So many of America’s teachers are amazing. Each day, they take on the extraordinary responsibility and highly complex work of moving all students forward. As I visit schools across the country and talk with teachers at the U.S. Department of Education, they astound me continually with what they accomplish every day. Not only are teachers some of the smartest, most compassionate people I know, but they do work that few of us could accomplish on our best days.
During Teacher Appreciation Week, the people who value teachers often take time to send them a note of thanks or a token of appreciation. This is appropriate. The least we can do once a year is to push “pause” on our lives and thank them in the short term. However, what our teachers really need—and deserve—is our ongoing commitment to work with them to transform America’s schools. They need us to acknowledge them as professionals who are doing our nation’s most important work. We can begin this work by making it a priority to listen toand to celebrate teachers.
Here are some ways we plan to listen to and to celebrate teachers at the Department of Education this week.
Listening: On Monday, May 6, we will host a Google hangout celebrating African-American educators around the country, broadcasting from the campus of Howard University. You can view the conversation – “Celebrating African-American Teachers in our Classrooms” –live at 4 pm Eastern or check out the archived version of the Hangout afterwards at our YouTube site. You can also follow the discussion on Twitter at #AfAmTeachers. On Wednesday and Friday, our Teaching Ambassador Fellows will host roundtable discussions with teachers of children with exceptionalities and teachers of English language learners. We want to know from them what is working in their schools, what is not working, and how we can better support them.
Celebrating: Every day this week I will be making phone calls to great teachers who are leading change from their classrooms. We will also be celebrating teachers on Twitter; please be part of that by using the hashtag #thankateacher. On Wednesday I will drop by a local Teacher Appreciation Breakfast to thank teachers for making tremendous progress closing gaps and raising achievement in their school. We are also hosting a reception at the Department for the more than 400 current and former teachers who work at the Department of Education, and talking about how we can better make use of their experiences to improve our work.
Walking in Teachers’ Shoes: One of my favorite activities all year long is our ED Goes Back to School Day, taking place this year on Thursday, May 9. More than 65 of my senior staff and regional officers will shadow a teacher for a day or half-day, witnessing firsthand how demanding and rewarding it can be to juggle reforms, pedagogy, and practice. After the shadowing, the teachers and staff will meet with me back at ED to talk about their experiences and share lessons learned. Last year our staff benefitted tremendously from the experience, talking about what they saw for months afterward and connecting their experiences with their daily work here.
I encourage everyone to take time this week to not only take a more active role honoring teachers, but to listen to them actively and to celebrate their great work. I hope this week will be your chance to ask a teacher, How can I support you in America’s most important work, all year long?
This week, President Obama traveled to Mexico and Costa Rica to reinforce the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America.
President Barack Obama arrives aboard Air Force One at Juan Santamaria International Airport, San Jose, Costa Rica. May 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama arrived in Costa Rica on Friday -- his first visit to the country -- and participated in a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with Costa Rican President Chinchilla’s, as well as a working dinner. During the press conference, the President spoke about the friendship and economic ties between our two countries:
Costa Rica shows the benefits of trade that is free and fair. Over the last few years, under the Central America Free Trade Agreement, our trade with Costa Rica has doubled, creating more jobs for people in both of our countries. Our partnerships are creating more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including young people and women. As I told President Chinchilla, the United States will continue to be your partner as Costa Rica modernizes its economy so that you’re attracting more investment and creating even more trade and more jobs.
President Obama describes the incredible opportunities to create middle-class jobs in America by deepening our economic ties and expanding trade in Latin America and discusses a recent Senate bill that takes commonsense steps to fix our broken immigration system.
Mexico & Costa Rica Trip: On Thursday, President Obama started a three day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica for his first visit to Latin America of the second term. During the trip, the President hopes to reinforce the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties we share with Mexico and Central America.
Yesterday, the President had a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Peña Nieto at Palacio National in Mexico City. The bulk of his discussions in Mexico will cover the economy, and in Costa Rica, the President will meet with Central American leaders, who are important partners in improving foreign policy and the economy.
Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, previewed the trip before leaving Washington. Check out the video on YouTube.
