Weekly Address: President Obama – This Thanksgiving, Recognizing the Greatness of American Generosity

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address – On Thanksgiving Day

In this week’s address, the President wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving, and reflected on America’s history of welcoming men and women seeking a safer, better future for themselves and their families. On this uniquely American holiday, he recognized the greatness of American generosity, as evidenced by people are the country who use the day to volunteer and give back to others. And he shared stories of Americans who, in that same spirit of generosity, have written letters to him expressing their willingness to open their homes to refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL. Like the pilgrims who set sail on the Mayflower nearly four centuries ago, these refugees are looking for safety and another chance. And it is important to remember that they undergo the highest security checks of anyone traveling to the United States. The President reminded us that providing refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable people is an American tradition, and part of what makes this country the greatest on Earth.

Transcript: Weekly Address: This Thanksgiving, Recognizing the Greatness of American Generosity

Remarks of President Barack Obama, Weekly Address
The White House, November 26, 2015

Hi, everybody. In 1620, a small band of pilgrims came to this continent, refugees who had fled persecution and violence in their native land. Nearly 400 years later, we remember their part in the American story — and we honor the men and women who helped them in their time of need.

Thanksgiving is a day for food and football, and for hoping the turkey didn’t turn out too dry. But it’s also a day to count our blessings and give back to others — a reminder that no matter our circumstances, all of us have something to be grateful for. Maybe it’s good health, a new addition to the family, or a child taking a next step toward college or a career. Maybe it’s a new job, or long overdue raise. Maybe it’s something as simple, and as important, as the chance to spend time with the people who matter most.

Of course, every American can be thankful for the chance to live in a country founded on the belief that all of us are created equal. And as President, I’m thankful that I get to see the best of America every day — the courage of our troops and veterans, the resilience of our families, and the basic goodness of the ordinary people who call this country.

On this uniquely American holiday, we also remember that so much of our greatness comes from our generosity. There’s the generosity of Americans who volunteer at food banks and shelters, making sure that no one goes hungry on a day when so many plates are full. There’s the generosity of Americans who take part not just in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but Giving Tuesday — recognizing that in the holiday season, what you give is as important as what you get.

And I’ve been touched by the generosity of the Americans who’ve written me letters and emails in recent weeks, offering to open their homes to refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL.

Now, people should remember that no refugee can enter our borders until they undergo the highest security checks of anyone traveling to the United States. That was the case before Paris, and it’s the case now. And what happened in Paris hasn’t stopped Americans from opening their arms anyway.

One woman from Pennsylvania wrote me to say, “Money is tight for us in my household … But I have a guest room. I have a pantry full of food. We can do this.” Another woman from Florida told me her family’s history dates back to the Mayflower — and she said that welcoming others is part of “what it means to be an American.”

Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims — men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families. What makes America America is that we offer that chance. We turn Lady Liberty’s light to the world, and widen our circle of concern to say that all God’s children are worthy of our compassion and care. That’s part of what makes this the greatest country on Earth.

I hope that you and your family have wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by loved ones, and full of joy and gratitude. And together, may we all play our own small part in the American story, and write a next chapter that future generations can be thankful for.

From the Obama family to yours, have a great Thanksgiving.

Bolding added.

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4 Comments

  1. President Obama:

    Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims — men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families. What makes America America is that we offer that chance. We turn Lady Liberty’s light to the world, and widen our circle of concern to say that all God’s children are worthy of our compassion and care. That’s part of what makes this the greatest country on Earth.

  2. In the News: How The House Of Representatives Voted To Make Refugee Resettlement Impossible

    Last week, 289 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted for a bill to prevent Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing persecution and torture from being resettled in the United States. They also voted to load unnecessary and burdensome requirements onto three of the nation’s top security and intelligence officials, interfering with their primary mission of keeping America safe. And by bending to anti-Muslim rhetoric and lending support to the quixotic efforts of more than two dozen governors who have vowed to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states, the bill also plays into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, and furthers the group’s recruitment strategy.

    Many members may not know this is what they voted for when they supported H.R. 4038, the Orwellian-named American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act. That is because the bill was rushed to a vote less than two days after introduction, and was sold as a measured response to the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, France—merely a brief “pause” in Syrian refugee resettlement efforts.

    But make no mistake, the bill shuts down the refugee resettlement program for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and for any other refugee who may have passed through one of those countries in the past four years.

    • Security Officers meet in Halifax: As US politicians protest, security officials brush off refugee ‘hysteria’

      Since last week’s attacks in Paris, grumbling about President Barack Obama’s plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees on U.S. soil has swelled into an uproar. A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives, 26 state governors and just about every Republican presidential candidate agree: With Europe still reeling from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) biggest-ever strike on a Western capital, it is too risky to roll out the welcome mats for those fleeing the armed group’s stronghold.

