Category Archives: Cabinet

A Battle that Takes Place Every Day

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Dr. Jill Biden

Lorene Nelson, Dr. Biden, Joy Foster and Tina Tchen after the call in Dr. Bidens office October 15, 2010. (by Chris Smith - HHS)

Today I had the pleasure of co-hosting a conference call with Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to highlight Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to emphasize the importance of early detection and regular screenings.

We were joined on the call by breast cancer survivors, advocates, and various women’s group from across the country. I was especially honored to have two breast cancer survivors, Joy Veronica Foster and Lorene Nelson, join me in my office so they could share their personal stories on the call. Listening to these women, and knowing we were joined by many others on the line was truly inspirational and heartwarming.

Chances are that anyone reading this post has been touched by breast cancer –

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the battle against breast cancer takes place every day, every hour, every 69 seconds as someone’s mother, sister, daughter, and friend loses her life to breast cancer. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but today’s conference call gave me hope. With the ongoing commitment of the Obama-Biden Administration to ensure that affordable and accessible preventive care is a reality, and the many breast cancer advocates, and survivors like Lorene and Joy who are changing lives with their work every day – I know we are moving closer to a breast cancer-free world.

-Jill

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Filed under Breast Cancer Awareness, Dr. Jill Biden, Health, Kathleen Sebelius (Sec of HHS), Women's Issues

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Attend the 65th United Nations General Assembly

Posted by: Audiegrl

People listen backstage at the United Nations, as President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York, N.Y., Sept. 23, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At the beginning of the President’s speech this morning to the United Nations General Assembly, the President spoke first of the great challenges facing America – an economy only now being brought back from the brink of total disaster, and defeating Al Qaeda.  He spoke of what’s been done on both fronts, from international cooperation on financial stability, to withdrawal from Iraq and refocusing on Afghanistan – “There is much to show for our efforts, even as there is much more work to be done,” he said.  He spoke also about the ongoing international commitment to hold Iran accountable on its nuclear program.  And he concluded his speech with a focus on human rights, a forceful denunciation of tyranny, and a call for the world to come together for global development as he described yesterday — “The world that America seeks is not one we can build on our own,” he said.

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But the bulk of his speech was on a topic that saw a spark of hope a few weeks ago here at the White House:

And we all have a choice to make.  Each of us must choose the path of peace.  Of course, that responsibility begins with the parties themselves, who must answer the call of history.  Earlier this month at the White House, I was struck by the words of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.  Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I came here today to find a historic compromise that will enable both people to live in peace, security, and dignity.”  And President Abbas said, “We will spare no effort and we will work diligently and tirelessly to ensure these negotiations achieve their cause.”

These words must now be followed by action and I believe that both leaders have the courage to do so.  But the road that they have to travel is exceedingly difficult, which is why I call upon Israelis and Palestinians — and the world — to rally behind the goal that these leaders now share.  We know that there will be tests along the way and that one test is fast approaching.  Israel’s settlement moratorium has made a difference on the ground and improved the atmosphere for talks.

And our position on this issue is well known.  We believe that the moratorium should be extended.  We also believe that talks should press on until completed.  Now is the time for the parties to help each other overcome this obstacle.  Now is the time to build the trust — and provide the time — for substantial progress to be made.  Now is the time for this opportunity to be seized, so that it does not slip away.

Now, peace must be made by Israelis and Palestinians, but each of us has a responsibility to do our part as well.  Those of us who are friends of Israel must understand that true security for the Jewish state requires an independent Palestine — one that allows the Palestinian people to live with dignity and opportunity.  And those of us who are friends of the Palestinians must understand that the rights of the Palestinian people will be won only through peaceful means — including genuine reconciliation with a secure Israel.

I know many in this hall count themselves as friends of the Palestinians.  But these pledges of friendship must now be supported by deeds.  Those who have signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative should seize this opportunity to make it real by taking tangible steps towards the normalization that it promises Israel.

And those who speak on behalf of Palestinian self-government should help the Palestinian Authority politically and financially, and in doing so help the Palestinians build the institutions of their state.