Transportation Secretary Nominated: On Tuesday, the President nominated the Mayor of Charlotte, Anthony Foxx, for Transportation Secretary. As mayor, Foxx modernized the electric train service to Charlotte’s downtown area, expanded the international airport, and extended the city’s light rail system. The President hopes cities can mimic the work done in Charlotte to attract more business, create more jobs, and stay competitive in the global economy.
Our top priority as a nation right now is doing everything we can to grow our economy and create good jobs and rebuild opportunity for the middle class. And one of the best ways we can do that is to put more Americans back to work rebuilding our infrastructure.
- What You Need to Know About President Obama's Plan to Improve American Infrastructure
- Fact Sheet: The President’s Plan to Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure
- The “Rebuild America Partnership”: The President’s Plan to Encourage Private Investment in America’s Infrastructure
President Barack Obama greets President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the Palacio Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The two leaders, who first met in Washington, DC last November, discussed the broad range of issues that bind our nations and affect the daily lives of citizens in both countries, and renewed their commitment to a strong relationship between the United States and Mexico.
President Barack Obama participates in a press conference with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the Palacio Nacional, Mexico City, Mexico, May 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
While working together to confront urgent challenges like security, “we can’t lose sight of the larger relationship between our peoples, including the promise of Mexico’s economic progress,” President Obama said. “I believe we’ve got a historic opportunity to foster even more cooperation, more trade, more jobs on both sides of the border, and that’s the focus of my visit.”
In the latest installment of "Being Biden," the Vice President tells the story behind a photo taken with Senator John McCain, just before speaking at the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Sedona, Arizona. Listen:You can check out to the full series at whitehouse.gov/beingbiden, and also sign up to receive an email update when new stories are posted.
While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we remain focused on pursuing policies to speed job creation and expand the middle class, as we continue to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.
Today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that private sector businesses added 176,000 jobs last month. Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 165,000 jobs in April. The February and March employment estimates were revised up by a total of 114,000 jobs. The economy has now added private sector jobs every month for 38 straight months, and a total of 6.8 million jobs has been added over that period. Over 800,000 private sector jobs have been added over the last four months.
The household survey showed that the unemployment rate edged down from 7.6 percent in March to 7.5 percent in April, the lowest rate since December 2008. The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 63.3 percent in April.
This week, President Obama spoke at the Planned Parenthood conference and the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, met with the King of Jordan, made five personnel announcements, celebrated the sciences and the Joining Forces Initiative, and embarked on a trip to Mexico and Costa Rica.
Today, President Obama will make his fourth visit to Mexico and continue on to Costa Rica on what is also his sixth visit to Latin America. On this journey, the President hopes to highlight and reinforce the deep cultural, familial, and economic ties that so many Americans share with Mexico and Central America, and to promote economic growth across the region.
Ahead of these visits, President Obama convened two important consultations at the White House to hear from U.S. businesses and U.S. Latino leaders. The purpose of these meetings was to hear from business working directly in the region, and organizations with a particular interest in Latin America and its diaspora in the United States, about ways to foster economic development and growth for our shared future as a hemisphere.
Last Friday, a group of business leaders, representing a cross-section of companies doing business in Mexico and Latin America, held a lively discussion with the President. The meeting was a chance for the President to hear about emerging trends in the Western Hemisphere and what the United States government can do to foster economic growth in the Americas to help companies create jobs for middle class families on both sides of the border.
President Barack Obama announces the nominations of Penny Pritzker as Secretary of Commerce, and Mike Froman as U.S. Trade Representative, in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama today began a three day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, where he will meet with leaders to discuss ways the U.S. can deepen our economic and trade relationships across Latin America –- relationships that create jobs and growth here at home, and offer our businesses growing markets where they can sell more American-made goods and services abroad.
Before he left the country, the President spoke in the Rose Garden and announced his intention to nominate two "outstanding individuals" to his Cabinet.
Penny Pritzker is President Obama's choice for Secretary of Commerce. The President praised the Chicago businesswoman, who was a member of his Jobs Council. "Penny is one of our country’s most distinguished business leaders," he said.
