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Transcript: Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech

The text of Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes after accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, according to a transcript provided by Hollywood Foreign Press Association:

Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. This town, thank you. I love you all, but you’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend, and I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year. So I have to read. Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press, just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said. You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.

But who are we? And what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in — no — in Ireland, I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a small-town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.

They gave me three seconds to say this. So an actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like, and there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, compassionate work. But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hook in my heart not because it was good. It was — there was nothing good about it, but it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart, and I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence insights violence. When the powerful use definition to bully others, we all lose. Ok. Go on with that thing. OK. This brings me to the press. We need the principal press to hold power to account to call them on the carpet for every outrage.

That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedom in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists because we are going to need them going forward and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

One more thing. Once when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something, you know, we were going to work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight. As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia said to me once, “Take your broken heart. Make it into art.” Thank you, friend.

Obama embraces Clinton, he’s with her

Barack Obama told the nation July 27 that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to serve as president — more qualified than him, more qualified than Bill Clinton.

“I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” Obama said to thunderous applause in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on the third night of the Democratic National Convention.” I hope you don’t mind, Bill, but I was just telling the truth, man.”

The president said he is ready to pass the baton to Clinton and he called on people to join her campaign to become the first female president in the nation’s history.

The call included a reach out to the loyal supporters of Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and hard-fighting primary candidate who has endorsed her and repeatedly has urged his backers to vote for the Democratic ticket.

Throughout the evening, Sanders supporters interrupted speeches with shouts of “This is what democracy looks like” and “Sanders.” During Tim Kaine’s speech, from the balcony to the left of the stage, demonstrators unfurled a yellow banner reading, “Democracy?”

To Sanders supporters, the president said, “It can be frustrating, this business of democracy. Trust me, I know. Hillary knows, too. When the other side refuses to compromise, progress can stall. Supporters can grow impatient, and worry that you’re not trying hard enough; that you’ve maybe sold out.

“But I promise you, when we keep at it; when we change enough minds; when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. Just ask the 20 million more people who have health care today. Just ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband he loves. Democracy works, but we gotta want it — not just during an election year, but all the days in between.”

Clinton is the only candidate in the race, Obama said:

“If you agree that there’s too much inequality in our economy, and too much money in our politics.”

“If you want more justice in the justice system.”

“f you want to fight climate change.”

“If you want to protect our kids and our cops from gun violence.”

Obama said citizens who care about democracy can’t sit out the 2016 general election. “You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport. America isn’t about ‘Yes he will.’ It’s about ‘Yes we can.'”

The audience in the arena was standing-room only — in fact beyond standing-room only, as many volunteers who had spent the night ushering people to their seats doubled up in seats and chairs to watch Obama.

“I think this is about the most exciting night in politics,” said Philadelphian Peter Crosse. “Well, until tomorrow night.”

At the end of Obama’s speech, delivered after remarks by running mate Tim Kaine and Vice President Joe Biden, Clinton stepped onto the stage to embrace her 2008 rival. Delegates roared a welcome.


At the podium

The transcript of the president’s speech, as delivered at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on July 27:

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  (Applause.)


AUDIENCE:  Obama!  Obama!  Obama!


AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!


THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back!  (Applause.)


Hello, America!  Hello, Democrats!  (Applause.)


So 12 years ago tonight, I addressed this convention for the very first time.  (Applause.)  You met my two little girls, Malia and Sasha — now two amazing young women who just fill me with pride.  (Applause.)  You fell for my brilliant wife and partner Michelle — (applause) — who has made me a better father and a better man; who’s gone on to inspire our nation as First Lady — (applause) — and who somehow hasn’t aged a day.  (Applause.)


I know, the same can’t be said for me.  (Laughter.)  My girls remind me all the time.  Wow, you’ve changed so much, Daddy (Laughter.)  And then they try to clean it up — not bad, you’re just more mature.  (Laughter.)


And it’s true — I was so young that first time in Boston.  (Applause.)  And look, I’ll admit it, maybe I was a little nervous, addressing such a big crowd.  But I was filled with faith; faith in America — the generous, big-hearted, hopeful country that made my story — that made all of our stories — possible.


A lot has happened over the years.  And while this nation has been tested by war, and it’s been tested by recession and all manner of challenges — I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as your President, to tell you I am more optimistic about the future of America than ever before.  (Applause.)


How could I not be — after all that we’ve achieved together?  After the worst recession in 80 years, we fought our way back.  We’ve seen deficits come down, 401(k)s recover, an auto industry set new records, unemployment reach eight-year lows, and our businesses create 15 million new jobs.  (Applause.)


After a century of trying, we declared that health care in America is not a privilege for a few, it is a right for everybody.  (Applause.)  After decades of talk, we finally began to wean ourselves off foreign oil.  We doubled our production of clean energy.  (Applause.)  We brought more of our troops home to their families, and we delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.  (Applause.)  Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  (Applause.)  We opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our children.  (Applause.)


We put policies in place to help students with loans; protect consumers from fraud; cut veteran homelessness almost in half.  (Applause.)  And through countless acts of quiet courage, America learned that love has no limits, and marriage equality is now a reality across the land.  (Applause.)


By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started.  And through every victory and every setback, I’ve insisted that change is never easy, and never quick; that we wouldn’t meet all of our challenges in one term, or one presidency, or even in one lifetime.


So, tonight, I’m here to tell you that, yes, we’ve still got more work to do.  More work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a decent retirement; for every child who needs a sturdier ladder out of poverty or a world-class education; for everyone who has not yet felt the progress of these past seven and a half years.  We need to keep making our streets safer and our criminal justice system fairer

— (applause) — our homeland more secure, our world more peaceful and sustainable for the next generation.  (Applause.)   We’re not done perfecting our union, or living up to our founding creed that all of us are created equal; all of us are free in the eyes of God.  (Applause.)


And that work involves a big choice this November.  I think it’s fair to say, this is not your typical election.  It’s not just a choice between parties or policies; the usual debates between left and right.  This is a more fundamental choice — about who we are as a people, and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government.


Look, we Democrats have always had plenty of differences with the Republican Party, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s precisely this contest of idea that pushes our country forward.  (Applause.)  But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican — and it sure wasn’t conservative.  What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world.  There were no serious solutions to pressing problems — just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate.


And that is not the America I know.  (Applause.)  The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity.  The America I know is decent and generous.  (Applause.)  Sure, we have real anxieties — about paying the bills, and protecting our kids, caring for a sick parent.  We get frustrated with political gridlock, and worry about racial divisions.  We are shocked and saddened by the madness of Orlando or Nice.  There are pockets of America that never recovered from factory closures; men who took pride in hard work and providing for their families who now feel forgotten; parents who wonder whether their kids will have the same opportunities that we had.


All of that is real.  We are challenged to do better; to be better.


But as I’ve traveled this country, through all 50 states, as I’ve rejoiced with you and mourned with you, what I have also seen, more than anything, is what is right with America.  (Applause.)  I see people working hard and starting businesses.  I see people teaching kids and serving our country.  I see engineers inventing stuff, doctors coming up with new cures.  I see a younger generation full of energy and new ideas, not constrained by what is, ready to seize what ought to be.  (Applause.)


And most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together — black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love.  (Applause.)  That’s what I see.  That’s the America I know!  (Applause.)


And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, has devoted her life to that future; a mother and a grandmother who would do anything to help our children thrive; a leader with real plans to break down barriers, and blast through glass ceilings, and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American — the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton.  (Applause.)


AUDIENCE:  Hillary!  Hillary!  Hillary!


THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right!


Let me tell you, eight years ago, you may remember Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination.  We battled for a year and a half.  Let me tell you, it was tough, because Hillary was tough.  I was worn out.  (Laughter.)  She was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers, it was backwards in heels.  (Applause.)  And every time I thought I might have the race won, Hillary just came back stronger.  (Applause.)


