Obama commemorates September 11 attacks

Obama lays wreath

Eight years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama marked the day at the Pentagon memorial. “Eight Septembers have come and gone,” Obama said before a group that included family members of Pentagon victims. “But no turning of the seasons can diminish the pain and the loss of that day.”

“Let us remember how we came together as one nation, as one people, as Americans, united not only in our grief but in our resolve to stand with one another, to stand up for the country we all love,” Obama said.

The anniversary is a time to honor those who gave their lives on September 11 and in the wars that have followed, Obama said. “You may find solace in the memory of those you loved, and know that you have the unending support of the American people,” he said.

Obama called on Americans to “renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act and who plot against us still.”

The president has declared September 11 a day of service and remembrance, encouraging Americans to give back to their communities on this day.

The full text of the president’s remarks is available on the White House Web site.

White House campaigning on health care

Following the president’s speech before Congress on health care, the Obama administration is pushing for Americans’ support.

Encouraging citizens to learn more about the president’s proposals, the White House has published a list of facts about Obama’s proposed plan that explain how those both with or without insurance would be impacted. The White House has changed the look of its front page to prominently feature videos of Americans who have struggled to pay medical bills when dealing with serious illnesses.

The Democratic Party is also trying to rally supporters. Soon after the president’s speech, they sent an e-mail from Obama. “Change this big will not happen because I ask for it,” Obama writes. “It can only come when the nation demands it. Congress knows where I stand. Now they need to hear from you.”

The e-mail also includes a link to an online form enabling supporters to notify their member of Congress that they support Obama’s health care plan.

Obama addresses Congress on health care


Speaking about U.S. health care before a joint session of Congress September 9, President Obama said, “we know we must reform this system. The question is how.”

Over the past few months, members of Congress and average Americans in town halls have debated – sometimes heatedly – over how to change the health care system. “Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action,” Obama said. “Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.”

Presidents typically speak before a joint session of Congress for the State of the Union address. Other speeches before the legislative branch, like this one, are relatively rare.

The president said his plan would provide health insurance for those who don’t have it while ensuring that Americans with insurance won’t have to change their coverage. Obama said his plan also calls for laws prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage due to a preexisting medical condition and requiring insurance companies to cover routine checkups for no extra cost. It also has provisions such as tax credits that the president said will enable small businesses and individuals to purchase insurance at lower rates.

Obama’s plan would also require the majority of Americans to carry basic health insurance. Companies, with the exception of some small businesses, will be required to provide insurance or help cover health care costs of their workers. About two-thirds of Americans receive health insurance through their employer.

Obama still faces many challenges in making his plan a reality. How to reform the health care system, and how to pay for this reform, has been a challenge for decades.

“I am not the first President to take up this cause,” Obama said. “But I am determined to be the last.”

The text of Obama’s speech is on America.gov.

Obama speaks of challenges, values of journalism

Democracy “cannot function without a reasonably well-informed electorate,” American journalist Walter Cronkite once said. Cronkite, who died in July, was a television news anchor who kept Americans well informed for decades – one of his most famous reports was when he announced the death of President John F. Kennedy. Cronkite was often referred to as the most trusted man in America.

Today President Obama spoke at a memorial service for Cronkite. The service was not just to remember Cronkite’s contribution to journalism, but to “celebrate the journalism that Walter practiced — a standard of honesty and integrity … .It’s a standard that’s a little bit harder to find today,” Obama said.

While traditional news media like television and newspapers face new challenges, “the simple values Walter Cronkite set out in pursuit of — to seek the truth, to keep us honest, to explore our world the best he could — they are as vital today as they ever were,” Obama said.

A text of the president’s remarks is a available on the White House Web site.

“No excuse for not trying,” Obama tells students


On the first day of school for many American children, President Obama told students “what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.”