      Conspicuously absent from the anti-refugee chorus, however, are the military officials and security experts whose jobs it is to actually keep the homeland safe. Nowhere was that more apparent than at last weekend’s Halifax International Security Forum (HISF), an annual NATO-sponsored summit that is held on Canada’s eastern seaboard and happened to fall a week after the Paris attacks. Whether on stage during discussions of the burgeoning ISIL threat, or in interviews on the sidelines, it was hard to find anyone who shared the alarmist warning that resettlement could provide a “federally-funded jihadi pipeline” into the United States.

      If anything, the consensus at HISF was the exact opposite fear: that scapegoating Syrian refugees for the Paris attacks — which were perpetrated by European citizens, some with ties to Syria, but no Syrian refugees — could ultimately pose a far greater security risk. Experts on ISIL say the group is shifting its strategy toward terror attacks on the West specifically in order to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment, boosting its recruiting efforts and its narrative of a global war against “infidels.”

      If people follow the red herring, they will miss the real crisis:

      Perhaps more urgently, however, anti-refugee hysteria can distract from important policy debates that are critical to staving off more attacks, said Janice Gross Stein, founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and a panelist at HISF. Noting that the attackers in Paris were mostly European-born, she argued that the violence says more about France’s domestic challenges integrating its Muslim minority than it does about war refugees. “This is fundamentally a story about Europeans attacking Europeans, with very minimal logistical and financial support,” Stein said.

  3. In the News: The Murder of Laquan McDonald

    President Obama reacts

    President Barack Obama said he was “deeply disturbed” by the graphic video footage of the death in Chicago of a black teen shot 16 times by a white police officer.

    The dash-cam video shows Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. Van Dyke was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder.

    In a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday night, Obama also said he is personally grateful to the people of his hometown —Chicago — for keeping protests peaceful. Local officials had worried that releasing the video would set off violent unrest like that seen in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore after the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

    Chicago Stays Calm:

    The white Chicago policeman charged with murdering a black teenager he shot 16 times spent his first full day in custody on Wednesday in a jail hospital ward, as calm prevailed in a city braced for civil unrest over new video footage of the slaying.

    Protests were mostly small and peaceful on Tuesday and Wednesday following the release of a graphic clip showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being gunned down in the middle of a street on Oct. 20, 2014, as he was walking away from police who had confronted him.

    The tape, recorded from a dashboard-mounted camera in one of several patrol cars arriving on the scene, was made public on Tuesday under court order hours after the officer who fired the fatal volley of gunshots, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with first-degree murder.

    Investigation of the case comes amid a national debate on race and police tactics sparked by a series of high-profile killings of unarmed black men at the hands of mainly white law enforcement in several U.S. cities in the past two years, leading to widespread demonstrations and some violent unrest.

    ThinkProgress: Will anyone in power be held accountable for the lies about this crime?

    The whole ugly thing would likely have gotten swept under the rug if journalists had not exposed an autopsy report and video footage that contradict the official narrative about what happened to McDonald. One of those journalists is Jamie Kalven, who emphasized the extensive and toxic cover-up of the killing to the Chicago Reporter on Tuesday.

    Instead of taking statements from eyewitnesses, Kalven says, police moved people away from the scene of the killing. They did not take down contact information to ensure they could follow up later, witnesses told the journalist. Cops even went into a nearby fast food store and deleted nearly an hour and a half of security camera footage that may have captured the killing, the local NBC news affiliate reported back in the spring.

    After neutralizing the potential for an alternative narrative based on civilian accounts and security camera footage, the police infrastructure offered its own version of events to the public. According to Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden, “none of the officers who responded had a Taser to use on the teen and were trying to detain him long enough for one to arrive.” Camden told the Chicago Tribune that McDonald lunged at the cops, who shot him in self-defense. […]

    the department itself claimed that McDonald died of a single gunshot to the chest, not the 16 shots to the back, legs, arms, chest, and head that Van Dyke actually fired.

    The documents also say that no other officers at the scene thought McDonald had done anything threatening toward Van Dyke, corroborating the appearance of events from the dashcam video. But the investigation that produced those statements from Van Dyke’s colleagues began only after reporters challenged the official story.

    Today, even with the official story of McDonald’s death in tatters, city officials appear eager to limit the blame to Van Dyke. “One individual needs to be help accountable,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on a conference call with community leaders Monday.

    Once Van Dyke is prosecuted, the mayor said, “we can go as a city and begin the process of healing.” That process seems unlikely to include accountability for Van Dyke’s colleagues who abetted the official story about why and how he killed McDonald.

    All this does is underscore the sense that some people in our society are deemed “disposable” and those who “dispose of them”, and their enablers, never really have to pay a price.

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