Archive for 2009

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama – Back to School Event

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Watch the video (15 minutes) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/32735374#32735374

Arlington, Virginia, September 8, 2009

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.

I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.

And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn.

Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work.

You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn.

But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Get the Facts Straight on Healthcare Reform

Friday, September 4th, 2009

MYTH #1: Reform doesn’t affect people who already have health insurance.

THE FACTS: Reform affects all Americans who have ever worried about healthcare costs or about losing their coverage if they become too sick, lose their jobs or change jobs. Every day, 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance. Further, one of the driving forces behind government deficits is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid. A public plan option will provide competition with the insurance industry to help keep costs down. If healthcare costs are not brought under control, there will be fewer resources for education and other important public services. In addition, out-of-pocket healthcare costs for every family will continue to climb.

MYTH #2: A public plan option will force all Americans into a government-run health program.

THE FACTS: Individuals with insurance do not have to join the public option. As President Obama has said: “if you like what you have, you can keep it.” Reform will create a health insurance exchange for the uninsured; this will allow individuals to compare prices and health plans to decide which plan (public or private) is right for them and their families. The choice is left up to the individual. The public plan option will benefit uninsured as well as insured Americans by increasing competition and choice in the marketplace. It will hold private insurers accountable, and will lower costs while ensuring affordable healthcare. Surely private insurance companies cannot be afraid of competition from a non-profit group.

MYTH #3: Reforming healthcare will cut Medicare benefits for seniors.

THE FACTS: The president is committed to improving healthcare for all older Americans and to strengthening Medicare. The healthcare reform plan now being considered will extend Medicare coverage and preserve older Americans’ freedom to choose their doctor. It will eliminate wasteful overpayments to private plans (estimated at $160 billion); expand access to and end patient co-payments for Medicare preventive services; increase payments to healthcare providers, which would
prevent doctors from refusing Medicare patients; and phase out the Part D “doughnut hole” that has caused many older Americans to do without their medications so they can afford other necessities.

MYTH #4: Co-ops are an adequate substitute for a national public insurance plan.

THE FACTS: A co-op is not a substitute for a national public health insurance plan, nor are co-ops a new idea. During the 1930s and 1940s, a healthcare cooperative movement was introduced in the United States; it failed. Co-ops were too small and undercapitalized to survive a physicians’ boycott. Today, experts estimate that co-ops would need at least 25,000 participants to be financially viable and more than 500,000 participants to be able to negotiate for lower rates. They would be essentially too small and too fractured to have effective bargaining power against the health insurance industry. For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan controls 65 percent of the state’s commercial market and would not be challenged by a “start-up” co-op.

MYTH #5: America’s deficit will increase by $1 trillion due to healthcare reform and force many families to go broke.

THE FACTS: President Obama has said he will not sign a bill that would add to the national debt or deficit. To honor this commitment, he has proposed that two-thirds of the cost of reform be paid for by reducing waste, fraud and abuse in existing programs and ending overpayments to insurance companies. The remaining revenue will come from limiting the itemized tax deductions for couples making more than $250,000 a year.

The current healthcare system results in $700 billion a year in wasteful and inefficient spending—causing financial strain on many families. Placing caps on out-of-pocket expenditures, including co-payments, and limiting extravagant spending by insurance companies are some of the new proposals to hold down rising healthcare costs for many working families.

MYTH #6: Congress is moving too quickly.

THE FACTS: The time to reform our healthcare system is now. Many Americans are uninsured or struggle to pay the soaring costs of care. As costs continue to rise, even those with employer-provided insurance pay a heavy price in forgone pay raises, increases in insurance deductibles and premiums, and greater insecurity about the availability of high-quality healthcare in the future.

Since 2000, employee contributions to company-provided health insurance have increased more than 120 percent, and out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-payments for medications, and co-insurance for physician and hospital visits have risen 115 percent. Skyrocketing healthcare costs strain family budgets, burden businesses of all sizes, squeeze state and federal budgets, and are delaying America’s economic recovery.

Send a letter to your U.S. senators and representative and encourage them to reform healthcare now.

Sourced: American Federation of Teachers

Benefits of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act In the 8th Congressional District of Michigan Committee on Energy and Commerce

Friday, August 21st, 2009


July 2009
Benefits of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act In the 8th Congressional District of Michigan Committee on Energy and Commerce

America’s Affordable Health Choices Act would provide significant benefits in the 8th Congressional District of Michigan: up to 15,100 small businesses could receive tax credits to provide coverage to their employees; 7,600 seniors would avoid the donut hole in Medicare Part D; 1,700 families could escape bankruptcy each year due to unaffordable health care costs; health care providers would receive payment for $53 million in uncompensated care each year; and 49,000 uninsured individuals would gain access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. Congressman Mike Rogers represents the district.

