Covering

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



Monday, September 27, 2010

President Announces Goal of Recruiting 10K STEM Teachers Over Next Two Years

White House Press Release

Today, President Barack Obama announced a new goal of recruiting 10,000 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teachers over the next two years.

This announcement will move the country forward on the Obama Administration’s ambitious goal of preparing 100,000 STEM teachers over the next decade.

“When I came into office, I set a goal of moving our nation from the middle to the top of the pack in math and science education", said President Obama. "Strengthening STEM education is vital to preparing our students to compete in the 21st century economy and we need to recruit and train math and science teachers to support our nation’s students.”

As America’s students lag in math and science when compared to peers around the world, President Obama has made improving STEM education one of his top priorities.

President Obama has identified three overarching priorities for STEM education, necessary for laying a new foundation for America’s future prosperity that includes increasing STEM literacy so all students can think critically in science, math, engineering and technology; improving the quality of math and science teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations; and expanding STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities.

(End of release)
 
The news should bode well with many states including the District of Columbia.
 
On the web site of the District's mayor-elect, Vincent Gray, it states he his [...committed to bringing outstanding, cutting edge programs --International Baccalaureate programs, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), total immersion language programs into our schools...].

Gray beat one-term mayor Adrian Fenty who was strongly criticized for his role in allowing school chancellor Michelle Rhee fire over 200 teachers last year.

Ironically, President Obama said in an NBC interview earlier today, "The DC public schools systems are struggling," but have, "made some important strides over the last several years to move in the direction of reform."

Obama said his girls couldn't get the same quality education at a Washington, D.C. public school that they currently get at their private school.

The president's interview kicked off a three-day summit hosted by NBC called “Education Nation” focusing on the state of America's education today.

Vice First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, an educator at a Northern Virginia university, said in her remarks before a Higher Education Panel today in New York that the Obama administration "believes that higher education is critical to strengthening the American workforce.  In a global economy, it is no secret that the nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow. 

"So, President Obama has set the goal for the United States that we will once again lead the world in the proportion of college graduates by the end of this decade", added Biden.

Biden called the president's goal "not a Democratic or a Republican goal, but rather "a goal that recognizes the hopes and potential of every American."

The administration is joined in its efforts by leaders in government, education, business and philanthropy including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Melinda Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William Green, the Chairman and CEO of Accenture, and Eduardo Padron, President of Miami Dade College who joined the Vice First Lady today.

Friday, September 24, 2010

First Lady Michelle Obama Presents Gifts To the United Nations


The presentation of gifts to visiting foreign dignitaries is a time-honored tradition that helps transcend cultural barriers and offers a symbol of peace and friendship.

In honor of the 65th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly, First Lady Michelle Obama has assembled an assortment of gifts that reflect her past 20 months in the White House.

The White House Kitchen Garden, which provides the Obama family and White House guests with delicious fresh produce, is the central theme behind this year’s gift.
Hand-picked, pickled vegetables from the White House garden.
The gifts include a special recipe of pickled, hand-picked ingredients from the White House Kitchen Garden, including sun gold tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, chocolate bell peppers, carrots, lemon verbena, and fresh herbs that are presented in jars with the First Lady’s signature.

The jars are topped with original artwork done by California artists, Michael Cronan and Karin Hibma, who were inspired by a photo of Mrs.Obama tending to the garden with children.

Three-wick soy candle
 Other gifts include a three-wick soy candle, an original design from the Chesapeake Bay Candle company, based in Rockville, Maryland.

The relief on the candle was inspired by a photograph of the frieze, an oak leaf and rose garland, which hangs above the North Portico of the White House. 

The national tree and flower, the oak tree and rose, symbolize strength and compassion.

Comedy Isn't Welcomed On Capitol Hill. . .

Or Is It?

When Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central, showed up on Capitol Hill this week to attend a session on illegal farm workers hosted by the United Farm Workers, he drew the largest crowd seen at a hearing, at least by Congress member John Conyers.

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert
Conyers, in his "I run Congress" persona complimented Colbert on his celebrity appeal to bring people out to participate in politics, saying he couldn't remember when a hearing drew such a crowd, but respectfully asked the comedian with the sudden political conscience to leave the room after for offbeat comments that included him saying, "I don't want my tomatoes picked by a Mexican.  I want them picked by an American."

Colbert's comments also included him saying, "America's farms are presently far too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables then sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian.  Now the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables and if you look at the recent obesity statistics, you'll see that many Americans have already started."

While Conyers wanted Colbert out, the invitation that came from Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to appear on the Hill, stood.  Colbert was asked to remain present.

House speaker, Nancy Pelosi said it was a good thing to have Colbert bring attention to the issue.

Colbert took his antics even further with him explaining his time spent picking vegetables earlier in the day at a local farm in New York.

"I started my work day with preconceived notions of migrant labor but after working with these men and women picking beans, packing corn for hours on end side by side in the unforgiving sun, I have to say, and I do mean this sincerely, please don't make me do this again," Colbert said.

"It is really, really hard work."

Apparently, being stupid and getting a million dollar television contract isn't.
The session was to supposed to focus on the AgJobs bill, proposed legislation to improve agricultural job opportunities, benefits, and security for aliens in the United States, (and for other purposes).

Conyers, who has been active in getting the issue of billions of dollars owed to African American farmers, recently paneled a forum with Harry Belfonte during this year's Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference on saving Haiti.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Winning Some. Losing Some.

The Republicans in the Senate are like the weather.   You never know which way they'll blow. Or decide.

Today marked one victory for the Obama administration, and on the other hand yet another setback from what president Obama calls the "partisan minority."

