Last Friday, the President spoke to the American people, and the international community, about how to keep us safe from terrorism in a changing world while upholding America’s commitment to liberty and privacy that our values and Constitution require. Our national security challenges are real, but that is surely not the only space where changes in technology are altering the landscape and challenging conceptions of privacy.
That’s why in his speech, the President asked me to lead a comprehensive review of the way that “big data” will affect the way we live and work; the relationship between government and citizens; and how public and private sectors can spur innovation and maximize the opportunities and free flow of this information while minimizing the risks to privacy. I will be joined in this effort by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz, the President’s Science Advisor John Holdren, the President’s Economic Advisor Gene Sperling and other senior government officials.
I would like to explain a little bit more about the review, its scope, and what you can expect over the next 90 days.
There's really no other process like the State of the Union -- it's always an exciting and hectic week to be at the White House.
Of course, it's a process that involves a lot of policy experts and writers from around the building -- but input and ideas from brilliant folks outside the building are just as important. That's why our team has held a series of conversations with the American public about when they hope to hear in the President's address next Tuesday.
Far too often before the Affordable Care Act came into effect, health insurance did not provide peace of mind – it provided anxiety, panic, and dread. Up to 129 million Americans – that’s nearly one in two people – could be discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, or for that matter pregnancy or even something as ridiculous as acne.
And for the rest of Americans, they knew that coming down with any illness could mark them with that scarlet letter, where they could be unable to get affordable coverage, be trapped in a job, or even be dropped from their coverage because they got sick and have nowhere to turn. As the Vice President said in a speech to this morning, every family was one job loss or one illness away from seeing the worst of the insurance system – “There but for the grace of God.” Just consider some of these headlines – from before the health care law’s provisions took effect:
- From The Washington Post in 2009: "Acne, Pregnancy Among Disqualifying Conditions"
- From USA Today in 2007: "People Left Holding Bag When Policies Revoked"
- From The New York Times in 2004: "Cost of Benefits Cited as Factor in Slump in Jobs”
- And in 2002: "Hard Decisions for Employers as Costs Soar in Health Care"
Those headlines weren’t flukes, they were emblematic of broad, systemic problems. That’s why we put together this presentation as a reminder of what we’ve left behind now that the Affordable Care Act has come into full effect. You can also find a lot of that same information in this shareable infographic.
Next Tuesday, President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address to members of Congress and to the American people. Later that week, President Obama will take a virtual road trip across the country via Google+ Hangouts to discuss the issues and policies laid out in the speech with citizens joining from around the country.
Want to come along for the ride? Here’s how you can participate:
- Record your video question now. Record a 60-second video question for the opportunity to participate in the Hangout Road Trip with the President. Be sure to include your name, location, a bit about yourself and the question you’d like to ask. Then, post it on YouTube or Google+ with the hashtag #AskObama2014.
- Watch the enhanced State of Union. Tune in to Whitehouse.gov on January 28th at 9pm ET to watch President Obama's address live and enhanced with data, graphs and charts that explain the policies and issues he'll be discussing in the speech.
- Join the Hangout Road Trip. Everyone is invited to tune-in for the first-ever Presidential Hangout Road Trip on Friday, January 31st. You can watch it all live on the White House YouTube page, Google+ and on WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU.
As part of an unprecedented national effort to address alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum today to establish the “White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault." The taskforce will be charged with sharing best practices, and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors. The creation of this Task Force builds upon the President’s 2010 call to action, which urged the federal government to support survivors and aggressively take action against sexual assault.
The statistics around sexual assault in this country are nothing short of jarring. A report just released by the White House Council on Women and Girls entitled, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” reveals that nearly 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. These statistics are stunning, but still can’t begin to capture the emotional and psychological scars that survivors often carry for life, or the courage needed to recover.
President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Today’s report states that students experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault. This violence, and the stress, fear, and mental health challenges that often follow, combine to increase dropout rates and limit opportunities for success in college for women and girls. The Administration is committed to investing in women’s education, training, and full inclusion in the workforce, and the President strongly believes that combatting sexual assault is vital to that effort.
In less than a week, President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address from the Capitol. I'm the President's chief speechwriter and today I'll be taking over the White House Instagram account to give you a look inside the process. I hope you'll follow along.
One week from today, President Obama will head to the Capitol to lay out his plan for the upcoming year of action in his fifth State of the Union address.
The President's State of the Union address to Congress is part of a tradition that dates back to our Founding Fathers. Hear what Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff, had to say about why the speech is so important, and then RSVP to watch the address on Tuesday, January 28 at 9:00 pm ET.
Ed. note: The following blog post was cross-posted from Let's Move!
Last week, the Miami Heat visited the White House to celebrate their 2013 NBA championship win. Rumor had it, during their visit, they teamed up with the First Lady in support of Let’s Move! to highlight the importance of eating healthy and drinking water to perform like a champion.