Obama’s speech, given before a group of high school students in Arlington, Virginia and broadcast live at many schools across the country, faced controversy before it was even given. Some schools chose not to air it, after critics said it was an opportunity to indoctrinate, rather than motivate, children. The White House released the prepared text of the president’s speech yesterday, so that parents could read it and decide whether it was appropriate for children to watch.

The president’s speech focused on the importance of education and the responsibility students have to make sure they get the most out of their education. “Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is,” Obama said. “That’s the opportunity education can provide.”

While studying is hard work, Obama said, “that’s no excuse for not trying.” Hard work is how people become successful, the president explained. Obama also told students not to be afraid to ask questions or for help when they need it, something he does “every day.”

No matter what career path you follow, Obama told students, you will need education to reach your goal. And developing those skills is not just important for an individual, but for the future of the United States. “If you quit on school, you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country,” Obama said.

What did you think of the president’s speech?

White House releases visitor list

Thousands of visitors stream through the White House everyday – and soon we will know who these people are.

“For the first time in history, records of White House visitors will be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. … Americans have a right to know whose voices are being heard in the policymaking process,” Obama said in a statement.

With a few exceptions, every person who comes to the White House – whether for an official meeting with the president or simply for a White House tour – will find their name on a public list. Exceptions include names that cannot be released for security reasons or personal guests of the Obama family not at the White House for business purposes.

What do you think of this idea? Should this information be made public?

Obama to give “back to school” speech – but some schools won’t watch it

The White House announced today that on Tuesday, September 8 – the first day of the new school year for many American students – President Obama will give a speech to school children. The president will give a speech at an Arlington, Virginia high school that will be broadcast live on the White House Web site.

The White House hopes schools across the country will tune into the speech and even use the classroom activities it has prepared about the importance of education.

But some schools say they won’t be allowing their students to watch the speech. As The Washington Post reported, critics of the speech say it is “an attempt to indoctrinate, rather than motivate, young people.” Those against it argue that the classroom activities, which ask questions like “how will [President Obama] inspire us?” are too political.

A White House spokesman said the speech is solely about the importance of education and will not touch on policy or politics.

What do you think? Is this an appropriate school activity?

Obama marks Ramadan with a White House Iftar

President Obama invited members of Congress, diplomats and local Muslims to the White House for an Iftar dinner marking the end of the day’s Ramadan fast, September 1.

The White House has hosted many iftars in years past, as have Americans in all 50 states, Obama said. “Islam, as we know, is part of America,” Obama said. “And like the broader American citizenry, the American Muslim community is one of extraordinary dynamism and diversity.”

During his speech, Obama spoke of contributions made by Muslims “both large and small” ranging from a high school basketball player setting new records to a young Muslim who died serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. “We honor the contributions of America’s Muslims, and the positive example that so many of them set through their own lives,” the president said.

For more on Muslims in America, see “A Multicultural Ramadan.”

Obama wants “everybody to be prepared” for H1N1

As science and health experts expect a rise in H1N1 cases this fall, President Obama was briefed by his top health officials today on U.S. efforts to handle a large outbreak. “I don’t want anybody to be alarmed, but I do want everybody to be prepared,” Obama said at the White House.

Because it is often typical to see an increase in flu cases during the fall, response plans have been created across “all levels of government,” Obama said. “Our plans and decisions are based on the best scientific information available,” he said.

The president said H1N1 vaccines will be available to Americans soon. And while they are not required, they will be recommended, Obama said.

Obama also asked all Americans to take what he called “common-sense” precautions. “Stay home if you’re sick. Wash your hands frequently. … I know it sounds simple, but it’s important and it works.”

Obama's eulogy for Ted Kennedy

On August 29, President Obama spoke at Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

“That spirit of resilience and good humor would see Teddy through more pain and tragedy than most of us will ever know. … It’s a string of events that would have broken a lesser man. And it would have been easy for Ted to let himself become bitter and hardened; to surrender to self-pity and regret; to retreat from public life and live out his years in peaceful quiet. No one would have blamed him for that. But that was not Ted Kennedy.”

The text of the entire speech is available on the White House Web site.