The heavily debated jobs bill was finally approved today after months of delay. 

Welcoming the news, President Obama said, "The small business jobs bill passed today will help provide loans and cut taxes for millions of small business owners without adding a dime to our nation’s deficit.  After months of partisan obstruction and needless delay, I’m grateful that Democrats and a few Republicans came together to support this common-sense plan to put Americans back to work.  I look forward to signing the bill on Monday."

It is expected that the bill will allow small business owners to benefit from tax breaks and additional lending to allow companies have the capital to grow and hire more people. 

Jobs, people. Jobs.

On the flip side of today's news the president learned that the Republicans blocked the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act.

The successful Republican filibuster casted at 57-41 'NO' vote not to pass the Act in in July of last year.

The bill would violate free speech by regulating campaign contributions, meaning that it would require organizations involved in political campaigning to disclose the identity of the large donors, and reveal the identities of political ads funded.

Transparency, people.

It would also bar foreign corporations, government contractors, and TARP recipients from making political expenditures.

But as the story goes, the GOP wasn't allowing that to happen and again voted 'NO' on the measure by a vote of 59-39, almost mirroring the previous vote in 2009.

Upon hearing the news, President Obama remarked, "“I am deeply disappointed by the unanimous Republican blockade in the Senate of the DISCLOSE Act, a critical piece of legislation that would control the flood of special interest money into our elections."

Calling the decision a victory for special interest groups, Obama stated, "Today’s decision by a partisan minority to block this legislation is a victory U.S. corporations – including foreign-controlled ones – who are now allowed to spend unlimited money to fill our airwaves, mailboxes and phone lines right up until Election Day. And it comes at the expense of the American people, who no longer have the right to know who is financing these ads in an attempt to influence an election for their preferred candidate. Wall Street, the insurance lobby, oil companies and other special interests are now one step closer to taking Congress back and returning to the days when lobbyists wrote the laws."

Earlier this week U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank refused to interfere with a  Minnesota law that would reveal political donations from Target Corp. and other companies.
 
The president said, "but despite today’s setback, I will continue fighting to ensure that our democracy stays where it belongs - in the hands of the American people.” 

Jesse Jackson, Jr. Allegations

An Affair?  A Senate Seat Payoff?

Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is being touted as having the same proclivity as his father, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.

Jesse Jackson, Sr and wife, Alderwoman Sandi Jackson.

Allegations that Jackson, Jr. had an affair with a DC restaurant hostess have resurfaced for the young Chicago representative who said earlier this week that, "This reference to a social acquaintance is a private and personal matter between me and my wife that was handled some time ago. I know I have disappointed some supporters and for that I am deeply sorry."

His wife, Sandi Jackson, Alderwoman for the city's 7th Ward, who Jackson did not apologize to in the above-mentioned comment, called the allegation "not new."

"Today's public disclosure is not new and is one that my family and I have been privately addressing for two years. Therefore, I would hope that the public and the media will respect our family's right to continue to handle this matter privately."

Jackson's father, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., had an affair and fathered an illegitimate child during his extramarital affair with Karin Stanford, former head of Jackson's Washington office for Rainbow/PUSH.   Stanford relocated from Washington to Los Angeles shortly after the affair became public. Jackson, Sr., who counseled Bill Clinton during his affair with Monica Lewinsky has not commented on the allegations of his son's infidelity, but has been very vocal on just about every other issue including the treatment of LeBron James by Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert, to comments made by Mel Gibson to then girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.

Sandi Jackson and husband, Jesse Jackson Jr., have made comments that they both plan to run for mayor of Chicago. This comes on the heels of current mayor Richard Daley announcing he will not seek a 7th term in February's mayoral election.

If the report is true, Jackson, Jr. will have to face additional scrutiny on allegations that in 2008 Jackson attended a meeting where an Indian-American businessman offered to raise $1 million for Blagojevich's campaign. Prosecutors allege the fundraising would have been in exchange for Blagojevich appointing Jackson to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

Related
Jackson, Jr. An Informant?

More
In other high profile 'men of questionable honor, and recently shamed' news, Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Linthonia, GA has been charged with coercing three men to have sex. The defendants also charge that Long used his mega-church position to build a strong personal bond with them, by taking them on trips and giving them lavish gifts. They said the church leader convinced them that sex with him was part of a healthy spiritual life. They also have claimed that Long violated his legal responsibility as a spiritual adviser.

Bishop Eddie L. Long
Long denies the allegations and was scheduled to give a press conference earlier today, but later cancelled.

Long said he will make remarks during this Sunday's church service, but did in a written statement say, "But my faith is strong and the truth will emerge. All I ask is your patience while we categorically deny each and every one of these ugly charges. As I have done for thousands of others over decades of preaching, I ask for your prayers for me, my family and our church."

Long rallied at a 2004 march against gay marriage at the site of the future Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic site in Washington, D.C.  

Photos.  Accuser Video.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

President Obama's Town Hall Meeting: Newseum, Washington DC

With the The National Bureau of Economic Research reporting America's recession ended in June 2009, President Obama refuted those claims on Tuesday during a town hall meeting at the Newseum in Washington.

"Even though economists may say that the recession officially ended last year, obviously for the millions of people who are still out of work, people who have seen their home values decline, people who are struggling to pay the bills day to day, it’s still very real for them," said the president.

The president came face-to-face with an American who couldn't have articulated that quote any better.

During the THM an AmVets CFO, who had been openly praised the president after he was elected, said she had grown "exhausted of defending" his administration.

"I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for", asking Obama "is this my new reality?"

