In this week’s address, Senator Elizabeth Warren joined President Obama to discuss how far we’ve come since the financial crisis, when the recklessness of Wall Street caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes, and savings. Senator Warren underscored the importance of the Wall Street reforms the President signed into law, which included the strongest consumer protections in generations. In addition to making the financial system safer and more resilient, these reforms also established the first-ever Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which holds banks, credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and others accountable, and protects consumers from abuses and deceptive practices. This past Thursday, July 21, marked six years since the President signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law and the five year anniversary of the creation of the CFPB. Thanks to these reforms, the President reiterated the economy is stronger and more durable today than it was before the crisis. That’s why President Obama is going to keep fighting to protect the progress we’ve made reforming Wall Street from attacks, because hard-working Americans who play by the rules should expect Wall Street to play by the rules, too.
In this week’s address, President Obama acknowledged that the aftermath of tragedies like we’ve seen in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Minnesota, can leave us struggling to make sense of these events. However, the President reiterated that the country is not as divided as it may seem. He said he saw it this week when he met with law enforcement on the challenges they face; when he traveled to Dallas for the memorial service of the five brave police officers who died while protecting protesters with whom they may have disagreed; when he convened a more than four-hour long meeting with police chiefs, Black Lives Matter activists, and state and local leaders; and when he participated in a town hall where he said there is no contradiction between honoring police and recognizing racial disparities exist within the criminal justice system. The President said that although these conversations can be challenging, we have to be able to talk about our differences. We have to be open and honest – not just within our own circles, but also with those who offer different perspectives. Because that’s what America is about – finding solutions not only through policy, but also by forging consensus and finding the political will to make change.
Yesterday, President Obama spoke at an interfaith ceremony in Dallas Texas to honor the lives and service of the 5 police officers murdered last week: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson.
He spoke also of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille whose deaths sparked nationwide protests including the protest that those police officers were part of and protecting; he spoke of systemic racism, injustice, the failures our of institutions and hardened hearts.
When African Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently, so that if you’re black you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested, more likely to get longer sentences, more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime; when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have “the talk” about how to respond if stopped by a police officer — “yes, sir,” “no, sir” — but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door, still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy — when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid. (Applause.) We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism. To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and coworkers and fellow church members again and again and again — it hurts. Surely we can see that, all of us.
We also know what Chief Brown has said is true: That so much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves. (Applause.) As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools. We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment. (Applause.) We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs. (Applause.) We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book — (applause) — and then we tell the police “you’re a social worker, you’re the parent, you’re the teacher, you’re the drug counselor.” We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs, and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience. Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when, periodically, the tensions boil over.
He concluded with a call to open our hearts and forge consensus to fight cynicism and make changes:
That’s what we must pray for, each of us: a new heart. Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens. That’s what we’ve seen in Dallas these past few days. That’s what we must sustain.
Because with an open heart, we can learn to stand in each other’s shoes and look at the world through each other’s eyes, so that maybe the police officer sees his own son in that teenager with a hoodie who’s kind of goofing off but not dangerous — (applause) — and the teenager — maybe the teenager will see in the police officer the same words and values and authority of his parents. […]
In the end, it’s not about finding policies that work; it’s about forging consensus, and fighting cynicism, and finding the will to make change.
Can we do this? Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other? Can we see in each other a common humanity and a shared dignity, and recognize how our different experiences have shaped us? And it doesn’t make anybody perfectly good or perfectly bad, it just makes us human. […]
For all of us, life presents challenges and suffering — accidents, illnesses, the loss of loved ones. There are times when we are overwhelmed by sudden calamity, natural or manmade. All of us, we make mistakes. And at times we are lost. And as we get older, we learn we don’t always have control of things — not even a President does. But we do have control over how we respond to the world. We do have control over how we treat one another.
America does not ask us to be perfect. Precisely because of our individual imperfections, our founders gave us institutions to guard against tyranny and ensure no one is above the law; a democracy that gives us the space to work through our differences and debate them peacefully, to make things better, even if it doesn’t always happen as fast as we’d like. America gives us the capacity to change.
But as the men we mourn today — these five heroes — knew better than most, we cannot take the blessings of this nation for granted. Only by working together can we preserve those institutions of family and community, rights and responsibilities, law and self-government that is the hallmark of this nation. For, it turns out, we do not persevere alone. Our character is not found in isolation. Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down; it is found by lifting others up.
Full transcript below along with raw video of the entire ceremony.
In this week’s address, Vice President Joe Biden commemorated the lives of the five police officers who were killed and the seven people who were wounded in Dallas. The police officers were providing safety to those who were peacefully marching against racial injustices in the criminal justice system – and the shocking images of the lives lost in St. Paul and Baton Rouge. Echoing the remarks of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Police Chief David Brown, the Vice President called on the American people to act with unity and to stop the violence. He emphasized that it is the responsibility of everyone to speak out against disparities within the criminal justice system, just as much as it is the responsibility of everyone to stand up for the police who protect us every day. Because together, we as a nation will persevere and overcome.
