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President Obama’s Newsweek Haiti Essay: ‘Why Haiti Matters’

Posted by: Audiegrl

In the tragic aftermath of Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake, images of the disaster break our hearts and remind us of the fragility of life. What America must do now—and why

By President Barack Obama in
In the last week, we have been deeply moved by the heartbreaking images of the devastation in Haiti: parents searching through rubble for sons and daughters; children, frightened and alone, looking for their mothers and fathers. At this moment, entire parts of Port-au-Prince are in ruins, as families seek shelter in makeshift camps. It is a horrific scene of shattered lives in a poor nation that has already suffered so much.

In response, I have ordered a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives in Haiti. We have launched one of the largest relief efforts in recent history. I have instructed the leaders of all agencies to make our response a top priority across the federal government. We are mobilizing every element of our national capacity: the resources of development agencies, the strength of our armed forces, and most important, the compassion of the American people. And we are working closely with the Haitian government, the United Nations, and the many international partners who are also aiding in this extraordinary effort.

We act for the sake of the thousands of American citizens who are in Haiti, and for their families back home; for the sake of the Haitian people who have been stricken with a tragic history, even as they have shown great resilience; and we act because of the close ties that we have with a neighbor that is only a few hundred miles to the south.

But above all, we act for a very simple reason: in times of tragedy, the United States of America steps forward and helps. That is who we are. That is what we do. For decades, America’s leadership has been founded in part on the fact that we do not use our power to subjugate others, we use it to lift them up—whether it was rebuilding our former adversaries after World War II, dropping food and water to the people of Berlin, or helping the people of Bosnia and Kosovo rebuild their lives and their nations.

At no time is that more true than in moments of great peril and human suffering. It is why we have acted to help people combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Africa, or to recover from a catastrophic tsunami in Asia. When we show not just our power, but also our compassion, the world looks to us with a mixture of awe and admiration. That advances our leadership. That shows the character of our country. And it is why every American can look at this relief effort with the pride of knowing that America is acting on behalf of our common humanity.

Right now, our search-and-rescue teams are on the ground, pulling people from the rubble. Americans from Virginia and California and Florida have worked round the clock to save people whom they’ve never met. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen quickly deployed to the scene. Hand in hand with our civilians, they’re laboring day and night to facilitate a massive logistical enterprise; to deliver and distribute food, water, and medicine to save lives; and to prevent an even larger humanitarian catastrophe.

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Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton Lands in Haiti, Pledges Cooperative Effort

Posted by: Audiegrl

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, third from right, meets with Haiti's President Rene Preval, third from left, to discuss conditions in the country

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, third from right, meets with Haiti's President Rene Preval, third from left, to discuss conditions in the country



U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met Saturday with Haitian President Rene Preval and promised that U.S. quake relief efforts would be closely coordinated with local officials.

Clinton’s remarks appeared designed to counter any notion of a too-intrusive American involvement in the aftermath of the quake, while also assuring Haitians the humanitarian mission would continue as long as it’s needed.

We are here at the invitation of your government to help you,” she said at a news conference at the Port-au-Prince airport. “As President Obama has said, we will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead. And speaking personally, I know of the great resilience and strength of the Haitian people. You have been severely tested. But I believe that Haiti can come back even stronger and better in the future.”

Haiti's President Rene Preval, right, answers questions from the press as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, looks on in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010

Haiti's President Rene Preval, right, answers questions from the press as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, looks on in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010

Clinton, the highest-ranking Obama administration official to visit since the magnitude-7.0 quake struck Tuesday, arrived in a Coast Guard C-130 transport that carried bottled water, packaged food, soap and other supplies. She was accompanied by Rajiv Shah, the U.S. Agency for International Development administrator who is acting as the top U.S. relief coordinator.

Clinton also met with U.N. officials and U.S. civilians and military personnel working on the relief effort. She said she and Preval discussed his government’s priorities: restoring communications, electricity and transportation.

And we agreed that we will be coordinating closely together to achieve these goals,” she said, adding that she and Preval would issue a communique on Sunday outlining cooperation between the two countries.

