Friday, December 26, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Community Policing works: Strengthening Community Policing | The White House

FACT SHEET: Strengthening Community Policing | The White House
Pres. Barack Obama speaks to the public about
immigration reform at a community center in
Chicago, Nov. 25 2014. Photo credit: Leslie Jones

On Monday, Dec. 1 2014 U.S. Pres. Barack Obama gathered civil rights leaders, community stakeholders, law enforcement, clergy and elected officials in several meetings planned throughout the day to discuss how communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust to strengthen neighborhoods across the country.

Spawned by recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and around the country, the meeting highlighted the importance of strong, collaborative relationships between local police and the communities they protect.  As the nation has observed, trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system, and the safe and effective delivery of policing services.

Mayor of Gary, Indiana Karen Freeman-Wilson, was in attendance. According to a released press statement, Freeman-Wilson said she is honored to be one of five mayors included.

"Our work must extend far beyond an invitation to the White House. We are engaged to change the course of this country to ensure that all voices are valued and heard,” the statement read. Freeman-Wilson went on to call the meeting "historic."

“Yesterday, I was humbled to attend a historic meeting at the White House that centered on developing policy solutions to the intractable challenges presented by racial tension, police/community relations, poverty, and the importance that every citizen has confidence in the system of justice.  A diverse group of law enforcement, civil rights activists, faith community members, elected officials and administration officials echoed the collective sense of urgency expressed by President Obama, Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder.

We discussed the fact that we must be committed to changing policy in a way that positively impacts people’s lives while giving law enforcement officers the training, tools and support needed to do an effective job on behalf of citizens. We agreed that both law enforcement officers and community members have a right to expect to go home to their families at the end of the day and to suggest strategies around community policing, responsible use of the 1033 program, and the utility of technology to aid law enforcement and citizens alike.

The most significant aspect of this gathering was that the individuals present gathered with a mind to work and with the understanding that if we are diligent, our work has the potential to positively impact lives and change the course of this country.  While we understand the gravity of the all of the circumstances related to the lives and deaths of Michael Brown and too many other like him, we are confident that by working under clear guidance provided by the President, we can improve the state of police/community relations in this country and peel away at the layers of poverty and its by-products.  Once again, our President has distinguished himself as a leader who is willing to tackle difficult issues even when it is not politically expedient or comfortable,"  the mayor said.
In August, President Obama ordered a review of federal funding and programs that provide equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs). Today, the Obama Administration released its Review: Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition, and the President is also taking a number of steps to strengthen community policing and fortify the trust that must exist between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

White House Review: Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition

The White House released its review which provides details on the programs that have expanded over decades across multiple federal agencies that support the acquisition of equipment from the federal government to LEAs.  During the course of its review, the White House explored whether existing federal programs:

  • provide LEAs with equipment that is appropriate to the needs of their communities,
  • ensure that LEAs have adequate policies in place for the use of the equipment and that personnel are properly trained and certified to employ the equipment they obtain, and
  • encourage LEAs to adopt organizational and operational practices and standards that prevent misuse/abuse of the equipment.

The report finds a lack of consistency in how federal programs are structured, implemented and audited, and informed by conversations with stakeholders, identifies four areas of further focus that could better ensure the appropriate use of federal programs to maximize the safety and security of police officers and the communities they serve:

 1) Local Community Engagement
 2) Federal Coordination and Oversight
 3) Training Requirements
 4) The Community Policing Model

Consistent with the recommendations in the report, the President instructed his staff to draft an Executive Order directing relevant agencies to work together and with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations to develop specific recommendations within 120 days.  Some broad examples of what process improvements agencies might implement as a result of further collaborative review include:

  • Develop a consistent list of controlled property allowable for acquisition by LEAs and ensure that all equipment on the list has a legitimate civilian law enforcement purpose.
  • Require local civilian (non-police) review of and authorization for LEAs to request or acquire controlled equipment.

Mandate that LEAs which participate in federal equipment programs receive necessary training and have policies in place that address appropriate use and employment of controlled equipment, as well as protection of civil rights and civil liberties.  Agencies should identify existing training opportunities and help LEAs avail themselves of those opportunities, including those offered by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) and the International Association of Law Enforcement Standards and Training.

  • Require after-action analysis reports for significant incidents involving federally provided or federally-funded equipment.
  • Harmonize federal programs so that they have consistent and transparent policies.
  • Develop a database that includes information about controlled equipment purchased or acquired through Federal programs.

Task Force on 21st Century Policing
The President similarly instructed his team to draft an executive order creating a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and announced that the Task Force will be chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who also serves as President of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, and Laurie Robinson, professor at George Mason University and former Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs.  The Task Force will include, among others, law enforcement representatives and community leaders and will operate in collaboration with Ron Davis, Director of DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office. The Task Force will build on the extensive research currently being conducted by COPS; will examine, among other issues, how to promote effective crime reduction while building public trust; and will be directed to prepare a report and recommendations within 90 days of its creation.

Community Policing Initiative
The President also proposes a three-year $263 million investment package that will increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement agencies (LEAs), add more resources for police department reform, and multiply the number of cities where DOJ facilitates community and local LEA engagement. As part of this initiative, a new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program would provide a 50 percent match to States/localities who purchase body worn cameras and requisite storage.  Overall, the proposed $75 million investment over three years could help purchase 50,000 body worn cameras. The initiative as a whole will help the federal government efforts to be a full partner with state and local LEAs in order to build and sustain trust between communities and those who serve and protect these communities.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

President Obama Speaks in Chicago About His Action on Immigration

Pres. Barack Obama at  Copernicus Community Center Nov. 25 2014. Photo credit: Leslie Jones McCloud,

Monday, November 24, 2014

The President Speaks on Fixing America's Broken Immigration System

Three critical elements of the President’s executive actions are:

·         Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration at the Border:  The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back.  Continuing the surge of resources that effectively reduced the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally this summer, the President’s actions will also centralize border security command-and-control to continue to crack down on illegal immigration.