Help for small businesses. Under the legislation, small businesses with 25 employees or less and average wages of less than $40,000 qualify for tax credits of up to 50% of the costs of providing health insurance. There are up to 15,100 small businesses in the district that could qualify for these credits.

Help for seniors with drug costs in the Part D donut hole. Each year, 7,600 seniors in the district hit the donut hole and are forced to pay their full drug costs, despite having Part D drug coverage. The legislation would provide them with immediate relief, cutting brand name drug costs in the donut hole by 50%, and ultimately eliminate the donut hole.

Health care and financial security. There were 1,700 health care-related bankruptcies in the district in 2008, caused primarily by the health care costs not covered by insurance. The bill provides health insurance for almost every American and caps annual out-of-pocket costs at $10,000 per year, ensuring that no citizen will have to face financial ruin because of high health care costs.

Relieving the burden of uncompensated care for hospitals and health care providers. In 2008, health care providers in the district provided $53 million worth of uncompensated care, care that was provided to individuals who lacked insurance coverage and were unable to pay their bills. Under the legislation, these costs of uncompensated care would be virtually eliminated.

Coverage of the uninsured. There are 70,000 uninsured individuals in the district, 10% of the district. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nationwide, 97% of all Americans will have insurance coverage when the bill takes effect. If this benchmark is reached in the district, 49,000 people who currently do not have health insurance will receive coverage.

No deficit spending. The cost of health care reform under the legislation is fully paid for: half through making the Medicare and Medicaid program more efficient and half through a surtax on the income of the wealthiest individuals. This surtax would affect only 2,930 households in the district. The surtax would not affect 99.1% of taxpayers in the district.

This analysis is based upon the following sources: the Gallup-Healthways Survey (data on the uninsured); the U.S. Census (data on small businesses); the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (data on the Part D donut hole, health care-related bankruptcies (based on analysis of PACER court records), and uncompensated care); and the House Committee on Ways and Means (data on the surtax).

WhiteHouse.gov/RealityCheck

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

The White House, Washington

Dear Friend,

Anyone that’s watched the news in the past few days knows that health insurance reform is a hot topic — and that rumors and scare tactics have only increased as more people engage with the issue. Given a lot of the outrageous claims floating around, it’s time to make sure everyone knows the facts about the security and stability you get with health insurance reform.

That’s why we’ve launched a new online resource — WhiteHouse.gov/RealityCheck — to help you separate fact from fiction and share the truth about health insurance reform. Here’s a few of the reality check videos you can find on the site:

* CEA Chair Christina Romer details how health insurance reform will impact small businesses.
* Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes tackles a nasty rumor about euthanasia and clearly describes how reform helps families.
* Matt Flavin, the White House’s Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy, clears the air about Veteran’s benefits.
* Kavita Patel, M.D., a doctor serving in the White House’s Office of Public Engagement, explains that health care rationing is happening right now and how reform gives control back to patients and doctors.
* Bob Kocher, M.D., a doctor serving on the National Economic Council, debunks the myth that health insurance reform will be financed by cutting Medicare benefits.

There’s more information and a number of online tools you can use to spread the truth among your family, friends and other social networks. Take a look:

Health Insurance Reform Reality Check

We knew going into this effort that accomplishing comprehensive health insurance reform wasn’t going to be easy. Achieving real change never is. The entrenched interests that benefit from the status quo always use their influence in Washington to try and keep things just as they are.

But don’t be misled. We know the status quo is unsustainable. If we do nothing, millions more Americans will be denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, or see their coverage suddenly dropped if they become seriously ill. Out-of-pocket expenses will continue to soar, and more and more families and businesses will be forced to deal with health insurance costs they can’t afford.

That’s the reality.

Americans deserve better. You deserve a health care system that works as well for you as it does for the status quo; one you can depend on — that won’t deny you coverage when you need it most or charge you crippling out-of-pocket co-pays. Health insurance reform means guaranteeing the health care security and stability you deserve.

President Barack Obama promised he’d bring change to Washington and fix our broken, unsustainable health insurance system. You can help deliver that change. Visit WhiteHouse.gov/RealityCheck, get the facts and spread the truth. The stakes are just too high to do nothing.

Thank you,
David

David Axelrod
Senior Advisor to the President

Visit Whitehouse.gov

NODC August meeting at Red Knapp’s, Clarkston

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009


Join us August 20th at Red Knapp’s Grill and Bar in Clarkston, 6722 Dixie Hwy
at 7:00 PM

We will be making plans for the Carrie Nation Parade(Holly), Septemberfest (Ortonville), and Taste Of Clarkston

Also an Organizing for America update

Additional guests to be determined, hope to see you there!