Catch all the action in the PSA they recorded right here in the Diplomatic Room! And help spread the word about healthy eating by sharing the video with your friends and networks!
In this week’s address, President Obama said 2014 will be a year of action, and called on both parties to help make this a breakthrough year for the United States by bringing back more good jobs and expanding opportunities for the middle class.
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama celebrates her 50th birthday. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite moments from the First Lady’s life. Starting from her days as little Michelle Robinson, all the way up to today, here are some of the best photos, videos, Instagram posts, Facebook posts and tweets of the First Lady of the United States.
1. Future First Lady Michelle Robinson grows up in Chicago, Illinois.
2. Michelle Robinson marries Barack Obama.
3. The Obama family grows from two to four.
4. The First Lady attends the inaugural balls with her date, the 44th President of the United States.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama share a private moment in a freight elevator at an Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C. January 20, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
5. Michelle Obama gets America moving and launches Let's Move!
First Lady Michelle Obama runs with kids during the "Let’s Move!" South Lawn series kick-off at the White House, May 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Expanding Educational Opportunity: And yesterday, a group of leaders in higher education joined the President and First Lady at the White House to take the next step toward ensuring that every child, rich or poor, has the opportunity for a quality college education so they can get ahead.
“We’ve got philanthropists and business leaders here; we’ve got leaders of innovative non-for-profits; we’ve got college presidents -- from state universities and historically black colleges to Ivy League universities and community colleges,” President Obama said. “More than 100 colleges and 40 organizations are announcing new commitments to help more young people not only go to, but graduate from college.” These leaders made the commitment to take action on areas crucial to making college a reality to more kids.
The day before, the First Lady hosted a discussion on education to support the President’s “North Star” Goal, which states that by 2020, Americans will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
America’s Newest High-Tech Manufacturing Hub: President Obama visited Raleigh, North Carolina on Wednesday to announce that Raleigh is going to be America’s newest manufacturing innovation hub. This new hub will bring leading companies, universities, and federal research together under one roof to help develop the next generation of power electronics. President Obama has proposed building a network of these hubs across the country to help make the United States a magnet for the good, high-tech manufacturing jobs that we need to grow the middle class and keep this country on the cutting edge.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks presenting the outcome of the Administration's review of the NSA and U.S. signals intelligence programs, at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., Jan. 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Today, President Obama delivered a speech at the Department of Justice to announce the outcomes of a broad-ranging and unprecedented review of U.S. intelligence programs.
The review examined how, in light of new and changing technologies, we can use our intelligence capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security while supporting our foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosures.
As a part of the President’s Year of Action – and because there is no clearer path to economic opportunity than a college degree – the President and First Lady convened college and university presidents, business and philanthropic leaders, and other stakeholders from across the country at the White House yesterday to announce more than 100 new and meaningful commitments to expand college opportunity to help more students, particularly low-income students, afford and graduate from college with the skills they need to succeed.
The importance and success of the event is reflected in the coverage from all across the country – from California and Nebraska to Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
Here’s a look:
UT San Diego: “Leaders pledge to boost access to college”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Georgia colleges commit to improving access for low-income students”
Quad-City Times: “Augustana president meets with Obama at higher education summit”
Chicago Sun-Times: “Illinois schools part of White House push for low-income kids to attend college, university”
“The noblest question in the world is What Good may I do in it?” – Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1737
Today we celebrate the 308th birthday of Benjamin Franklin, who answered that question time and again as a writer, printer, inventor, American diplomat, and godfather to a free and independent nation. He was called “The First American” and was in many ways the very idea of what an American could and should be during the Founding Era of our nation.
You can now read every issue of Poor Richard’s Almanack, trace Franklin’s views on picking the turkey as our national emblem, pore through his autobiography, read the correspondence between Franklin and the leading thinkers of the day, and find the trove of letters written between Benjamin and his beloved sister Jane Mecom that show the personal side of the First American.
President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Bard College student Troy Simon, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
With the growing demand for college-educated workers, a college education is one of the surest ways into the middle class.
The Obama administration has already taken a number of steps to help more students afford and graduate from college, including doubling Federal investments in Pell Grants and college tax credits, reforming student loans, and taking new steps to reduce college costs and improve value.
But while continuing to push for changes that keep college affordable for all students and families, President Obama believes that to lead the world in the share of college graduates by 2020, we can and must be doing more to get more low-income students prepared for college, enrolled in quality institutions, and graduating. And yesterday, a group of leaders in higher education joined the President and First Lady at the White House to take the next step toward ensuring that every child, rich or poor, has the opportunity for a quality college education so they can get ahead.
We continue to see progress in improving the nation’s health care system, and a key tool to helping achieve that goal is the increased use of electronic health records by the nation’s doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers. These electronic tools serve as the infrastructure to implementing reforms that improve care – many of which are part of the Affordable Care Act.
