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Monday, March 7, 2011

Prime Minister Gillard Visits The White House

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was met with favor today as she visits the White House to meet with President Obama.

The President and Prime Minister will discuss the strong ties between the United States and Australia, their shared political and economic interests in the Asia political and economic interests in the Asia Pacific region, and our work together around the world, including in Afghanistan and as members of APEC and the G20.

During their meeting today in the Oval Office with the media President Obama began by expressing condolences for those families affected by recent floods in the area.  The President commended Prime Minister Gillard and her government and all the personnel who were involved for their timely response, and reiterated the support of the U.S. to the Australian people.

The President mentioned his upcoming plans to travel to Asia for the East Asia summit, citing the Australian and U.S. shared interest in trade in the Pacific region.

The two also talked about security.   Said Obama, "And I want to once again thank the Australian people and the military families who are making such extraordinary sacrifices in Afghanistan. It is not easy. Australia is our largest non-NATO coalition member making an extraordinary contribution day in and day out. And I want to personally thank Prime Minister Gillard for her strong endorsement of our efforts there. And we discussed the fact that 2011 is going to be a year of transition in which we, more and more, provide the assistance necessary for Afghans to take the lead in that effort."

On the Middle East, President said he and the Prime Minister share "a very firm conviction that the violence that's been taking place and perpetrated by the government in Libya is unacceptable. Australia joined with us in imposing swift and firm sanctions, comprehensive sanctions, against the Libyan government."

Obama explained that the US will continue to monitor the violence there, adding that both the U.S. and Australia "stand shoulder-to-shoulder in sending a clear message that we stand for democracy, we stand for an observance of human rights, and that we send a very clear message to the Libyan people that we will stand with them in the face of unwarranted violence and the continuing suppression of democratic ideals that we've seen there."

Australia and the U.S. have been allies for more than 60 years.  Gillard refers the long-term relationship between the two nations "60 years young."

"There is so much more to do together in the future, including cooperating as America looks at its force posture, including cooperating in our region at the East Asia summit and beyond", said Gillard.

When President Obama was asked if he'd be welcomed in Australia, he replied: "I would love to get there. I’m looking forward to a return visit to Australia. The first time I was there, I was telling the Prime Minister, I was eight years old, and had a wonderful time in Sydney. Everybody treated me wonderfully, and I hope I get a chance to get back there soon."

President Obama and the Prime Minister visited Wakefield School in Arlington, Va.  The two were joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (who admitted he played pro basketball in Australia for four years) where they visited with 11th grade students in a history class taught by Collette Fraley, a 2011 Virginia Teacher of the Year, to emphasize the importance of out-educating the competition in order to win the future.

Wakefield High School has worked to implement rigorous and college-ready standards.  Among the school's signature reforms are a senior project requirement; Spanish-language immersion and study abroad; and a unique cohort program which is designed to increase the enrollment of  African-American and Hispanic males in Advanced Placement Courses. Teachers at Wakefield reach and inspire students through a rigorous curriculum, caring relationships, and a focus on resilience and responsibility-the four "Rs" that make up the "Wakefield Way."

This will make the second time Obama has visited the school since he gave his national 'Back To School' there on September 8, 2009. 

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