viernes, 27 de enero de 2012

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS CONVENTION



Transcript:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please, be seated. Thank you so much. Commander Gardner, thank you for your introduction and for your lifetime of service. I was proud to welcome Glen and your executive director, Bob Wallace, to the Oval Office just before the 4th of July, and I look forwarding to working with your next commander, Tommy Tradewell.
I want to also acknowledge Jean Gardner and Sharon Tradewell, as well as Dixie Hild and Jan Title and all the spouses and family of the Ladies Auxiliary. America honors your service as well.
Also Governor Jan Brewer is here, of Arizona; and Mayor Phil Gordon, our host here in Phoenix. I want to acknowledge President — Dr. Joe Shirley, Jr., President of the Navajo Nation. And this wasn’t on my original card, but this is just an extraordinary story and you may have already heard from her, but I just want to publicly acknowledge and thank Ms. Helen Denton the secretary to Dwight Eisenhower — (applause) — who typed up the orders for the Normandy invasion and is here today, and what an extraordinary story that is. (Applause.)
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, I am honored and humbled to stand before you as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military the world has ever known. (Applause.) And we’re joined by some of those who make it the finest force in world — from Luke Air Force Base, members of the 56th Fighter Wing. (Applause.)
Whether you wear the uniform today, or wore it decades ago, you remind us of a fundamental truth. It’s not the powerful weapons that make our military the strongest in the world. It’s not the sophisticated systems that make us the most advanced. The true strength of our military lies in the spirit and skill of our men and women in uniform. And you know this. (Applause.)
You know this because it’s the story of your lives. When fascism seemed unstoppable and our harbor was bombed, you battled across rocky Pacific islands and stormed the beaches of Europe, marching across a continent — my own grandfather and uncle among your ranks — liberating millions and turning enemies into allies.
When communism cast its shadow across so much of the globe, you stood vigilant in a long Cold War — from an airlift in Berlin to the mountains of Korea to the jungles of Vietnam. When that Cold War ended and old hatreds emerged anew, you turned back aggression from Kuwait to Kosovo.
And long after you took off the uniform, you’ve continued to serve: supporting our troops and their families when they go to war and welcoming them when they come home; working to give our veterans the care they deserve; and when America’s heroes are laid to rest, giving every one of them that final fitting tribute of a grateful nation. We can never say it enough: For your service in war and in peace, thank you VFW. Thank you. (Applause.)
Today, the story of your service is carried on by a new generation — dedicated, courageous men and women who I have the privilege to lead and meet every day.
They’re the young sailors, the midshipmen at the Naval Academy, who raised their right hand at graduation and committed themselves to a life of service. They’re the soldiers I met in Baghdad who have done their duty, year after year, on a second, third or fourth tour. They’re the Marines of Camp Lejeune, preparing to deploy and now serving in Afghanistan to protect Americans here at home. They’re the airmen, like those here today, who provide the close air support that saves the lives of our troops on the ground. They’re the wounded warriors — at Landstuhl and Walter Reed and Bethesda and across America — for whom the battle is not to fight, but simply to speak, to stand, to walk once more. They’re the families that my wife Michelle has met at bases across the country. The spouses back home doing the parenting of two, the children who wonder when mom and dad may be coming home; the parents who watch their sons and daughters go off to war; and the families who lay a loved one to rest — and the pain that lasts a lifetime.
To all those who have served America — our forces, your families, our veterans — you have done your duty. You have fulfilled your responsibilities. And now a grateful nation must fulfill ours. And that is what I want to talk about today.
First, we have a solemn responsibility to always lead our men and women in uniform wisely. And that starts with a vision of American leadership that recognizes that military power alone cannot be the first or only answer to the threats facing our nation.
In recent years, our troops have succeeded in every mission America has given them, from toppling the Taliban to deposing a dictator in Iraq to battling brutal insurgencies. At the same time, forces trained for war have been called upon to perform a whole host of missions. Like mayors, they’ve run local governments and delivered water and electricity. Like aid workers, they’ve mentored farmers and built new schools. Like diplomats, they’ve negotiated agreements with tribal sheikhs and local leaders.
But let us never forget we are a country of more than 300 million Americans. Less than 1 percent wears the uniform. And that 1 percent — our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen — have borne the overwhelming burden of our security. In fact, perhaps never in American history have so few protected so many.
So the responsibility for our security must not be theirs alone. That is why I have made it a priority to enlist all elements of our national power in defense of our national security — our diplomacy and development, our economic might and our moral example, because one of the best ways to lead our troops wisely is to prevent the conflicts that cost American blood and treasure tomorrow.
As President, my greatest responsibility is the security and safety of the American people. As I’ve said before, that is the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, it’s the last thing that I think about when I go to sleep at night. And I will not hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests. (Applause.)