The audience member, a mother of two, said she still hadn't seen (or felt) the change she voted for.

"I have been told that I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I’m one of those people, and I’m waiting, sir. I’m waiting. I don't feel it yet. And I thought, while it wouldn’t be in great measure, I would feel it in some small measure."

The woman went on to say that the financial recession "has taken an enormous toll" on her family. My husband and I joked for years that we thought we were well beyond the hot dogs and beans era of our lives.

Watch the exchange below.



The president tried to show an audience member how his administration has helped the economy, noting that billions of dollars would go directly to students to obtain loans, grants and scholarships to go to college, and that students can remain on the parent's health insurance.

"So my goal here is not to try to convince you that everything is where it needs to be. It’s not", said Obama.

"That's why I ran for President. But what I am saying is, is that we’re moving in the right direction. And if we are able to keep our eye on our long-term goal, which is making sure that every family out there, if they’re middle class, that they can pay their bills, have the security of health insurance, retire with dignity and respect, send their kids to college; if they’re not yet in the middle class, that there are ladders there to get into the middle class, if people work hard and get an education to apply themselves - that's our goal. That's the America we believe in. And I think that we are on track to be able to do that."

The president spoke to helping small businesses and said he was not out to vilify small business owners.

"It is very important for us not to find ourselves in a position in which banks get too big to fail, and if they make bad decisions taxpayers have to bail them out or we let the entire economy collapse", Obama said.  That’s not a choice that I want any future President to have to make.  And we instituted those changes."

It was the third time president was interviewed at the Newseum. Most recently he was the guest on ABC’s "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on Jan. 10, 2009.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Revisited: That Darn Oil Spill!

Last week President Obama praised the team of Admiral Thad Allen, Secretaries Salazar, Chu, Napolitano, Administrators Jackson and Lubchenco, Carol Browner, and the federal science and engineering teams saying, “Today, we achieved an important milestone in our response to the BP oil spill – the final termination of the damaged well that sat deep under the Gulf of Mexico."

Oil spewing in the Gulf has stopped, as we know of.

But environmentalist still have their doubts.  As they should.

Concerns about the aftermath and effects on the region's marine life, fishery industry, and ecosystem, and more recently, the livestock, are still looming. Click here to see what a new study has found.

The president and his administration have said they are committed to healing the Gulf Coast.

"We also remain committed to doing everything possible to make sure the Gulf Coast recovers fully from this disaster. This road will not be easy, but we will continue to work closely with the people of the Gulf to rebuild their livelihoods and restore the environment that supports them. My administration will see our communities, our businesses and our fragile ecosystems through this difficult time.”

Related
Video:  BP's Subsurface Assessment

Sunday, September 19, 2010

President Obama Gives Remarks At The Congressional Black Caucus Annual Awards Dinner

In his second address (in as many years) President Obama gave remarks at the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards dinner where he did talked about what some say he rarely speaks on, or addresses at all - race.

The president, did to some degree, attempt to speak about race, especially in these tough economic times that has seen the African American community hit hardest.
On the current economic recession, calling it (again) "the worse since the Great Depression", Obama said, "It’s hit Americans of all races and all regions and all walks of life.  But as has been true often in our history, as has been true in other recessions, this one came down with a particular vengeance on the African American community."

President Obama gives remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Inc.’s Phoenix Awards Dinner. Photos/CD Brown.
Unemployment within the African American community is double that of the national average (9.9%), and even higher in some states. 

In a White House interview with talk show host Joe Madison, Obama said "for ten years we've had policies that did not help the African American community, did not help the American economy, and led to this disaster." 

During the interview, as he did during his Caucus address, Obama cited Republicans for driving the economy into a ditch that he said his administration has spent the last two years trying to dig the American people out of.

"The Republicans want the keys back", said Obama referring to the upcoming mid-term elections where many, including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs say the Democrats may lose in the November elections.

Adding, "nobody has been more damaged by that than the African American community, and it's important that we turn out to vote."

The president warned that the Republicans want to borrow $700 billion, which he said "America does not have", to use it on tax for millionaires and billionaires. 

"We shouldn’t be passing tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires right now", said Obama.  That's not what we should be doing.  We should be helping the middle class grow.  We should be proving pathways out of poverty."

Obama likened his administration's efforts to correct the economy to that of a car being dug out of a ditch while alluding that Republicans have been on the sidelines "sipping a Slurpee" and not helping to get the car out of the ditch.

"And now we've been down in that ditch, put on our boots -- it’s hot down there -- we've been pushing the car, shoving it, sweating", explained Obama.  "They’re standing on the sidelines, sipping a Slurpee watching us, saying, “You're not pushing fast enough.  You're not pushing hard enough.”

The president has been met with resistance from Republicans (led by speaker John Boehner (R-OH)) on all fronts, including closing tax loopholes for corporations.

Obama said that now that the economy has seen some growth, admitting there's still more work that needs to be done to continue the slightly upward trend, he's not willing to hand over the keys to the GOP to return to politics as usual.

"We tell them, you can't have the keys back.  You don't know how to drive.  You can't have it back."

Borrowing the words from the late actor Ossie Davis, Obama recounted Davis' remarks at the first CBC event where he said “It’s not the man, it’s the plan.”

President Obama said his plan has helped all Americans: whether it be passing the health care reform bill (making it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage because of preexisting conditions), or passing the Wall Street reform aimed at cracking down on predatory practices of banks and mortgage companies, or making what he calls "historic investments in education" (to including Historically Black Colleges and Universities), or ending the combat mission in Iraq.

