Wednesday, May 28, 2014

President Obama Speech: U. S. Military Academy Commencement Ceremony May 2014

Remarks by the President at the United States Military Academy Commencement Ceremony

U.S. Military Academy-West Point
West Point, New York
10:22 A.M. EDT

May 28, 2014 

Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  And thank you, General Caslen, for that introduction.  To General Trainor, General Clarke, the faculty and staff at West Point -- you have been outstanding stewards of this proud institution and outstanding mentors for the newest officers in the United States Army.  I’d like to acknowledge the Army’s leadership -- General McHugh -- Secretary McHugh, General Odierno, as well as Senator Jack Reed, who is here, and a proud graduate of West Point himself. 
To the class of 2014, I congratulate you on taking your place on the Long Gray Line.  Among you is the first all-female command team -- Erin Mauldin and Austen Boroff.  In Calla Glavin, you have a Rhodes Scholar.  And Josh Herbeck proves that West Point accuracy extends beyond the three-point line.  To the entire class, let me reassure you in these final hours at West Point:  As Commander-in-Chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let me just say that nobody ever did that for me when I was in school.  (Laughter.) 
I know you join me in extending a word of thanks to your families.  Joe DeMoss, whose son James is graduating, spoke for a whole lot of parents when he wrote me a letter about the sacrifices you’ve made.  “Deep inside,” he wrote, “we want to explode with pride at what they are committing to do in the service of our country.”  Like several graduates, James is a combat veteran.  And I would ask all of us here today to stand and pay tribute -- not only to the veterans among us, but to the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families.  (Applause.)
This is a particularly useful time for America to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, a few days after Memorial Day.  You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  When I first spoke at West Point in 2009, we still had more than 100,000 troops in Iraq.  We were preparing to surge in Afghanistan.  Our counterterrorism efforts were focused on al Qaeda’s core leadership -- those who had carried out the 9/11 attacks.  And our nation was just beginning a long climb out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed.  We have removed our troops from Iraq.  We are winding down our war in Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more.  (Applause.)  And through it all, we’ve refocused our investments in what has always been a key source of American strength:  a growing economy that can provide opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard and take responsibility here at home.
In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world.  Those who argue otherwise -- who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away -- are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.  Think about it.  Our military has no peer.  The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War.
Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth; our businesses the most innovative.  Each year, we grow more energy independent.  From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations.  America continues to attract striving immigrants.  The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe.  And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help.  (Applause.)  So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.  That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.
But the world is changing with accelerating speed.  This presents opportunity, but also new dangers.  We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of individuals, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm.  Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors.  From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.  And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24-hour news and social media makes it impossible to ignore the continuation of sectarian conflicts and failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.
It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world.  The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead -- not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.
Now, this question isn’t new.  At least since George Washington served as Commander-in-Chief, there have been those who warned against foreign entanglements that do not touch directly on our security or economic wellbeing.  Today, according to self-described realists, conflicts in Syria or Ukraine or the Central African Republic are not ours to solve.  And not surprisingly, after costly wars and continuing challenges here at home, that view is shared by many Americans.
A different view from interventionists from the left and right says that we ignore these conflicts at our own peril; that America’s willingness to apply force around the world is the ultimate safeguard against chaos, and America’s failure to act in the face of Syrian brutality or Russian provocations not only violates our conscience, but invites escalating aggression in the future.
And each side can point to history to support its claims. But I believe neither view fully speaks to the demands of this moment.  It is absolutely true that in the 21st century American isolationism is not an option.  We don’t have a choice to ignore what happens beyond our borders.  If nuclear materials are not secure, that poses a danger to American cities.  As the Syrian civil war spills across borders, the capacity of battle-hardened extremist groups to come after us only increases.  Regional aggression that goes unchecked -- whether in southern Ukraine or the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world -- will ultimately impact our allies and could draw in our military.  We can’t ignore what happens beyond our boundaries.
And beyond these narrow rationales, I believe we have a real stake, an abiding self-interest, in making sure our children and our grandchildren grow up in a world where schoolgirls are not kidnapped and where individuals are not slaughtered because of tribe or faith or political belief.  I believe that a world of greater freedom and tolerance is not only a moral imperative, it also helps to keep us safe.
But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.  Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences -- without building international support and legitimacy for our action; without leveling with the American people about the sacrifices required.  Tough talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans.  As General Eisenhower, someone with hard-earned knowledge on this subject, said at this ceremony in 1947:  “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.”
