Category Archives: White House Blog

Fourth of July at the White House

Brad Paisley performs on the South Lawn of the White House (July 4, 2012)

Brad Paisley performs on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Last night, the White House threw a party for more than 1,200 military service members and their families to celebrate the Fourth of July. 

President Obama welcomed the crowd to the South Lawn, saying:

[As] long as I have the honor of being your Commander-in-Chief, I want you all — our men and women in uniform, our veterans and their families — to know this: America will always remember. We will always be there for you, just as you’ve been there for us. That’s my promise. That is America’s promise. And that is one that we pledge to fulfill on this Independence Day.

The event, organized by the USO, featured a performance by country music star Brad Paisley.

A crowd watches as fireworks erupt over the National Mall (July 4, 2012)

A crowd watches the end of Brad Paisley’s performance on the South Lawn of the White House as fireworks erupt over the National Mall, July 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As Paisley and his band finished their final song ("Welcome to the Future"), fireworks began over the National Mall.

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President Obama Salutes New American Citizens

President Obama at Naturalization Ceremonu July 4, 2012

President Barack Obama listens as Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano administers the oath of allegiance during a military naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House, July 4, 2012.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama began his Independence Day celebrations by hosting a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House. It was the third time the President has hosted this kind of service, and he told the audience, which included the families of the service members who were taking the oath of citizenship, that it is one of his favorite things to do. "It brings me great joy and inspiration because it reminds us that we are a country that is bound together not simply by ethnicity or bloodlines, but by fidelity to a set of ideas."

Before the President gave his remarks, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas presented the countries of the candidates for naturalization and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano delivered the oath of allegiance.  President Obama told the new citizens that is was an honor to serve as their Commander in Chief, and to be the first to greet them as "my fellow Americans."

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President Obama Remembers Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith, who charmed audiences for half a century as an actor, comedian, and gospel singer, died today in his home in Manteo, North Carolina. He was 86.

Griffith, known for his iconic roles as the sheriff of Mayberry and the defense attorney Ben Matlock, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

This afternoon, President Obama marked his passing, saying, "A performer of extraordinary talent, Andy was beloved by generations of fans and revered by entertainers who followed in his footsteps."

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America the Beautiful

Musician Keb Mo recently visited the White House and performed his bluesy rendition of "America the Beautiful" in the East Reception Room.  Enjoy some great scenes of America and the President set to this classic song in celebration of Independence Day.

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Celebrating Independence Day at the White House

In each of the past three years, President Obama has marked Independence Day with a celebration at the White House featuring a concert, organized by the USO, to honor members of the U.S. military and their families.

And that tradition will continue this year with a performance from country music star Brad Paisley.

You can watch the concert beginning tomorrow, just after 8:00 on WhiteHouse.gov/live, and if you stick around, you'll get a great view of the National Mall fireworks show — from the South Lawn of the White House.

In the mean time, check out video from Independence Day celebrations past:

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From the Archives: A Fourth of July with the Presidents

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Over the years, Presidents have celebrated Independence Day with commemorative ceremonies, White House picnics, family gatherings, and of course, fireworks. Some Presidents preferred to relax away from the White House – Lyndon B. Johnson traditionally spent the holiday at his ranch in Stonewall, Texas.  Others have traced the history of the holiday with visits to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. 

In 1976, President Gerald Ford marked the nation’s bicentennial with a series of celebrations across the country. Among the many unique events was the Bicentennial Wagon Train Pilgrimage, where covered wagons converged in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania after crossing the nation on historic trails. President Ford, who was raised in Michigan, boarded the Michigan wagon at the encampment in Valley Forge State Park. You can see a photo of this event and more in our Independence Day gallery from the holdings of the U.S. National Archives and the Presidential Libraries. For more information visit: http://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/

Happy Fourth of July!

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Community Colleges: Bridges to the Future

Last week, I continued my Community College to Career tour at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida. I met some inspiring students who illustrate how Valencia is preparing students for their futures – whether going directly into the workplace or moving on to a four-year college to earn a baccalaureate degree. 

Businesses in Orlando have been working with Valencia for years to ensure the college is teaching students relevant skills they need to stay current in the workplace as technology changes.  And, they couldn’t be more satisfied with the quality of workers trained at Valencia. 

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First Lady Michelle Obama at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s General Conference

First Lady Michelle Obama at the African Methodist Episcopal Church's General Conference

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.

The First Lady’s remarks can be found here.

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Major Step Forward for Gulf Coast Restoration

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.

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West Wing Week: 6/29/121 or “The Right Thing to Do”

This week, the President spoke at the annual NALEO conference, hosted the Congressional Picnic and addressed the nation on the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act, while his administration announced grants for cities hiring veterans as police officers, and spoke with students about college affordability.

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