President Obama: “Egyptians have inspired us all.”

In a White House speech televised live throughout the United States, President Obama reflected on recent events in Egypt, including the protests, the actions of Egyptian citizens, and the departure of long-time President Hosni Mubarak.  He called for a transition that would be “credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people,” and that would bring “all of Egypt’s voices to the table.”

President Obama also asserted that the United States “will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt,” adding, “Egyptians have inspired us all.”

What message do you have for the Egyptian people?

Obama Wants Wireless Internet for 98% of Americans

President Obama traveled to Michigan Thursday to announce the National Wireless Initiative, a program that promised to bring 4G high-speed wireless internet to 98 percent of Americans. He first announced plans for extended wireless coverage during his State of the Union speech earlier this year.

Speaking to a crowd at North Michigan University the president said access to the internet will “spark new innovation, new investment, new jobs.” He also told the audience that currently only 65 percent of American households have access to high-speed broadband. By comparison that number is more than 90 percent in South Korea.

One focus of the initiative is to bring high-speed internet to small towns and rural areas. Larger cities in the United States are rapidly gaining access to 4G technology through private investment, but the country’s vast rural areas are largely being left behind. The National Wireless Initiative will work to ensure all Americans – urban and rural – can take advantage of the social, economic, and educational benefits of access to high-speed wireless.

Michelle Obama Celebrates First Anniversary of Anti-Obesity Initiative

One year ago this week, first lady Michelle Obama launched her Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity in the United States.  To celebrate the program’s first anniversary, Mrs. Obama is making multiple media appearances, releasing a televised public service announcement, and traveling to Atlanta, Georgia to meet with students, teachers, and parents.

While in Atlanta on Wednesday the first lady visited a public elementary school that emphasizes teaching students about the benefits of a healthy diet.  She snacked on blueberries with kindergarteners, and first-graders showed her around the school’s garden, which grows produce such as collard greens, potatoes, and bok choy. 

What has the Let’s Move! program accomplished in its inaugural year?  For starters, the first lady has created partnerships with major players in the U.S., including Wal-Mart stores, which agreed to lower prices on fruits and vegetables and change the ingredients in their store-brand food items in an effort to make them healthier.  She also worked with Congress to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which aims to improve nutrition and focus on reducing childhood obesity.

Super Bowl Party at the White House

As Americans and American football fans around the world prepare for this Sunday’s Super Bowl, the White House is busy making plans of its own for the big game.  More than 100 people have accepted invitations to the Obamas’ Super Bowl party, including musicians Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Obama administration officials such as Attorney General Eric Holder, and both Democrat and Republican members of Congress.

The Super Bowl is the championship game of the National Football League, an organization that represents the highest level of professional American Football.  In the U.S., “Super Bowl Sunday” is thought of as an unofficial American holiday, and the game itself is often the most-watched television event of the year.  The first Super Bowl took place on January 15, 1967.  This year’s game will pit the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Green Bay Packers.

Obama Announces “Better Buildings Initiative”

President Obama traveled to a university in Pennsylvania today to promote the energy efficiency-focused Better Buildings Initiative.  The initiative aims to make commercial buildings across the country 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade, a move the  White House estimates could save American businesses roughly $40 billion per year.

Some of the programs the Better Buildings Initiative will launch include new tax incentives for building efficiency, more financing opportunities for commercial retrofits, and training for the next generation of commercial building technology workers.

At today’s event the president called developing cleaner sources of energy, “one of the fastest, easiest and cleanest ways to create jobs.”

President Obama Celebrates National African American History Month

During the month of February, festivities across the United States will highlight African American contributions to American society and remember the struggles and triumphs that generations of African Americans have lived through.  In a proclamation released yesterday, President Obama recognized the beginning of National African American History Month, stating:

“For centuries, African American men and women have persevered to enrich our national life and bend the arc of history toward justice… African Americans have strengthened our Nation by leading reforms, overcoming obstacles, and breaking down barriers.  During National African American History Month, we celebrate the vast contributions of African Americans to our Nation’s history and identity.”