Like Eisenhower, this generation of men and women in uniform know all too well the wages of war, and that includes those of you here at West Point.  Four of the servicemembers who stood in the audience when I announced the surge of our forces in Afghanistan gave their lives in that effort.  A lot more were wounded.  I believe America’s security demanded those deployments.  But I am haunted by those deaths.  I am haunted by those wounds.  And I would betray my duty to you and to the country we love if I ever sent you into harm’s way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed to be fixed, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.  
Here’s my bottom line:  America must always lead on the world stage.  If we don’t, no one else will.  The military that you have joined is and always will be the backbone of that leadership.  But U.S. military action cannot be the only -- or even primary -- component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.  And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader -- and especially your Commander-in-Chief -- to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.
So let me spend the rest of my time describing my vision for how the United States of America and our military should lead in the years to come, for you will be part of that leadership.  
First, let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency:  The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it -- when our people are threatened, when our livelihoods are at stake, when the security of our allies is in danger.  In these circumstances, we still need to ask tough questions about whether our actions are proportional and effective and just.  International opinion matters, but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland, or our way of life.  (Applause.)  
On the other hand, when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States, when such issues are at stake -- when crises arise that stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction but do not directly threaten us -- then the threshold for military action must be higher.  In such circumstances, we should not go it alone.  Instead, we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action.  We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions and isolation; appeals to international law; and, if just, necessary and effective, multilateral military action.  In such circumstances, we have to work with others because collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, less likely to lead to costly mistakes.
This leads to my second point:  For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.  But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable.  I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy -- drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan -- to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.
And the need for a new strategy reflects the fact that today’s principal threat no longer comes from a centralized al Qaeda leadership.  Instead, it comes from decentralized al Qaeda affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in countries where they operate.  And this lessens the possibility of large-scale 9/11-style attacks against the homeland, but it heightens the danger of U.S. personnel overseas being attacked, as we saw in Benghazi.  It heightens the danger to less defensible targets, as we saw in a shopping mall in Nairobi. 
So we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat -- one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments.  We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.  And empowering partners is a large part of what we have done and what we are currently doing in Afghanistan. 
Together with our allies, America struck huge blows against al Qaeda core and pushed back against an insurgency that threatened to overrun the country.  But sustaining this progress depends on the ability of Afghans to do the job.  And that’s why we trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police.  Earlier this spring, those forces, those Afghan forces, secured an election in which Afghans voted for the first democratic transfer of power in their history.  And at the end of this year, a new Afghan President will be in office and America’s combat mission will be over.  (Applause.)
Now, that was an enormous achievement made because of America’s armed forces.  But as we move to a train-and-advise mission in Afghanistan, our reduced presence allows us to more effectively address emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa.  So, earlier this year, I asked my national security team to develop a plan for a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel.  Today, as part of this effort, I am calling on Congress to support a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines.  And these resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.
A critical focus of this effort will be the ongoing crisis in Syria.  As frustrating as it is, there are no easy answers, no military solution that can eliminate the terrible suffering anytime soon.  As President, I made a decision that we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian war, and I believe that is the right decision.  But that does not mean we shouldn’t help the Syrian people stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his own people.  And in helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we are also pushing back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos.  
So with the additional resources I’m announcing today, we will step up our efforts to support Syria’s neighbors -- Jordan and Lebanon; Turkey and Iraq -- as they contend with refugees and confront terrorists working across Syria’s borders.  I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.  And we will continue to coordinate with our friends and allies in Europe and the Arab World to push for a political resolution of this crisis, and to make sure that those countries and not just the United States are contributing their fair share to support the Syrian people.
Let me make one final point about our efforts against terrorism.  The partnerships I’ve described do not eliminate the need to take direct action when necessary to protect ourselves. When we have actionable intelligence, that’s what we do -- through capture operations like the one that brought a terrorist involved in the plot to bomb our embassies in 1998 to face justice; or drone strikes like those we’ve carried out in Yemen and Somalia.  There are times when those actions are necessary, and we cannot hesitate to protect our people. 
But as I said last year, in taking direct action we must uphold standards that reflect our values.  That means taking strikes only when we face a continuing, imminent threat, and only where there is no certainty -- there is near certainty of no civilian casualties.  For our actions should meet a simple test:  We must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.