Those who long to see an independent Palestine must also stop trying to tear down Israel.  After thousands of years, Jews and Arabs are not strangers in a strange land.  After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate.

Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people.  It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.  And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people.  The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance — it’s injustice.  And make no mistake:  The courage of a man like President Abbas, who stands up for his people in front of the world under very difficult circumstances, is far greater than those who fire rockets at innocent women and children.

The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution.  And we can come back here next year, as we have for the last 60 years, and make long speeches about it.  We can read familiar lists of grievances.  We can table the same resolutions.  We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate.  And we can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life.  We can do that.

Or, we can say that this time will be different — that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way.  This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.

This time, we should draw upon the teachings of tolerance that lie at the heart of three great religions that see Jerusalem’s soil as sacred.  This time we should reach for what’s best within ourselves.  If we do, when we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.  (Applause.)

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Filed under First Lady Michelle Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton (Sec of State), Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, United Nations

West Wing Week ~ Mailbag Day Summer Edition ~ August 6 – August 13, 2010

Posted by: Audiegrl

President Barack Obama signs Elena Kagan's commission in the Oval Office, before a reception in the East Room celebrating her confirmation to the Supreme Court, Aug. 6, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Mailbag Day! This West Wing Week the administration responds to the letters and emails sent in by you. Find out whether the President gets stamps in his passport, learn about pre-existing conditions and the Affordable Care Act from Secretary of Health and Human Services, Katleen Sebelius, and see who gets to keep the President’s bill signing pens.

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President Barack Obama greets Lt. Col. Dave Kalinske and his family in the Oval Office, during Kalinske’s departure ceremony, Aug. 13, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Filed under First Lady Michelle Obama, Kathleen Sebelius (Sec of HHS), Pres. Barack Obama, Uncategorized, West Wing Week

First Lady Michelle Obama Joins Timothy Geithner At Visit To Treasury Department

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama (R) speaks to employees as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (L) reacts during her visit to the Treasury Department July 7, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Treasury Department was the 20th agency she visited to thank employees for their public service. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)


First Lady Michelle Obama continued her tour of federal agencies today, with her shortest trip so far–across the street from the White House to the Treasury Department.

Some excerpts from her remarks:

And I want to join the Secretary in recognizing Valerie [Hunter, whose husband, Vernon, was killed in an attack on an IRS office earlier this year]. It is an honor to have you here. As the Secretary said, you’ve put in your share of years at the IRS in Austin, Texas, and working in the same building where her husband was killed. We are so incredibly sorry for your loss, but you should know that we are praying with you. And it is just wonderful to see such a strong support system here for you. So we are grateful that you’re here. And I was honored to be able to take a picture with you and show it to — if you can believe, she’s got six kids, seven grandkids. She doesn’t look like she would have all that. But thank you so much for being here today.

I also want to give a special welcome to someone else: Pauline Fenderson. Where is Pauline? Is that — I could have known it was you. It was the hat that tipped me off. But Pauline is from the IRS in Detroit, and Pauline started her career as a typist when Harry Truman was President of the United States. So she was a typing prodigy. She was probably two when she did that. Because she looks fantastic. But now, 60 years later, she’s still working as an individual taxpayer assistance specialist. And even though she says that sometimes — just like all of us, she’s a mere mortal — sometimes getting up on Mondays is hard, she does it because she enjoys giving folks a helping hand. …

But whether you’ve been here for 60 years or 60 days — because we also know there are a lot of new folks who are just joining Treasury — it’s wonderful to see a group of people who work so hard every day and make such a strong commitment to this country. And it is a privilege, one of my greatest privileges as First Lady, to be able to travel throughout Washington to say hello and to thank you all for the work that you’re doing, because as my husband always says, he gets a lot of the glory and a lot of the sympathy for working long hours, but the truth is, you all are working hard, you’re making sacrifices. And we couldn’t have accomplished the things that we have in this administration so quickly without your dedication. So my job here is simply to say thank you for all that you do and all that you’ll continue to do. We are truly grateful for your service.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Announces Let’s Move Campaign’s Childhood Obesity Guidelines

Posted by: Audiegrl

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Tuesday, May 11, 2010, in Washington, to discuss the findings of the Childhood Obesity Task Force report. In February, Mrs. Obama launched the Let's Move, a campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. (Photos ObamaFoodorama and AP/Carolyn Kaster)

AP~Women could help reduce childhood obesity by maintaining a healthy weight when they become pregnant and by breast-feeding their babies, a government panel has found.