Preval said he was encouraged to see former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush together with President Barack Obama at the White House earlier Saturday in a joint plea for international assistance to Haiti.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to Haiti President Rene Preval during her visit

He noted that U.S. aid has already arrived, and he told reporters he met a survivor who was pulled from the rubble Saturday and receiving care from American medical teams. He thanked Clinton for her visit and for Obama’s continued support of Haiti.

Mrs. Clinton’s visit really warms our heart today,” he said.

During the news conference, officials noted the clatter of military helicopters landing and taking off nearby.

That’s a good sound,” Clinton said. “That means that good things are going to the people of Haiti.”

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We had a very good meeting about all of the priorities of the Haitian government and the Haitian people,” Clinton said after a brief news conference following the meetings.

She said air efforts are focused on providing water, food and medical help. She also stressed the importance of restoring the country’s communications networks, electricity and transportation.

A man carries an elderly woman who needs medical attention in Port Au Prince

A man carries an elderly woman who needs medical attention in Port Au Prince

We agreed that we will be coordinating closely together to achieve these goals.”

In an interview with CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, Clinton said “every day we are making progress and I expect that to continue.”

In addition to the immediate needs, Clinton said the focus will switch next week to long-term recovery and reconstruction, telling Gupta she believed that Haiti, with the help of the international community, could be a better place than it was before Tuesday’s quake.

Helicopters fly over the heavily damaged Port-au-Prince Cathedral

Helicopters fly over the heavily damaged Port-au-Prince Cathedral

The U.S. Coast Guard plane she arrived on was carrying 100 cases of water, 100 cases of meals-ready-to-eat, and food and toiletries for about 140 U.S. Embassy staff members. Fifty Americans, who have been waiting to be evacuated, will fly back to the United States when Clinton departs.

Clinton landed hours after President Obama announced Saturday that former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush have agreed to lead an effort to raise funds for Haiti.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks to CNN’s Sanjay Gupta in Haiti about the relief efforts.

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Santa Claus Through History

The man we know as Santa Claus has a history all his own. Keep reading to find information about the history of Santa Claus, his earliest origins, and how he became the jolly man in red that we know today.

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The Legend of St. Nicholas

Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland.

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Sinter Klass Comes to New York

Sinter Klaas

Sinter Klaas

St. Nicholas made his first inroads into American popular culture towards the end of the 18th century. In December 1773, and again in 1774, a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death.

The name Santa Claus evolved from Nick’s Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains now-familiar Santa images including stockings filled with toys and fruit hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to popularize the Sinter Klaas stories when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, The History of New York. As his prominence grew, Sinter Klaas was described as everything from a “rascal” with a blue three-cornered hat, red waistcoat, and yellow stockings to a man wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a “huge pair of Flemish trunk hose.”

Shopping Mall Santas

Gift-giving, mainly centered around children, has been an important part of the Christmas celebration since the holiday’s rejuvenation in the early 19th century. Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a “live” Santa Claus. In the early 1890s, the Salvation Army needed money to pay for the free Christmas meals they provided to needy families. They began dressing up unemployed men in Santa Claus suits and sending them into the streets of New York to solicit donations. Those familiar Salvation Army Santas have been ringing bells on the street corners of American cities ever since.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote a long Christmas poem for his three daughters entitled, “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” Moore’s poem, which he was initially hesitant to publish due to the frivolous nature of its subject, is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head! Although some of Moore’s imagery was probably borrowed from other sources, his poem helped to popularize Christmas Eve – Santa Claus waiting for the children to get to sleep the now-familiar idea of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve – in “a miniature sleigh” led by eight flying reindeer, whom he also named – leaving presents for deserving children. “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” created a new and immediately popular American icon. In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife, Mrs. Claus.