·         Deporting Felons, Not Families: The President’s actions focus on the deportation of people who threaten national security and public safety. He has directed immigration enforcement to place anyone suspected of terrorism, violent criminals, gang members, and recent border crossers at the top of the deportation priority list.

·         Accountability – Criminal Background Checks and Taxes:  The President is also acting to hold accountable those undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for more than five years and are parents of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents.  By registering and passing criminal and national security background checks, millions of undocumented immigrants will start paying their fair share of taxes and temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation for three years at a time.

The President’s actions will also streamline legal immigration to boost our economy and will promote naturalization for those who qualify.


To build on these efforts and to ensure that our limited enforcement resources are used effectively, the President has announced the following actions:
·         Shifting resources to the border and recent border crossers. Over the summer, DHS sent hundreds of Border Patrol agents and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel to the Southwest border, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) reordered dockets in immigration courts to prioritize removal cases of recent border crossers.  This continued focus will help keep our borders safe and secure.  In addition, Secretary Johnson is announcing a new Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan which will strengthen the efforts of the agencies who work to keep our border secure.  And by establishing clearer priorities for interior enforcement, DHS is increasing the likelihood that people attempting to cross the border illegally will be apprehended and sent back.

·         Streamlining the immigration court process. DOJ is announcing a package of immigration court reforms that will address the backlog of pending cases by working with DHS to more quickly adjudicate cases of individuals who meet new DHS-wide enforcement priorities and close cases of individuals who are low priorities. DOJ will also pursue regulations that adopt best practices for court systems to use limited court hearing time as efficiently as possible.

·         Protecting victims of crime and human trafficking as well as workers.  The Department of Labor (DOL) is expanding and strengthening immigration options for victims of crimes (U visas) and trafficking (T visas) who cooperate in government investigations.  An interagency working group will also explore ways to ensure that workers can avail themselves of their labor and employment rights without fear of retaliation.


By setting priorities and focusing its enforcement resources, the Obama Administration has already increased the removal of criminals by more than 80%.  These actions build on that strong record by:

·         Focusing on the removal of national security, border security, and public safety threats.  To better focus on the priorities that matter, Secretary Johnson is issuing a new DHS-wide memorandum that makes clear that the government’s enforcement activity should be focused on national security threats, serious criminals, and recent border crossers.  DHS will direct all of its enforcement resources at pursuing these highest priorities for removal.

·         Implementing a new Priority Enforcement Program. Effectively identifying and removing criminals in state and local jails is a critical goal but it must be done in a way that sustains the community’s trust.  To address concerns from Governors, Mayors, law enforcement and community leaders which have undermined cooperation with DHS, Secretary Johnson is replacing the existing Secure Communities program with a new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) to remove those convicted of criminal offenses.  DHS will continue to rely on biometric data to verify individuals who are enforcement priorities, and they will also work with DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons to identify and remove federal criminals serving time as soon as possible.


Every Democratic and Republican president since Dwight Eisenhower has taken executive action on immigration.  Consistent with this long history, DHS will expand the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include more immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.  DHS will also create a new deferred action program for people who are parents of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and have lived in the United States for five years or longer if they register, pass a background check and pay taxes.

The President is taking the following actions to hold accountable certain undocumented immigrants:


  Creating a mechanism that requires certain undocumented immigrants to pass a background check to make sure that they start paying their fair share in taxes. In order to promote public safety, DHS is establishing a new deferred action program for parents of U.S. Citizens or LPRs who are not enforcement priorities and have been in the country for more than 5 years.  Individuals will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for three years at a time if they come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, pay fees, and show that their child was born before the date of this announcement.  By providing individuals with an opportunity to come out of the shadows and work legally, we will also help crack down on companies who hired undocumented workers, which undermines the wages of all workers, and ensure that individuals are playing by the rules and paying their fair share of taxes.

·         Expanding DACA to cover additional DREAMers. Under the initial DACA program, young people who had been in the U.S. for at least five years, came as children, and met specific education and public safety criteria were eligible for temporary relief from deportation so long as they were born after 1981 and entered the country before June 15, 2007.  DHS is expanding DACA so that individuals who were brought to this country as children can apply if they entered before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today.  Going forward, DACA relief will also be granted for three years.

The President’s actions will also streamline legal immigration to boost our economy and promote naturalization by:

·         Providing portable work authorization for high-skilled workers awaiting LPR status and their spouses.  Under the current system, employees with approved LPR applications often wait many years for their visa to become available.  DHS will make regulatory changes to allow these workers to move or change jobs more easily.  DHS is finalizing new rules to give certain H-1B spouses employment authorization as long as the H-1B spouse has an approved LPR application.

·         Enhancing options for foreign entrepreneurs.  DHS will expand immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the U.S., to ensure that our system encourages them to grow our economy.  The criteria will include income thresholds so that these individuals are not eligible for certain public benefits like welfare or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.

·         Strengthening and extending on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S universities. In order to strengthen educational experiences of foreign students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at U.S. universities, DHS will propose changes to expand and extend the use of the existing Optional Practical Training (OPT) program and require stronger ties between OPT students and their colleges and universities following graduation.