But after it was all over, I asked Hillary to join my team. (Applause.)  And she was a little surprised.  Some of my staff was surprised.  (Laughter.)  But ultimately she said yes — because she knew that what was at stake was bigger than either of us.  (Applause.)  And for four years — for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment, and her discipline.  I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise, it wasn’t for attention — that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion.  (Applause.)  I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for.  (Applause.)


Hillary has still got the tenacity that she had as a young woman, working at the Children’s Defense Fund, going door-to-door to ultimately make sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education.  (Applause.)


She’s still got the heart she showed as our First Lady, working with Congress to help push through a Children’s Health Insurance Program that to this day protects millions of kids.  (Applause.)


She’s still seared with the memory of every American she met who lost loved ones on 9/11 — which is why, as a Senator from New York, she fought so hard for funding to help first responders, to help the city rebuild; why, as Secretary of State, she sat with me in the Situation Room and forcefully argued in favor of the mission that took out bin Laden.  (Applause.)


You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office.  You can read about it.  You can study it.  But until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis, or send young people to war.  But Hillary has been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions.  She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes — what’s at stake for the working family, for the senior citizen, or the small business owner, for the soldier, for the veteran.  And even in the midst of crisis, she listens to people, and she keeps her cool, and she treats everybody with respect.  And no matter how daunting the odds, no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.  (Applause.)


That is the Hillary I know.  That’s the Hillary I’ve come to admire.  And that’s why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)


I hope you don’t mind, Bill, but I was just telling the truth, man.  (Laughter.)


And, by the way, in case you’re wondering about her judgment, take a look at her choice of running mate.  (Applause.) Tim Kaine is as good a man, as humble and as committed a public servant as anybody that I know.  I know his family.  I love Anne. I love their kids.  He will be a great Vice President.  He will make Hillary a better President — just like my dear friend and brother, Joe Biden, has made me a better President.  (Applause.)


Now, Hillary has real plans to address the concerns she’s heard from you on the campaign trail.  She’s got specific ideas to invest in new jobs, to help workers share in their company’s profits, to help put kids in preschool and put students through college without taking on a ton of debt.  That’s what leaders do.

And then there’s Donald Trump.




THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo — vote.  (Applause.)


AUDIENCE:  Don’t boo, vote!  Don’t boo, vote!


THE PRESIDENT:  You know, the Donald is not really a plans guy.  (Laughter.)  He’s not really a facts guy, either.  He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved remarkable success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.  (Applause.)


Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion?  Your voice?




THE PRESIDENT:  If so, you should vote for him.  But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, if you’re really concerned about pocketbook issues and seeing the economy grow, and creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close.  (Applause.)  If you want someone with a lifelong track record of fighting for higher wages, and better benefits, and a fairer tax code, and a bigger voice for workers, and stronger regulations on Wall Street, then you should vote for Hillary Clinton.  (Applause.)


If you’re rightly concerned about who’s going to keep you and your family safe in a dangerous world, well, the choice is even clearer.  Hillary Clinton is respected around the world — not just by leaders, but by the people they serve.


I have to say this.  People outside of the United States do not understand what’s going on in this election.  They really don’t.  Because they know Hillary.  They’ve seen her work.  She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military.  She has the judgment and the experience and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism.  It’s not new to her.  Our troops have pounded ISIL without mercy, taking out their leaders, taking back territory.  (Applause.)  And I know Hillary won’t relent until ISIL is destroyed.  She will finish the job.  (Applause.)  And she will do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country.  She is fit and she is ready to be the next Commander-in-Chief.  (Applause.)


Meanwhile, Donald Trump calls our military a disaster.  Apparently, he doesn’t know the men and women who make up the strongest fighting force the world has ever known.  (Applause.)  He suggests America is weak.  He must not hear the billions of men and women and children, from the Baltics to Burma, who still look to America to be the light of freedom and dignity and human rights.  (Applause.)  He cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein, tells our NATO allies that stood by our side after 9/11 that they have to pay up if they want our protection.


Well, America’s promises do not come with a price tag.  We meet our commitments.  We bear our burdens.  (Applause.)  That’s one of the reasons why almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago when I took office.  (Applause.)


America is already great.  (Applause.)  America is already strong.  (Applause.)  And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump.  (Applause.)  In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person.  And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election — the meaning of our democracy.


Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.”  Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix.  It doesn’t matter to him that illegal immigration and the crime rate are as low as they’ve been in decades — (applause) — because he’s not actually offering any real solutions to those issues.  He’s just offering slogans, and he’s offering fear.  He’s betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election.


And that’s another bet that Donald Trump will lose.  (Applause.)  And the reason he’ll lose it is because he’s selling the American people short.  We’re not a fragile people.  We’re not a frightful people.  Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way.  We don’t look to be ruled.  (Applause.) Our power comes from those immortal declarations first put to paper right here in Philadelphia all those years ago:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that We the People, can form a more perfect union.  (Applause.)


That’s who we are.  That’s our birthright — the capacity to shape our own destiny.  (Applause.)  That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny and our GIs to liberate a continent.  It’s what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot, and marchers to cross a bridge in Selma, and workers to organize and fight for collective bargaining and better wages.  (Applause.)


America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us.  It’s about what can be achieved by us, together — (applause) — through the hard and slow, and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.


And that’s what Hillary Clinton understands.  She knows that this is a big, diverse country.  She has seen it.  She’s traveled.  She’s talked to folks.  And she understands that most issues are rarely black and white.  She understands that even when you’re 100 percent right, getting things done requires compromise; that democracy doesn’t work if we constantly demonize each other.  (Applause.)  She knows that for progress to happen, we have to listen to each other, and see ourselves in each other, and fight for our principles but also fight to find common ground, no matter how elusive that may sometimes seem.  (Applause.)


Hillary knows we can work through racial divides in this country when we realize the worry black parents feel when their son leaves the house isn’t so different than what a brave cop’s family feels when he puts on the blue and goes to work; that we can honor police and treat every community fairly.  (Applause.)  We can do that.  And she knows — she knows that acknowledging problems that have festered for decades isn’t making race relations worse — it’s creating the possibility for people of goodwill to join and make things better.  (Applause.)


Hillary knows we can insist on a lawful and orderly immigration system while still seeing striving students and their toiling parents as loving families, not criminals or rapists; families that came here for the same reason our forebears came — to work and to study, and to make a better life, in a place where we can talk and worship and love as we please.  She knows their dream is quintessentially American, and the American Dream is something no wall will ever contain.  (Applause.)  These are the things that Hillary knows.


It can be frustrating, this business of democracy.  Trust me, I know.  Hillary knows, too.  When the other side refuses to compromise, progress can stall.  People are hurt by the inaction. Supporters can grow impatient and worry that you’re not trying hard enough; that you’ve maybe sold out.  But I promise you, when we keep at it, when we change enough minds, when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen.  And if you doubt that, just ask the 20 million more people who have health care today.  (Applause.)  Just ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.  (Applause.)


Democracy works, America, but we got to want it — not just during an election year, but all the days in between.  (Applause.)


So if you agree that there’s too much inequality in our economy and too much money in our politics, we all need to be as vocal and as organized and as persistent as Bernie Sanders supporters have been during this election.  (Applause.)  We all need to get out and vote for Democrats up and down the ticket, and then hold them accountable until they get the job done.  (Applause.)


That’s right — feel the Bern!  (Applause.)


If you want more justice in the justice system, then we’ve all got to vote — not just for a President, but for mayors, and sheriffs, and state’s attorneys, and state legislators.  That’s where the criminal law is made.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed.  That’s how democracy works.  (Applause.)


If you want to fight climate change, we’ve got to engage not only young people on college campuses, we’ve got to reach out to the coal miner who’s worried about taking care of his family, the single mom worried about gas prices.  (Applause.)