But as we protect America, our men and women in uniform must always be treated as what they are: America’s most precious resource. As Commander-in-Chief, I have a solemn responsibility for their safety. And there is nothing more sobering than signing a letter of condolence to the family of servicemen or women who have given their lives for our country.
And that’s why I have made this pledge to our armed forces: I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary. And when I do, it will be based on good intelligence and guided by a sound strategy. I will give you a clear mission, defined goals, and the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That’s my commitment to you. (Applause.)
Which brings me to our second responsibility to our armed forces — giving them the resources and equipment and strategies to meet their missions. We need to keep our military the best-trained, the best-led, the best-equipped fighting force in the world. And that’s why, even with our current economic challenges, my budget increases defense spending.
We will ensure that we have the force structure to meet today’s missions. And that’s why we’ve increased the size of the Army and the Marine Corps two years ahead of schedule and have approved another temporary increase in the Army. And we’ve halted personnel reductions in the Navy and Air Force. And this will give our troops more time home between deployments, which means less stress on families and more training for the next mission. (Applause.) And it will help us put an end, once and for all, to stop-loss for those who’ve done their duty. (Applause.)
We will equip our forces with the assets and technologies they need to fight and win. So my budget funds more of the Army helicopters, crews, and pilots urgently needed in Afghanistan; the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance that gives our troops the advantage; the special operations forces that can deploy on a moment’s notice; and for all those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, including our National Guard and Reserve, more of the protective gear and armored vehicles that save lives. (Applause.)
As we fight in two wars, we will plan responsibly, budget honestly, and speak candidly about the costs and consequences of our actions. And that’s why I’ve made sure my budget includes the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Iraq, after more than six years, we took an important step forward in June. We transferred control of all cities and towns to Iraq’s security forces. The transition to full Iraqi responsibility for their own security is now underway. This progress is a testament to all those who have served in Iraq, both uniformed and civilian. And our nation owes these Americans — and all who have given their lives — a profound debt of gratitude. (Applause.)
Now, as Iraqis take control of their destiny, they will be tested and targeted. Those who seek to sow sectarian division will attempt more senseless bombings and more killing of innocents. This we know.
But as we move forward, the Iraqi people must know that the United States will keep its commitments. And the American people must know that we will move forward with our strategy. We will begin removing our combat brigades from Iraq later this year. We will remove all our combat brigades by the end of next August. And we will remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. And for America, the Iraq war will end.
By moving forward in Iraq, we’re able to refocus on the war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s why I announced a new, comprehensive strategy in March — a strategy that recognizes that al Qaeda and its allies had moved their base from the remote, tribal areas — to the remote, tribal areas of Pakistan. This strategy acknowledges that military power alone will not win this war — that we also need diplomacy and development and good governance. And our new strategy has a clear mission and defined goals: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies.
In the months since, we have begun to put this comprehensive strategy into action. And in recent weeks, we’ve seen our troops do their part. They’ve gone into new areas — taking the fight to the Taliban in villages and towns where residents have been terrorized for years. They’re adapting new tactics, knowing that it’s not enough to kill extremists and terrorists; we also need to protect the Afghan people and improve their daily lives. And today, our troops are helping to secure polling places for this week’s election so that Afghans can choose the future that they want.
Now, these new efforts have not been without a price. The fighting has been fierce. More Americans have given their lives. And as always, the thoughts and prayers of every American are with those who make the ultimate sacrifice in our defense.
As I said when I announced this strategy, there will be more difficult days ahead. The insurgency in Afghanistan didn’t just happen overnight and we won’t defeat it overnight. This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is a — this is fundamental to the defense of our people.
And going forward, we will constantly adapt to new tactics to stay ahead of the enemy and give our troops the tools and equipment they need to succeed. And at every step of the way, we will assess our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and to help the Afghan and Pakistani people build the future that they seek.
Now, even as we lead and equip our troops for the missions of today, we have a third responsibility to fulfill. We must prepare our forces for the missions of tomorrow.
Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen adapt to new challenges every day. But as we know, much of our defense establishment has yet to fully adapt to the post-Cold War world, with doctrine and weapons better suited to fight the Soviets on the plains of Europe than insurgents in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan. Twenty years after the Cold War ended, this is simply not unacceptable. It’s irresponsible. Our troops, and our taxpayers, deserve better. (Applause.)
And that’s why — that’s why our defense review is taking a top-to-bottom look at our priorities and posture, questioning conventional wisdom, rethinking old dogmas and challenging the status quo. We’re asking hard questions about the forces we need and the weapons we buy. And when we’re finished, we’ll have a new blueprint for the 21st-century military that we need. And in fact, we’re already on our way.
We’re adopting new concepts — because the full spectrum of challenges demands a full range of military capabilities — both the conventional and the unconventional, the ability to defeat both an armored division and the lone suicide bomber; the intercontinental ballistic missile and the improvised explosive device; 18th-century-style piracy and 21st-century cyber threats. No matter the mission, we must maintain America’s military dominance.