I also believe we must be more transparent about both the basis of our counterterrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.  We have to be able to explain them publicly, whether it is drone strikes or training partners.  I will increasingly turn to our military to take the lead and provide information to the public about our efforts.  Our intelligence community has done outstanding work, and we have to continue to protect sources and methods.  But when we cannot explain our efforts clearly and publicly, we face terrorist propaganda and international suspicion, we erode legitimacy with our partners and our people, and we reduce accountability in our own government.
And this issue of transparency is directly relevant to a third aspect of American leadership, and that is our effort to strengthen and enforce international order. 
After World War II, America had the wisdom to shape institutions to keep the peace and support human progress -- from NATO and the United Nations, to the World Bank and IMF.  These institutions are not perfect, but they have been a force multiplier.  They reduce the need for unilateral American action and increase restraint among other nations. 
Now, just as the world has changed, this architecture must change as well.  At the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy spoke about the need for a peace based upon, “a gradual evolution in human institutions.”  And evolving these international institutions to meet the demands of today must be a critical part of American leadership. 
Now, there are a lot of folks, a lot of skeptics, who often downplay the effectiveness of multilateral action.  For them, working through international institutions like the U.N. or respecting international law is a sign of weakness.  I think they’re wrong.  Let me offer just two examples why.
In Ukraine, Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe.   But this isn’t the Cold War.  Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away.  Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions; Europe and the G7 joined us to impose sanctions; NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies; the IMF is helping to stabilize Ukraine’s economy; OSCE monitors brought the eyes of the world to unstable parts of Ukraine.  And this mobilization of world opinion and international institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda and Russian troops on the border and armed militias in ski masks.
This weekend, Ukrainians voted by the millions.  Yesterday, I spoke to their next President.  We don’t know how the situation will play out and there will remain grave challenges ahead, but standing with our allies on behalf of international order working with international institutions, has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future without us firing a shot. 
Similarly, despite frequent warnings from the United States and Israel and others, the Iranian nuclear program steadily advanced for years.  But at the beginning of my presidency, we built a coalition that imposed sanctions on the Iranian economy, while extending the hand of diplomacy to the Iranian government.  And now we have an opportunity to resolve our differences peacefully. 
The odds of success are still long, and we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement -- one that is more effective and durable than what we could have achieved through the use of force.  And throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side.
The point is this is American leadership.  This is American strength.  In each case, we built coalitions to respond to a specific challenge.  Now we need to do more to strengthen the institutions that can anticipate and prevent problems from spreading.  For example, NATO is the strongest alliance the world has ever known.  But we’re now working with NATO allies to meet new missions, both within Europe where our Eastern allies must be reassured, but also beyond Europe’s borders where our NATO allies must pull their weight to counterterrorism and respond to failed states and train a network of partners.
Likewise, the U.N. provides a platform to keep the peace in states torn apart by conflict.  Now we need to make sure that those nations who provide peacekeepers have the training and equipment to actually keep the peace, so that we can prevent the type of killing we’ve seen in Congo and Sudan.  We are going to deepen our investment in countries that support these peacekeeping missions, because having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods lessens the need for us to put our own troops in harm’s way.  It’s a smart investment.  It’s the right way to lead.  (Applause.) 
Keep in mind, not all international norms relate directly to armed conflict.  We have a serious problem with cyber-attacks, which is why we’re working to shape and enforce rules of the road to secure our networks and our citizens.  In the Asia Pacific, we’re supporting Southeast Asian nations as they negotiate a code of conduct with China on maritime disputes in the South China Sea.  And we’re working to resolve these disputes through international law.  That spirit of cooperation needs to energize the global effort to combat climate change -- a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we are called on to respond to refugee flows and natural disasters and conflicts over water and food, which is why next year I intend to make sure America is out front in putting together a global framework to preserve our planet. 
You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example.  We can’t exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everybody else.  We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if a whole lot of our political leaders deny that it’s taking place.  We can’t try to resolve problems in the South China Sea when we have refused to make sure that the Law of the Sea Convention is ratified by our United States Senate, despite the fact that our top military leaders say the treaty advances our national security.  That’s not leadership; that’s retreat.  That’s not strength; that’s weakness.  It would be utterly foreign to leaders like Roosevelt and Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.
I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.  But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.  (Applause.)  And that’s why I will continue to push to close Gitmo -- because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’re putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence -- because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we’re conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens.  (Applause.)  America does not simply stand for stability or the absence of conflict, no matter what the cost.  We stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere. 