She's got more than 25 years of management experience in industries including real estate, finance, and hospitality. She’s built companies from the ground up. She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur. She knows that what we can do is to give every business and every worker the best possible chance to succeed by making America a magnet for good jobs.
And Penny understands that just as great companies strengthen the community around them, strong communities and skilled workers also help companies thrive.
On Thursday, President Obama leaves on a three day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, where he will meet with key leaders to discuss a range of issues. In Mexico the President will meet with his counterpart, President Peña Nieto, on ways we can deepen our economic and commercial partnership.
In Costa Rica, President Chinchilla will host a meeting with President Obama and heads of state of the other Central American countries and the Dominican Republic, where the leaders can discuss our collective efforts to promote economic growth and development in Central America and our ongoing collaboration on citizen security.
We asked Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, to preview the upcoming trip and some of the issues the President would be discussing in his meetings. Check it out below or watch the video on YouTube:
President Barack Obama announces the nominations of Rep. Melvin Watt, left, as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Tom Wheeler, right, as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 1, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama announced his intent to nominate a new director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority and new Federal Communications Chair, “two outstanding individuals who are going to help us grow our economy, but are also going to be looking out for the middle class.”
Seven years after the housing bubble burst, we’re starting to see some bright spots in one of the most important parts of our economy, President Obama said. But we still have more work to do:
We've got responsible homeowners who have never missed a payment, but aren’t allowed to refinance. We've got working families who are doing everything right, but still owe more on their homes than they’re worth. We've got young people who are trying to start a family and get into the housing market, and have seen difficulties in terms of financing.
President Obama’s pick for FHFA director, Rep. Melvin Watt, has served for 20 years as a member of the congressional committee that oversees housing policy.
And in that capacity, Mel has led efforts to rein in unscrupulous mortgage lenders. He’s helped protect consumers from the kind of reckless risk-taking that led to the financial crisis in the first place. And he’s fought to give more Americans in low-income neighborhoods access to affordable housing.
We can't talk about We the People without getting into the numbers -- more than 8 million users, more than 200,000 petitions, more than 13 million signatures. The sheer volume of participation is, to us, a sign of success.
And there's a lot we can learn from a set of data that rich and complex, but we shouldn't be the only people drawing from its lessons.
So starting today, we're making it easier for anyone to do their own analysis or build their own apps on top of the We the People platform. We're introducing the first version of our API, and we're inviting you to use it.
Get started here: petitions.whitehouse.gov/developers
This API provides read-only access to data on all petitions that passed the 150 signature threshold required to become publicly-available on the We the People site. For those who don't need real-time data, we plan to add the option of a bulk data download in the near future. Until that's ready, an incomplete sample data set is available for download here.
A couple months ago, we invited a group of developers and tech experts to the White House for a hackathon to kick the tires on an early version of the API, and we've also published a gallery of some of those projects -- including links to live examples and GitHub repositories. You'll see maps that show the geographic support for a range of petitions, a time-lapse visualization of zip codes where petitions are being signed, an embeddable thermometer that shows progress toward crossing the signature threshold for any given petition, and a range of data analysis.
Coming up on June 1, as part of the National Civic Day of Hacking, we'll host another hackathon here at the White House. Today we're also making the GitHub repo open to the public -- where participants will be collaborating with each other and the White House development team.
This first version of the API is just the start, by the way. Now, we're turning our efforts to a Write API that will allow individuals to collect and submit signatures from their own platforms without directly sending users to We the People. After that, we'll work to decouple the presentation and data layers of the application and begin building a new, streamlined signature process. We hope you'll follow the process and continue offering your thoughts and feedback.
At its most basic, We the People is a conversation. Individuals ask questions of the White House, and the Obama administration responds. What this API allows us to do is broaden the discussion -- make it as flexible, open, and transparent as possible. And if you take the time to build a tool that leverages the API, you'll be making it easier for others to take part in this national dialogue.
So we hope you'll check it out.
To learn more about open data and open source projects at the White House, visit WhiteHouse.gov/Developers. Also, please feel free to contact us via the WhiteHouse.gov developers feedback form or to follow our tech team on Twitter @WHWeb.