So even as we modernize our conventional forces, we’re investing in the capabilities that will reorient our force to the future — an Army that is more mobile and expeditionary and missile defenses that protect our troops in the field; a Navy that not only projects power across the oceans but operates nimbly in shallow, coastal waters; an Air Force that dominates the airspace with next-generation aircraft, both manned and unmanned; a Marine Corps that can move ashore more rapidly in more places.
And across the force, we’re investing in new skills and specialties, because in the 21st century, military strength will be measured not only by the weapons our troops carry, but by the languages they speak and the cultures that they understand.
But here’s the simple truth: We cannot build the 21st-century military we need, and maintain the fiscal responsibility that America demands, unless we fundamentally reform the way our defense establishment does business. It’s a simple fact. Every dollar wasted in our defense budget is a dollar we can’t spend to care for our troops or protect America or prepare for the future.
You’ve heard the stories: the indefensible no-bid contracts that cost taxpayers billions and make contractors rich; the special interests and their exotic projects that are years behind schedule and billions over budget; the entrenched lobbyists pushing weapons that even our military says it doesn’t want. The impulse in Washington to protect jobs back home building things we don’t need has a cost that we can’t afford.
This waste would be unacceptable at any time, but at a time when we’re fighting two wars and facing a serious deficit, it’s inexcusable. It’s an affront to the American people and to our troops. And it’s time for it to stop. And this is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. (Applause.)
This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue — it’s about giving our troops the support that they need. And that’s something that all Americans should be able to agree to. So I’m glad I have as a partner in this effort a great veteran, a great Arizonan, and a great American who has shown the courage to stand and fight this waste — Senator John McCain. (Applause.) And I’m also proud to have Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has served under eight Presidents of both parties, leading this fight at the Pentagon.
So already I’ve put an end to unnecessary no-bid contracts. I’ve signed bipartisan legislation to reform defense procurement so weapons systems don’t spin out of control. And even as we increase spending on the equipment and weapons our troops do need, we’ve proposed cutting tens of billions of dollars in waste we don’t need.
Think about it. Hundreds of millions of dollars for an alternate second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter — when one reliable engine will do just fine. Nearly $2 billion to buy more F-22 fighter jets — when we can move ahead with a fleet of newer, more affordable aircraft. Tens of billions of dollars to put an anti-missile laser on a fleet of vulnerable 747s.
And billions of dollars for a new presidential helicopter. Now, maybe you’ve heard about this. Among its other capabilities, it would let me cook a meal while under nuclear attack. (Laughter.) Now, let me tell you something, if the United States of America is under nuclear attack, the last thing on my mind will be whipping up a snack. (Laughter and applause.)
So this is pretty straightforward: Cut the waste. Save taxpayer dollars. Support the troops. That’s what we should be doing. (Applause.) The special interests, contractors, and entrenched lobbyists, they’re invested in the status quo. And they’re putting up a fight. But make no mistake, so are we. If a project doesn’t support our troops, if it does not make America safer, we will not fund it. If a system doesn’t perform, we will terminate it. (Applause.) And if Congress sends me a defense bill loaded with a bunch of pork, I will veto it. We will do right by our troops and taxpayers, and we will build the 21st century military that we need. (Applause.)
Finally, we will fulfill our responsibility to those who serve by keeping our promises to our people. We will fulfill our responsibility to our forces and our families. That’s why we’re increasing military pay. That’s why we’re building better family housing and funding more childcare and counseling to help families cope with the stresses of war. And we’ve changed the rules so military spouses can better compete for federal jobs and pursue their careers.
We will fulfill our responsibility to our wounded warriors. For those still in uniform, we’re investing billions of dollars for more treatment centers, more case managers and better medical care so our troops can recover and return where they want to be — with their units. (Applause.)
But as the VFW well knows, for so many veterans the war rages on — the flashbacks that won’t go away, the loved ones who now seem like strangers, the heavy darkness of depression that has led to too many of our troops taking their own lives. Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury are the defining injuries of today’s wars. So caring for those affected by them is a defining purpose of my budget — billions of dollars more for treatment and mental health screenings to reach our troops on the frontier — on the frontlines and more mobile and rural clinics to reach veterans back home. We are not going to abandon these American heroes. We are going to do right by them. (Applause.)
We will fulfill our responsibility to our veterans as they return to civilian life. I was proud to co-sponsor the Post-9/11 GI Bill as a senator. And thanks to VFW members across the country — and leaders like Arizona’s Harry Mitchell in Congress — it is now the law of the land. (Applause.) And as President, I’m committed to seeing that it is successfully implemented.
For so many of you, like my grandfather, the original GI Bill changed your life — helping you to realize your dreams. But it also transformed America, helping to build the largest middle class in history. We’re saying the same thing to today’s post-9/11 veterans: You pick the school, we’ll help pick up the bill. (Applause.)