Doctors and hospitals are using these tools to reduce mistakes and hospital readmissions, provide patients with more information that enable them to stay healthy, and allow for rewarding health care providers for delivering quality, not quantity, of care.
The adoption of those tools is reflected today in a release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics which provides a view of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program and indicates the program is healthy and growing steadily.
In honor of Martin Luther King Day, President Barack Obama serves lunch in the dining room at So Others Might Eat, a soup kitchen in Washington January 18, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to improving the world in which he lived—and challenged the rest of us to do the same. He not only championed the equal rights but also equal access to economic opportunity for all Americans. This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service will honor his legacy as hundreds of thousands of Americans pay tribute by serving their communities on Monday, January 20.
We know there is a great deal we can do to help our cities and neighborhoods thrive, and as President Obama said last week, “the American people… are ready and willing to pitch in and help.” MLK Day exemplifies this spirit as individuals and families around the country come together on this day every year to strengthen their communities through service and volunteering. Through their deeds, they demonstrate that service can accelerate progress on our most pressing priorities.
To encourage more Americans to serve and use them more effectively, the Federal government already manages programs such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and Senior Corps. Yet we can still do more to help communities that need our help. For this reason, the President created the Task Force on Expanding National Service last summer. The Task Force focuses on helping more Americans find ways to serve through new interagency partnerships such as FEMA Corps and public-private partnerships such as the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.
Please join us in making MLK Day the start of a “year of action.”
Wendy Spencer is CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service and co-chair of the Task Force on Expanding National Service. Jonathan Greenblatt is Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Domestic Policy Council.
This week, the President sat down for lunch with young organizers who are working to help implement the Affordable Care Act, hosted the President of Spain and the Miami Heat, traveled to the home of the Wolfpack to announce a new, public-private effort to support investment in our manufacturing sector, announced his nominee to run the Small Business Administration, and spoke on expanding college opportunity, alongside the First Lady.
Earlier today, President Obama and the First Lady spoke about expanding college opportunity so that every student who works hard can get a higher education. Later, the President's education advisor, Roberto Rodriguez, answered your questions about the issue during the first-ever White House Q&A on Facebook.
The White House uses Facebook, and other social media sites, to engage directly with citizens and give our followers a unique look inside the White House. Missed the chat? Be sure to like us for the latest news and more chances to connect directly with the Obama administration.
The White House Hey everyone, it's Roberto Rodriguez, President Obama's education advisor. I'll be answering your questions on the President's call to action to expand #CollegeOpportunity for every hardworking student. Ask away below, and I'll start answering shortly.
Abigail Chambers How do you define success for this initiative?
The White House America used to be the world's leader in college completion. We've been outpaced by other nations -- and slipped beyond the top 10 countries in the world. We need an all-hands-on deck approach to regain our leadership. Success is when our colleges and universities, governors, federal and local leaders, teachers, parents and students all work together to accelerate our progress toward that goal.
Carol Pratt Lozito What are the major colleges & universities doing to help the President with his plan?
The White House Thanks for the question, Carol. Over 100 colleges and universities and 40 organizations are joining President Obama and the First Lady to help more students reach and succeed in college -- building new summer bridge programs for students; leveling the playing field in college advising and preparation; and ensuring a strong start in college so that every student can successfully earn his or her degree. Click here to learn more and to urge your partners in your community to take action.
Today’s passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 marks a positive step forward for the Nation and our economy. This bipartisan legislation provides funding for investments in areas like education, infrastructure, and innovation – investments that will help grow our economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. It supports our national security by providing needed relief for the Defense Department from the untenable sequestration cuts that were undermining military readiness. It ensures the continuation of critical services the American people depend on. And it brings us closer to returning the budget process to regular order.
Passage of this legislation ensures that we have appropriations for every agency in the Federal government, enabling them to more efficiently and effectively serve the American people and bringing greater certainty to businesses and communities across the country. Key areas that are positively impacted by the legislation include:
- Early Learning: The legislation fully restores funding cuts to the Head Start program that were caused by sequestration and provides dedicated resources to improve early education by supporting State efforts to expand preschool for 4-year olds. And the legislation provides additional funding to expand access to high-quality early education for tens of thousands of additional children through the launch of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.
- Health Care: The legislation helps ensure we can continue to move forward in providing quality, affordable health care for millions of Americans through implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act improves many aspects of the Nation's health care system, such as preventing those with pre-existing conditions from being dropped or denied coverage. It also provides tax credits to help pay for coverage and slows the growth of health care costs.
- College Affordability: Funding is included to help bolster American competitiveness by supporting the development of innovative strategies to make college more affordable and help more students graduate on time with high-quality degrees that lead to good jobs.
- Gun Safety: The legislation supports the Administration’s efforts to strengthen school safety and mental health initiatives to help protect our children from gun violence and provide those suffering from mental illness with the treatment they need. It also includes funding for the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, which will fund pilot sites for school districts to develop and implement innovative approaches to school safety.