·         Streamlining the process for foreign workers and their employers, while protecting American workers. DHS will clarify its guidance on temporary L-1 visas for foreign workers who transfer from a company’s foreign office to its U.S. office. DOL will take regulatory action to modernize the labor market test that is required of employers that sponsor foreign workers for immigrant visas while ensuring that American workers are protected.

·         Reducing family separation for those waiting to obtain LPR status. Due to barriers in our system, U.S. citizens and LPRs are often separated for years from their immediate relatives, while they wait to obtain their LPR status. To reduce the time these individuals are separated, DHS will expand an existing program that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional waiver for certain violations before departing the United States to attend visa interviews.


   Ensuring that individuals with lawful status can travel to their countries of origin. DHS will clarify its guidance to provide greater assurance to individuals with a pending LPR application or certain temporary status permission to travel abroad with advance permission (“parole”).


   Issuing a Presidential Memorandum on visa modernization. There are many ways in which our legal immigration system can be modernized to reduce government costs, eliminate redundant systems, reduce burdens on employers and families, and eliminate fraud. The President is issuing a Memorandum directing an interagency group to recommend areas for improvement.


  Creating a White House Task Force on New Americans. The President is creating a White House Task Force on New Americans to create a federal strategy on immigrant integration.


    Promoting Citizenship Public Awareness: DHS will launch a comprehensive citizenship awareness media campaign in the 10 states that are home to 75 percent of the overall LPR population. USCIS will also expand options for paying naturalization fees and explore additional measures to expand accessibility, including studying potential partial fee waiver for qualified individuals.


   Ensuring U.S. Citizens Can Serve: To further our military’s needs and support recruitment efforts, DHS will expand an existing policy to provide relief to spouses and children of U.S. citizens seeking to enlist in the military, consistent with a request made by the Department of Defense.

President Obama Speaks on Immigration at Del Sol High School

Behind-The-Scenes Video: 100 Minutes: Countdown to a Presidential Address

Three critical elements of the President’s executive actions are:

·         Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration at the Border:  The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back.  Continuing the surge of resources that effectively reduced the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally this summer, the President’s actions will also centralize border security command-and-control to continue to crack down on illegal immigration.

·         Deporting Felons, Not Families: The President’s actions focus on the deportation of people who threaten national security and public safety. He has directed immigration enforcement to place anyone suspected of terrorism, violent criminals, gang members, and recent border crossers at the top of the deportation priority list.

·         Accountability – Criminal Background Checks and Taxes:  The President is also acting to hold accountable those undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for more than five years and are parents of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents.  By registering and passing criminal and national security background checks, millions of undocumented immigrants will start paying their fair share of taxes and temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation for three years at a time.

The President’s actions will also streamline legal immigration to boost our economy and will promote naturalization for those who qualify.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Friday, October 03, 2014

President Obama Holds conversation with workers

Remarks of President Barack Obama at The New Foundation Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois October 2, 2014

Pres. Obama delivers well received speech on the economy at Northwestern University Oct. 2 2014. Photo credit: Leslie Jones McCloud.

Hello, Northwestern!  Go ‘Cats!  Thank you to your president, Morty Schapiro, and the dean of Kellogg Business School, Sally Blount, for having me.  I brought some guests along – your Governor Pat Quinn; your Senator, Dick Durbin; your Congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky; and some of the folks who represent Chicagoland in Congress – Danny Davis, Robin Kelly, Mike Quigley, and Brad Schneider.  We’ve also got your mayor, Elizabeth Tisdahl; and one of my great friends and former chief of staff – the mild-mannered Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.

It is great to be back at NU.  Back when I was a senator, I had the honor of delivering the commencement address for the class of 2006.  And as it turns out, I have a bunch of staff who graduated from here.  So earlier this year, I popped in via video to help kick off Dance Marathon.  But I figured this time, I’d come in person.  Not only because it’s nice to be so close to home, but because this is a university that’s brimming with the possibilities of the new economy – research and technology, ideas and innovation; the training of doctors and educators, scientists and entrepreneurs.  You cannot visit a campus like this without feeling the promise of the future. 

That’s why I’m here – because it is young people like you, and universities like this, that will shape America’s economy and set the conditions for middle-class growth in the 21st century.

Obviously, recent months have seen their fair share of turmoil around the globe.  But one thing has emerged crystal clear:  American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world.  It is America – our troops and diplomats – that leads the fight to degrade and destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.  It is America – our doctors, our scientists, our know-how – that leads the fight to contain and combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.  It is America – our colleges, our graduate schools, our unrivaled private sector – that attracts so many people to our shores to study and start businesses and solve problems.  When alarms go off somewhere in the world, whether the disaster is natural or man-made; where an idea or invention can make a difference; the world calls America.  Not Moscow.  Not Beijing.  But us. The United States of America.  And we welcome that responsibility.  That’s who we are.  That’s how we roll.

But what supports our leadership role in the world is the strength of our economy at home.  And today, I want to step back from the rush of global events to take a clear-eyed look at our economy, its successes and shortcomings, and what we still need to build for your generation.

As Americans, we can and should be proud of the progress our country has made these past six years.  Here are the facts: when I took office, businesses were laying off 800,000 Americans a month.  Today, our businesses are hiring 200,000 Americans a month.  The unemployment rate has come down from a high of 10% in 2009, to 6.1% today.  Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have created 10 million new jobs – the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history.  Right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001.  All told, the United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.

This progress has been hard, but it has been steady, and it is real. It is a direct result of the American people’s drive and determination, and the decisions made by my administration.

So it is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than it was when I took office.  At the same time, it is also indisputable that millions of Americans don’t yet feel enough of the benefits of a growing economy where it matters most – in their own lives. 