If you want to protect our kids and our cops from gun violence, we’ve got to get the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, who agree on things like background checks to be just as vocal and just as determined as the gun lobby that blocks change through every funeral that we hold.  That is how change happens.  (Applause.)


Look, Hillary has got her share of critics.  She has been caricatured by the right and by some on the left.  She has been accused of everything you can imagine — and some things that you cannot.  (Laughter.)  But she knows that’s what happens when you’re under a microscope for 40 years.  She knows that sometimes during those 40 years she’s made mistakes — just like I have; just like we all do.  (Applause.)  That’s what happens when we try.  That’s what happens when you’re the kind of citizen Teddy Roosevelt once described — not the timid souls who criticize from the sidelines, but someone “who is actually in the arena…who strives valiantly; who errs…but who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement.”  (Applause.)


Hillary Clinton is that woman in the arena.  (Applause.)  She’s been there for us — even if we haven’t always noticed.  And if you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue.  You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport.  (Applause.)  America isn’t about “yes, he will.”  It’s about “yes, we can.”  (Applause.)    And we’re going to carry Hillary to victory this fall, because that’s what the moment demands.  (Applause.)


AUDIENCE:  Yes, we can!  Yes, we can!  Yes, we can!


THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we can.  Not “yes, she can.”  Not “yes, I can.”  “Yes, we can.”   (Applause.)


You know, there’s been a lot of talk in this campaign about what America has lost — people who tell us that our way of life is being undermined by pernicious changes and dark forces beyond our control.  They tell voters there’s a “real America” out there that must be restored.  This isn’t an idea, by the way, that started with Donald Trump.  It’s been peddled by politicians for a long time — probably from the start of our Republic.


And it’s got me thinking about the story I told you 12 years ago tonight, about my Kansas grandparents and the things they taught me when I was growing up.  (Applause.)  See, my grandparents, they came from the heartland.  Their ancestors began settling there about 200 years ago.  I don’t know if they have their birth certificates — (laughter) — but they were there.  (Applause.)  They were Scotch-Irish mostly — farmers, teachers, ranch hands, pharmacists, oil rig workers.  Hardy, small town folks.  Some were Democrats, but a lot of them — maybe even most of them — were Republicans.  Party of Lincoln.


And my grandparents explained that folks in these parts, they didn’t like show-offs.  They didn’t admire braggarts or bullies.  They didn’t respect mean-spiritedness, or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life.  Instead, what they valued were traits like honesty and hard work, kindness, courtesy, humility, responsibility, helping each other out. That’s what they believed in.  True things.  Things that last.  The things we try to teach our kids.


And what my grandparents understood was that these values weren’t limited to Kansas.  They weren’t limited to small towns. These values could travel to Hawaii.  (Applause.)  They could travel even to the other side of the world, where my mother would end up working to help poor women get a better life; trying to apply those values.  My grandparents knew these values weren’t reserved for one race.  They could be passed down to a half-Kenyan grandson, or a half-Asian granddaughter.  In fact, they were the same values Michelle’s parents, the descendants of slaves, taught their own kids, living in a bungalow on the South Side of Chicago.  (Applause.)  They knew these values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke, a baseball cap or a hijab.  (Applause.)


America has changed over the years.  But these values that my grandparents taught me — they haven’t gone anywhere.  They’re as strong as ever, still cherished by people of every party, every race, every faith.  They live on in each of us.  What makes us American, what makes us patriots is what’s in here.  That’s what matters.  (Applause.)


And that’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries, and blend it into something uniquely our own.  That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here.  That’s why our military can look the way it does — every shade of humanity, forged into common service.  (Applause.)  That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end.  (Applause.)


That is America.  That is America.  Those bonds of affection; that common creed.  We don’t fear the future; we shape it.  We embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own.  That’s what Hillary Clinton understands — this fighter, this stateswoman, this mother and grandmother, this public servant, this patriot — that’s the America she’s fighting for.  (Applause.)


And that is why I have confidence, as I leave this stage tonight, that the Democratic Party is in good hands.  My time in this office, it hasn’t fixed everything.  As much as we’ve done, there’s still so much I want to do.  But for all the tough lessons I’ve had to learn, for all the places where I’ve fallen short — I’ve told Hillary, and I’ll tell you, what’s picked me back up every single time:  It’s been you.  The American people. (Applause.)


It’s the letter I keep on my wall from a survivor in Ohio who twice almost lost everything to cancer, but urged me to keep fighting for health care reform, even when the battle seemed lost.  Do not quit.


It’s the painting I keep in my private office, a big-eyed, green owl with blue wings, made by a seven year-old girl who was taken from us in Newtown, given to me by her parents so I wouldn’t forget — a reminder of all the parents who have turned their grief into action.  (Applause.)


It’s the small business owner in Colorado who cut most of his own salary so he wouldn’t have to lay off any of his workers in the recession — because, he said, “that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of America.”


It’s the conservative in Texas who said he disagreed with me on everything, but he appreciated that, like him, I try to be a good dad.  (Applause.)


It’s the courage of the young soldier from Arizona who nearly died on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but who has learned to speak again and walk again — and earlier this year, stepped through the door of the Oval Office on his own power, to salute and shake my hand.  (Applause.)


It is every American who believed we could change this country for the better, so many of you who’d never been involved in politics, who picked up phones and hit the streets, and used the Internet in amazing new ways that I didn’t really understand, but made change happen.  You are the best organizers on the planet, and I am so proud of all the change that you made possible.  (Applause.)


Time and again, you’ve picked me up.  And I hope, sometimes, I picked you up, too.  (Applause.)  And tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me.  (Applause.)  I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me.  Because you’re who I was talking about 12 years ago when I talked about hope.  It’s been you who fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds were great; even when the road is long.  Hope in the face of difficulty.  Hope in the face of uncertainty.  The audacity of hope.  (Applause.)


America, you’ve vindicated that hope these past eight years. And now I’m ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen.  So this year, in this election, I’m asking you to join me — to reject cynicism and reject fear, and to summon what is best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next President of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation.  (Applause.)


Thank you for this incredible journey.  Let’s keep it going. God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Sanders: Political revolution must continue into the future

Election days come and go. But political and social revolutions that attempt to transform our society never end. They continue every day, every week and every month in the fight to create a nation of social and economic justice. That’s what the trade union movement is about. That’s what the civil rights movement is about. That’s what the women’s movement is about. That’s what the gay rights movement is about. That’s what the environmental movement is about.

And that’s what this campaign has been about over the past year. That’s what the political revolution is about and that’s why the political revolution must continue into the future.

Real change never takes place from the top down, or in the living rooms of wealthy campaign contributors. It always occurs from the bottom on up – when tens of millions of people say “enough is enough” and become engaged in the fight for justice. That’s what the political revolution we helped start is all about. That’s why the political revolution must continue.

When we began this campaign a little over a year ago, we had no political organization, no money and very little name recognition. The media determined that we were a fringe campaign. Nobody thought we were going anywhere.

Well, a lot has changed over a year.

During this campaign, we won more than 12 million votes. We won 22 state primaries and caucuses. We came very close – within 2 points or less – in five more states.

In other words, our vision for the future of this country is not some kind of fringe idea. It is not a radical idea. It is mainstream. It is what millions of Americans believe in and want to see happen.

And something else extraordinarily important happened in this campaign that makes me very optimistic about the future of our country – something that, frankly, I had not anticipated. In virtually every state that we contested we won the overwhelming majority of the votes of people 45 years of age or younger, sometimes, may I say, by huge numbers. These are the people who are determined to shape the future of this country. These are the people who ARE the future of this country.

Together, in this campaign, 1.5 million people came out to our rallies and town meetings in almost every state in the country.

Together, hundreds of thousands of volunteers made 75 million phone calls urging their fellow citizens into action.

Together, our canvassers knocked on more than 5 million doors.