Which brings me to the fourth and final element of American leadership:  Our willingness to act on behalf of human dignity.  America’s support for democracy and human rights goes beyond idealism -- it is a matter of national security.  Democracies are our closest friends and are far less likely to go to war.  Economies based on free and open markets perform better and become markets for our goods.  Respect for human rights is an antidote to instability and the grievances that fuel violence and terror.
A new century has brought no end to tyranny.  In capitals around the globe -- including, unfortunately, some of America’s partners -- there has been a crackdown on civil society.  The cancer of corruption has enriched too many governments and their cronies, and enraged citizens from remote villages to iconic squares.  And watching these trends, or the violent upheavals in parts of the Arab World, it’s easy to be cynical.
But remember that because of America’s efforts, because of American diplomacy and foreign assistance as well as the sacrifices of our military, more people live under elected governments today than at any time in human history.  Technology is empowering civil society in ways that no iron fist can control.  New breakthroughs are lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  And even the upheaval of the Arab World reflects the rejection of an authoritarian order that was anything but stable, and now offers the long-term prospect of more responsive and effective governance. 
In countries like Egypt, we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests -- from peace treaties with Israel, to shared efforts against violent extremism.  So we have not cut off cooperation with the new government, but we can and will persistently press for reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded.
And meanwhile, look at a country like Burma, which only a few years ago was an intractable dictatorship and hostile to the United States -- 40 million people.  Thanks to the enormous courage of the people in that country, and because we took the diplomatic initiative, American leadership, we have seen political reforms opening a once closed society; a movement by Burmese leadership away from partnership with North Korea in favor of engagement with America and our allies.  We’re now supporting reform and badly needed national reconciliation through assistance and investment, through coaxing and, at times, public criticism.  And progress there could be reversed, but if Burma succeeds we will have gained a new partner without having fired a shot.  American leadership.
In each of these cases, we should not expect change to happen overnight.  That’s why we form alliances not just with governments, but also with ordinary people.  For unlike other nations, America is not afraid of individual empowerment, we are strengthened by it.  We’re strengthened by civil society.  We’re strengthened by a free press.  We’re strengthened by striving entrepreneurs and small businesses.  We’re strengthened by educational exchange and opportunity for all people, and women and girls.  That’s who we are.  That’s what we represent.  (Applause.)  
I saw that through a trip to Africa last year, where American assistance has made possible the prospect of an AIDS-free generation, while helping Africans care themselves for their sick.  We’re helping farmers get their products to market, to feed populations once endangered by famine.  We aim to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa so people are connected to the promise of the global economy.  And all this creates new partners and shrinks the space for terrorism and conflict. 
Now, tragically, no American security operation can eradicate the threat posed by an extremist group like Boko Haram, the group that kidnapped those girls.  And that’s why we have to focus not just on rescuing those girls right away, but also on supporting Nigerian efforts to educate its youth.  This should be one of the hard-earned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development.  They understood that foreign assistance is not an afterthought, something nice to do apart from our national defense, apart from our national security.  It is part of what makes us strong.
Ultimately, global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty.  We have to be prepared for the worst, prepared for every contingency.  But American leadership also requires us to see the world as it should be -- a place where the aspirations of individual human beings really matters; where hopes and not just fears govern; where the truths written into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in a direction of justice.  And we cannot do that without you.
Class of 2014, you have taken this time to prepare on the quiet banks of the Hudson.  You leave this place to carry forward a legacy that no other military in human history can claim.  You do so as part of a team that extends beyond your units or even our Armed Forces, for in the course of your service you will work as a team with diplomats and development experts.  You’ll get to know allies and train partners.  And you will embody what it means for America to lead the world.
Next week, I will go to Normandy to honor the men who stormed the beaches there.  And while it’s hard for many Americans to comprehend the courage and sense of duty that guided those who boarded small ships, it’s familiar to you.  At West Point, you define what it means to be a patriot.
Three years ago, Gavin White graduated from this academy. He then served in Afghanistan.  Like the soldiers who came before him, Gavin was in a foreign land, helping people he’d never met, putting himself in harm’s way for the sake of his community and his family, of the folks back home.  Gavin lost one of his legs in an attack.  I met him last year at Walter Reed.  He was wounded, but just as determined as the day that he arrived here at West Point -- and he developed a simple goal.  Today, his sister Morgan will graduate.  And true to his promise, Gavin will be there to stand and exchange salutes with her.  (Applause.) 
We have been through a long season of war.  We have faced trials that were not foreseen, and we’ve seen divisions about how to move forward.  But there is something in Gavin’s character, there is something in the American character that will always triumph.  Leaving here, you carry with you the respect of your fellow citizens.  You will represent a nation with history and hope on our side.  Your charge, now, is not only to protect our country, but to do what is right and just.   As your Commander-in-Chief, I know you will.
May God bless you.  May God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)
11:08 A.M. EDT