Update: Go here to download the full We the People bulk dataset.
Leigh Heyman is the Director of New Media Technologies for the Executive Office of the President.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
On April 23 of last year, President Obama visited the Holocaust Museum, and unveiled a comprehensive strategy to prevent mass atrocities.
In his remarks at the Museum, the President reflected on places where the United States’ efforts had helped prevent or mitigate surges of violence – and had saved innocent lives. He spoke of our efforts surrounding the South Sudan independence referendum, the measures we had taken to counter the Lord’s Resistance army in Central Africa, and the coalition that we and our allies formed to protect the people of Benghazi.
The President also noted that for every success we have in preventing and stemming violence, there will always be more work to be done. And he made clear that, for all the challenges we will face, we must continue to do what we can. We must strive for a future where there is a “place for dignity for every human being,” and make this, “the work of our nation and all nations. “
With more than a million veterans returning home to our nation’s shores over the next five years, we have an unprecedented opportunity – and a civic obligation – to strengthen their pathways to success. To prepare for their return home and their transition back to civilian life, the Obama Administration sought – early on– to bring diverse government partners to the table, calling for an interagency planning effort to support Service members’ career readiness.
In response to President Obama’s call to action for a career-ready military in August 2011, the Veterans Employment Initiative Task Force was launched, under the leadership of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. This interagency effort has brought together a collaboration of federal agencies – including Education, the Small Business Administration, Labor, Homeland Security and the Office of Personnel Management, as well as our military services and National Guard and Reserves – as partners, working together on the first major redesign of the military’s Transition Assistance Program in over twenty years to develop a comprehensive, outcome-based re-entry program now called Transition Goals, Plans, Success (Transition GPS).
Each of the partner federal agencies is contributing leadership and resources to activate the implementation of Transition GPS, in accordance with the VOW to Hire Heroes Act signed into law November 21, 2011. Key to this work has been the development of a core 3-day curriculum, career readiness standards, three optional tracks for transition (Higher Education, Technical Training, and Entrepreneurship), as well as options for learning in brick-and-mortar classrooms and online. Throughout their participation, Service members will receive individualized counseling and support in the preparation of a transition plan. The program also provides Service members who are exiting active duty with an education transcript, resume, access to labor market information, employment and housing opportunities, benefits information, mentoring resources, and other support services.
Today, President Obama held a press conference in the briefing room at the White House. He answered questions from reporters about Syria, the sequester, implementation of the Affordable Care Act and more.
President Obama said that the United States has been deeply engaged and involved in bringing about a solution to the “slowly unfolding disaster for the Syrian people.”
“What’s happening in Syria is a blemish on the international community generally, and we've got to make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect the Syrian people,” he said.
"And when I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I've got to make sure I've got the facts,” President Obama said. “That's what the American people would expect.”
But even if chemical weapons were not being used in Syria, we’d still be thinking about tens of thousands of people, innocent civilians -- women, children -- who’ve been killed by a regime that’s more concerned about staying in power than it is about the well-being of its people. And so we are already deeply invested in trying to find a solution here.
A hundred years ago, a Chicago lawyer named Sigmund Livingston raised his voice and launched a movement. He declared his mission was “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Today, we congratulate the Anti-Defamation League on its 100th anniversary.
We all know the quote that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But there’s a corollary: that arc bends faster when it is pushed, and the ADL has always pushed. The ADL was there at the height of World War II, defying hate groups and fighting against the brutal onslaught of anti-Semitism. The ADL was there in the 1950s, during Brown v. Board of Education, fighting for desegregation. And the ADL was there pushing for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Today, we are proud to work with the ADL on a wide range of issues, as we follow President Obama’s charge to work towards a country that is “more fair, more just, and more equal for every single child of God.”
With enormous support from ADL, the President signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. This act extends the coverage of the Federal hate crimes law to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
President Obama upheld this country’s highest ideals by repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” As he put it, “we are not a nation that says, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We are a nation that says, ‘Out of many, we are one.’”
Together with the ADL, we stand against bullying. In 2011, we held the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, attended by the President and First Lady. The ADL has been out front in equipping families and educators in the fight against bullying, both in person and online.