These truths aren’t incompatible.  Our broader economy has come a long way, but the gains of recovery aren’t yet broadly shared.  We can see that homes in our communities are selling for more money, and that the stock market has doubled, and maybe the neighbors have new health care or a car fresh off an American assembly line. And those are good things. But the stress that families feel – that’s real, too.  It’s still harder than it should be to pay the bills and put some money away.  Even when you’re working your tail off; it’s harder than it should be to get ahead. 

This isn’t just a hangover from the great recession, either.  I have always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, but our economy won’t be truly healthy until we reverse the much longer and profound erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes. 

Here’s our challenge.  We’re creating more jobs at a steady pace.  We’ve got a recovering housing market and a revitalized manufacturing sector – two things critical to middle-class success.  We’ve also begun to see some modest wage growth in recent months.  And all of that has gotten the economy rolling again.  As Americans, though, we measure our success by something more than our GDP, or a jobs report.  We measure it by whether our jobs provide meaningful work that gives us a sense of purpose; whether they let us take care of our families.  And too many families still work too many hours with too little to show for it.  Job growth could be so much faster, which would drive up wages.  So our task now is to harness the momentum we’ve got and make sure that as the economy grows, and jobs grow, wages grow too. 

When the typical family isn’t bringing home any more than it did in 1997, that means it’s harder for middle-class Americans to climb the ladder of success.  That means it’s harder for poor Americans to grab hold of the ladder at all.  And that’s not what America is supposed to be about.  It offends the very essence of who we are – a people who believe that even if we’re born into nothing, with hard work, we can change our lives, and our kids’ lives, too. 

But this is about more than fairness.  When middle-class families can’t afford to buy the goods and services our businesses sell, it actually makes it harder for our economy to grow.  Our economy cannot truly succeed in a winner-take-all system where a shrinking few do very well while a growing many struggle to get by.  Our economic greatness rests on a simple principle: when the middle class thrives, America thrives.  When it doesn’t, we don’t.  

This is the defining challenge of our time.  We have to make our economy work for every working American.  And every policy I pursue as President is aimed at answering that challenge. 

Over the last decade, we learned the hard way that it wasn’t sustainable to have an economy where too much of our growth was based on inflated home prices and bubbles that burst; where the recklessness of a few could threaten us all; where incomes at the top skyrocketed while working families saw theirs decline.  We needed an economy that’s built on a rock – one that’s durable, and competitive, and a steady source of good, middle-class jobs. 

That’s why, the day I took office, I said we would rebuild our economy on a new foundation for growth and prosperity.  And with dedicated, persistent effort, we have been laying the cornerstones of this new foundation every day since.

The first cornerstone is new investments in the energy and technologies that make America a magnet for good, middle-class jobs.

We upped our investments in American energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and strengthen our own energy security.  Today, the number one oil and gas producer in the world is no longer Russia or Saudi Arabia; it’s America.  For the first time in nearly two decades, we now produce more oil than we buy from other countries.  We’re doing it so fast that two years ago, I set a goal to cut our oil imports in half by 2020 – and we will meet that goal this year. 

At the same time, we’ve helped put tens of thousands of people to work manufacturing wind turbines, and installing solar panels on homes and businesses.  We’ve tripled the electricity we harness from the wind, and increased tenfold what we generate from the sun.  We have brought enough clean energy online to power every home and business in Illinois and Wisconsin, 24/7. That’s progress we can be proud of.  And I know that here at Northwestern, your researchers are working to convert sunlight into liquid fuel.  Which sounds impossible.  Or at least really hard.  But if you need to get the hard or the impossible done, America is a pretty good place to do it.

Meanwhile, our 100-year supply of natural gas is a big factor in drawing jobs back to our shores.  Many are in manufacturing – the quintessential middle-class job.  During the last decade, it was widely accepted that American manufacturing was in irreversible decline.  And just six years ago, its crown jewel, the American auto industry, could not survive on its own.  We helped our automakers restructure and retool, and today, they’re building and selling new cars at the fastest rate in eight years.  We invested in new plants, new technologies, and new high-tech hubs like the Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute that Northwestern has partnered with in Chicago. 

And today, American manufacturing has added more than 700,000 new jobs.  It’s growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the economy.  And more than half of all manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China.  To many in the middle class, the last decade was defined by outsourcing good jobs overseas.  If we keep up these investments, we can define this decade by what’s known as “insourcing” – with new factories now opening their doors here in America at the fastest pace in decades.  And we’ve worked to grow American exports, open new markets, and knock down barriers to trade, because businesses that export tend to have better-paying jobs.  Today, our businesses sell more goods and services Made in America to the rest of the world than we ever have before.

That’s progress we can be proud of.  But we also know that many of these manufacturing jobs have changed.  You’re not just punching in and pounding rivets anymore; you’re coding computers, and guiding robots, and mastering 3D printing.  These jobs require some higher education or technical training.  That’s why the second cornerstone of this new foundation is preparing our children and our workers to fill the jobs of the future.

America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, and sent a generation to college, and cultivated the most educated workforce in the world.  But other countries caught on to the secret of our success.  They set out to out-educate their kids, so they could out-compete ours.  We have to lead the world in education once again.

That’s why we launched a Race to the Top in our schools, trained thousands of math and science teachers, and supported states that raised standards for learning.  And today, teachers in 48 states and D.C. are teaching our kids the knowledge and skills they need to compete and win in the global economy.  Working with parents and educators, we’ve turned around some of the country’s lowest-performing schools.  We’re on our way to connecting 99% of students to high-speed internet, and making sure every kid, at every seat, has the best technology for learning. 