The Many Names of Santa

18th-century America’s Santa Claus was not the only St. Nicholas-inspired gift-giver to make an appearance at Christmastime. Similar figures were popular all over the world. Christkind or Kris Kringle was believed to deliver presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. Meaning “Christ child,” Christkind is an angel-like figure often accompanied by St. Nicholas on his holiday missions. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. English legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children’s stockings with holiday treats. Pere Noel is responsible for filling the shoes of French children. In Russia, it is believed that an elderly woman named Babouschka purposely gave the wise men wrong directions to Bethlehem so that they couldn’t find Jesus. Later, she felt remorseful, but could not find the men to undo the damage. To this day, on January 5, Babouschka visits Russian children leaving gifts at their bedsides in the hope that one of them is the baby Jesus and she will be forgiven. In Italy, a similar story exists about a woman called La Befana, a kindly witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of Italian homes to deliver toys into the stockings of lucky children.

Rudolph: The Ninth Reindeer

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was born over a hundred years after his eight flying counterparts. The red-nosed wonder was the creation of Robert L. May, a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store.

In 1939, May wrote a Christmas-themed story-poem to help bring holiday traffic into his store. Using a similar rhyme pattern to Moore’s “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his large, glowing, red nose. But, When Christmas Eve turned foggy and Santa worried that he wouldn’t be able to deliver gifts that night, the former outcast saved Christmas by leading the sleigh by the light of his red nose. Rudolph’s message—that given the opportunity, a liability can be turned into an asset—proved popular. Montgomery Ward sold almost two and a half million copies of the story in 1939. When it was reissued in 1946, the book sold over three and half million copies. Several years later, one of May’s friends, Johnny Marks, wrote a short song based on Rudolph’s story (1949). It was recorded by Gene Autry and sold over two million copies. Since then, the story has been translated into 25 languages and been made into a television movie, narrated by Burl Ives, which has charmed audiences every year since 1964.

Yes, kiddies, Santa is smoking...bad Santa! 😉




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First Lady Michelle Obama Graces Season Premiere of Iron Chef America; Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford Will Compete

Posted by Audiegrl

Another first from the Obama White House Kitchen…First Lady reveals “secret ingredient

First Lady Michelle Obama, Comerford, Brown, Batali and Lagasse

First Lady Michelle Obama, Flay, Comerford, Brown, Batali and Lagasse

Obama Foodorama—First Lady Michelle Obama will make a special appearance on the season premiere of the popular Food Network show Iron Chef America in January, in a savvy move to extend her healthy food messaging to a new audience. Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford will compete on the show in a special two hour “super chef battle.” Comerford’s teammate is grill master Bobby Flay, who guest-cheffed at the White House for the Father’s Day event in June, when he cooked up some lovely steaks with President Obama. Spoiler alert: Mrs. Obama will be revealing the “secret ingredient” that the chefs will use in their televised cook-off, which is a hallmark of the Iron Chef America series. The “secret ingredient” in this case is anything that grows in the White House Kitchen Garden, which leaves things wiiiide open, because the Kitchen Garden has produced a stunning variety of crops this year. Comerford and Flay are competing against the highly competitive team of celeb chefs Emeril Lagasse, who specializes in Southern/New Orleans cooking, and Mario Batali, an Italian cooking superstar.

Comerford in the Kitchen Garden during the Iron Chef America filming, harvesting with teammate Flay

Comerford in the Kitchen Garden during the Iron Chef America filming, harvesting with teammate Flay

Scenes for the show were already shot at the White House, with Comerford and the three other chefs harvesting crops from the Kitchen Garden, and Mrs. Obama having face-time with the guest chefs and discussing the importance of getting kids to eat their veggies. In her onscreen cameo, Mrs. Obama will discuss her campaign to reduce childhood obesity through better school lunches, community gardens, farmers’ markets and exercise, which is now known as the Healthy Kids Initiative around the White House. The show’s January air-date is timed perfectly to be right before Congress comes back into session, when legislators will ostensibly be addressing the re-authorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which provides federal funding for school feeding programs. Better school lunches are one of Mrs. Obama’s priorities, and President Obama’s too; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack frequently notes in his public remarks that this was the very first subject President Obama discussed with him during their “job interview.”

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