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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

First Lady Michelle Obama Speech: Discussion With School Leaders On Issues With School Nutrition

Remarks by the First Lady Before A Discussion with School Leaders and Experts on Issues Surrounding School Nutrition

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

1:50 P.M. EDT

May 27, 2014
MRS. OBAMA:  Hello, everyone.  Welcome.  Have you all been here for a little bit?  It’s good to have you.  Welcome to the White House.  And thank you all for your outstanding work every day on behalf of our children.
Because of you and your colleagues across the country, today, tens of millions of children are eating healthier school meals that finally meet modern nutrition standards -– standards, by the way, that were developed by experts at the Institute of Medicine, and based on sound science.
And I know that this type of major transformation of our nation’s school lunch program hasn’t been easy.  The truth is that when it came to the food being served in our schools, we had our work cut out for us.  Our school lunch program costs taxpayers more than $10 billion a year.  And before these new standards, a lot of that money was spent on meals that had more than the recommended amounts of salt, sugar and fat -- meals that weren't meeting basic nutrition guidelines.
But today, thanks to the hard work of school chefs, food service workers across the country, 90 percent of schools are now meeting modern nutrition standards.  That’s a good thing.  And the USDA is working to provide greater flexibility and more assistance to help the remaining schools catch up.
 So today, kids across America are eating more fruits and vegetables -- let’s hear it -- (applause) -- more low-fat dairy products and whole grains.  And as a result of these changes, in many school districts -- which is important to note -- the number of students participating in the school lunch program has actually increased.  And today, more importantly, parents across the country finally have some peace of mind about what their kids are eating during the school day.
But unfortunately, despite these successes, we're now seeing efforts in Congress to roll back these new standards and undo the hard work that all of you, all of us have done on behalf of our kids.  And this is unacceptable.  It’s unacceptable to me not just as First Lady, but as a mother.  I know that right now, because I have talked to so many parents, so many teachers, so many kids write me every day.  And more families are realizing that we are facing a health crisis in this country.  We’re now realizing that childhood obesity is a real issue.  And so many families are looking for help now in their efforts to find new ways to feed their families balanced meals.
So moms and dads don’t want their efforts undermined when they send their kids off to school.  Parents have a right to expect that their kids will get decent food in our schools.  And we all have a right to expect that our hard-earned taxpayer dollars won't be spent on junk food for our kids.
And the stakes just couldn’t be higher on this issue.  Because one in three children in this country are still overweight or obese, and one in three are on track to develop diabetes in their lifetimes.  Those are real statistics.  And we currently spend $190 billion a year treating obesity-related conditions -- and just imagine what those numbers are going to look like in 10 or 20 years if we don’t start working on this problem now, if we don’t solve it today.
So the last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health, especially when we’re finally starting to see some progress on this issue.  We’re starting to move the curve on this.  And folks like all of you have worked so hard to meet these new standards, and now is not the time to roll back everything that we have worked for.  Our kids deserve so much better than that.  They really do.
And as parents, there is nothing that we would not do for our kids -- there is nothing.  Not a thing.  We always put our kids' interests first.  We wake up every morning and we go to bed every night thinking and worrying about the health and well-being of our kids.  I know I do that with my kids, and I do it with every kid in this country. 
And when we make decisions about our kids’ health, we want those decisions to be guided by doctors and nutritionists.  We want decisions that rely on the best information based on sound science.  And that’s what we expect from our leaders in Washington, as well. 
So it is up to us to hold them accountable.  It’s up to us to let them know that we’re going to follow what’s going on here in Washington, and we expect them to act based on our children’s best interests.  And I know this work isn’t easy.  Transforming the health of an entire generation is no small task.  But we have to be willing to fight the hard fight now.  This is what I tell myself.  In 10 or 20 years, I don’t want to look back with regret and think that we gave up on our kids because we felt like this thing was too hard, or too expensive.  We owe our kids way more than that.
And so that’s why every day, so many parents and families and folks like all of you are fighting so hard to give our kids the healthy futures they deserve.  And I think that we all can agree that folks here in Washington should be on our side -- and, more importantly, on the side of our children’s futures. 
So I'm excited to join in this conversation.  It’s been wonderful working with all of you.  I think that we all can be proud of the progress that we’ve made.  I know there are a lot of folks out there who are so appreciative.  And you know, I can’t tell you the number of letters that I get not just from parents and teachers, but from kids -- kids who are struggling to create healthy lifestyles for themselves, who find themselves at odds when they go to school and they don’t have options.  Those kids are grateful for the changes that are being made.
 And with kids, it takes them a second to change their habits.  We know that.  Look, my kids growl at me every time we sit at the dinner table and there’s fish.  (Laughter.)  So we know that it’s tough to change the habits of kids, but that can’t be the reason why we start rolling these back.  There are many, many changes that we can make; many things that we can do to make the nutrition standards work for all schools.  But rolling things back is not the answer.
So I look forward to hearing from all of you, hearing about the progress.  I want to learn about what’s happening, what you see on the ground, what we can be doing better, what information we can share with the public and with parents to understand how these nutrition standards work.  I think the more information we give the better, so that people can make informed decisions.
So I really appreciate you all taking the time.  And with that, I’m going to turn it over to Sam.  And I’m going to be doing a lot of listening, so please, don’t be shy.  (Laughter.)  Thank you so much.
2:00 P.M. EDT