These changes are hard, and we have a long way to go.  But public education in America is actually improving.  Last year, our elementary and middle school students had the highest math and reading scores on record.  The dropout rates for Latinos and African-Americans are down, and the high school graduation rate is up – it’s now above 80% for the first time in history.  We’ve invested in more than 700 community colleges – gateways to the middle class – and we’re connecting them with employers to train high school graduates for good jobs in fast-growing fields like high-tech manufacturing, energy, I.T. and cybersecurity.  Here in Chicago, Mayor Emanuel just announced that the city will pay community college tuition for more striving high school graduates.  We’ve helped more students afford college with grants, tax credits, and loans, and today, more young people are graduating than ever.  We’ve sent more veterans to college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill – including several veterans here at Northwestern, and a few here with us today in this hall.  Thank you for your service.

Of course, even if you have the right education, for decades, one thing that made it harder for families to make ends meet and businesses to grow was the high cost of health care.  And so the third cornerstone had to be health care reform.

In the decade before the Affordable Care Act, double-digit premium increases were common.  CEOs called them one of the biggest challenges to their competitiveness.  And if your employer didn’t drop your coverage to avoid these costs, they might take them out of your wages. 

Today, we’ve seen a dramatic slowdown in the rising cost of health care.  If your family gets your health care through your employer, premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record.  What this means for the economy is staggering.  If we hadn’t taken this on, and premiums had kept growing at the rate they did in the last decade, the average premium for family coverage today would be $1,800 higher than they are.  That’s $1,800 you don’t have to pay out of our pocket or see vanish from your paycheck.  That’s like a $1,800 tax cut.  And because the insurance marketplaces we created encourage insurers to compete for your business, in many of the cities that have announced next year’s premiums, something important is happening – premiums are actually falling.  One expert said it’s like “defying the law of physics.”  But we’re getting it done.  That’s progress we can be proud of.

We’re covering more people, too.  In just the last year, we’ve reduced the share of uninsured Americans by 26%.  That means one in four uninsured Americans – about 10 million people – have gained the financial security of health insurance in less than one year.  And for young entrepreneurs like many of you here today, the fact that you can compare and buy affordable plans in the marketplaces frees you up to strike out on your own and chase that new idea – something I hope will unleash new ideas and new enterprises across the country.

Meanwhile, partly because health care prices have been growing at the slowest rate in nearly half a century, the growth in what health care costs the government is down, too.  The independent, nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently reported that in 2020, Medicare and Medicaid will cost us $188 billion less than projected just four years ago.  Here’s what that means in layman’s terms.  Health care has long been the single biggest driver of America’s future deficits.  Health care is now the single biggest factor driving those deficits down.

It’s a game-changer for the fourth cornerstone of this new foundation: getting our fiscal house in order for the long run, so we can afford to make investments that grow the middle class. Between a growing economy, spending cuts, health reform, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, over the past five years, we have cut our deficits by more than half.  When I took office, the deficit was nearly 10% of our economy.  Today, it’s approaching 3%.  In other words, we can shore up America’s long-term finances without falling back into the mindless austerity or manufactured crises that dominated Washington budget debates for too long.

Finally, we put in place financial reform to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from hammering Main Street ever again.  We have new tools to prevent “too big to fail,” stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and we made it illegal for big banks to gamble with your money.  We established the first-ever consumer watchdog to protect consumers from irresponsible lending or credit card practices, and secured billions of dollars in relief for consumers who get taken advantage of.  Now, an argument you’ll hear is that the way to grow the economy is to just get rid of regulations.  And we’ve scrubbed the books and identified hundreds that are outdated, don’t help the economy, or don’t make sense, and we’re saving businesses billions by gradually eliminating them.  But rules that discourage a casino-style mentality on Wall Street, that protect workers, that safeguard the air our children breathe – those don’t just have economic benefits; they have benefits in lives saved, and families protected, and those I’ll always stand up for.

Here’s the bottom line.  For all the work that remains, for all the citizens we still need to reach, what I want people to know is that there are some really good things happening in America.  That’s because this new foundation is now in place: new investments in the energy and technologies that create new jobs and new industries; new investments in education that will make our workforce more skilled and competitive; new reforms to health care that cut costs for families and businesses; new reforms to our federal budget that will promote smart investments and a stronger economy for future generations; new rules for our financial system to protect consumers and prevent the kind of crisis we endured from happening again.

Add it all up, and it’s no surprise that for the first time in more than a decade, business leaders from around the world have said that the world’s most attractive place to invest isn’t India, or China, but the United States of America.  And because the financial sector is healthier; because manufacturing is healthier; because the housing market is healthier; because health care inflation is at 50-year lows, and our energy boom is at new highs – our economy isn’t just primed for steadier, more sustained growth.  America is better poised to lead and succeed in the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.

I will not allow anyone to dismantle this foundation.  Because for the first time, we can see real, tangible evidence of what the contours of the new economy will look like.  It’s an economy teeming with new industry and commerce; humming with new energy and new technologies; bustling with highly-skilled, higher-wage workers.  It’s an America where a student graduating from college has the chance to advance through a vibrant job market; where an entrepreneur can start a new business and succeed; where an older worker can retool for that new job.  To fully realize this vision requires steady, relentless investment in these areas.  We can’t let up, or grow complacent.  We have to be hungry as a nation.  We have to compete.  And if we do – if we take the necessary steps to build on this foundation – then I promise you this: over the next ten years, we will build an economy where wage growth is stronger than it was over the past three decades.

Let’s talk about some of those steps.

