Tag Archives: White House

President Obama’s press conference with Chancellor Merkel, 5/2/14: Excerpted remarks on NSA

The President:

If you don’t mind, I’m going to also go ahead and maybe say something about NSA just because I know it’s of great interest in the German press as well. Germany is one of our closest allies and our closest friends, and that’s true across the spectrum of issues — security, intelligence, economic, diplomatic. And Angela Merkel is one of my closest friends on the world stage, and somebody whose partnership I deeply value. And so it has pained me to see the degree to which the Snowden disclosures have created strains in the relationship.

But more broadly, I’ve also been convinced for a very long time that it is important for our legal structures and our policy structures to catch up with rapidly advancing technologies. And as a consequence, through a series of steps, what we’ve tried to do is reform what we do and have taken these issues very seriously. Domestically, we’ve tried to provide additional assurances to the American people that their privacy is protected. But what I’ve also done is taken the unprecedented step of ordering our intelligence communities to take the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons into account in everything that they do — something that has not been done before and most other countries in the world do not do. What I’ve said is, is that the privacy interests of non-U.S. citizens are deeply relevant and have to be taken into account, and we have to have policies and procedures to protect them, not just U.S. persons. And we are in the process of implementing a whole series of those steps.

We have shared with the Germans the things that we are doing. I will repeat what I’ve said before — that ordinary Germans are not subject to continual surveillance, are not subject to a whole range of bulk data gathering. I know that the perceptions I think among the public sometimes are that the United States has capacities similar to what you see on movies and in television. The truth of the matter is, is that our focus is principally and primarily on how do we make sure that terrorists, those who want to proliferate weapons, transnational criminals are not able to engage in the activities that they’re engaging in. And in that, we can only be successful if we’re partnering with friends like Germany. We won’t succeed if we’re doing that on our own.

So what I’ve pledged to Chancellor Merkel has been in addition to the reforms that we’ve already taken, in addition to saying that we are going to apply privacy standards to how we deal with non-U.S. persons as well as U.S. persons, in addition to the work that we’re doing to constrain the potential use of bulk data, we are committed to a U.S.-German cyber dialogue to close further the gaps that may exist in terms of how we operate, how German intelligence operates, to make sure that there is transparency and clarity about what we’re doing and what our goals and our intentions are.

These are complicated issues and we’re not perfectly aligned yet, but we share the same values and we share the same concerns. And this is something that is deeply important to me and I’m absolutely committed that by the time I leave this office, we’re going to have a stronger legal footing and international framework for how we are doing business in the intelligence sphere.

I will say, though, that I don’t think that there is an inevitable contradiction between our security and safety and our privacy. And the one thing that I’ve tried to share with Chancellor Merkel is that the United States historically has been concerned about privacy. It’s embedded in our Constitution, and as the world’s oldest continuous constitutional democracy, I think we know a little bit about trying to protect people’s privacy.

And we have a technology that is moving rapidly and we have a very challenging world that we have to deal with, and we’ve got to adjust our legal frameworks. But she should not doubt, and the German people should not doubt, how seriously we take these issues. And I believe that we’re going to be able to get them resolved to the satisfaction not just of our two countries but of people around the world.

Transcript of complete remarks: http://1.usa.gov/1rNHqGs

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A Surprise Invitation from the White House

Every year since taking office, President Obama has invited members and allies of the LGBT community to celebrate Pride Month at the White House. This year, the White House invited nine ordinary Americans from across the country — all members or allies of the LGBT community who wrote letters to the President — to attend the Pride Month Reception on Thursday, June 13.

President Obama Makes a National Security Personnel Announcement, 6/5/13

The President:

“At the same time, Tom [Donilon] has played a critical role as we’ve bolstered the enduring pillars of American power — strengthening our alliances, from Europe to Asia; enhancing our relationship with key powers; and moving ahead with new trade agreements and energy partnerships. And from our tough sanctions on Iran to our unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation with Israel — (baby cries) — it’s true — (laughter) — from New START with Russia to deeper partnerships with emerging powers like India, to stronger ties with the Gulf states, Tom has been instrumental every step of the way.

I’m especially appreciative to Tom for helping us renew American leadership in the Asia Pacific, where so much of our future security and prosperity will be shaped. He has worked tirelessly to forge a constructive relationship with China that advances our interests and our values. And I’m grateful that Tom will be joining me as I meet with President Xi of China this week….

Now, I am proud that this work will be carried on by another exemplary public servant — Ambassador Susan Rice. (Applause.) Susan was a trusted advisor during my first campaign for President. She helped to build my foreign policy team and lead our diplomacy at the United Nations in my first term. I’m absolutely thrilled that she’ll be back at my side, leading my national security team in my second term.

With her background as a scholar, Susan understands that there is no substitute for American leadership. She is at once passionate and pragmatic. I think everybody understands Susan is a fierce champion for justice and human dignity, but she’s also mindful that we have to exercise our power wisely and deliberately….

Now, normally I’d be worried about losing such an extraordinary person up at the United Nations and be trying to figure out how are we ever going to replace her. But fortunately, I’m confident we’ve got an experienced, effective and energetic U.N. ambassador-in-waiting in Samantha Power.

Samantha first came to work for me in 2005, shortly after I became a United States senator, as one of our country’s leading journalists; I think she won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of 15 or 16. One of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy, she showed us that the international community has a moral responsibility and a profound interest in resolving conflicts and defending human dignity….”

Mr. Donilon:

“Mr. President, to serve in this capacity where we’ve had the opportunity to protect and defend the United States, to improve the position of the United States in the world, has been the privilege of a lifetime. To serve during your presidency, however, is to serve during one of the defining moments in our nation’s history. This is because of your vision, your principled leadership, your commitment to defending our interests and upholding our ideals.”….