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President Obama Speech: 2014 White House Science Fair

Remarks by the President at the White House Science Fair

East Room
12:13 P.M. EDT
May 27, 2014
THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House Science Fair!  (Applause.)  I love this event.  (Laughter.)  This is one of my favorite things all year long. 
Before I begin, I want to recognize some people who are here today who really worked hard not only to make our Science Fair happen, but are working hard to connect young people to science every single day.  We’ve got our Secretary of Education -- Arne Duncan is here.  (Applause.)  We have our head of NASA and former astronaut -- Charlie Bolden, is here.  There he is.  (Applause.)  We have our Director of the National Institutes of Health -- Francis Collins, is here.  (Applause.)  My chief Science Advisor -- John Holdren is here.  (Applause.) 
We’ve got Bill Nye, the Science Guy.  You can see his bow-tie.  He’s right here.  (Applause.)  Bill Nye, the Science Guy.  You guys like him, huh?  (Laughter.)  You see, you got a big “whoop.”  (Laughter.)  And we’ve got a woman who gets to build and blow stuff up for a living at MythBusters -- Kari Byron is here.  Where’s Kari?  There she is right there.  (Applause.)
And we want to recognize the people whose love and support helped these amazing young people get here:  the parents, mentors, and tireless teachers.  Let’s give them all a big round of applause.  Yay!  (Applause.)
Now, I have a confession to make.  When I was growing up, my science fair projects were not as successful as the ones here.  (Laughter.)  One year, I accidently killed some plants that were a part of my experiment.  (Laughter.)  Another time, a bunch of mice escaped in my grandmother’s apartment.  (Laughter.)  These experiments did not take me straight to the White House.  (Laughter.)    
And, instead, I have a chance now to see what real young scientists can do.  And they were just amazing.  And, by the way, there were no rodents loose in the White House.  (Laughter.)  I couldn’t even imagine doing some of the work that the young people I had a chance to meet were doing when I was their age, and your generation of young people is learning more than people in some ages ever did.  And our job is to make sure that you’ve got everything you need to continue on this path of discovery and experimentation and innovation that has been the hallmark not only of human progress, but also the hallmark of American progress.  And that’s why we decided to organize these science fairs. 
Last week, we had the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks here.  They came by the White House.  And that was cool -- and there’s a tradition that when the NBA champions or the NFL champions or college football champions -- if they win a championship, they get a chance to come and get highlighted in the White House and take a picture with the President. 
But I believe that what’s being done by these amazing young people who I had a chance to meet is even more important.  And I’m a big sports fan -- everybody knows that.  But what’s happening here is more important.  As a society, we have to celebrate outstanding work by young people in science at least as much as we do Super Bowl winners. 
Because superstar biologists and engineers and rocket scientists and robot-builders, they don’t always get the attention that they deserve, but they’re what’s going to transform our society.  They’re the folks who are going to come up with cures for diseases and new sources of energy, and help us build healthier, more successful societies.  And I want to make sure that every young people across America knows what their peers are doing to inspire even more work in science. 
That’s what this White House Science Fair is all about.  And this year, we’re putting special emphasis and special focus on all the amazing girls and young women who are excelling at science and technology and engineering and math.  And I met some amazing young ladies here today.  (Applause.)  
So a lot of the young people who I met, they started off trying to solve a problem that they saw in their neighborhoods or their school.  But the solutions they’re coming up with have the potential to solve problems all around the world. 
So we have the all-girls app team from Resaca Middle School in Los Fresnos, Texas.  Where are they?  I just saw them.  There they are.  There they are.  (Applause.)  So one of their classmates -- an outstanding young man, Andres Salas -- is visually impaired.  So they designed an app to help him navigate their school and other buildings. 
The app tells Andres where he is, where he may need to go, can give him directions -- which saves Andres a huge amount of time because, they were explaining -- Andres was explaining how if he goes from middle school to high school, he’s got to essentially memorize and track his surroundings and this app is helping him do that.  And so not only do these young ladies have big brains, but they’ve also got big hearts. 
When Maria Hanes thought about entering the science fair her senior year in high school, she wanted to work on a project on something she loves.  She loves football more than anything else.  She’s from Oklahoma, so as you might imagine the Sooners are big in her mind.  And she also recognized, though, that a lot of players are suffering from the concussions that come from collisions -- and she also happened to manage her high school football team.
She dropped her cell phone one day -- like most teenagers, she loves her cell phone more than anything -- (laughter) -- including probably her parents at this stage -- (laughter) -- although I know that she’ll grow out of that.  She noticed her rubber case protected her phone.  She wondered what kinds of stuff are covering football helmets.  And that’s how her “Concussion Cushion” was born.  And that’s the kind of idea that we’re going to be talking about this Thursday, when we actually have parents, kids, and pro athletes come to the White House for a Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit. 
Peyton Robertson is here -- first of all, where is -- I want to make sure I acknowledge Maria.  Where is Maria?  There she is.  Stand up, Maria, so everybody can see you.  (Applause.) 
Now, we’ve got Peyton Robertson, who’s here from Pine Crest School of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  I would just advise people -- I can’t do this because I’ve got a conflict of interest -- if you can buy stock in Peyton, you should do so now.  (Laughter.)  He actually had two projects here, both patented or patents pending. 
You say you’re 12?
PEYTON:  I am.
THE PRESIDENT:  “I am” -- yes.  (Laughter.)  This guy is something.  (Laughter.)  When Hurricane Wilma hit nearly nine years ago, Peyton took cover in the closet and played Monopoly with his mom, and later said, “It’s a lot easier to win when your parents are distracted by a Category 3 storm.”  (Laughter.)  That is a good point.  You were just buying Boardwalk and -- (laughter) -- they didn’t care, whatever.  (Laughter.)