First, we’ve got to realize that the trends that have battered the middle class for so long aren’t ones we’re going to reverse overnight.  The facts I just laid out don’t mean much for someone at home who’s underpaid, underemployed, or out of work for too long.  And there are no silver bullets for job creation or faster wage growth.  Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t telling you the truth.  But there are policies that would grow jobs and wages faster now and in the long run.

If we rebuild roads and bridges, we won’t just put construction workers and engineers on the job; we’ll revitalize communities, connect people to jobs, and make it easier for businesses to ship goods around the world.  And we can pay for it with tax reform that cuts rates on businesses, and closes wasteful loopholes, making it even more attractive for companies to invest and create jobs here at home.  Let’s do this and make our economy stronger.

If we make it easier for first-time homebuyers to get a loan, we won’t just create even more construction jobs and speed up the housing recovery; we’ll speed up your efforts to grow a nest egg, start a new company, and send your own kids to college or graduate school someday.  Let’s do this – let’s help more young families buy that first home, and make our economy stronger.

If we keep investing in clean energy technology, we won’t just put people to work assembling, raising, and pounding into place the zero-carbon components of a clean energy age; we’ll reduce our carbon emissions and prevent the worst costs of climate change down the road.  Let’s do this – let’s invest in new American energy, and make our economy stronger.

If we make high-quality preschool available to every child, we won’t just give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while parents go to work; we’ll give them the start they need to succeed in school, earn higher wages, and form more stable families of their own.  In fact, today, I’ll set a new goal – by the end of this decade, let’s enroll six million children in high-quality preschool. 

If we redesign our high schools, we’ll graduate more kids with the real world skills that lead directly to a good job in the new economy.  If we invest more in job training and apprenticeships, we’ll help more workers fill more good jobs that are coming back to this country.  If we make it easier for students to pay off their college loans, we’ll help a whole lot of young people breathe easier and feel freer to take the jobs they really want.  Let’s do this – let’s keep reforming our education system to ensure that every kid has a shot at success like you do here at Northwestern. 

If we fix our broken immigration system, we won’t just prevent some of the challenges like the one we saw at part of the border this summer; we’ll encourage the best and brightest from around the world to study here, stay here, and create jobs here.  Independent economists say that the bipartisan immigration reform bill that the House has blocked for over a year would grow our economy, shrink our deficits, and secure our borders.  Let’s pass that bill, and make America stronger.

If we want to make and sell the best products, we have to invest in the best ideas, just like you do at Northwestern.  Your nanotechnology institute doesn’t just conduct groundbreaking research; that research has spun off 20 startups and more than 1,800 products, and that means jobs.  Here’s another example.  Over a decade ago, America led the international effort to sequence the human genome, and one study found that every dollar we invested returned $140 to our economy.  I don’t have an MBA, but that’s a pretty serious return on investment.  Today, though, the world’s largest genomics center is in China.  That doesn’t mean America is slipping.  That means America isn’t investing.  We can’t let other countries discover the products and businesses that will shape the century.  Let’s invest more in the kind of basic research that led to Google and GPS, and make our economy stronger.

If we raise the minimum wage, we won’t just put more money in workers’ pockets; they’ll spend it at local businesses, who’ll hire more people.  In the two years since I first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have raised theirs. More business owners are joining them.  And it’s on the ballot in five states this November, including Illinois.  Recent surveys show that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to $10.10 an hour.  A survey just last week showed that nearly two-thirds of employers thought the minimum wage should go up in their state – and more than half of them think it should be at least $10.  So let’s do this.  Let’s agree that nobody who works full-time in America should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  Let’s give America a raise, and make our economy stronger.

If we make sure a woman is paid equal to her efforts, it won’t just give women a boost; it’ll give their families and the entire economy a boost.  Women now outpace men in college degrees, and graduate degrees, but they often start their careers with lower pay, and that gap grows over time.  Let’s inspire and support more women in growing fields of science, technology, engineering and math.  Let’s catch up to 2014, pass a fair pay law, and make our economy stronger.

And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the barriers that keep more moms who want to work from entering the workforce.  Let’s do what Dean Blount here at Kellogg has been working with us on at the White House – let’s help business and political leaders who recognize that flexibility in the workplace and paid maternity leave are good for business.  Let’s offer that deal to new fathers, too, and make sure work pays for parents raising young kids.  California adopted paid leave, which boosted work and earnings for moms with young kids.  Let’s follow their lead and make our economy stronger.

Now, none of these policies on their own will get us where we need to be.  But if we do these things systematically, the cumulative impact will be huge.  Unemployment will drop a little faster, workers will gain a little more leverage when it comes to wages and salaries, families will be able to spend a little more and save a little more.  Our economy will grow stronger, and that growth will be shared.  More people will feel this recovery, rather than reading about it in stats on a page.  That’s the truth.

I’m going to keep making the argument for these policies, because they are right for America.  They are supported by the facts.  And I’m always willing to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to get things done.  Every once in a while, we actually get to sign a bill together, and I say, “See, how fun was that?  Let’s do it again.” 

But if gridlock prevails; if cooperation and compromise are no longer valued, but vilified; then I will keep doing everything I can on my own if it will make a difference for working Americans.  I will keep teaming up with governors, mayors, CEOs, and philanthropists who want to help.  Here’s an example.  There are 28 million Americans who would benefit from a minimum wage increase.  28 million.  Over the past two years, because we teamed up with cities, states, and businesses and went around Congress, seven million of them have gotten a raise.  And until Congress chooses to step up and help all of them, I will keep fighting for this. 

I am not on the ballot this fall.  Michelle’s pretty happy about that.  But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot.  Every single one of them.  This isn’t a political speech, and I’m not going to tell you who to vote for – even though I suppose it is kind of implied. 