Together, we hosted 74,000 meetings in every state and territory in this country.

Together, 2.7 million people made over 8 million individual contributions to our campaign – more contributions at this point than any campaign in American history. Amazingly, the bulk of those contributions came from low-income and working people whose donations averaged $27 apiece. In an unprecedented way, we showed the world that we could run a strong national campaign without being dependent on the big-money interests whose greed has done so much to damage our country.

And let me give a special thanks to the financial support we received from students struggling to repay their college loans, from seniors and disabled vets on Social Security, from workers earning starvation wages and even from people who were unemployed.

In every single state that we contested we took on virtually the entire political establishment – U.S. senators, members of Congress, governors, mayors, state legislators and local party leaders. To those relatively few elected officials who had the courage to stand with us, I say thank you. We must continue working together into the future.

This campaign has never been about any single candidate. It is always about transforming America.

It is about ending a campaign finance system which is corrupt and allows billionaires to buy elections.

It is about ending the grotesque level of wealth and income inequality that we are experiencing where almost all new wealth and income goes to the people on top, where the 20 wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom 150 million.

It is about creating an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.

It is about ending the disgrace of native Americans who live on the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, reservation having a life expectancy lower than many third-world countries.

It is about ending the incredible despair that exists in many parts of this country where – as a result of unemployment and low wages, suicide, drugs and alcohol – millions of Americans are now dying, in an ahistorical way, at a younger age than their parents.

It is about ending the disgrace of having the highest level of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth and having public school systems in inner cities that are totally failing our children – where kids now stand a greater chance of ending up in jail than ending up with a college degree.

It is about ending the disgrace that millions of undocumented people in this country continue to live in fear and are exploited every day on their jobs because they have no legal rights.

It is about ending the disgrace of tens of thousands of Americans dying every year from preventable deaths because they either lack health insurance, have high deductibles or cannot afford the outrageously high cost of the prescription drugs they need.

It is about ending the disgrace of hundreds of thousands of bright young people unable to go to college because their families are poor or working class, while millions more struggle with suffocating levels of student debt.

It is about ending the pain of a young single mother in Nevada, in tears, telling me that she doesn’t know how she and her daughter can make it on $10.45 an hour. And the reality that today millions of our fellow Americans are working at starvation wages.

It is about ending the disgrace of a mother in Flint, Michigan, telling me what has happened to the intellectual development of her child as a result of lead in the water in that city, of many thousands of homes in California and other communities unable to drink the polluted water that comes out of their faucets.

In America. In the year 2016. In a nation whose infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes.

It is about ending the disgrace that too many veterans still sleep out on the streets, that homelessness is increasing and that tens of millions of Americans, because of a lack of affordable housing, are paying 40, 50 percent or more of their limited incomes to put a roof over their heads.

It is about ending the disgrace that, in a given year, corporations making billions in profit avoid paying a nickel in taxes because they stash their money in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

This campaign is about defeating Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for president. After centuries of racism, sexism and discrimination of all forms in our country we do not need a major party candidate who makes bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign. We cannot have a president who insults Mexicans and Latinos, Muslims, women and African-Americans. We cannot have a president who, in the midst of so much income and wealth inequality, wants to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the very rich. We cannot have a president who, despite all of the scientific evidence, believes that climate change is a hoax.

The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.

But defeating Donald Trump cannot be our only goal. We must continue our grassroots efforts to create the America that we know we can become. And we must take that energy into the Democratic National Convention on July 25 in Philadelphia where we will have more than 1,900 delegates.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Clinton and discuss some of the very important issues facing our country and the Democratic Party. It is no secret that Secretary Clinton and I have strong disagreements on some very important issues. It is also true that our views are quite close on others. I look forward, in the coming weeks, to continued discussions between the two campaigns to make certain that your voices are heard and that the Democratic Party passes the most progressive platform in its history and that Democrats actually fight for that agenda. I also look forward to working with Secretary Clinton to transform the Democratic Party so that it becomes a party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors: a party that has the courage to take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry and the other powerful special interests that dominate our political and economic life.

As I have said throughout this campaign, the Democratic Party must support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.

We must ensure that women will no longer make 79-cents on the dollar compared to men and that we fight for pay equity.

We must fight to make certain that women throughout the country have the right to control their own bodies.

We must protect the right of our gay brothers and sisters to marriage equality in every state America.

As the recent tragedy in Orlando has made crystal clear, we must ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons, end the gun show loophole and expand instant background checks.

We must defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership and make certain that that bad trade deal does not get a vote in a lame-duck session of Congress.

We must resist all efforts to cut Social Security and, in fact, expand benefits for our seniors and disabled veterans.

We must understand that the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street has to end, that we need to pass modern-day Glass-Steagall legislation and that we need to break up the biggest financial institutions in this country who not only remain too big to fail but who prevent the kind of vigorous competition that a healthy financial system requires.

We must aggressively combat climate change and transform our energy system, move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and impose a tax on carbon. It means that, in order to protect our water supply, we ban fracking.

We must compete effectively in a global economy by making public colleges and universities tuition free and substantially reduce student debt.

We must join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people as a right and not a privilege.

We must end the disgrace of having more people in jail than any other country on earth and move toward real criminal justice reform at the federal, state and local levels.

We must pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path toward citizenship for 11 million undocumented people.

We must take a hard look at the waste, cost overruns and inefficiencies in every branch of government –including the Department of Defense. And we must make certain our brave young men and women in the military are not thrown into perpetual warfare in the Middle East or other wars we should not be fighting.

But the political revolution means much more than fighting for our ideals at the Democratic National Convention and defeating Donald Trump.

It means that, at every level, we continue the fight to make our society a nation of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.

It means that we can no longer ignore the fact that, sadly, the current Democratic Party leadership has turned its back on dozens of states in this country and has allowed right-wing politicians to win elections in some states with virtually no opposition – including some of the poorest states in America. The Democratic Party needs a 50-state strategy. We may not win in every state tomorrow but we will never win unless we recruit good candidates and develop organizations that can compete effectively in the future. We must provide resources to those states which have so long been ignored.

Most importantly, the Democratic Party needs leadership which is prepared to open its doors and welcome into its ranks working people and young people. That is the energy that we need to transform the Democratic Party, take on the special interests and transform our country.

Here is a cold, hard fact that must be addressed. Since 2009, some 900 legislative seats have been lost to Republicans in state after state throughout this country. In fact, the Republican Party now controls 31 state legislatures and controls both the governors’ mansions and statehouses in 23 states. That is unacceptable.

We need to start engaging at the local and state level in an unprecedented way. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers helped us make political history during the last year. These are people deeply concerned about the future of our country and their own communities. Now we need many of them to start running for school boards, city councils, county commissions, state legislatures and governorships. State and local governments make enormously important decisions and we cannot allow right-wing Republicans to increasingly control them.

I hope very much that many of you listening tonight are prepared to engage at that level. Please go to my website at berniesanders.com/win to learn more about how you can effectively run for office or get involved in politics at the local or state level. I have no doubt that with the energy and enthusiasm our campaign has shown that we can win significant numbers of local and state elections if people are prepared to become involved. I also hope people will give serious thought to running for statewide offices and the U.S. Congress.

And when we talk about transforming America, it is not just about elections. Many of my Republican colleagues believe that government is the enemy, that we need to eviscerate and privatize virtually all aspects of government – whether it is Social Security, Medicare, the VA, EPA, the Postal Service or public education. I strongly disagree. In a democratic civilized society, government must play an enormously important role in protecting all of us and our planet. But in order for government to work efficiently and effectively, we need to attract great and dedicated people from all walks of life. We need people who are dedicated to public service and can provide the services we need in a high quality and efficient way.

When we talk about a Medicare-for-all health care program and the need to make sure all of our people have quality health care, it means that we need tens of thousands of new doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists and other medical personnel who are prepared to practice in areas where people today lack access to that care.

