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Monthly Archives: June 2012
First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s General Conference
June 28, 2012.
(Official White House Photo)
What a pleasure it was to travel to Nashville, Tennessee with the First Lady as she addressed the 49th Quadrennial Session of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church's General Conference. The AME Church is the nation's oldest African American denomination. Tracing its roots back to the time of slavery in the late 1700s, the minister who started the first AME church did so after his former church demanded African Americans worship in a segregated balcony. Since then the denomination – fueled by the strength, determination, and unflinching faith that sustained that early church – has been an engine for change in communities throughout American history. AME churches have been stops on the Underground Railroad, hosts of civil rights marches, and even, founders of universities.
The First Lady drew upon this rich history in her remarks to encourage all Americans to get involved in the lives of our families, our neighborhoods, and our country. The lessons and the legacy of the AME Church are part of our story as Americans, and as citizens, we have inherited the responsibility to be active and engaged in our democracy. She also spoke about the quiet heroes whose names we might not know – individuals working behind the scenes, day after day without recognition, helping to make our communities stronger. "Time and again," Mrs. Obama said. "History has shown us that there is nothing more powerful than ordinary citizens coming together for a just cause."
Seeing and hearing the spirited enthusiasm of the crowd, estimated at 10,000, was uplifting and energizing. But one particularly special moment took place after the First Lady’s speech when she returned backstage. There, she greeted Dr. Jayme Coleman Williams, a woman she mentioned in her remarks that has worked tirelessly in the AME Church for decades. Ninety-three years young, Dr. Williams was a bundle of energy and spoke passionately about encouraging young people to stay engaged and keep building on the work that others have started to move our nation forward. Watching the two hug and chat – one, a quiet hero and the other, the First Lady of the United States – was a poignant reminder of the extraordinary change that can happen when people get involved and make their voices heard.
In this week’s address, President Obama spoke to the American people from Colorado, where he had just finished touring areas impacted by the devastating Waldo Canyon fire, meeting with first responders as well as families affected by the fires. The President thanked the brave firefighters and countless volunteers who are providing food, water, and shelter to those in need, and made clear that his administration will continue to bring all resources available to assist efforts to combat the fires. The federal government has marshaled thousands of firefighters, hundreds of fire engines, and more than 100 aircraft, including 19 airtankers that are available for us as of today, to support firefighting efforts in a number of Western states including Colorado.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Colorado Springs, CO
June 30, 2012
Hello, everybody. I'm here in Colorado Springs, visiting some of the devastating fires that have been taking place over the last several days. As many of you have been watching on television, entire communities are under threat. And we had a chance to tour some of the devastation that has been taking place in some of the subdivisions here.
Firefighters are working 18 hours a day, around the clock, trying to make sure that they get this blaze under control. We've got volunteers who are out here who are making sure that these firefighters have the food and the water and all the resources that they need. And we've been engaging in some unprecedented coordination between federal, state, and local communities to try to bring this fire under control.
And one of the things I've done here, in addition to saying thank you to these firefighters, is to let them know that all of America has their back. One of the things that happens, whether it's a fire here in Colorado, or a tornado in Alabama or Missouri, or a flood or a hurricane in Florida, one of the things that happens here in America is when we see our fellow citizens in trouble and having difficulty, we come together as one American family, as one community. And you see that spirit and you see that strength here in Colorado Springs, where people are working together, promising each other to rebuild. We've got to make sure that we are there with them every step of the way, even after this fire is put out.
So for those of you who can provide some help, you should get on the online site of the American Red Cross. They're very active in this community and you can make your contributions there. We're going to continue to make sure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Forest Service, our military and National Guard and all the resources that we have available at the federal level are brought to bear in fighting this fire.
But this is a good reminder of what makes us Americans. We don't just look out for ourselves; we look out for each other. And one of the things that I told these firefighters is that we can provide them all the resources they need, but only they provide the courage and the discipline to be able to actually fight these fires. And it's important that we appreciate what they do not just when our own communities are struck by disaster. It's important that we remember what they do each and every single day, and that we continue to provide support to our first responders, our emergency management folks, our firefighters, our military — everybody who helps secure our liberty and our security each and every day.
So, America, I hope you guys remember the folks during these times of need. I know this is a little bit unusual — we don't usually do weekly addresses like this, but I thought it was a good opportunity for us to actually focus attention on a problem that's going on here in Colorado Springs. We never know when it might be our community that's threatened, and it's important that we're there for them.
Thank you very much.
John Pilger on how President Obama does one thing while Brand Obama gets you to believe another. He is the essence of succesful advertising: you do what the advertiser wants because of how they make you feel.
President Barack Obama traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., June 29, 2012, to view damage from wildfires impacting the area and thank the heroic responders bravely battling them.