The United States first celebrated National African American History Month in 1976.  The theme of this year’s month-long celebration is “African Americans and the Civil War,” which will honor the efforts of people of African descent to end slavery and ensure universal freedom in the United States.

Read President Obama’s full proclamation -

Behind the Scenes at the White House

The White House has released new, behind-the-scenes photos that chronicle everything from a visit by former president Bill Clinton to the Obama family vacation in Hawaii.  All of the 61 photos were taken in December.  The White House has been releasing monthly photo albums since May 2009.  You can view the December 2010 photo album on the White House’s official Flickr page:

White House Launches Startup America Partnership

Last week in his State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized the need for investment and innovation to drive America’s continued economic recovery.  Today, the White House and several senior cabinet members are joining some of the country’s leading entrepreneurs to launch the Startup America Partnership to help achieve Obama’s goal.

Bringing together partners from the public and private sectors, Startup America will help spur entrepreneurial development and increase both the number and success of high-growth startup ventures in the United States.  The Partnership is cofounded by the Kauffman Foundation, an organization dedicated to entrepreneurship, and the Case Foundation, a group founded to encourage civic engagement and philanthropy. 

So far, several American corporations have also pledged their support to the partnership and made commitments including:

  • $200 million of new investment in U.S. companies from Intel and advice on best practices from Intel’s senior leadership.
  • $150 million in investment in 2011 from IBM to fund programs that promote entrepreneurs and new business opportunities in the United States.
  • More than $4 million in 2011 from HP for their Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs, a program to help small business owners build commercial opportunities.
  • A new Facebook initiative called Startup Days to help entrepreneurs connect with business expertise, resources and engineers to accelerate their businesses. 

At the launch event, Obama highlighted the connection between entrepreneurship in America and a thriving economy.  “Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs.”

Learn more about Startup America.

Administration Continues to Monitor Situation in Egypt

President Obama and several senior members of his administration worked the phones over the weekend as they monitored unfolding developments in Egypt.  Media report that Obama has been communicating concrete steps for reform to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, including communicating with the opposition and lifting an emergency law in place since 1981 that gives the Egyptian government great power over the Egyptian people.  

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and other Obama administration officials were also in contact with their counterparts in Egypt and other leaders in the region to promote communication and stability.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on several Sunday morning news shows to express American support for “an orderly transition” in Egypt to a more politically and economically open democracy.  (Read more.)

President Obama spoke to the media about the evolving situation late Friday afternoon.  Obama called on both sides to refrain from violence and urged the Egyptian government to reverse steps it had taken to crack down on protestors, including restoring internet and cellular communication networks. 

“The people of Egypt have rights that are universal,” Obama said in his statement. “That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny.  These are human rights.  And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.”

Obama closed his remarks by hearkening back to the speech he delivered in Cairo in June 2009.  “When I was in Cairo, shortly after I was elected President, I said that all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion. That is the single standard by which the people of Egypt will achieve the future they deserve.”

President Obama’s statement on the situation in Egypt.

President Obama’s June 2009 address in Cairo.

President Obama’s Cairo address translated into 17 languages.  

More Changes to White House Staff

Vice President Biden with outgoing White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (right) and Jay Carney (center), who will replace Gibbs in early February.

Press reported yesterday that Jay Carney would replace Robert Gibbs as press secretary to President Obama.  Gibbs, who announced that he would be leaving the White House earlier this month, has been a long-time counselor to Obama and has said he will continue to be an outside advisor to the President’s re-election campaign for 2012. 

Carney has served as Vice President Biden’s communications director for the last two years, but has worked in and around Washington media for decades.  Prior to joining the Obama administration, he was a reporter and Washington bureau chief for TIME magazine for 20 years.  Carney will take over as the White House’s primary face to the media in early February.

The staffing changes were announced in an email to staff from White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, himself new to the position.  Several other internal staffing changes were also announced. 

You can read about previous White House staff changes here.  The choice of Carney as Gibbs’ replacement is expected to close out the staffing shake-up following the 2010 elections.  Such mid-term changes are typical occurrences for presidents half-way through their first terms.