But I have laid out my ideas to create more jobs and grow more wages.  A true opposition party should have the courage to lay out theirs.  There’s a reason fewer Republicans are preaching doom on deficits – because they’re now manageable.  There’s a reason fewer are running against Obamacare – because while good, affordable health care might still be a fanged threat to freedom on Fox News, it’s working pretty well in the real world. 

But when push came to shove this year, and Republicans in Congress actually had to take a stand on policies that would help the middle class and working Americans – raising the minimum wage, enacting fair pay, refinancing student loans, extending insurance for the unemployed – the answer was “no.”  One thing they did vote “yes” on was another massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.  In fact, just last month, at least one top Republican in Congress said that tax cuts for those at the top are – and I quote – “even more pressing now” than they were 30 years ago.  When nearly all the gains of the recovery have gone to the top 1%, I find that a little hard to swallow.  If there were any credibility to the argument that says when those at the top do well, eventually everyone else will do well, it would have borne itself out by now. 

America’s economic greatness has never trickled from the top down – it grows from a rising, thriving middle class.   Those are the two starkly different visions for this country.  And I believe, with every bone in my body, that there’s one distinct choice.

This is our moment to define what the next decade and beyond will look like.  This is our chance to set the conditions for middle-class growth in the 21st century.  And the decisions we make this year, and over the next few years, will determine whether or not we set the stage for America’s greatness in this new century like we did in the last; whether or not we restore the link between harder work and higher wages; whether or not we continue to invest in a skilled, educated citizenry; whether or not we rebuild an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead.

Some of that depends on you.  There’s a reason I came to a business school instead of a school of government.  I believe that capitalism is the greatest force for prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known.  I believe that private enterprise – not government, but the innovators and risk-takers and makers and doers – should be the driving force of job creation. 

But I also believe in a higher principle: we’re all in this together.  That’s the spirit that made the American economy not just the world’s greatest wealth creator, but the world’s greatest opportunity generator.  You are America’s future business leaders, and civic leaders, and in many ways, that makes you the stewards of America’s single greatest asset:  our people.  So as you engage in the pursuit of profit, as you should, I challenge you to do it with a sense of purpose. As you chase your own success, as we want you to do, I challenge you to cultivate ways to help more Americans chase theirs.  It is the American people who have made the progress of the last six years possible.  It is the American people who will make our future progress possible.  And the story of America is a story of progress.  However halting, however incomplete, however harshly challenged at each point on our journey – the story of America is a story of progress. 

It has been six long years since our economy nearly collapsed.  And despite that shock; through the pain so many of us have felt; for all the gritty, grueling work required to come back and all the work that’s left to be done – a new foundation is laid.  A new future is yet to be written.  And I am as confident as ever that it will be led by the United States of America. 

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gary on board for Pres.Obama "My Brother’s Keeper" Initiative

The goal of My Brother's Keeper is to pursue strategies at the local level to help youth succeed in life from cradle to career.

Organizers for the group held Tuesday afternoon, an on-the-record press call to discuss the official launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge. The MBK Community Challenge is an effort to encourage local communities to implement a coherent cradle-to-college and career strategy aimed at improving life outcomes for all young people.

The challenge is consistent with the goals and recommendations of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force 90-day interim progress report from May, which identified a blueprint for action for government, business, non-profit, philanthropic, faith, and community partners. The plans ensure that all youth, including boys and young men of color, are afforded opportunities and overcome barriers to success.

One focus is to address the minority student drop out rate. One cause cited during a White House press call is school discipline disparities—which is a process out of the hands of parents and children.

Other objectives are that all children should have the opportunity to achieve full potential; should enter school prepared socially, academically, physically; read on grade level; enter into post-secondary schooling and be employed upon graduation.

Communities accepting the challenge will within 45 days, hold a summit to devise a plan of action. This summit may or may not be public, according to organizers. A plan of action for accomplishing goals will be instituted six months after the summit.

My Brother's Keeper will provide the structure and direction for communities accepting the challenge.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, said during the press call that MBK organizers do not want local leaders to feel as if they are operating in a vacuum, and that every child deserves the chance to fulfill their God-given potential.

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Jim Shelton, Deputy Secretary of Education and Executive Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, also participated during the on-the-record press call.

FACT SHEET: The White House Launches the “My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge”

In February, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative to ensure that all youth, including boys and young men of color, have opportunities to improve their life outcomes and overcome barriers to success.  As part of that launch, the President also established the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force (Task Force) to review public and private sector programs, policies, and strategies, and determine ways the Federal Government can better support these efforts.  The Task Force was also charged with determining how to better involve State and local officials, the private sector, and the philanthropic community.  In late May, the Task Force released its 90-day interim progress report, which identified a set of recommendations and a blueprint for action for government, business, non-profit, philanthropic, faith, and community partners.  

Since the launch of MBK, the Task Force has met with and heard from thousands of Americans, through online and in-person listening sessions, who are already taking action.  In June, responding to their commitment announced at the MBK launch, eleven of the nation's leading philanthropies announced $194 million in independent incremental investments in organizations and initiatives, including programs to enhance school learning environments and reduce young people’s interaction with the justice system.  In July, President Obama announced new independent commitments by businesses and nonprofits representing more than $100 million dollars and pledges of support from educators, business leaders, athletes, and mayors aimed at addressing some of the report’s recommendations.  Also in July, the National Convening Council (NCC) was launched as an independent private sector initiative bringing together leaders from business, philanthropy and the faith, youth, Tribal, local, and nonprofit communities. 