"That's what we've been doing."

Also participating in this year's annual Caucus from the Obama Administration was Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement/ Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Michael Blake.  Blake helped panel a discussion with the Caucus' emerging leaders, sessions that focus on equipping students and young professionals with legislative and advocacy tools to affect change in their communities. Blake who grew up in humble means quoted his mother as saying, "We went from no house to the White House."  Blake grew up at times homeless.  His message to the young, emerging leaders: "Be invaluable.  Be necessary." 

Given the fact that there are fewer African Americans in high positions in politics (or in the corporate world), Blake added, "The second you are not valuable and necessary, there'll be a reason for you to not be in the room."

Along with the president making his remarks, the awards dinner awarded four extraordinary individuals for their lifelong work and contributions to society. 

This year's recipients included Harry Belafonte, Jr., actor and humanitarian; Simeon Booker, renowned journalist; Judith Jamison, choreographer and Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; and the Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver, Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly.

Activist and actor Harry Belefonte accepts his 2010 Phoenix Award at the annual CBC Awards dinner. Actor Lahman Rucker (left) the evening's emcee, and Congressman Bobby Rush (far right) pose with Belafonte.  Photo/CD Brown.
Belafonte encouraged the assembled audience to become more active in social causes.  Jamison was also honored at the White House earlier this month during The White House Dance Series: A Tribute to Judith Jamison event.

The Phoenix Awards dinner culiminated the three-day long events that facilitated the exchange of ideas and information to address critical issues affecting our communities while developing strategic research and historical resources for the public.

The CBC Foundation also provides leadership development and scholarship opportunities and develops effective programs and research to address social, economic and health disparities.

Notes
DC Mayor-elect Vincent Gray attended the awards dinner.

Photo gallery<>Video.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Congressional Black Caucus Week Tackles Tough Issues: Among Them Youth Unemployment and Education

Congressional members convene at today's Congressional Black Caucus Town Hall Meeting. Photo/CD Brown

Mark your calendars to attend this year's Congressional Black Caucus events at the Washington Convention Center.

This year's theme Vision, Journey, Mission will address many topics concerning Americans including jobs and education (especially for youth), and economic advancement.

In today's Town Hall meeting titled 'Educating Our Way To Prosperity' members on the panel that included Congressman Elijah Cummings, Representative Dianne Watson (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), and author of The Other Wes Moore talked about educating youth for green jobs, and to think entrepreneurial instead working for someone else.

"We must develop entrepreneurial opportunities", said Fattah. "In many cultures it's a common discussion to educate youth to think about starting a business."

Congressman Elijah Cummings who sits on the Joint Economic Committee said he gets the grim statistics on unemployment way before the public is aware of them. "We need to keep kids (especially young African American boys) interested in school."

Cummings spoke about a computer workshop he attended were young boys were being taught to take computers apart and put them back together. "They couldn't get them to leave", said Cummings.

Getting youth interested in opportunities they can use to become employable was the mantra of the day.

Representative Andre Carson, Donna Byrd of the Root.com, Louis Cedric Richmond, Astronaut Mae Jamison and Washington Post writer, Jonathan Capehart, Helena Andrews (author of Bitch Is The New Black) panel an Emerging Leaders session on the Evolution of Economics and Politics.

In a panel discussion on Haiti titled Finding the Path to Redevelopment, paneled by Congressman John Conyers, activist/actor Harry Belafonte, Conyers, the outspoken Congressman said he was ready to put before President Obama an agenda on what he and others want to happen to rebuild Haiti.

Congressman John Conyers and Harry Belafonte panel Haiti: Finding the Path to Redevelopment. Photo/CD Brown.
Conyers made it clear to those assembled that the current conditions of Haiti have to be a priority to the Obama administration and said he is planning to lay before President Obama a "comprehensive plan to make him understand the issue is of great concern."

Also speaking on the panel was Toussaint Hilaire, Director of the Aristide Foundation, who said "people are living in unacceptable conditions."

"There are a lot of rapes, never seen before in Haiti", explained Hilaine speaking through an English interpreter. "There is illness, sickness, hunger, malnutrition, trauma, and people are living under tents."

The Caucus continues through September 18th. Learn more at CBCFinc.org.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

USDA Awards Grants to Help Low-Income Households Access Healthy, Nutritious Food

Investments in Application Systems to Improve Access to Nutrition Assistance Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced nearly $5 million in grants for eight State agencies to simplify Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) application and eligibility systems and improve access to program benefits for America's low-income households. SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, helps ensure that people have access to healthy and nutritious food by providing low-income households with electronic benefits they can use to purchase food at authorized grocery stores.

"Collaborative partnerships are critical to combating food insecurity and hunger in our communities," said Vilsack. "These grants will help reach our goal of increasing program access and participation among America's most vulnerable citizens and to deliver healthy and nutritious food assistance to those in need."

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) continues to encourage relationships with private nonprofit organizations with strong community ties to enhance communication between the State agencies and the communities they serve. A priority for this year's grants is to fund a partnership between a State agency and one or more private non-profit organizations. Such collaboration enables the funding of projects which streamline a State's eligibility, certification and recertification processes and make them more efficient and effective.

SNAP is the cornerstone of the Nation's nutrition safety net. It is the largest of the USDA's 15 domestic nutrition assistance programs and provides crucial support and a vital supplement for low-income households to buy the food they need for good health, and helps many make the transition to self-sufficiency. Public, private, non-profit, and faith and community-based organizations play an important role in ensuring that all eligible people know about SNAP and USDA's other nutrition assistance programs.