It means that we need hundreds of thousands of people to become childcare workers and teachers so that our young people will get the best education available in the world.

It means that as we combat climate change and transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, we need scientists and engineers and entrepreneurs who will help us make energy efficiency, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal and other developing technologies as efficient and cost effective as possible.

It means that as we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, we need millions of skilled construction workers of all kinds.

It means that when we talk about growing our economy and creating jobs, we need great business people who can produce and distribute the products and services we need in a way that respects their employees and the environment.

In other words, we need a new generation of people actively involved in public service who are prepared to provide the quality of life the American people deserve.

Let me conclude by once again thanking everyone who has helped in this campaign in one way or another. We have begun the long and arduous process of transforming America, a fight that will continue tomorrow, next week, next year and into the future.

My hope is that when future historians look back and describe how our country moved forward into reversing the drift toward oligarchy, and created a government which represents all the people and not just the few, they will note that, to a significant degree, that effort began with the political revolution of 2016.

Thank you very much. Good night.


Transcript: Remarks by the president on 50th anniversary of Selma March

The following is a transcript of the remarks delivered by President Barack Obama on March 7 at the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The president began the speech at about 2:17 p.m. at the bridge in Selma, Alabama.

The transcript: 

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, President Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know I love you back.  (Applause.) 

It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes.  And John Lewis is one of my heroes.

     Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning 50 years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind.  A day like this was not on his mind.  Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about.  Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked.  A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones.  The air was thick with doubt, anticipation and fear.  And they comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:

     “No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.”

     And then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, and a book on government — all you need for a night behind bars — John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.

     President and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Mayor Evans, Sewell, Reverend Strong, members of Congress, elected officials, foot soldiers, friends, fellow Americans:

     As John noted, there are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided.  Many are sites of war — Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg.  Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character — Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.

     Selma is such a place.  In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history — the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher — all that history met on this bridge.  

     It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the true meaning of America.  And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others, the idea of a just America and a fair America, an inclusive America, and a generous America — that idea ultimately triumphed.

     As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation.  The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.

     We gather here to celebrate them.  We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching towards justice.

     They did as Scripture instructed:  “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  And in the days to come, they went back again and again.  When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came –- black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope.  A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing.  (Laughter.)  To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.

     In time, their chorus would well up and reach President Johnson.  And he would send them protection, and speak to the nation, echoing their call for America and the world to hear:  “We shall overcome.”  (Applause.)  What enormous faith these men and women had.  Faith in God, but also faith in America.  

     The Americans who crossed this bridge, they were not physically imposing.  But they gave courage to millions.  They held no elected office.  But they led a nation.  They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, countless daily indignities –- but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.  (Applause.)

     What they did here will reverberate through the ages.  Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible, that love and hope can conquer hate.

     As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them.  Back then, they were called Communists, or half-breeds, or outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse –- they were called everything but the name their parents gave them.  Their faith was questioned.  Their lives were threatened.  Their patriotism challenged.

     And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?  (Applause.)  What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people –- unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many, coming together to shape their country’s course? 

     What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?  (Applause.)

     That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience.  That’s why it’s not a museum or a static monument to behold from a distance.  It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents:  “We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.”  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  (Applause.) 

     These are not just words.  They’re a living thing, a call to action, a roadmap for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny.  For founders like Franklin and Jefferson, for leaders like Lincoln and FDR, the success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all of our citizens in this work.  And that’s what we celebrate here in Selma.  That’s what this movement was all about, one leg in our long journey toward freedom.  (Applause.)  

     The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge, that’s the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny.  It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot, workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.  (Applause.) 

     It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths.  It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo.  That’s America.  (Applause.)  

     That’s what makes us unique.  That’s what cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity.  Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down that wall.  Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid.  Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule.  They saw what John Lewis had done.  From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest power and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom. 

     They saw that idea made real right here in Selma, Alabama.  They saw that idea manifest itself here in America.

     Because of campaigns like this, a Voting Rights Act was passed.  Political and economic and social barriers came down.  And the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities; from the Congressional Black Caucus all the way to the Oval Office.  (Applause.)   

     Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for black folks, but for every American.  Women marched through those doors.  Latinos marched through those doors.  Asian Americans, gay Americans, Americans with disabilities — they all came through those doors.  (Applause.)  Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past. 

     What a glorious thing, Dr. King might say.  And what a solemn debt we owe.  Which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt?

     First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough.  If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done.  (Applause.)  The American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.

     Selma teaches us, as well, that action requires that we shed our cynicism.  For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.

     Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country.  And I understood the question; the report’s narrative was sadly familiar.  It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement.  But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed.  What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic.  It’s no longer sanctioned by law or by custom.  And before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.  (Applause.)

     We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America.  If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or Los Angeles of the 1950s.  Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed.  Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago.  To deny this progress, this hard-won progress -– our progress –- would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better. 

     Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that Ferguson is an isolated incident; that racism is banished; that the work that drew men and women to Selma is now complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes.  We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true.  We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us.  

     We know the march is not yet over.  We know the race is not yet won.  We know that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged, all of us, by the content of our character requires admitting as much, facing up to the truth.  “We are capable of bearing a great burden,” James Baldwin once wrote, “once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.” 

     There’s nothing America can’t handle if we actually look squarely at the problem.  And this is work for all Americans, not just some.  Not just whites.  Not just blacks.  If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination.  All of us will need to feel as they did the fierce urgency of now.  All of us need to recognize as they did that change depends on our actions, on our attitudes, the things we teach our children.  And if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.  (Applause.) 

     With such an effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some.  Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on –- the idea that police officers are members of the community they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland, they just want the same thing young people here marched for 50 years ago -– the protection of the law.  (Applause.)  Together, we can address unfair sentencing and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and good workers, and good neighbors.  (Applause.)

     With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity.  Americans don’t accept a free ride for anybody, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes.  But we do expect equal opportunity.  And if we really mean it, if we’re not just giving lip service to it, but if we really mean it and are willing to sacrifice for it, then, yes, we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts sights and gives those children the skills they need.  We can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job, and a fair wage, and a real voice, and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class.

     And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge –- and that is the right to vote.  (Applause.)  Right now, in 2015, 50 years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote.  As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed.  Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, the Voting Rights Act stands weakened, its future subject to political rancor.

     How can that be?  The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic efforts.  (Applause.)  President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office.  President George W. Bush signed its renewal when he was in office.  (Applause.)  One hundred members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right to protect it.  If we want to honor this day, let that hundred go back to Washington and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore that law this year.  That’s how we honor those on this bridge.  (Applause.) 

     Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or even the President alone.  If every new voter-suppression law was struck down today, we would still have, here in America, one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples.  Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar, the number of bubbles on a bar of soap.  It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. 

     What’s our excuse today for not voting?  How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought?  (Applause.)  How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?  Why are we pointing to somebody else when we could take the time just to go to the polling places?  (Applause.)  We give away our power.   

     Fellow marchers, so much has changed in 50 years.  We have endured war and we’ve fashioned peace.  We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives.  We take for granted conveniences that our parents could have scarcely imagined.  But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship; that willingness of a 26-year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.

     That’s what it means to love America.  That’s what it means to believe in America.  That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional. 

     For we were born of change.  We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.  We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people.  That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction — because we know our efforts matter.  We know America is what we make of it.

     Look at our history.  We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters.  That’s our spirit.  That’s who we are.

     We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some.  And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth.  That is our character.

     We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan.  We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life.  That’s how we came to be.  (Applause.)

     We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South.  (Applause.)  We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

     We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent.  And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied. 

     We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge. (Applause.)  

     We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

     We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.

     We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.  (Applause.)   

     We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”  We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

     That’s what America is.  Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others.  (Applause.)  We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past.  We don’t fear the future; we grab for it.  America is not some fragile thing.  We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes.  We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.  That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe old age of 25 could lead a mighty march.  