After the storm, Peyton started thinking about the ways people prepare for floods.  And he noticed that sandbags are heavy and sometimes they leak.  So Peyton designed new, reusable sandbags, using polymers, that, when wet, expand to prevent saltwater from seeping in, and when they dry out, they weigh just four pounds.  Now, this is just one of his projects.  He had another project about retractable training wheels so dad doesn’t have to get out the screwdriver.  (Laughter.)  But it just gives you a sense of the kind of inquisitiveness and ingenuity that a young man like Peyton has.  So give Peyton a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Way to go, Peyton.  
And then there is Olivia Van Amsterdam and Katelyn Sweeney, representing their team from Natick High School in Massachusetts.  Where are they?  Where did they go?  There they are.  Stand up.  (Applause.)  They learned that diving for a missing person can be dangerous and a time-consuming process, particularly up in Massachusetts where it gets cold and there’s often ice over the water.  So they worked to develop a robot that could help firefighters and ice rescue teams search for objects and bodies in perilous waters.
So they built the robot.  But here’s the other reason that I admire the two of them:  When they’re not busy building lifesaving robots, they are also establishing an all-girls robotics team.  And one is about to graduate.  The other is a junior.  They’re already helping other young women get involved in science and technology, engineering and math.  And we are very, very proud of them.  So give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.) 
Every one of the young people that I met here were amazing.  And it reminds us that there’s so much talent to be tapped if we're working together and lifting it up.  Right now, fewer than one in five bachelor’s degrees in engineering or computer science are earned by women.  Fewer than three in 10 workers in science and engineering are women.  That means we've got half the field -- or half our team we're not even putting on the field.  We've got to change those numbers.  These are the fields of the future.  This is where the good jobs are going to be.  And I want America to be home for those jobs. 
And that’s why, three years ago, I called for a national effort to train 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the next decade.  We are now making progress on that front.  Today, I’m announcing a new $35 million competition to train some of our best math and science graduates to become teachers, and fill more of our classrooms with the hands-on science that we see here today, even when their school districts can’t afford a lot of fancy equipment.  We’re also going to expand STEM AmeriCorps to provide learning opportunities for 18,000 low-income students this summer.  (Applause.) 
And companies, non-profits, cities -- they’re doing their part.  Today, dozens of them are stepping up with new commitments to inspire and help more students learn.  So seven cities are partnering with more than 200 businesses and non-profits to connect girls and low-income students with mentors in science and technology.  Esri is giving every school in America the chance to use its scientific software for free.  And we're grateful for that.  Khan Academy is partnering with NASA to make lessons about the math and science going on relative to the Mars Project open and accessible to millions of learners worldwide.  And a lot of private sector leaders are involved in these efforts and have come here today -- probably to recruit -- (laughter) -- folks like Peyton, giving him a card and saying, here, in six years come call me.  (Laughter.) 
So we’re blessed to live in a country filled with bright, eager young people who love science, love tinkering, love making things, who have the ability to see old problems and grand challenges with fresh eyes.  And those of us who are grownups have an obligation to help them reach their full potential, just as others helped us. 
It was Franklin Roosevelt who said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”  And as President, that’s what inspires me.  That’s what gets me up every day.  And that’s why I'm going to keep on -- for every day that I'm in this office, that I have the privilege of being President, I'm going to make sure that my focus is on how we're building up the youth of tomorrow so that they can succeed and, as a consequence, America can succeed.
To all the young people that I met -- I mean, I'm just looking at them.  I want to kind of actually talk about all of them.  You’ve got the young lady here who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 12, and figured out, with the help of the surgeon, a better understanding of how to isolate the genetic mutations that impact her cancer.  She’s going to be going to Harvard, as you might imagine.  (Laughter.)
You got this guy right here who is designing a new computer system that might allow us to develop flu vaccines faster and more efficiently.  He’s going to Harvard.  (Laughter.)
You got this guy who won like a coding competition for STEM education and he just started high school.  So, I don't know, he'll go to MIT or someplace.  (Laughter.)
And then we've got the Girl Scout troop here from Oklahoma who -- stand up, girls.  (Applause.)  These guys did their own coding to design a Lego system that shows how, if water is rising too fast on a bridge, potentially the bridge would go up right away and save lives and save the bridge.  And they’re in second grade.  (Laughter.)  So I was just learning how to put up a tent.  (Laughter.)  They’re designing bridge stuff to save people.  So we're very proud of them.  Give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)
Now that I'm at it I'm not going to leave anybody out.  Who else did I miss?  We've got this crew that had a simulated catapult that did outstanding work.  These two folks in the blue shirts are designing a sensor system to save pedestrians, and they are actually doing it jointly with kids in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, because they want to spread their knowledge, not just restricted to here in the United States.
We've got our team from Chicago doing some outstanding robotic work.  (Applause.)  We've got a young lady from -- was it San Antonio? -- San Antonio, Texas, who’s doing the great work with electronic vehicles, and she actually sat in it.
And I think those are all the folks -- did I miss anybody who I saw, who I had a chance to see?  Because I know that we've got other contestants, including the folks back here. 
Anyway, I wanted to let you know how proud and impressed I was with all of you.  Not only are you great scientists and engineers and tinkerers, but you also gave outstanding presentations to the President of the United States.  And so not only are your parents very proud of you, and your teachers and your mentors, I'm very proud of you as well.   
Thank you, everybody.  This was a great day.  (Applause.)  Good luck.  Great event.  (Applause.)
12:30 P.M. EDT