The 8 grantees are the Nebraska Health and Human Services: $824,611; South Carolina Office of Rural Health: $613,153; Oregon Department of Human Services: $638,527; California SAWS Consortium IV: $607,075; Texas Health and Human Services Commission: $301,811; Oklahoma Department of Human Services: $991,373; End Hunger Connecticut!, Inc.: $91,279; and the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services: $932,171

Working in collaboration with USDA, State agencies continue to enhance SNAP program integrity even as demand has increased in response to national economic conditions. Each state agency is responsible for monitoring and improving its administration of SNAP with the SNAP quality control system determining the accuracy of the eligibility decision and the benefits authorized. The national average level of program payment accuracy for FY 2009 is 95.64 percent, the sixth consecutive year the program has achieved a historically high rate. For the second straight year, the national negative error rate (a measure of denials, terminations and suspensions) also improved.

SNAP supports individuals and families in need by putting healthy foods within reach. For more information on the SNAP and FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

The announcement comes on the heals of the First Lady's Let's Move! remarks at both the 2010 Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus events.

President's Back-To-School Speech Inspires

Excerpts from today's back-to-school speech by President Obama at the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Writing Your Own Destiny
"Nobody gets to write your destiny but you.  Your future is in your hands.  Your life is what you make of it.  And nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is beyond your reach, so long as you’re willing to dream big, so long as you’re willing to work hard.  So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education, there is not a single thing that any of you cannot accomplish, not a single thing.  I believe that."
Education Is Worth It
"But let me tell you, what you’re doing is worth it.  There is nothing more important than what you’re doing right now.  Nothing is going to have as great an impact on your success in life as your education, how you’re doing in school."
A Call To Government and Parents, Alike

So you’ve got an obligation to yourselves, and America has an obligation to you, to make sure you’re getting the best education possible. And making sure you get that kind of education is going to take all of us working hard and all of us working hand in hand.
It takes all of us in government -- from the governor to the mayor to the superintendent to the President -- all of us doing our part to prepare our students, all of them, for success in the classroom and in college and in a career. It’s going to take an outstanding principal, like Principal Neff, and outstanding teachers like the ones you have here at Masterman -- teachers who are going above and beyond the call of duty for their students. And it’s going to take parents who are committed to your education.
Last year the president gave his back-to-school address at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. 

Related
White House Reception for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

NCAA 2010 Champions Honored At White House


President Obama shakes hands with NCAA Champions at the White House on Monday. Photo/CD Brown.
Bringing his love for everything sports to the White House, President Barack Obama yesterday honored championship teams and student athletes from across the NCAA with a reception.

The occasion marks the continuing effort President Obama began of sports champions being commended for service, as part of a White House visit.

With over 600 student-athletes and over 100 coaches convening on the South Lawn of the White House, the president said, "I know that one team cooks dinner for the families of children suffering from serious illnesses. Another holds a track meet every year for more than 300 students with physical and mental disabilities. Together, you guys have organized blood drives, built houses, cleaned up beaches and reached out to senior citizens. One young man even donated bone marrow to a little girl he had never met."

After remarks by the president the students (who waited almost two hours to hear) were treated to a meet-and-greet (of sorts) on the South Lawn where the president shook hands with several students.

"It was just unreal", said Scott Wingo, in-fielder named to the University of South Carolina's 2010 SEC All-Defensive Team for the Gamecocks. "It was a once in a life time opportunity right there, and I had a great time."

Richard Royal, catcher for the Gamecocks said of his experience, "It was awesome. Not many people get to walk on the grounds of the White House, let alone get the chance to shake the president's hand."

Royal's sister, who who works in the D.C. metro area, hasn't been to the White House. Said Royal, "I think I got a one-up on her being able to go on the White House grounds."

The White House tradition of honoring the NCAA student champion athletes began with President George W. Bush.

Yesterday's event brought out the South Carolina's alumni who camped outside the White House for a glimpse of their school's champions who defeated UCLA 2-1.
"I cried when they won the College World Series, so to see them here is outstanding", said Kelly King, who graduated in 2007.

It's the second National Championship for the school who made history when they won the very last game of the series at the former Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium.

TCU's rifle squad show off championship boots.  Photo/CD Brown.
Also in attendence where students from the TCU rifle squad.

"I think they might be able to give Secret Service a run for their money", the president said.

NCAA Champions from our area included the University of Virginia Men’s Soccer, the University of Virginia Women’s Rowing, and the University of Maryland, College Park Women's Lacrosse Team.

Representing from the president's home state of Chicago was the University of Illinois' Men's Wheelchair Basketball Champions. The team finished with a record of 30-1.

"It was a tremendous opportunity to recognize all the student-athletes for their accomplishments, for us in particular", said the team's coach Mike Frogley. It was the first time the White House recognized wheelchair basketball.

----

Notes:
Obama Addresses NCAA Champions.

The Gamecocks football team is coached by former Redskins coach, Steve Spurrier who coached the team in the 2002-2003 season.

Photo Gallery

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Full Day of Events For the First Lady

George Washington University Freshman students high-five First Lady Michelle Obama at Vinson Hall Community Center in McLean, Virginia. Photos/CD Brown.
After joining former First Lady Laura Bush in Pennsylvania earlier today to honor the 9/11 passengers and crew of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Obama set her sights back in the Nation's Capital by participating in a National Day of Service and Remembrance at the Vinson Hall Retirement Community community center in McLean, Virginia.

The event garnered over 150 George Washington University students, eighty that included young veterans who either served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many attend GW courtesy of the G.I. Bill.