The suggestions were among 70 recommendations in the panel’s report. First lady Michelle Obama released the findings Tuesday as part of her campaign against childhood obesity.

“For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks and measureable outcomes that will help us tackle the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family and one community at a time,” Mrs. Obama said. “We want to marshal every resource – public and private sector, mayors and governors, parents and educators, business owners and health care providers, coaches and athletes – to ensure that we are providing each and every child the happy, healthy future they deserve.”

One in 3 American children is overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other illnesses. Obesity is even more prevalent among black and Hispanic children. Some public health experts say today’s children are on track to live shorter lives than their parents.

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Take a Look at Our Action Plan to Solve the Problem of Childhood Obesity

Written by Melody Barnes

Let's Move!Today, the Childhood Obesity Task Force is excited to release our action plan to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.

The report reflects input from 12 federal agencies as well as the 2,500 submissions we got from parents, teachers, doctors, nurses and others. It includes 70 recommendations for public and private sector action, as well as concrete metrics and benchmarks to measure our progress towards our goal. Very broadly, the report makes recommendations in 5 key areas:

  1. Getting children a healthy start on life, with good prenatal care for their parents; support for breastfeeding; limits on “screen time”; and quality child care settings with nutritious food and ample opportunity for young children to be physically active.
  2. Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler, more actionable messages about nutritional choices based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans; improved labels on food and menus that provide clear information to help make healthy choices for children; reduced marketing of unhealthy products to children; and improved health care services, including BMI measurement for all children.
  3. Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall school environment.
  4. Improving access to healthy, affordable food, by eliminating “food deserts” in urban and rural America; lowering the relative prices of healthier foods; developing or reformulating food products to be healthier; and reducing the incidence of hunger, which has been linked to obesity.
  5. Getting children more physically active, through quality physical education, recess, and other opportunities in and after school; addressing aspects of the “built environment” that make it difficult for children to walk or bike safely in their communities; and improving access to safe parks, playgrounds, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities.

Many of our ideas can be implemented right away, at little or no cost. With the First Lady’s leadership and working in strong partnership with states, local communities, and the private sector, we look forward to moving without delay to get this plan into action. Let’s Move!

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Filed under Change, Childhood Obesity, Children, First Lady Michelle Obama, Health, Kathleen Sebelius (Sec of HHS), Secretary Arne Duncan (Sec of Education), Uncategorized

First Lady Michelle Obama to Host 20th Annual National Science Bowl

Posted by: Audiegrl

Students from Across the Country Prepare
for Regional Science Competitions


First Lady Michelle Obama visits the Department of Energy for the National Science Bowl competition in Washington, D.C., Nov. 5, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

On May 4, 2010 First Lady Michelle Obama will join Energy Secretary Steven Chu for the Department’s 20th Annual National Science Bowl where she will ask the championship round bonus point questions. The First Lady and Secretary Chu will also address the more than 500 high school and middle school students and the 100 teachers and coaches attending the competition. Last November, Mrs. Obama visited the Department and joined Secretary Chu for a practice session for young people competing in the Science Bowl.

In the days prior to the championship, 105 regional high school and middle school championship teams from 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will participate in round robin and double elimination rounds in which they will be quizzed on math and all science disciplines, including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics and astronomy.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl® is a nationwide academic competition that tests students’ knowledge in all areas of science. High school and middle school students are quizzed in a fast paced question-and-answer format similar to Jeopardy. Competing teams from diverse backgrounds are comprised of four students, one alternate, and a teacher who serves as an advisor and coach.