* * *  Support Warriors Pearl Foundation - contributing to fund efforts to help homeless female military veterans come home.  Visit Denny Lyon Gifts  @  -  see what's new!  

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dennys World News May 2014: U.S., World NEWS LINKS

English: Map of what was called New Russia dur...

Dennys World News May 2014: U.S., World NEWS LINKS:

*** updates daily ***  From Denny:  Back up blogging after weeks long onslaught of Russian cyberattacks on my blogs.  Oh, well, nothing like waiting them out and recircling like a proper yard cat.  A lot of fussing and cussing at Blogger and Google up on Twitter was also helpful.

Nor am I well impressed with the NSA and CIA gremlins still surveilling me because of my vociferous opinions about their police state tactics, especially against journalists.  These days, as a journalist, it's getting more difficult to tell the Good Guys Governments from the Bad Guys Governments because ALL of them are suppressing the Truth from every media outlet quarter, including bloggers.

Of course, you didn't think a little strong arming would stop me, now did you?...
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Elegant lady writer ponders what to write on her scroll - use these blank messages as large sized elegant note cards too!  Great for graduations, weddings and party invite thank yous or just send to a friend you were thinking about just to let them know they were missed.

Visit Denny Lyon Gifts  @  -  see what's new! 

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Truth Journal: End Ukraine Occupation: Force Money Out Of Russia By Defying Industrialists

John Sherffius

A Truth Journal: End Ukraine Occupation: Force Money Out Of Russia By Defying Industrialists: From Denny:  Europe's military and EU politicians, most notably Germany, are making the very same mistakes that were made during the lead up to World War Two:  appeasement of a world bully hell bent on expansionism as a strategy for land grabs and natural resource hoarding.

The same propaganda lies are employed in this generation as previously:  "Oh, our ethnic population in foreign lands need us to come rescue them from their host countries." The names of the villains have changed but the strategy and ruthlessness remain the same.  In this generation, instead of Germany on the march, it's Russia that is on the march across Europe, claiming to first make a short stop and "rescue" ethnic Russians in former Soviet satellite countries.

Once Putin is done conquering his nearest - and very weak - neighbors he plans to move across all of Europe.  He's gambling that NATO is too weak and indecisive to oppose him.  Will NATO prove him right in his assessment?  Stay tuned.  Right now, countries like Germany, France, the UK and Italy are too slow to react to Putin's aggression, comfortable in the false belief they will not ever be attacked because they are trading partners and of great benefit to him.  Wake up, Europe, and run from your comfort zone.  "Why trade with a country when Russia can outright own them?" is Putin's thinking right now...

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Floral Blush: Enjoy wrapping up in Spring's first blush of azalea blooms to chase away the winter blues!  Design available on all sizes bedding, clocks, mugs, handbags and totes, t-shirts and more, come see!

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