing later today, and he shared with me his story of what it was like growing up poor as a child in Korea. And he said, “I hope the American people understand how grateful we are for what you’ve done, because we would not be the strong, prosperous nation we are were it not for the sacrifices made by the men and women of the United States military.” That’s from the President of this country.

Because the Korean War ended where it began geographically, some ended up using the phrase “Die for a Tie” to describe the sacrifices of those who fought here. But as we look around in this thriving democracy and its grateful, hopeful citizens, one thing is clear: This was no tie. This was victory.

This was a victory then, and it is a victory today. And 60 years later, a friendship that was forged in a war has become an alliance that has led to greater security and untold progress -- not only in the Republic of Korea, but throughout Asia. That is something that everyone here can be extraordinarily proud of.

Now, it’s also a reminder of what still lies on the other side of the 38th Parallel. Today, the Korean Peninsula provides the world’s clearest contrast between a society that is open and a society that is closed; between a nation that is dynamic and growing, and a government that would rather starve its people than change. It’s a contrast that’s so stark you can see it from space, as the brilliant lights of Seoul give way to the utter darkness of the North.

This is not an accident of history. This is a direct result of the path that’s been taken by North Korea -- a path of confrontation and provocation; one that includes the pursuit of nuclear weapons and the attack on the Cheonan last March. 

And in the wake of this aggression, Pyongyang should not be mistaken: The United States will never waver in our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea. We will not waver.

The alliance between our two nations has never been stronger, and along with the rest of the world, we’ve made it clear that the North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons will only lead to more isolation and less security for them.

There is another path available to North Korea. If they choose to fulfill their international obligations and commitments to the international community, they will have the chance to offer their people lives of growing opportunity instead of crushing poverty -- a future of greater security and greater respect; a future that includes the prosperity and opportunity available to citizens on this end of the Korean Peninsula.

Until that day comes, the world can take comfort in knowing that the men and women of the United States armed forces are standing watch on freedom’s frontier. In doing so, you carry on the legacy of service and sacrifice that we saw from those who landed here all those years ago. It’s a legacy we honor and cherish on this Veterans Day.

At the Korean War Memorial in Washington, there’s a plaque right near the inscription that lists the number of Americans who were killed, wounded, missing in action, and held as prisoners of war. And it says: “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”

A country they never knew and a people they never met. I know of no better words to capture the selflessness and generosity of every man or woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States of America. At a time when it has never been more tempting or accepted to pursue narrow self-interest and personal ambition, all of you here remind us that there are few things that are more fundamentally American than doing what we can to make a difference in the lives of others.

And that’s why you’ll always be the best that America has to offer the world. And that is why people who never met you, who never knew you, will always be grateful to the friend and ally they found in the United States of America.

So thank you for your service. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Thank you.