     And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day.  You are America.  Unconstrained by habit and convention.  Unencumbered by what is, because you’re ready to seize what ought to be.  

     For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there’s new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed.  And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.

     Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.  Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.”  “We The People.”  “We Shall Overcome.”  “Yes We Can.”  (Applause.)  That word is owned by no one.  It belongs to everyone.  Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.

     Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we’re getting closer.  Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer.  Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile.  Somebody already got us over that bridge.  When it feels the road is too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on [the] wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not be faint.”  (Applause.) 

     We honor those who walked so we could run.  We must run so our children soar.  And we will not grow weary.  For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.

     May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America.  Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) 

On the Web…

Watch the speech. 

For the record: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s inaugural address

Here are the remarks Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker prepared for his second inaugural address:

Today, I thank God for His grace; for the privilege of living in such a remarkable country; and for growing up in the greatest state in the nation. As the son of a small town pastor and a part-time secretary in Delavan, it is quite an honor to serve as your Governor. Thank you for that cherished opportunity.

I want to thank my family: Tonette—who is my rock and an amazing First Lady; our sons, Matt and Alex—who have done an outstanding job serving as our masters of ceremony here today; my parents, Llew and Pat Walker—who always set a powerful example of how to serve others; my brother, David, sister-in-law, Maria, and their girls, Isabella and Eva; and to all of my other family members—I am grateful for all of your tremendous love and devotion.

Thanks go out to all who are participants in our ceremony today. I am particularly grateful to the members of the 132nd Army Band and all of the other members of the Wisconsin National Guard—not only for your services today, but for the ongoing support of our many brave men and women who are deployed even as we speak. Our prayers go out to each and every one of you.

And a special thank you as well to all of our outstanding veterans who served our country so faithfully. We salute you.

And thank you to all of the people across Wisconsin who have offered your support and prayers to my family. We are so very grateful.

You see, years ago, Tonette and I sat down and prayed about getting in the race for Governor. We knew statewide elections are tough, but we were willing to make the sacrifice to ensure our sons would grow up in a Wisconsin that is as great as the one we grew up in.

Thankfully, because of our reforms, Matt and Alex’s generation is growing up in an even better Wisconsin.

They are young people, like my sons, as well as the daughters of our Lt. Governor and of our Attorney General. The Kids from Wisconsin, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Green Bay Girl Choir, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Falls Baptist Music School Choirs and Chamber Orchestra, the Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Immersion School, and the Bruce Guadalupe Community School Jazz Band—each of them here today represent all of the sons and daughters from across this great state.

Our children are leading this inauguration ceremony as a reminder of our big dreams for them—and for the future of this great state.

The founders of Wisconsin had a grand vision as well. These ideals are laid out in the state Constitution that now rests here in this rotunda.

After the preamble, the start of this treasured document now reads:

“All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; to secure these rights, governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

These are powerful words. A few moments ago, I took an oath to support this constitution and the Constitution of the United States. I take that charge seriously.

Unlike other places around the world, this document says, in Wisconsin, it doesn’t matter what class you were born into or what your parents did for a living. Here, our opportunities should be as equal as possible, but the outcomes should still be up to each and every one of us.

In Wisconsin, we understand that true freedom and prosperity do not come from the mighty hand of the government. They come from empowering people to control their own lives and their own destinies through the dignity born from work.

In Wisconsin, we understand people create jobs, not the government. Those who choose to employ—be it one or many—are to be appreciated and encouraged, so as to prosper and increase employment for others in the future.

In Wisconsin, we understand the best way to improve lives and strengthen families, as well as raise wages, is to assist people to get a better education and to acquire more skills. This is how we grow household incomes, while putting people to work.

Since I last stood at this podium, our state has become more free and prosperous. We took the power away from big government special interests and returned it to you—the hard-working taxpayers. More people are working and fewer are unemployed. School scores have improved and more of our students are graduating from high school.

Our retirement system is the only one fully funded in the country. The state’s pension and debt ratio is one of the best. And Wisconsin’s bond rating is positive.

In contrast to the politicians along the Potomac, we get things done here in the Badger state. There is a clear contrast between Washington and Wisconsin.

We’ve been good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and lowered their tax burden as well. We’ve shown why the founders of this great nation looked to the states—and not the federal government—as the source of hope for this exceptional country. We will not let them down.

Now, we have a grand vision for the future—a dream of freedom and prosperity for all who live here in the great state of Wisconsin.

We will help our fellow citizens—regardless of mobility or income, station or status in life—to achieve the education and skills needed to succeed in their chosen occupations. This will not only help fill positions open today, but will build confidence in employers that they can create new jobs and find qualified workers to fill them.

We will ensure every child—regardless of background or birthright—has access to a quality education. For many, like my sons and me, it is in a traditional public school. For others, it may be in a charter, a private, a virtual or even a home school environment. Regardless, we will empower families to make the choice that is right for their sons and daughters.

We will reduce the size and scope of government to match the will of the people. State agencies will be merged to make them more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the public. We will continue to weed out waste, fraud, and abuse. Budgets will be set based on the taxpayers’ ability to pay and not on the government’s ability to spend.

We will build the needed infrastructure to support a thriving economy. A transportation system to assist major industries, like manufacturing, agriculture, forest products, and tourism is a key part of this infrastructure. So is broadband internet access to connect every part of the state to the global economy and cost effective and reliable sources of power to fuel our growing economy.

Overall, everyone in this state should have an opportunity to live their piece of the American Dream—right here in Wisconsin.

For some, that dream might be succeeding in their chosen career—and maybe even starting their own business someday.

For others, that dream might mean owning their own home.

But for many of us, that dream is as simple as ensuring our children live in a place that it is better than the place we grew up in. As mentioned, Tonette and I decided to run for Governor years ago because we wanted our sons to grow up in a state where they, and future generations, have the opportunity to dream big and work hard to make those dreams a reality.

After traveling this state, I believe that we are not alone. Visiting factories and farms and small businesses on a frequent basis, I find mothers and fathers just like Tonette and me. They work hard each day for more than a paycheck or a title. They work hard, so their children can have a better life than they did.

That’s what I want for Wisconsin. Working together, I believe we can create a state that is even better than the Wisconsin we grew up in.

Help us realize that dream of freedom and prosperity for all. For the sake of the children at this ceremony; for all of the others like them across this great state; and for countless generations yet to be born, we cannot let them down. We will not let them down. We will move Wisconsin forward.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the great State of Wisconsin.

Transcript: President Barack Obama’s post-election remarks

President Barack Obama held a news conference at the White House the afternoon after the midterm election.

The following is a transcript of the president’s remarks, and then the question-and-answer session with the press.

Good afternoon, everybody.  Have a seat.

Today, I had a chance to speak with John Boehner and congratulated Mitch McConnell on becoming the next Senate Majority Leader.  And I told them both that I look forward to finishing up this Congress’ business, and then working together for the next two years to advance America’s business.  And I very much appreciated Leader McConnell’s words last night about the prospect of working together to deliver for the American people. On Friday, I look forward to hosting the entire Republican and Democratic leadership at the White House to chart a new course forward. 

Obviously, Republicans had a good night, and they deserve credit for running good campaigns.  Beyond that, I’ll leave it to all of you and the professional pundits to pick through yesterday’s results.  What stands out to me, though, is that the American people sent a message, one that they’ve sent for several elections now.  They expect the people they elect to work as hard as they do.  They expect us to focus on their ambitions and not ours.  They want us to get the job done. 

All of us, in both parties, have a responsibility to address that sentiment.  Still, as President, I have a unique responsibility to try and make this town work.  So, to everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you.  To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too.  All of us have to give more Americans a reason to feel like the ground is stable beneath their feet, that the future is secure, that there’s a path for young people to succeed, and that folks here in Washington are concerned about them.  So I plan on spending every moment of the next two-plus years doing my job the best I can to keep this country safe and to make sure that more Americans share in its prosperity.