Together with the ADL, we stand with the Dreamers who were brought into this country as children, many of whom found out as adults they weren’t citizens when they tried to apply for a job and for college.
In his ADL address in 1963, President Kennedy described citizenship to the United States as “a proud privilege.” He spoke of the millions of people who left other countries, other familiar scenes, to come here to build a new life and make a new opportunity for themselves and their children. In fifty years, that American dream has remained unchanged.
Together with the ADL, we stand with women and girls. Just a couple of months ago, President Obama signed a bill that both strengthened and reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Thanks to this bipartisan agreement, thousands of women, men, girls and boys across the country who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking will be able to access the resources they need to help heal from their trauma.
Together with the ADL, we stand against hate. President Obama made clear during his recent trip to Israel that anti-Semitism has no place in this world. He heeded the words of Dr. King, that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That’s why we must defend justice so vigorously. That’s why we cannot tolerate anti-Semitism or any hate, at home or abroad.
President Obama said, “Not in the classrooms of children. Not in the corridors of power. And let us never forget the link between the two. For our sons and daughters are not born to hate, they are taught to hate. So let us fill their young hearts with the same understanding, the same compassion we hope others have for them.”
And together, we congratulate the ADL on their anniversary, and look forward to working with the ADL toward the day when our world is free from hate.
Valerie B. Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama. She oversees the Offices of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs and chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls.
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during a Joining Forces initiative employment announcement for veterans and military spouses, in the East Room of the White House, April 30, 2013. Stage participants included, from left, Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Two years ago, President Obama announced a challenge to the private sector to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013.
Today, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden all participated in a Joining Forces Employment event at the White House.
The First Lady announced that America’s businesses nearly tripled the goal set by President Obama and did so eight months early. The private sector has already hired or trained 290,000 veterans and military spouses.
The First Lady also announced that American companies have committed to hire or train another 435,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.
Two years ago, we launched Joining Forces, a nationwide campaign to rally all Americans to support our veterans and military families. We did this for two simple reasons: because we were both awed by the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day to protect our values and keep us safe. We were also awed by their families, the spouses and children who serve right along with them, enduring deployment after deployment with grace and resolve.
As we traveled the country visiting bases and military communities, everywhere we went, we heard from veterans who had years of training and experience in the military -- leading dozens, even hundreds of their peers; operating some of the most advanced technology; and solving complex problems under the most extreme conditions imaginable. But when they returned home, they struggled to find decent jobs. We met military spouses who'd spent decades moving from base to base every couple of years and struggled to maintain their careers. As the months passed, we saw that the unemployment rate for our most recent veterans remained far too high above the national average.
These men and women are some of the highest-skilled, best-trained, hardest-working people in this country. They are medics and engineers, drivers and welders, computer technicians and machinists. They are eager to work and determined to keep on serving this country. All they need is a chance.
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, April 29, 2013. The First Lady announces the IT Training and Certification Partnership, a new public-private partnership that will enable thousands of service members to earn industry-recognized information technology (IT) certifications before they transition from military service. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
In the ongoing effort to help our servicemembers and veterans transition from active duty service to the civilian job market, the White House today invited leaders from the private sector, the military services, industry trade associations, unions, educational institutions, state legislatures, veteran service organizations, and state licensing boards for a forum on military credentialing and licensing.
At the event, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of the IT Training and Certification Partnership, a new public-private program that addresses an issue that can prevent our troops from gaining employment in the private sector: Active military personnel typically do not have the industry-recognized certifications that reflect the IT skills and expertise they gained through their military service.
Today’s announcement is the second major partnership developed through the Military Credentialing and Licensing Task Force, which was established last June by the Department of Defense at President Obama’s direction. The new Partnership will provide opportunities for up to 161,000 service members to gain industry-recognized, nationally portable certifications necessary for 12 high-demand technology professions, including computer programmers, quality assurance engineers, and IT security analysts. The targeted professions are expected to generate more than 1.8 million job opportunities by 2020, and have an average annual salary of more than $81,000. Their high-quality military training assures that our veterans have the skill sets that employers demand to fill these positions