After high-fiving the George Washington University's young volunteers who volunteered to participate in the Freshman Day of Service initiative, the First Lady was off to help the students paint portions community center's loading dock.  Starting with the walls and then on

Other service opportunities included dusting the interior of the facility, taking inventory, having a car wash, and cleaning stairwells.

George Washington University had over 2,000 volunteer freshman students working at more than 12 different area metro area sites to include parts of the Anacostia watershed and areas of Rock Creek Park.

GW students totaled over 200,000 community service hours last year, exceeding the challenge set by Mrs. Obama of 100,000 hours in 2009.

Vinson Hall is supported by the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation. Its residents include Navy Veterans of the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway.

First Lady poses with young and season veterans at Vinson Hall.
"It is a wonderful opportunity to bring together those who have served many, many years ago with those who have recent experiences serving our nation - in what ever way", said Vinson Hall's Executive Director. 

"There are stories to tell on both parts, and I think it enriches the lives of our seniors as well as those of the younger Americans who hopefully listen to the various stories and learn from one another.  It also brings our community together in a partnership."

The students have volunteered at the Hall on several occasions.

Freshman Day of Service: Video and more.

First Lady helps paint Vinson Hall Community Center loading dock.  Photo/CD Brown.
First Lady painting pipes of Vinson Hall loading dock orange.  Photo/CD Brown.

Obamas To Attend Congressional Black Caucus 2010 Legislative Conference

CBC's Future Focus Series Tackles Gulf Coast Renewal, Voting Rights, and Edcuation Policy
As the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) marks 40 years of convening the top critical thinkers, political leaders, and policy makers in America, the organization's Center for Policy Analysis and Research will dedicate its Future Focus Series to critical issues of the day during its Annual Legislative Conference from September 15-18 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The President and First Lady attend 2009 CBC Annual Legislative Conference.
During this week's event First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to make remarks.  Both the President and First Lady participated at during last year's annual dinner.  The president received the Harold Washington award, and was also the keynote speaker at the annual gala and Phoenix Awards dinner.

This year the Caucus will again focus on a number of issues and will feature several braintrusts and forums.  Among the issues the Caucus will discuss:

Hope From Ground Zero: Resilience And Renewal In the Gulf Coast: As the cleanup continues in the Gulf and its residents struggle to regain some balance in their lives, politicians, community workers and residents of New Orleans will focus on the policy changes needed to promote sustainable community and business development. Speakers will include A. Byron Encalade, President of the Louisiana Oystermen's Association; Alice Craft-Kerney, Executive Director of the Lower 9th Ward Health Clinic; Tom Darden, Executive Director of the Make It Right Foundation headed by actor Brad Pitt. 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m, September 15. Room 207A.

Beyond Blood: Bone Marrow Donation among African Americans will stress the importance of black participation in offering hope and saving lives through marrow and tissue donation. Currently only seven percent of bone marrow donors are African American. The low number of donors makes it less likely that blacks will find suitable matches in life-threatening situations. Noon - 1:30 p.m., September 15. Room 207B.

Lasting Advantage: Why Reading by the Third Grade Matters will underscore the impact of early proficient reading on a child's ability to learn and succeed over time. 4:30- 6:00 p.m., September 15. Room 207B.

Avoice Voting Rights Student Workshop will look at the history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and feature activities for students from the Voting Rights Lesson Unit available through the Avoice Virtual Library's "For Educators" section, at the website www.avoiceonline.org.9:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., September 15. Capitol Visitors Center.

Door to the Future: Transforming Public Education for African-American Youth will include research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that will highlight strategies needed to bolster academic performance among middle- and high-school students, as well as prepare them for higher education, the workplace and beyond. 4:00 - 6:00 p.m., September 16. Room 145B.

For complete schedule and list of events visit www.cbcfinc.org .

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remembering 9/11: Where Where You?

The President and the First Lady both to participate in 9/11 events.

President's Weekly Address: A Day That Tested Our Country

In the morning the President will deliver remarks and participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The First Lady will be the keynote speaker at the memorial ceremony in honor of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, along with Mrs. Laura Bush. The event is being hosted by the National Park Foundation. Also tomorrow, the First Lady will participate in a Day of Service event in McLean, Virginia where she will accompany Mission Serve, the jointly run civilian-military initiative that she and Dr. Jill Biden helped launch last Veterans Day.




President Obama made the following remarks today at the White House during a press conference about the September 11th attacks and also addressed the new attack against Muslims and Islam.
"I think that at a time when the country is anxious generally and going through a tough time, then fears can surface, suspicions, divisions can surface in a society. And so I think that plays a role in it.

One of the things that I most admired about President Bush was after 9/11, him being crystal-clear about the fact that we were not at war with Islam. We were at war with terrorists and murderers who had perverted Islam, had stolen its banner to carry out their outrageous acts. And I was so proud of the country rallying around that idea, that notion that we are not going to be divided by religion; we’re not going to be divided by ethnicity. We are all Americans. We stand together against those who would try to do us harm.

And that’s what we’ve done over the last nine years. And we should take great pride in that. And I think it is absolutely important now for the overwhelming majority of the American people to hang on to that thing that is best in us, a belief in religious tolerance, clarity about who our enemies are -- our enemies are al Qaeda and their allies who are trying to kill us, but have killed more Muslims than just about anybody on Earth. We have to make sure that we don't start turning on each other.

And I will do everything that I can as long as I am President of the United States to remind the American people that we are one nation under God, and we may call that God different names but we remain one nation. And as somebody who relies heavily on my Christian faith in my job, I understand the passions that religious faith can raise. But I’m also respectful that people of different faiths can practice their religion, even if they don't subscribe to the exact same notions that I do, and that they are still good people, and they are my neighbors and they are my friends, and they are fighting alongside us in our battles.