This country has made real progress since the crisis six years ago.  The fact is more Americans are working; unemployment has come down.  More Americans have health insurance.  Manufacturing has grown.  Our deficits have shrunk.  Our dependence on foreign oil is down, as are gas prices.  Our graduation rates are up.  Our businesses aren’t just creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, our economy is outpacing most of the world.  But we’ve just got to keep at it until every American feels the gains of a growing economy where it matters most, and that’s in their own lives. 

Obviously, much of that will take action from Congress.  And I’m eager to work with the new Congress to make the next two years as productive as possible.  I’m committed to making sure that I measure ideas not by whether they are from Democrats or Republicans, but whether they work for the American people.  And that’s not to say that we won’t disagree over some issues that we’re passionate about.  We will.  Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign.  I’m pretty sure I’ll take some actions that some in Congress will not like.  That’s natural.  That’s how our democracy works.  But we can surely find ways to work together on issues where there’s broad agreement among the American people.

So I look forward to Republicans putting forward their governing agenda.  I will offer my ideas on areas where I think we can move together to respond to people’s economic needs.

So, just take one example.  We all agree on the need to create more jobs that pay well.  Traditionally, both parties have been for creating jobs rebuilding our infrastructure — our roads, bridges, ports, waterways.  I think we can hone in on a way to pay for it through tax reform that closes loopholes and makes it more attractive for companies to create jobs here in the United States. 

We can also work together to grow our exports and open new markets for our manufacturers to sell more American-made goods to the rest of the world.  That’s something I’ll be focused on when I travel to Asia next week.

We all share the same aspirations for our young people.  And I was encouraged that this year Republicans agreed to investments that expanded early childhood education.  I think we’ve got a chance to do more on that front.  We’ve got some common ideas to help more young people afford college and graduate without crippling debt so that they have the freedom to fill the good jobs of tomorrow and buy their first homes and start a family. 

And in the five states where a minimum wage increase was on the ballot last night, voters went five for five to increase it. That will give about 325,000 Americans a raise in states where Republican candidates prevailed.  So that should give us new reason to get it done for everybody, with a national increase in the minimum wage.

So those are some areas where I think we’ve got some real opportunities to cooperate.  And I am very eager to hear Republican ideas for what they think we can do together over the next couple of years.  Of course, there’s still business on the docket that needs attention this year.  And here are three places where I think we can work together over the next several weeks, before this Congress wraps up for the holidays.

First, I’m submitting a request to Congress for funding to ensure that our doctors, scientists, and troops have the resources that they need to combat the spread of Ebola in Africa and to increase our preparedness for any future cases here at home.

Second, I’m going to begin engaging Congress over a new Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIL.  The world needs to know we are united behind this effort, and the men and women of our military deserve our clear and unified support.

Third, back in September, Congress passed short-term legislation to keep the government open and operating into December.  That gives Congress five weeks to pass a budget for the rest of the fiscal year.  And I hope that they’ll do it in the same bipartisan, drama-free way that they did earlier this year.  When our companies are steadily creating jobs — which they are — we don’t want to inject any new uncertainty into the world economy and to the American economy.

The point is it’s time for us to take care of business.  There are things this country has to do that can’t wait another two years or another four years.  There are plans this country has to put in place for our future. 

And the truth is I’m optimistic about our future.  I have good reason to be.  I meet Americans all across the country who are determined, and big-hearted, and ask what they can do, and never give up, and overcome obstacles.  And they inspire me every single day.  So the fact is I still believe in what I said when I was first elected six years ago last night.  For all the maps plastered across our TV screens today, and for all the cynics who say otherwise, I continue to believe we are simply more than just a collection of red and blue states.  We are the United States. 

And whether it’s immigration or climate change, or making sure our kids are going to the best possible schools, to making sure that our communities are creating jobs; whether it’s stopping the spread of terror and disease, to opening up doors of opportunity to everybody who’s willing to work hard and take responsibility — the United States has big things to do.  We can and we will make progress if we do it together.  And I look forward to the work ahead.

So, with that, let me take some questions.  I think that our team has got my list.  And we’re going to start with Julie Pace at Associated Press.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You said during this election that while your name wasn’t on the ballot, your policies were.  And despite the optimism that you’re expressing here, last night was a devastating night for your party.  Given that, do you feel any responsibility to recalibrate your agenda for the next two years?  And what changes do you need to make in your White House and in your dealings with Republicans in order to address the concerns that voters expressed with your administration?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as I said in my opening remarks, the American people overwhelmingly believe that this town doesn’t work well and that it is not attentive to their needs.  And as President, they, rightly, hold me accountable to do more to make it work properly.  I’m the guy who’s elected by everybody, not just from a particular state or a particular district.  And they want me to push hard to close some of these divisions, break through some of the gridlock, and get stuff done.  So the most important thing I can do is just get stuff done, and help Congress get some things done. 

In terms of agenda items, though, Julie, if you look, as I just mentioned, to a minimum wage increase, for example, that’s something I talked about a lot during the campaign.  Where voters had a chance to vote directly on that agenda item, they voted for it.  And so I think it would be hard to suggest that people aren’t supportive of it.  We know that the surveys consistently say they want to see that happen. 

The key is to find areas where the agenda that I’ve put forward, one that I believe will help strengthen the middle class and create more ladders of opportunity into the middle class, and improve our schools, and make college more affordable to more young people, and make sure that we’re growing faster as an economy and we stay competitive — the key is to make sure that those ideas that I have overlap somewhere with some of the ideas that Republicans have. 

There’s not going to be perfect overlap.  I mean, there are going to be some ideas that I’ve got that I think the evidence backs up would be good for the economy; and Republicans disagree. They’re not going to support those ideas.  But I’m going to keep on arguing for them because I think they’re the right thing for the country to do.  There are going to be some ideas that they’ve got that they believe will improve the economy or create jobs that, from my perspective, isn’t going to help middle-class families improve their economic situation, so I probably won’t support theirs. 

But I do think there are going to be areas where we do agree — on infrastructure, on making sure that we’re boosting American exports.  And part of my task then is to reach out to Republicans, make sure that I’m listening to them.  I’m looking forward to them putting forward a very specific agenda in terms of what they would like to accomplish.  Let’s compare notes in terms of what I’m looking at and what they’re looking at, and let’s get started on those things where we agree.  Even if we don’t agree 100 percent, let’s get started on those things where we agree 70, 80, 90 percent.  And if we can do that, and build up some trust and improve how processes work in Washington, then I think that’s going to give the American people a little bit more confidence that, in fact, their government is looking after them.

Q    But is there anything specific that you feel like you and your administration need to change given this disastrous election for your party and the message that voters sent?

THE PRESIDENT:  Julie, I think every single day I’m looking for, how can we do what we need to do better.  Whether that is delivering basic services the government provides to the American people; whether that is our capacity to work with Congress so that they’re passing legislation; whether it’s how we communicate with the American people about what our priorities and vision is — we are constantly asking ourselves questions about how do we make sure that we’re doing a better job.  And that’s not going to stop.  I think that every election is a moment for reflection, and I think that everybody in this White House is going to look and say, all right, what do we need to do differently.

But the principles that we’re fighting for, the things that motivate me every single day and motivate my staff every day — those things aren’t going to change.  There’s going to be a consistent focus on how do we deliver more opportunity to more people in this country; how do we grow the economy faster; how do we put more people back to work.

And I maybe have a naïve confidence that if we continue to focus on the American people, and not on our own ambitions or image or various concerns like that, that at the end of the day, when I look back, I’m going to be able to say the American people are better off than they were before I was President.  And that’s my most important goal.