Ambassador Rice:

“Mr. President, thank you so much. I’m deeply honored and humbled to serve our country as your National Security Advisor. I’m proud to have worked so closely with you for more than six years. And I’m deeply grateful for your enduring confidence in me.

As you’ve outlined, we have vital opportunities to seize and ongoing challenges to confront. We have much still to accomplish on behalf of the American people. And I look forward to continuing to serve on your national security team to keep our nation strong and safe.

I want to thank my remarkable colleagues at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. I am so proud of the work we’ve done together under your leadership, Mr. President, to advance America’s interests at the United Nations.”….

Ms. Power:

“I moved to the United States from Ireland when I — with my parents, who are here — when I was 9 years old. I remember very little about landing in Pittsburgh, except that I was sure I was at the largest airport in the history of the world. I do remember what I was wearing — a red, white and blue stars and stripes t-shirt. It was the t-shirt I always wore in Ireland on special occasions.

Even as a little girl with a thick Dublin accent who had never been to America, I knew that the American flag was the symbol of fortune and of freedom. But I quickly came to learn that to find opportunity in this country, one didn’t actually need to wear the flag, one just needed to try to live up to it.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/11ZS9FY

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at the White House, 5/28/13

“We’re all part of the same ohana“: Remarks by the President at AAPI Heritage Month Celebration

“But it’s more than food and family — because generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders helped build this country, and helped to defend this country, and to make America what it is today. It’s a history that speaks to the promise of our nation — one that welcomes the contributions of all people, no matter their color or their beliefs, because we draw from the rich traditions of everybody who calls America home. “E pluribus unum” — out of many, one.

And the artists joining us today exemplify that creed. So we’ve got performers like Karsh Kale, who fuses the best of East and West, mixing eclectic beats with the sounds of his heritage and creating music that’s distinctly his own — that’s a trait, obviously, that’s distinctly American. We’ve got musicians like Paula Fuga and John Cruz, whose work represents the spirit of my native Hawaii and reminds us that we’re all part of the same ohana. We have authors like Amy Tan, who uses her own family’s immigration story to trace the stories of others. She makes out of the particular something very universal.

We value these voices because from the very beginning, ours has been a nation of immigrants; a nation challenged and shaped and pushed ever forward by diverse perspectives and fresh thinking. And in order to keep our edge and stay ahead in the global race, we need to figure out a way to fix our broken immigration system — to welcome that infusion of newness, while still maintaining the enduring strength of our laws. And the service and the leadership of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have proved that point time and again.

So we take opportunities like today to honor the legacy of those who paved the way, like my friend, the late Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye, the first Japanese American to serve in Congress — and to celebrate the pioneers of this generation, like Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, one of the first female veterans elected to Congress. (Applause.) And one of my favorite people right now, Sri Srinivasan, who has just been confirmed. (Applause.) Here’s Sri, right here. (Applause.)

I was proud to nominate Sri, and he was just confirmed unanimously to become the first South Asian American federal appeals court judge. (Applause.) I was telling his kids, who are here today, if he starts getting a big head, walking around the house with a robe — (laughter) — asking them to call him “Your Honor” — (laughter) — then they should talk to me. (Laughter.)

In every election, at every board meeting, in every town across America, we see more and more different faces of leadership, setting an example for every young kid who sees a leader who looks like him or her. And that’s a good thing. We’ve got to keep that up. We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure everybody works hard, everybody plays by the rules, everybody has a chance to get ahead — to start their own business, to earn a degree, to write their own page in the American story — that the laws respect everybody, that civil rights apply to everybody. That’s who we are at our best and that’s what we’re here to celebrate. That’s the challenge that I believe we’re going to meet together.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/158OgNv

Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company performs at the White House as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebration.

Author Amy Tan at the White House AAPI Heritage Month celebration.

Paula Fuga and John Cruz perform at the White House AAPI Heritage Month. celebration

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: news, fact sheets, guide of federal resources, information for limited English-proficient persons, related videos: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/aapi

First Lady Michelle Obama at White House Kitchen Garden Summer Harvest, 5/28/13

The FLOTUS delivers remarks before joining school children from across the country to harvest the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden. For this harvest, the First Lady invited children from two New Jersey communities that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, as well as all the children who helped plant the garden in April so they could see the fruits of their labors.

“Sarah Moore Green Magnet Academy, where are you? (Applause.) Is that a scream? Let’s try that again. Sarah Moore Green Magnet Academy. (Applause.) That’s good. And to your principals, teachers, administrators, parents who are here, let’s here it from you guys as well. (Applause.) That’s some screaming — that’s some screaming.

We’ve got the Arthur D. Healey School from Somerville, Massachusetts — where are you guys? (Applause.) Yes! And where are your teachers, principals, administrators, parents? (Applause.) Welcome. Yes, yes.

And then we’ve got Milton Elementary School from Milton, Vermont. (Applause.) Oh, come on, you guys. Come on, Milton — let me hear it. (Applause.) Are you hungry already? You’re running out of energy?

Well, it’s good to have you guys back. Thank you for being here. You see — how many kids who are here actually helped me plant? All of you guys — you guys — isn’t it amazing how the garden has grown? It’s just terrific.

And then we’ve got my friends from Tubman and Bancroft Schools. (Applause.) Yes! And to all the administrators, teachers, principals, parents, everybody — yay. (Laughter.) It’s good to have you guys….

Another one of the reasons why we wanted to invite you guys is I understand that given all that you guys have been through — because many of your schools got damaged in Sandy, right? — but despite that, you guys are still going to school every day, and you’re working on eating healthy, right? And it hasn’t been that easy, but you guys have managed to get through the school year way on top of the game, and we’re just very proud of you. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to have you here today. So welcome. It’s good to have you.”