And I want to make sure that this country retains that sense of purpose. And I think tomorrow is a wonderful day for us to remind ourselves of that."

The Vice President and Dr. Biden helped honored September 11th heroes at New York City’s Commemorative Ceremony at Zuccotti Park.
Related
I Wish You Were Here: Local Artist Sings Tribute Song For Those Lost in 9/11. (Listen: Track 8)
Michelle Obama: Always a Girl of Service?

President Obama Addresses Tough Issues: Among Them Tax Cuts For Small Businesses

President Obama addressed the media this morning to discuss among many items, tax cuts, and the repeated stifling of his administration's efforts by the GOP to move the country forward.

President Obama speaking to the media today on the economy. White House photo.
Speaking from the East Room of the White House the president said, "But one thing we can do next week is end a month-long standoff on a small business jobs bill that’s been held up in the Senate by a partisan minority. I realize there are plenty of issues in Washington where people of good faith simply disagree on principle. This should not and is not one of those issues.

The bill, as the president pointed out, was written by both Dems and Republicans and would give small business owners tax cuts, and help them get loans, and would not add to current deficit.

Said the president, "It will eliminate capital gains taxes for key investments in one million small businesses. It will provide incentives to invest and create jobs for four million small businesses. It will more than double the amount some small business owners can borrow to grow their companies."  

The president acknowledged the remarks of Republican Senator George Voinovich (OH) who said he would refuse to support blocking the bill, but said that "a minority of Republican senators have been using legislative tactics to prevent the bill from even getting to a vote."  The president quoted Voinovich who sided againist Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to delay the measure.  Said Voinovich, “This country is really hurting.” and “We don’t have time anymore to play games.”

The president was asked how he thought he has changed Washington since becoming president.

The president pointed out the successes of his administration saying, "whether it’s making sure that folks who can’t get health insurance because of preexisting condition can now get health insurance, or children who didn’t have coverage now have coverage; whether it’s making sure that credit card companies have to actually post in understandable ways what your credit card rates are and they can’t jack up existing balances in arbitrary ways; whether it’s making sure that we’ve got clean water and clean air for future generations; whether it’s making sure that tax cuts go to families that need it as opposed to folks who don’t -- on a whole range of issues over the last 18 months, we’ve put in place policies that are going to help grow a middle class and lay the foundation for long-term economic growth."

In a White House press release submitted earlier this afternoon, the president said he plans to sign a tax bill that will give millions of small businesses tax cuts that would directly help them. 

According to the release the proposed tax cuts would make 4.5 million small businesses and individuals eligible to increase the amount of investments they can write off ; extend bonus depreciation for 2 million businesses, small and large; make investments in 1 million small businesses eligible for zero capital gains taxes; allow 2 million self-employed to receive a deduction for health insurance costs on self-employment taxes; and enable virtually all small business owners to more easily receive a deduction for their use of cell phones.

Should the bill pass, the president could add yet another feather in his 'save the U.S. economy' presidential hat.

**Update**
After publishing we've learned that John Boehner has decided to play ball and support tax cuts for the middle class.  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made the following comment.

"We welcome John Boehner's change in position and support for the middle class tax cuts, but time will tell if his actions will be anything but continued support for the failed policies that got us into this mess."

Fairfax County Parkway Extension to Open September

The first phase of the $198 million expansion and extension of the Fairfax County Parkway includes an extension of the Parkway from  Rolling Road to I-95.  The improvement is considered a critical road improvement project the County has ever undertaken to prepare for the transfer of 13,000 Defense Department employees to Ft. Belvoir as part of 2005 recommendations of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC).

It it projected that the improvement, once completed, will allow access to Fairfax County residents new access point to I-95 northbound and southbound, which will help relieve congestion at other nearby on-ramps and exits.

The first phase completes a two-mile, four-lane section between Rolling Road and Fullerton Road. This portion of the Parkway will carry more than 8,500 employees to the new headquarters of the National
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency at the Engineer Proving Ground in Springfield as part of BRAC.

Phase two of the project involves the construction of an interchange at Rolling Road and the entrance to the
Enginer Proving Ground and the extension of Boudinot Drive to provide a ramp to the Parkway southbound.

Phases three and four involve the relocation of Hooes Road and Rolling Road, improvements to the Springfield Parkway interchange, and the extension of Boudinot Drive at the Fairfax County Parkway.

The project is supported by a delegation in the U.S. Congress.

A ribbon cutting ceremony is being planned for early this month.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Labor Day Proclamation

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Working Americans are the foundation of our Nation's continued economic success and prosperity. From constructing the first transcontinental railroad to shaping our city skylines, they have built our country and propelled it forward.

Through great innovation and perseverance, our labor force has forged America as a land of limitless possibility and a leader in the global marketplace. On Labor Day, we honor the enduring values and immeasurable contributions of working men and women today and throughout our history.

As we recognize the contributions of the American workers who have built our country, we must continue to protect their vital role and that of organized labor in our national life.

Workers have not always possessed the same rights and benefits many enjoy today. Over time, they have fought for and gained fairer pay, better benefits, and safer work environments. From the factory floors during the Industrial Revolution to the shopping aisles of today's superstores, organized labor has provided millions of hard-working men and women with a voice in the workplace and an unprecedented path into our strong middle class. By advocating on behalf of our families, labor unions have helped advance the safe and equitable working conditions that every worker deserves.