And as these veterans show — start showing up on campuses, I’m proud that we’re making this opportunity available to all those who have sacrificed, including Reservists and National Guard members and spouses and children, including kids who’ve lost their mom or dad. (Applause.) In an era when so many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly, we choose to reward the responsibility and service of our forces and their families.
Whether you’ve left the service in 2009 or 1949, we will fulfill our responsibility to deliver the benefits and care that you earned. And that’s why I’ve pledged to build nothing less than a 21st-century VA. And I picked a lifelong soldier and wounded warrior from Vietnam to lead this fight, General Ric Shinseki. (Applause.)
We’re dramatically increasing funding for veterans health care. This includes hundreds of millions of dollars to serve veterans in rural areas, as well as the unique needs of our growing number of women veterans. We’re restoring access to VA health care for a half-million veterans who lost their eligibility in recent years — our Priority 8 veterans.
And since there’s been so much misinformation out there about health insurance reform, let me say this: One thing that reform won’t change is veterans’ health care. No one is going to take away your benefits — that is the plain and simple truth. (Applause.) We’re expanding access to your health care, not reducing it. (Applause.)
We’re also keeping our promise on concurrent receipt. My budget ensures that our severely disabled veterans will receive both their military retired pay and their VA disability benefits. (Applause.) And I look forward to signing legislation on advanced appropriations for the VA so the medical care you need is never held up by budget delays. (Applause.)
I’ve also directed Secretary Shinseki to focus on a top priority — reducing homelessness among veterans. (Applause.) After serving their country, no veteran should be sleeping on the streets. (Applause.) No veteran. We should have zero tolerance for that.
And we’re keeping our promise to fulfill another top priority at the VA — cutting the red tape and inefficiencies that cause backlogs and delays in the claims process. (Applause.) This spring, I directed the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to create one unified lifetime electronic health record for the members of the armed forces — a single electronic record, with privacy guaranteed, that will stay with them forever. Because after fighting for America, you should not have to fight over paperwork to receive the benefits that you’ve earned. (Applause.)
Today, I can announce that we’re taking another step. I’ve directed my Chief Performance Officer, my Chief Technology Officer and my Chief Information Officer to join with Secretary Shinseki in a new reform effort. We’re launching a new competition to capture the very best ideas of our VA employees who work with you every day.
We’re going to challenge each of our 57 regional VA offices to come up with the best ways of doing business, of harnessing the best information technologies, of cutting red tape and breaking through the bureaucracy. And then we’re going to fund the best ideas and put them into action, all with a simple mission: cut those backlogs, slash those wait times, deliver your benefits sooner. (Applause.) I know you’ve heard this for years, but the leadership and resources we’re providing this time means that we’re going to be able to do it. That is our mission, and we are going to make it happen. (Applause.)
Now, taken together, these investments represent a historic increase in our commitment to America’s veterans — a 15 percent increase over last year’s funding levels and the largest increase in the VA budget in more than 30 years. And over the next five years we’ll invest another $25 billion to make sure that our veterans are getting what they need.
These are major investments, and these are difficult times. Fiscal discipline demands that we make hard decisions — sacrificing certain things we can’t afford. But let me be clear. America’s commitment to its veterans are not just lines on a budget. They are bonds that are sacred — a sacred trust we’re honor bound to uphold.
These are commitments that we make to the patriots who serve — from the day they enlist to the day that they are laid to rest. Patriots like you. Patriots like a man named Jim Norene.
His story is his own, but in it we see the larger story of all who serve. He’s a child of the Depression who grew up to join that greatest generation; a paratrooper in the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne; jumping in a daring daylight raid into Holland to liberate captive people; rushing to Bastogne at the Battle of the Bulge where his commanding general — surrounded by the Germans and asked to surrender — declared, famously, “Nuts.”
For his bravery, Jim was awarded the Bronze Star. But like so many others, he rarely spoke of what he did or what he saw — reminding us that true love of country is not boisterous or loud but, rather, the “tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
Jim returned home and built a life. He went to school on the GI Bill. He got married. He raised a family in his small Oregon farming town. And every Veterans Day, year after year, he visited schoolchildren to speak about the meaning of service. And he did it all as a proud member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. (Applause.)
Then, this spring, Jim made a decision. He would return to Europe once more. Eighty-five years old, frail and gravely ill, he knew he might not make it back home. But like the paratrooper he always was, he was determined.
So near Bastogne, he returned to the places he knew so well. At a Dutch town liberated by our GIs, schoolchildren lined the sidewalks and sang The Star-Spangled Banner. And in the quiet clearing of an American cemetery, he walked among those perfect lines of white crosses of fellow soldiers who had fallen long ago, their names forever etched in stone.