The Paul Dorman High School team at 2009 National Science Bowl

A featured event at the National Finals for middle school students, the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Model Car Challenge invites students to design, build, and race model cars. This competition tests the creative engineering skills of many of the brightest math and science students in the nation as they gain hands-on experience in the automotive design process and with hydrogen fuel cell technology.

DOE launched its National Science Bowl competition in 1991 to encourage high school students to excel in science and math and to pursue careers in those fields. “This year we anticipate 6,000 middle school and 15,000 high school students will compete in regional competitions” said Sue Ellen Walbridge, DOE Office of Science program manager for the National Science Bowl®. “From this number, we anticipate 40 middle school and 69 high school teams will participate in the finals held in May.”

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The National Science Bowl is the only science competition in the United States sponsored by a federal agency.

For more information, please visit the DOE National Science Bowl® Press Room

First Lady Michelle Obama listens as Energy Secretary Steven Chu asks questions during the National Science Bowl competition at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., Nov. 5, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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Filed under Children, Education, First Lady Michelle Obama, Green, Sciences, Steven Chu (Sec of Energy), Students, Teachers, Uncategorized

President Obama Honors 2010 National Teacher of the Year

Posted by: WillieBeyond
Written by Sarah Brown Wessling

Is this where I pinch myself?

2010 National Teacher of the Year award recipient Sarah Brown Wessling (C) of Johnson Community School District in Iowa speaks as President Barack Obama (R), and Education Secretary Arne Duncan (L) listen during a Rose Garden ceremony April 29, 2010 at the White House in Washington, DC. Presenting the award has been a presidential tradition since Harry Truman. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)

Earlier today, I was honored to join President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and Dr. Biden in the Rose Garden of the White House to accept the National Teacher of the Year award.

I couldn’t be more overwhelmed and humbled by this honor. I was joined by the most remarkable assemblages of teachers – the 2010 State Teachers of the Year – I have known. Each is gifted and passionate about the work he or she does; yet, together we are galvanized in our shared vision of what teaching and learning can be. My family, my administrators, some of my own teachers and former students, along with many representatives from the State of Iowa were also in attendance. In front of us all is the collective responsibility to create hope and opportunity for every child in this country.

I think there is a misconception about this honor, that its purpose is to differentiates one teacher from another. Rather, this honor is about our similarities, about what unites us. It’s the deliberateness I share with Daniel, the design I share with Kate, the attention to students I share with Melissa, the pursuit of ideas I share with Ed – all of these teachers here and from home. It is about the purpose I share with each educator standing here today.

If you were to come into my classroom, the first thing you would notice is that my desk is in the back corner, despite the building design to make it otherwise. This placement is but an outward sign of an implicit philosophy, that teaching must be learner-centered.

“The desk in the back of the room” displaces hierarchies, creates an environment where a teacher becomes a lead learner, and evolves into a web of interdependence where the classroom walls become boundless. When we embrace this open-model of learning, the consumers of our curriculum will become designers of their own learning.

It is in these moments of learning that I fondly think of my students. I am here because my students couldn’t be. When we listen to them, their message is clear: Labria would say she deserves worthy learning experiences; Robert would want to be seen as an individual, not as a number or the score on an exam; Meredith would clamor for innovative curriculum; Jasmina would say she deserves passionate teachers. They all would say we need 21st century teachers, not just adults teaching in the 21st century.

Our dream for our students is the same dream we have for our own children, to be recognized for their strengths, to learn from their weaknesses and to be seen as a person of infinite potential.

We are facing tough times in education when it may be difficult to find what to hold onto, but each learner is a story. I see the world in stories and I believe it is these stories that will sustain and teach us. They will challenge and sometimes confuse us. But in the same way that I believe in the transformative power of language to unite us, I am certain that the stories of our students will sustain us.

The 2010 Teachers of the Year are here because our students couldn’t be, because their stories compel us to be here, because we couldn’t be anywhere else.

Sarah Brown Wessling is a high school English teacher at Johnston High School in Johnston, Iowa, and the recipient of this year’s National Teacher of the Year Award.

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