Today, as we emerge from the worst recession since the Great Depression, far too many American workers remain without a job. With every work hour lost and every plant closure and layoff, families and communities struggle to make ends meet and face difficult decisions about how to stay afloat. Yet, in the face of this tremendous challenge, our workers have renewed their commitment to achieving the American dream by training and educating themselves for careers crucial to our long-term competitiveness. To rebuild our economy, my Administration is focusing on job training and investing in industries that cannot be outsourced. By focusing on recovery at home, we are saving or creating millions of jobs in America and supporting the working men and women who will drive our 21st-century economy.

More remains to be done, but we have taken important steps forward toward recovery.

American workers have always been ready to roll up their sleeves, clock in, and earn an honest living. That steady determination is why I have confidence in the American economy more and confidence that we can overcome the challenges we face.

There is no greater example of our country's resolve and resilience than that of our workers. As we celebrate Labor Day, we honor those who have advanced our Nation's strength and prosperity -- American workers.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 6, 2010, as Labor Day.

I call upon all public officials and people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that acknowledge the tremendous contributions of working Americans and their families.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

BARACK OBAMA

White House Dance Series To Honor Judith Jamison

**Update**

View coverage of this event on our sister pages here.
_________________________

On September 7th, First Lady Michelle Obama will invite world renowned dance companies to perform at the Administration’s first event celebrating dance.

The White House Dance Series: A Tribute to Judith Jamison will honor Jamison for her outstanding career as an American dancer, choreographer, and Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for the past 20 years. The event, featuring American dance from ballet, modern and contemporary dance, hip hop and Broadway will be held in the White House’s East Room.

Alvin Ailey during his early years.
The evening event will feature performers from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Billy from Billy Elliot the Musical, The Washington Ballet, Super Cr3w, and New York City Ballet. It will be directed by Damian Woetzel, former principal dancer at the New York City Ballet and member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Jamison was honored in 2009 at the historic Lincoln Theatre by the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute where she received the organization's Paul Robeson award May 2, 2009.

Alvin Ailey and Jamison together. Circa 1970.
Fans can see the dance ensemble perform locally at the Publick Playhouse on Sunday, October 24 in Cheverly, Maryland.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hurricane Earl Update

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell has issued a state of emergency for the commonwealth of Virginia.

"The current forecast has Hurricane Earl passing east of Virginia later this week," said McDonnell. "However, a change in the storm's path could bring hazardous weather conditions to eastern Virginia. This declaration is a precautionary move which will allow state agencies to be ready just in case resources are needed."

A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions of winds greater than 73 mph are possible in the next 48 hours as officials keep a close eye on Earl, which has been downgraded to a Category 3 storm but is headed towards the East Coast.
 
The Washington, DC, metro area is not expected to be drastically affected.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley advised travelers not to drive to or from Ocean City during the height of stormy weather. O'Malley said Wednesday during a Board of Public Works meeting that Earl is tracking about 150 miles to 200 miles off Maryland's coast. He said officials expect there will be a fair amount of beach damage and erosion, but that it's unlikely Ocean City will need to be evacuated.

(Sources: Reston Patch/Baltimore Sun)

First Lady Taking Her Let's Move! Message To New Orleans

The First Lady participates in a Let's Move! event at Brock Elementary School in Slidell, Louisiana.
We were wondering whether First Lady Michelle was going to take her message of healthy eating for a healthy lifestyle to the residence of New Orleans.

After watching Spike Lee's latest documentary (which we're hoping the President and First Lady also watched) we were reminded of the rich, but unhealthy eating lifestyle of the residents of New Orleans.

The First Lady must have read our minds.

After visiting Louisiana last week with the president, this week the First Lady will return to New Orleans.  This time for a morning event at Brock Elementary School in Slidell, Louisiana, focusing on the next phase of the Let’s Move! campaign where she will highlight steps local schools and communities can take to combat childhood obesity.

She will also salute participants in the US Healthier Schools Challenge program.

Visit the Let's Move! web site to learn 5 easy steps to better health.

Hurricane Season: Preparing for Earl


With the hurricane season among us, FEMA is advising us all to take precaution now and heed any evacuation decisions made by state and local officials.

Hurricanes and tropical storms frequently bring flash flooding as well.

The National Weather Service forecasts the center of Hurricane Earl to move into the open Atlantic today, and travel east of the Turks and Caicos Islands later today and tonight. Although no watches or warnings are currently in effect for the mainland United States, history has shown that storm tracks can change quickly and unexpectedly. Officials are closely monitoring the areas from the Carolinas to New England, and FEMA is coordinating with the Governors and local officials along the East Coast to aggressively prepare for possible severe weather. Severe weather and flash floods can occur miles inland, and are possible even if a hurricane does not make landfall.

FEMA has activated the National Response Coordination Center and its Regional Response Coordination Centers in all four of its regional offices in the eastern United States, located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. FEMA has designated a Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) and has personnel on the ground North Carolina at the state's Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh supporting the state, and is mobilizing personnel and supplies along the coast.

Earlier today FEMA administrator Craig Fugate briefed  President Obama on the impacts from Hurricane Earl on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, both of which have had FEMA teams on the ground since the weekend supporting the Governors’ efforts related to the storm.

As not to repeat the mistakes five years ago by the last administration during Hurricane Katrina, President Obama stressed to FEMA that they should be prepared for all scenarios -  including the worst case -  and do everything needed to protect the residents and communities along the East Coast, including encouraging residents and visitors in potentially affected areas to follow all evacuation orders issued by local and state officials.

Visit www.ready.gov to learn more about how to prepare for an emergency. A Spanish version of the website is also available at www.listo.gov.