And then, back where he had served 65 years before, Jim Norene passed away, at night, in his sleep, quietly, peacefully — the “tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
The next day, I was privileged to join the commemoration at Normandy to mark the day when the beaches were stormed and a continent was freed. There were Presidents and prime ministers and veterans from the far corners of the earth. But long after the bands stopped playing and the crowds stopped cheering, it was the story of a departed VFW member that echoed in our hearts.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, you have done your duty — to your fallen comrades, to your communities, to your country. You have always fulfilled your responsibilities to America. And so long as I am President of the United States, America will always fulfill its responsibilities to you.
God bless you. God bless all our veterans. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner



Transcript:


THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, CBC!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much. Thank you.  Please, everybody have a seat.  It is wonderful to be with all of you tonight.  It's good to be with the conscience of the Congress.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Chairman Cleaver and brother Payne, for all that you do each and every day.  Thank you, Dr. Elsie Scott, president and CEO of the CBC Foundation, and all of you for your outstanding work with your internship program, which has done so much for so many young people.  And I had a chance to meet some of the young people backstage -- an incredible, unbelievably impressive group. 
You know, being here with all of you -- with all the outstanding members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- reminds me of a story that one of our friends, a giant of the civil rights movement, Reverend Dr. Joseph Lowery, told one day.  Dr. Lowery -- I don't think he minds me telling that he turns 90 in a couple weeks.  (Applause.)  He’s been causing a ruckus for about 89 of those years.  (Laughter.) 
A few years back, Dr. Lowery and I were together at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma.  (Applause.)  We've got some Selma folks in the house.  (Applause.)  And Dr. Lowery stood up in the pulpit and told the congregation the story of Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace.  You know the story -- it’s about three young men bold enough to stand up for God, even if it meant being thrown in a furnace.  And they survived because of their faith, and because God showed up in that furnace with them.
Now, Dr. Lowery said that those three young men were a little bit crazy.  But there’s a difference, he said, between good crazy and bad crazy.  (Applause.)  Those boys, he said, were “good crazy.”  At the time, I was running for president -- it was early in the campaign.  Nobody gave me much of a chance.  He turned to me from the pulpit, and indicated that someone like me running for president -- well, that was crazy.  (Laughter.)  But he supposed it was good crazy. 
He was talking about faith, the belief in things not seen, the belief that if you persevere a better day lies ahead.  And I suppose the reason I enjoy coming to the CBC -- what this weekend is all about is, you and me, we're all a little bit crazy, but hopefully a good kind of crazy.  (Applause.)  We’re a good kind of crazy because no matter how hard things get, we keep the faith; we keep fighting; we keep moving forward.
And we've needed faith over these last couple years.  Times have been hard.  It’s been three years since we faced down a crisis that began on Wall Street and then spread to Main Street, and hammered working families, and hammered an already hard-hit black community.  The unemployment rate for black folks went up to nearly 17 percent -- the highest it’s been in almost three decades; 40 percent, almost, of African American children living in poverty; fewer than half convinced that they can achieve Dr. King’s dream.  You’ve got to be a little crazy to have faith during such hard times. 
It’s heartbreaking, and it’s frustrating.  And I ran for President, and the members of the CBC ran for Congress, to help more Americans reach that dream.  (Applause.)  We ran to give every child a chance, whether he’s born in Chicago, or she comes from a rural town in the Delta.  This crisis has made that job of giving everybody opportunity a little bit harder. 
We knew at the outset of my presidency that the economic calamity we faced wasn’t caused overnight and wasn’t going to be solved overnight.  We knew that long before the recession hit, the middle class in this country had been falling behind -– wages and incomes had been stagnant; a sense of financial security had been slipping away.  And since these problems were not caused overnight, we knew we were going to have to climb a steep hill. 
But we got to work.  With your help, we started fighting our way back from the brink.  And at every step of the way, we’ve faced fierce opposition based on an old idea -- the idea that the only way to restore prosperity can’t just be to let every corporation write its own rules, or give out tax breaks to the wealthiest and the most fortunate, and to tell everybody that they're on their own.  There has to be a different concept of what America’s all about.  It has to be based on the idea that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper, and we’re in this together.  We are in this thing together.  (Applause.) 
We had a different vision and so we did what was right, and we fought to extend unemployment insurance, and we fought to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, and we fought to expand the Child Tax Credit -- which benefited nearly half of all African American children in this country.  (Applause.)  And millions of Americans are better off because of that fight.  (Applause.) 
Ask the family struggling to make ends meet if that extra few hundred dollars in their mother’s paycheck from the payroll tax cut we passed made a difference.  They’ll tell you.  Ask them how much that Earned Income Tax Credit or that Child Tax Credit makes a difference in paying the bills at the end of the month. 
When an army of lobbyists and special interests spent millions to crush Wall Street reform, we stood up for what was right.  We said the time has come to protect homeowners from predatory mortgage lenders.  The time has come to protect consumers from credit card companies that jacked up rates without warning.  (Applause.)  We signed the strongest consumer financial protection in history.  That’s what we did together.  (Applause.)