In this week’s address, President Obama wished everyone a happy Fourth of July, and recognized our service members, veterans and their families for their service to our country. The President commended First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden on the most recent milestone of their Joining Forces initiative. This week, the First Lady and Dr. Biden announced that all fifty states have acted to streamline professional licensing for military spouses, who often move across state lines and need to re-certify for a job they are already qualified for. Although more work needs to be done, today, many military spouses no longer have to worry about putting their career on hold just because their loved ones have chosen to serve this country. That’s what this initiative is all about – serving our troops as well as they have served us. This holiday weekend, visit JoiningForces.gov to find out how you can serve service members, veterans and military families in your community.
On Friday, June 24, President Obama designated the Stonewall National Monument – the first national monument dedicated to telling the story of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community’s struggle for equal rights. In this week’s address, the President talked about the importance of preserving and sharing this significant part of the American story. Although we have seen true progress over the years, the President acknowledged that the LGBT community still faces discrimination to this day. With that in mind, the President emphasized that as a country, we must continue to push for equality, acceptance and tolerance – because that’s what makes our country the greatest nation on earth.
In this week’s address, President Obama reflected on his visit with the families of the victims of the Orlando terrorist attack. He reiterated that we will always stand with those impacted by the Orlando attack – and we will do everything in our power to stop homegrown terrorism attacks and ultimately destroy ISIL. With Father’s Day coming up, the President emphasized the responsibilities we have to each other – particularly to our children. Too often, events like these have been followed by silence and inaction. President Obama said in order for us to raise our children in a more loving, safer world, we must speak up for it. Whether it’s speaking up about the risks guns pose to our communities, or why tolerance and equality matter, our children need to hear us respond to these events and lead our lives with love.
Reposted from June 27, 2015 – to honor those who were brutally murdered a year ago today.
From the White House:
President Obama travels to the College of Charleston in South Carolina to deliver a eulogy for Reverend Clement Pinckney and 8 other congregation members of Emanuel AME who were killed on June 17, 2015. June 26, 2015.
Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — and taught that they matter. That’s what happens in church.
That’s what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes.
On the Confederate flag and its removal:
For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.
Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. […]
For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.
On the work ahead:
… it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual — that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again.
On Tuesday, President Obama delivered a statement to the press after a meeting with his counter-terrorism group. The meeting covered ISIL and the Orlando massacre, the killing of 49 patrons of a gay night club that also resulted in 53 wounded, some critically. He did not hold back his disgust at the demagoguery from the Republican Party including its standard bearer, the “vulgar talking yam” (h/t Charlie Pierce).
I want to reiterate our objective in this fight. Our mission is to destroy ISIL. Since I last updated the American people on our campaign two months ago, we’ve seen that this continues to be a difficult fight — but we are making significant progress. … And our message [to ISIL] is clear: If you target America and our allies, you will not be safe. You will never be safe. […]
[Here] at home, if we really want to help law enforcement protect Americans from homegrown extremists, the kind of tragedies that occurred at San Bernardino and that now have occurred in Orlando, there is a meaningful way to do that. We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents. It is absolutely true we cannot prevent every tragedy. But we know that, consistent with the Second Amendment, there are common-sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm.
Proceed with the bark stripping …
And let me make a final point. For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us — we can’t beat ISIL unless we call them “radical Islamists.” What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction. Since before I was President, I’ve been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As President, I have repeatedly called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions. […]
There has not been a moment in my seven and a half years as President where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam.” Not once has an advisor of mine said, man, if we really use that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around. Not once. So if someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we’re fighting, if there’s anyone out there who thinks we’re confused about who our enemies are, that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we’ve taken off the battlefield. […]
If the implication is that those of us up here and the thousands of people around the country and around the world who are working to defeat ISIL aren’t taking the fight seriously, that would come as a surprise to those who have spent these last seven and a half years dismantling al Qaeda in the FATA, for example — including the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk and the Special Forces that I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria. They know full well who the enemy is. So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans, including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows. They know who the nature of the enemy is.
So there’s no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It’s a political talking point; it’s not a strategy. And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism. Groups like ISIL and al Qaeda want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions. They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people; that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda. That’s how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion — then we’re doing the terrorists’ work for them.
He wraps up with these questions and a reminder:
We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America. We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests that entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens.
Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith? We’ve heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. It doesn’t reflect our democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe; it will make us less safe — fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making young Muslims in this country and around the world feel like no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack. It makes Muslim Americans feel like they’re government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.
We’ve gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear — and we came to regret it. We’ve seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens. And it has been a shameful part of our history. […]
Our diversity and our respect for one another, our drawing on the talents of everybody in this country, our making sure that we are treating everybody fairly — that we’re not judging people on the basis of what faith they are or what race they are, or what ethnicity they are, or what their sexual orientation is — that’s what makes this country great. That’s the spirit we see in Orlando. That’s the unity and resolve that will allow us to defeat ISIL. That’s what will preserve our values and our ideals that define us as Americans. That’s how we’re going to defend this nation, and that’s how we’re going to defend our way of life.
In this week’s address, President Obama discussed the crippling economic crisis harming 3.5 million Americans in Puerto Rico. Today, the island is spending over a third of its tax revenue on debt payments – and on July 1, Puerto Rico is facing another $2 billion in debt payments that it cannot make. The President said the only way for Puerto Rico to overcome this crisis is by restructuring its debt and finding a sustainable path toward growth and opportunity for its people. But this requires help from Congress in order to give Puerto Rico the tools it needs to restructure its debt. The President commended the House of Representatives, which overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill to address the crisis, and called on the Senate to quickly follow suit.