On September 27th, the President announced that more than 100 mayors, county officials and tribal nations (full list below) have already accepted the “My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge” (“MBK Community Challenge” or “Challenge”), the next step in organizing and building upon the work of community leaders to improve outcomes for youth in America. 

MBK Community Challenge

Today, the White House announced the MBK Community Challenge, an effort to encourage communities (cities, counties, suburbs, rural municipalities, and tribal nations) to implement a coherent cradle-to-college and career strategy aimed at improving life outcomes for all young people, consistent with the goals and recommendations of the Task Force’s May report, to ensure that all youth can achieve their full potential, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or the circumstances in which they are born.  The Challenge is not a new federal program, but rather a call to action for leaders of communities across the Nation to build and execute comprehensive strategies that ensure:

·         All children enter school cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally prepared;
·         All children read at grade level by third grade;
·         All young people graduate from high school;
·         All young people complete post-secondary education or training;
·         All youth out of school are employed; and
·         All young people are safe from violent crime.
The Task Force also identified a set of “cross cutting” areas, among them the importance of caring adults being present and active in the lives of children, hence the emphasis placed on mentoring.
The Challenge calls upon mayors, Tribal leaders, town and county executives, encouraging them to take the following steps:  within 45 days of accepting the Challenge, local communities convene a Local Action Summit with key public and private sector stakeholders to assess needs, determine priorities, and decide what combination of the above objectives they will tackle; within six months of accepting the Challenge, communities publicly launch a plan of action for accomplishing their goals, which will include a protocol for tracking data, benchmarks for tracking progress, and a blueprint for how the community will resource its efforts.     
The White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and the NCC are launching the Challenge.  The NCC will provide communities with resources to support their local planning process, assisting them in developing successful strategies for action and tracking their progress.  More information, including how local executives can sign up for the Challenge, is available at

Additionally, the Federal government has recently announced a number of programs that address recommendations in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force progress report.  For example, the Department of Justice announced a $4.75 million initiative to invest in training, evidence-based strategies, policy development and research to build trust and strengthen the relationship between law enforcement, and the communities they serve, and through the Smart on Juvenile Justice initiative, awarded $2 million in three grants which provide training, technical assistance and education to improve the quality of services, end racial and ethnic disparities, and encourage reforms in juvenile justice systems.  The Department of Education awarded more than $57 million in grants focused on improving school climates and keeping students safe.  And in September, the Departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development announced a collaboration between HUD-funded organizations, and civil legal aid programs and public defender offices, to focus on expunging and sealing juvenile records – improving the chances that reentering youth will be able to obtain degrees, find work, and secure housing.  

MBK Community Challenge Early Acceptors
Akron, OH
Albuquerque, NM
Alleghany County, PA
Anniston, AL
Atlanta, GA
Atlantic City, NJ
Augusta, GA
Baton Rouge, LA
Beaverton, OR
Birmingham, AL
Boston, MA
Bridgeport, CT
Brooklyn Park, MN
Buffalo, NY
Caddo Parish, LA
Carlisle, PA
Charleston, SC
Charles Town, WV
Charlottesville, VA
Chattanooga, TN
Chicago, IL
Cleveland, OH
Columbia, SC
Columbus, OH
Compton, CA
Cook County, IL
Culver City, CA
Dallas County, TX
Dayton, OH
DeKalb County, GA
Denver, CO
Des Moines, IA
Detroit, MI
Dubuque,  IA
DuPage County, IL
Durham, NC
Edinburg, TX
Elkhart, IN
Fairmount Heights, MD
Ferguson, MO
Flint, MI
Forest Heights, MD
Fort Wayne, IN
Fort Worth, TX
Fulton County, GA
Gary, IN
Harrisburg, PA
Hartford, CT
Hempstead, NY
Hobson, AL
Holly Hill, SC

Holyoke, MA
Houston, TX
Huntington, WV
Indianapolis, IN
Ithaca, NY
Jacksonville, FL
Jersey City, NJ
Johnstown, PA
Kansas City, KS
Kansas City, MO
Knoxville, TN
Lansing, MI
Laredo, TX
Las Vegas, NV
Little Rock, AR
Long Beach, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Louisville, KY
Macon, GA
Madison, WI
Massillon, OH
Memphis, TN
Milwaukee, WI
Minneapolis, MN
Mount Rainier, MD
New Haven, CT
New Orleans, LA
New York, NY
Newark, NJ
Newton, MA
Niagara Falls, NY
Normandy, MO
North Chicago, IL
Oak Creek, WI
Oakland, CA
Orlando, FL
Palm Beach County, FL
Philadelphia, PA
Phoenix, AZ
Pittsburgh, PA
Portland, ME
Portland, OR
Prairie View, TX
Prince George's County, MD
Prichard, AL
Princeton, NJ
Providence, RI
Ranson, WV
Rialto, CA
Richmond, CA

Rochester, NY
Sacramento, CA
Saint Joseph, LA
Salt Lake City, UT
San Antonio, TX
San Francisco, CA
Santa Ana, CA
Santa Fe, NM
Savannah, GA
Seattle, WA
Shreveport, LA
Southfield, MI
St. Louis, MO
St. Paul, MN
Syracuse, NY
Tacoma, WA
Tallahassee, FL
Tampa, FL
Tucson, AZ
Village of Phoenix, IL
Washington, D.C

Tribal Nations
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (CA)
Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (AK)
Cherokee Nation (OK)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (SD)
Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa  (MN)
Hoonah Indian Association (AK)
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (CT)
Navajo Nation (AZ, NM, UT)
Oneida Nation of Wisconsin (WI)
Pawnee Nation (OK)
Round Valley Indian Tribes (CA)
Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (MI)
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe (SD, ND)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (ND, SD)
Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (WA)