Remember how many years we tried to stop big banks from collecting taxpayer subsidies for student loans while the cost of college kept slipping out of reach?  Together, we put a stop to that once and for all.  We used those savings to make college more affordable.  We invested in early childhood education and community college and HBCUs.  Ask the engineering student at an HBCU who thought he might have to leave school if that extra Pell Grant assistance mattered.  (Applause.)
We’re attacking the cycle of poverty that steals the future from too many children -- not just by pouring money into a broken system, but by building on what works -– with Promise Neighborhoods modeled after the good work up in Harlem; Choice Neighborhoods rebuilding crumbling public housing into communities of hope and opportunity; Strong Cities, Strong Communities, our partnership with local leaders in hard-hit cities like Cleveland and Detroit.  And we overcame years of inaction to win justice for black farmers because of the leadership of the CBC and because we had an administration that was committed to doing the right thing.  (Applause.)
And against all sorts of setbacks, when the opposition fought us with everything they had, we finally made clear that in the United States of America nobody should go broke because they get sick.  We are better than that.  (Applause.)  And today, insurance companies can no longer drop or deny your coverage for no good reason.  In just a year and a half, about one million more young adults have health insurance because of this law.  (Applause.)  One million young people.  That is an incredible achievement, and we did it with your help, with the CBC’s help.  (Applause.)
So in these hard years, we’ve won a lot of fights that needed fighting and we’ve done a lot of good.  But we’ve got more work to do.  So many people are still hurting.  So many people are still barely hanging on.  And too many people in this city are still fighting us every step of the way. 
So I need your help.  We have to do more to put people to work right now.  We’ve got to make that everyone in this country gets a fair shake, and a fair shot, and a chance to get ahead.  (Applause.)  And I know we won’t get where we need to go if we don’t travel down this road together.  I need you with me.  (Applause.)
  
That starts with getting this Congress to pass the American Jobs Act.  (Applause.)  You heard me talk about this plan when I visited Congress a few weeks ago and sent the bill to Congress a few days later.  Now I want that bill back -- passed.  I’ve got the pens all ready.  I am ready to sign it.  And I need your help to make it happen.  (Applause.)
Right now we’ve got millions of construction workers out of a job.  So this bill says, let’s put those men and women back to work in their own communities rebuilding our roads and our bridges.  Let’s give these folks a job rebuilding our schools.  Let’s put these folks to work rehabilitating foreclosed homes in the hardest-hit neighborhoods of Detroit and Atlanta and Washington.  This is a no-brainer.  (Applause.) 
Why should we let China build the newest airports, the fastest railroads?  Tell me why our children should be allowed to study in a school that’s falling apart?  I don’t want that for my kids or your kids.  I don’t want that for any kid.  You tell me how it makes sense when we know that education is the most important thing for success in the 21st century.  (Applause.)  Let’s put our people back to work doing the work America needs done.  Let’s pass this jobs bill.  (Applause.)
We’ve got millions of unemployed Americans and young people looking for work but running out of options.  So this jobs bill says, let’s give them a pathway, a new pathway back to work.  Let’s extend unemployment insurance so that more than six million Americans don’t lose that lifeline.  But let’s also encourage reforms that help the long-term unemployed keep their skills sharp and get a foot in the door.  Let’s give summer jobs for low-income youth that don’t just give them their first paycheck but arm them with the skills they need for life.  (Applause.) 
Tell me why we don’t want the unemployed back in the workforce as soon as possible.  Let’s pass this jobs bill, put these folks back to work.  (Applause.)   
Why are we shortchanging our children when we could be putting teachers back in the classroom right now, where they belong?  (Applause.)  Laying off teachers, laying off police officer, laying off firefighters all across the country because state and local budgets are tough.  Why aren’t we helping?  We did in the first two years.  And then this other crowd came into Congress and now suddenly they want to stop.  Tell me why we shouldn’t give companies tax credits for hiring the men and women who’ve risked their lives for this country -- our veterans.  There is no good answer for that.  They shouldn’t be fighting to find a job when they come home.  (Applause.) 
These Republicans in Congress like to talk about job creators.  How about doing something real for job creators?  Pass this jobs bill, and every small business owner in America, including 100,000 black-owned businesses, will get a tax cut.  (Applause.)  You say you’re the party of tax cuts.  Pass this jobs bill, and every worker in America, including nearly 20 million African American workers, will get a tax cut.  (Applause.)  Pass this jobs bill, and prove you’ll fight just as hard for a tax cut for ordinary folks as you do for all your contributors.  (Applause.) 
These are questions that opponents of this jobs plan will have to answer.  Because the kinds of ideas in this plan in the past have been supported by both parties.  Suddenly Obama is proposing it -- what happened?  (Laughter.)  What happened?  You all used to like to build roads.  (Laughter.)  Right?  What happened?  Reverend, you know what happened?  I don’t know.  They used to love to build some roads.  (Laughter.) 