On Friday, June 29, 2012, the President signed into law:
H.R. 6064, the Temporary Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, which provides funding for programs funded from the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) for the period June 30, 2012, through July 6, 2012; extends the authority to make expenditures from the HTF for HTF-financed programs through July 6, 2012; authorizes the Secretary of Education to delay the origination and disbursement of Federal Direct Stafford loans until the date of enactment of MAP-21 but only until July 6, 2012.
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1:35 P.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we just had a chance to tour some of the damage that’s been done by this devastating fire. I’ve had a chance to thank Mayor Bach as well as Governor Hickenlooper. And the entire congressional delegation, members of the fire service, the Forest Service, as well as local fire officials have gotten a full briefing.
I think what you see here is an example of outstanding coordination and cooperation between federal, state and local agencies. We have been putting everything we have into trying to deal with what’s one of the worst fires that we’ve seen here in Colorado. And it’s still early in the fire season, and we still got a lot more work to do. But because of the outstanding work that’s been done, because of not only the coordination but also some unprecedented arrangements that have been made with military resources combined with the civil resources, we’re starting to see progress.
Obviously, as you saw in the some of these subdivisions, the devastation is enormous. And our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who have been affected.
One of the things that I’ve tried to emphasize is that whether it’s fires in Colorado or flooding in the northern parts of Florida, when natural disasters like this hit, America comes together. And we all recognize that there but for the grace of God, go I. We’ve got to make sure that we have each other’s backs. And that spirit is what you’re seeing in terms of volunteers, in terms of firefighters, in terms of government officials. Everybody is pulling together to try to deal with this situation.
Now, as I said, we’re not completely out of the woods yet. These folks, some of them have been working 18-hour days, 20-hour days, trying to make sure that these fires get put out. They’re going to be carefully monitoring the situation, and ultimately they’re going to need a little bit of help from Mother Nature in order to fully extinguish these fires.
In the meantime, some lessons are being learned about how we can mitigate some of these fires in the future, and I know that the Mayor and Governor, and other local officials are already in those conversations. It means that hopefully, out of this tragedy, some long-term planning occurs, and it may be that we can curb some of the damage that happens the next time, even though you obviously can’t fully control fires that are starting up in these mountains.
Last point I just want to make — and that is that we can provide all the resources, we can make sure that they’re well-coordinated, but as I just told these firefighters, what we can't do is to provide them with the courage and the determination and the professionalism, the heart that they show when they’re out there battling these fires.
When we had a chance on site to see some guys who had just saved three homes in a community that had been devastated, for those families, the work and the sacrifice of those firefighters means the world to them, and they are genuine heroes.
And so we want to just say thank you to all the folks who have been involved in this. We’re proud of you. We appreciate what you do each and every day. And so for folks all around the country, I hope you are reminded of how important our fire departments are, our Forest Service is. Sometimes they don’t get the credit that they deserve until your house is burning down, or your community is being threatened. And you have to understand they’re putting their lives at risk to save us and to help us. We’ve got to make sure that we remember that 365 days a year, not just when tragedies like this strike.
Thank you very much, everybody.
END 1:39 P.M. MDT
Today Congress took a major step in our efforts to restore the Gulf Coast and support the important communities that rely on it everyday. Earlier today, Congress enacted the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act).
This Administration recognizes that a strong and vibrant ecosystem is the key to the Gulf’s future – that's why the President established the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force in 2010. As Chair of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and a New Orleans native, I can tell you that a healthy ecosystem is vital to the economy and the way of life for the Gulf Coast. There’s a lot at stake in this region: the economies of the five Gulf States supported more than 19 million jobs and nearly $2.5 trillion of the U.S. GDP in 2008. In addition, millions of people visit the Gulf Coast each year – to vacation, to sail, to swim, to fish, and to enjoy this great waterbody. In 2008, national and international tourists spent about $145 billion in the 5 coastal states and around 1.7 million people were employed in travel and tourism.
During the oil spill, we essentially “lost” the Gulf for a period of time, and natural resources in the Gulf were extensively damaged. We lost the use of valuable fishing grounds, incredible recreational opportunities and all of the other benefits of a thriving, vibrant ecosystem. That loss helped show folks who aren't from the Gulf Coast just how important it is to our nation.
But our goal and commitment is not simply to address the damage caused by the spill – it is to ensure the long term improvement and restoration of the Gulf Coast and its unique ecosystems.
The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Colorado and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the High Park and Waldo Canyon Fires beginning on June 9, 2012, and continuing.
The President's action makes federal funding available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, for El Paso and Larimer Counties impacted by the High Park and Waldo Canyon Fires.
Federal funding is also available for Crisis Counseling and Disaster Unemployment Assistance for affected individuals in El Paso and Larimer Counties impacted by the High Park and Waldo Canyon Fires.
W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Michael F. Byrne as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.
FEMA said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.