Now, I know some of our friends across the aisle won’t support any new spending that’s not paid for.  I agree that’s important.  So last week, I laid out a plan to pay for the American Jobs Act, and to bring out -- down our debt over time.  You say the deficit is important?  Here we go.  I’m ready to go. It’s a plan that says if we want to create jobs and close this deficit, then we’ve got to ask the folks who have benefited most -- the wealthiest Americans, the biggest, most profitable corporations -- to pay their fair share.  (Applause.) 
We are not asking them to do anything extraordinary.  The reform we’re proposing is based on a simple principle:  Middle-class folks should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires.  (Applause.)  That’s not crazy -- or it’s good crazy.  (Laughter.)  Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett.  A teacher or a nurse or a construction worker making $50,000 a year shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than somebody making $50 million.  That’s just common sense. 
We’re not doing this to punish success.  This is the land of opportunity.  I want you to go out, start a business, get rich, build something.  Out country is based on the belief that anybody can make it if they put in enough sweat and enough effort.  That is wonderful.  God bless you.  But part of the American idea is also that once we've done well we should pay our fair share -- (applause) -- to make sure that those schools that we were learning in can teach the next generation; that those roads that we benefited from -- that they're not crumbling for the next bunch of folks who are coming behind us; to keep up the nation that made our success possible.
And most wealthy Americans would agree with that.  But you know the Republicans are already dusting off their old talking points.  That's class warfare, they say.  In fact, in the next breath, they’ll complain that people living in poverty -- people who suffered the most over the past decade -- don’t pay enough in taxes.  That's bad crazy.  (Laughter and applause.)  When you start saying, at a time when the top one-tenth of 1 percent has seen their incomes go up four or five times over the last 20 years, and folks at the bottom have seen their incomes decline -- and your response is that you want poor folks to pay more?  Give me a break.  If asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a janitor makes me a warrior for the working class, I wear that with a badge of honor.  I have no problem with that.  (Applause.) It's about time.  
They say it kills jobs -- oh, that's going to kill jobs.  We’re not proposing anything other than returning to the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans that existed under Bill Clinton.  I played golf with Bill Clinton today.  I was asking him, how did that go?  (Laughter.)  Well, it turns out we had a lot of jobs.  The well-to-do, they did even better.  So did the middle class.  We lifted millions out of poverty.  And then we cut taxes for folks like me, and we went through a decade of zero job growth. 
So this isn't speculation.  We've tested this out.  We tried their theory; didn’t work.  Tried our theory; it worked.  We shouldn’t be confused about this.  (Applause.)
This debate is about priorities.  If we want to create new jobs and close the deficit and invest in our future, the money has got to come from somewhere.  And so, should we keep tax loopholes for big oil companies?  Or should we put construction workers and teachers back on the job?  (Applause.)  Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires?  Or should we invest in our children’s education and college aid?  Should we ask seniors to be paying thousands of dollars more for Medicare, as the House Republicans propose, or take young folks’ health care away?  Or should we ask that everybody pay their fair share? This is about fairness.  And this is about who we are as a country.  This is about our commitment to future generations.
When Michelle and I think about where we came from -- a little girl on the South Side of Chicago, son of a single mom in Hawaii -- mother had to go to school on scholarships, sometimes got food stamps.  Michelle's parents never owned their own home until she had already graduated -- living upstairs above the aunt who actually owned the house.  We are here today only because our parents and our grandparents, they broke their backs to support us.  (Applause.)  But they also understood that they would get a little bit of help from their country.  Because they met their responsibilities, this country would also be responsible, would also provide good public schools, would also provide recreation  -- parks that were safe, making sure that they could take the bus without getting beat over the head, making sure that their kids would be able to go to college even if they weren’t rich.
We're only here because past generations struggled and sacrificed for this incredible, exceptional idea that it does not matter where you come from, it does not matter where you’re born, doesn’t matter what you look like -- if you’re willing to put in an effort, you should get a shot.  You should get a shot at the American Dream.  (Applause.) 
And each night, when we tuck in our girls at the White House, I think about keeping that dream alive for them and for all of our children.  And that’s now up to us.  And that’s hard. This is harder than it’s been in a long, long time.  We’re going through something we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. 
And I know at times that gets folks discouraged.  I know.  I listen to some of you all.  (Laughter.)  I understand that.  And nobody feels that burden more than I do.  Because I know how much we have invested in making sure that we’re able to move this country forward.  But you know, more than a lot of other folks in this country, we know about hard.  The people in this room know about hard.  (Applause.)  And we don’t give in to discouragement. 
Throughout our history, change has often come slowly.  Progress often takes time.  We take a step forward, sometimes we take two steps back.  Sometimes we get two steps forward and one step back.  But it’s never a straight line.  It’s never easy.  And I never promised easy.  Easy has never been promised to us.  But we’ve had faith.  We have had faith.  We’ve had that good kind of crazy that says, you can’t stop marching.  (Applause.) 
Even when folks are hitting you over the head, you can’t stop marching.  Even when they’re turning the hoses on you, you can’t stop.  (Applause.)  Even when somebody fires you for speaking out, you can’t stop.  (Applause.)  Even when it looks like there’s no way, you find a way -- you can’t stop.  (Applause.)  Through the mud and the muck and the driving rain, we don’t stop.  Because we know the rightness of our cause -- widening the circle of opportunity, standing up for everybody’s opportunities, increasing each other’s prosperity.  We know our cause is just.  It’s a righteous cause. 
So in the face of troopers and teargas, folks stood unafraid.  Led somebody like John Lewis to wake up after getting beaten within an inch of his life on Sunday -- he wakes up on Monday:  We’re going to go march.  (Applause.)
Dr. King once said:  “Before we reach the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead.  We must still face prodigious hilltops of opposition and gigantic mountains of resistance.  But with patient and firm determination we will press on.”  (Applause.) 
So I don’t know about you, CBC, but the future rewards those who press on.  (Applause.)  With patient and firm determination, I am going to press on for jobs.  (Applause.)  I'm going to press on for equality.  (Applause.)  I'm going to press on for the sake of our children.  (Applause.)  I'm going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now.  I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself.  I don’t have time to complain.  I am going to press on.  (Applause.) 
I expect all of you to march with me and press on.  (Applause.)  Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes.  Shake it off.  (Applause.)  Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying.  We are going to press on.  We’ve got work to do, CBC.  (Applause.) 
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Obama at Boston Seaport 04/02/2008




Most of all it means deploying our military wisely and the war in Iraq was unwise. It distracted us, from our enemies in Afghanistan.
By the time this thing is over, I think it is safe to assume that it will be well over a trillion maybe closer to two. For that money we could have rebuild every road, every bridge, every hospital, every school in America. We could have completely overhauled our infrastructure, we could have put homeland security in place, we cold have sent our kids to school.
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Then, John McCain won’t be able to say to me: “Well you voted for that war too”, because I didn’t. He won’t be able to say, “well you went along with George Bush’s policy on Iran”, because I haven’t.
This was an unwise war and that is why I’ll bring this war to an end. And I’ll bring our troops home, in 2009. But I will not just end the war I want to end the mindset that got us into war.
Earlier in this campaign I said I would not just meet with our friends, I would meet with our enemies. Not just leaders we liked but leaders we despised. Strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries and tell them where America stands.
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And that will allow us then to go before the world and say “America’s back!” We are ready to lead on those common threats of the 21st century. Yes we will defeat terrorism, we will defeat those who would do us harm, we will lock down those nuclear weapons.
But also, we will deal with the genocide in Darfur, we will also deal with HIV Aids in Sub-Saharan Africa. We will deal with poverty and we will deal with disease.
If you believe, we can have a foreign policy that matches up with our values and our ideals and we will elect a president who has taught the constitution, who believes the constitution, who will obey the constitution of the United States of America, if you believe.
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They understand that the real risk,, the real roll on the dice would be to have the same old folks doing the same old things over and over again and somehow expecting a different result. They want something more fundamental than that they want real change thats what they are looking for. They are ready to reach a little higher.
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But towards the end of this campaign we’ve been having an argument not just about the nature of change but also about the nature of hope. See here is the thing, understand, particularly for you democrats, we have a choice right now.
It is not a choice between black and white, it is not a choice between male female, it is not a regional choice, it is a choice between the past and the future.
Nothing in this country worthwhile has ever happened except somebody, somewhere was willing to hope.
A red tagged band of patriots declaring independence challenged the mighty British empire. Nobody gave them a chance, but they had hope. Slaves and abolitionists resisting a wicked system, our greatest generation defeating Hitler, lifting itself up out of a great depression, pioneers heading west, immigrants traveling from distant shores, women winning the right to vote, workers winning the right to organize, young people traveling down south to march and sit-in and get beaten and go to jail and some died for freedom’s cause; thats what hope is.
That is what hope is; imagining and then fighting for and struggling for what did not seem possible before. That is the moment that we are in right now, that is the opportunity that lies before us.
There is a time in the life of every generation, where that spirit, that hope has to shine through. When we cast aside the fear and the doubt and the cynicism and we turn each other and we join hands and we remake this county block by block, county by county, state by state.
This is one of those moments, this our moment this is our time and if you are willing to join with me if you are willing to vote for me if you are willing to organize with me and mobilize with me if you are willing to reach for what you know is possible and not settle for what the cynics tell you have to accept. Then I promise you this, we will not just win the primary we will win the general election. And you and I together we will transform this county and we will transform the world.
God Bless you Boston, I love you.