But the other thing I just want to emphasize is I’m — I’ve said this before, I want to reiterate it — if there are ideas that the Republicans have that I have confidence will make things better for ordinary Americans, the fact that the Republicans suggesting it as opposed to a Democrat, that will be irrelevant to me.  I want to just see what works.

And there are some things like rebuilding our infrastructure or early childhood education that we know works.  And I’m hoping that the kind of attitude and approach that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have already expressed, their desire to get things done, allows us to find some common ground.

Jeff Mason.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  In 2010, you called the result of the midterm election “a shellacking.”  What do you call this?  And can you give us an update on your feelings about the immigration executive order in the result — in the aftermath of this election?  Does the election affect your plans to release it?  Will it still — is it likely to come out before the lame duck session is over?  And have you reduced its scope to just a couple million people? 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as I said in my opening statement, there’s no doubt that Republicans had a good night.  And what we’re going to make sure that we do is to reach out to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, who are now running both chambers in Congress, and find out what their agenda is.  And my hope is, is that they’ve got some specific things they want to do that correspond with some things that we want to get done.

What’s most important to the American people right now, the resounding message not just of this election, but basically the last several is:  Get stuff done.  Don’t worry about the next election.  Don’t worry about party affiliation.  Do worry about our concerns.  Worry about the fact that I’m a single mom, and at the end of the month it’s really hard for me to pay the bills, in part because I’ve got these huge child care costs.

     Do worry about the fact that I’m a young person who’s qualified to go to college, but I’m really worried about taking $50,000 a year out in debt and I don’t know how I’d pay that back.

     Do worry about the fact that I’m a construction worker who has been working all my life, and I know that there’s construction work that should be done, but right now, for some reason, projects are stalled.

     If we’re thinking about those folks I think we’re, hopefully, going to be able to get some stuff done.

     In terms of immigration, I have consistently said that it is my profound preference and interest to see Congress act on a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would strengthen our borders; would streamline our legal immigration system so that it works better and we’re attracting the best and the brightest from around the world; and that we give an opportunity for folks who’ve lived here, in many cases, for a very long time, may have kids who are U.S. citizens, but aren’t properly documented — give them a chance to pay their back taxes, get in the back of the line, but get through a process that allows them to get legal.

     The Senate, on a bipartisan basis, passed a good bill.  It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was a sound, smart, piece of legislation that really would greatly improve not just our immigration system but our economy, and would improve business conditions here in the United States — and make sure that American-born workers aren’t undercut by workers who are undocumented and aren’t always paid a fair wage and, as a consequence, employers who are breaking the rules are able to undercut folks who are doing the right thing.

     So we got a bipartisan bill out of the Senate.  I asked John Boehner at that point, can we pass this through the House?  There’s a majority of votes in the House to get this passed.  And Speaker Boehner I think was sincere about wanting to pass it, but had difficulty over the last year trying to get it done. 

So when he finally told me he wasn’t going to call it up this year, what I indicated to him is I feel obliged to do everything I can lawfully with my executive authority to make sure that we don’t keep on making the system worse, but that whatever executive actions that I take will be replaced and supplanted by action by Congress.  You send me a bill that I can sign, and those executive actions go away. 

That’s a commitment I made not just to the American people  — and to businesses and the evangelical community and the law enforcement folks and everybody who’s looked at this issue and thinks that we need immigration reform — that’s a commitment that I also made to John Boehner, that I would act in the absence of action by Congress.

     So before the end of the year, we’re going to take whatever lawful actions that I can take that I believe will improve the functioning of our immigration system that will allow us to surge additional resources to the border, where I think the vast majority of Americans have the deepest concern.  And at the same time, I’ll be reaching out to both Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and other Republican as well as Democratic leaders to find out how it is that they want to proceed.  And if they want to get a bill done — whether it’s during the lame duck or next year — I’m eager to see what they have to offer. 

     But what I’m not going to do is just wait.  I think it’s fair to say that I’ve shown a lot of patience and have tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible, and I’m going to keep on doing so.  But in the meantime, let’s figure out what we can do lawfully through executive actions to improve the functioning of the existing system.

Q    How will you make sure that that executive action has teeth if Republicans try to block it by blocking funding?  And can you give us a sense of whether or not you’re thinking about  —

THE PRESIDENT:  Jeff, I think if you want to get into the details of it, I suspect that when I announce that executive action, it will be rife with detail.  (Laughter.)  And I’m sure there will be a lot of follow-up questions. 

Chris Jansing. 

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I want to follow up on a couple of things and start with immigration.  And are you concerned that if you sign an executive order on immigration before the end of the year it will scuttle whatever chances there may be for there to be some sort of compromise on the issues that you talked about?  And I wonder that, given this unhappy electorate, clearly, and they seem to be disappointed with both sides pretty much, why they punished the Democrats more than the Republicans by far.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as I said, when it comes to the political analysis, that’s your job.  But what is also true is I am the President of the United States, and I think, understandably, people are going to ask for greater accountability and more responsibility from me than from anybody else in this town.  Appropriately so, and I welcome that.  And the commitment that I will make to the American people and the way I’ve tried to conduct myself throughout this presidency is that I’m going to wake up every single day doing my absolute best to deliver for them. 

And there are areas where we’ve made real progress.  I think economically, I can look back and there is no doubt that almost  — on almost every measure, we are better off economically than we were when I took office.  But what is also true is there are still a lot of folks out there who are anxious and are hurting and are having trouble making ends meet, or are worried about their children’s future.  And it’s my job to give them some confidence that this town can work to respond to some of those worries that folks have. 

And we haven’t done a good enough job convincing them of that.  And I understand that.  They’ve been watching Washington over the last two, four years.  What they’ve seen is a lot of arguing and a lot of gridlock, but not a lot of concrete actions, at least legislatively, that have made a difference in their lives.  And so we’ve got to make sure that we do a better job, and I’m committed to doing that.

On immigration, I know that concerns have been expressed that, well, if you do something through executive actions, even if it’s within your own authorities, that that will make it harder to pass immigration reform.  I just have to remind everybody I’ve heard that argument now for a couple of years.  This is an issue I actually wanted to get done in my first term, and we didn’t see legislative action.  And in my second term, I made it my top legislative priority, and we got really good work done by a bipartisan group of senators, but it froze up in the House.

And I think that the best way if folks are serious about getting immigration reform done is going ahead and passing a bill and getting it to my desk.  And then the executive actions that I take go away.  They’re superseded by the law that has passed.

And I will engage any member of Congress who’s interested in this in how we can shape legislation that will be a significant improvement over the existing system.  But what we can’t do is just keep on waiting.  There is a cost to waiting.  There’s a cost to our economy.  It means that resources are misallocated. 

When the issue of unaccompanied children cropped up during this summer, there was a lot of folks who perceived this as a major crisis in our immigration system.  Now, the fact is, is that those numbers have now come down and they’re approximately where they were a year ago or two years ago or a year before that.  But it did identify a real problem in a certain portion of the border where we got to get more resources. 

But those resources may be misallocated, separating families right now that most of us, most Americans would say probably we’d rather have them just pay their back taxes, pay a fine, learn English, get to the back of the line, but we’ll give you a pathway where you can be legal in this country.

So where I’ve got executive authorities to do that, we should get started on that.  But I want to emphasize once again, if, in fact, Republican leadership wants to see an immigration bill passed, they now have the capacity to pass it.  And hopefully engaging with me and Democrats in both the House and the Senate, it’s a bill that I can sign because it addresses the real concerns that are out there.  And the sooner they do it, from my perspective, the better.

     Jonathan Karl.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Mitch McConnell has been the Republican Leader for six years, as long as you’ve been President.  But his office tells me that he has only met with you one-on-one once or twice during that entire six-year period.  So I’m wondering, as somebody who came to Washington promising to end the hyper-partisanship that was here long before you became President but has gotten worse since you got here, was it a mistake for you to do so little to develop relationships with Republicans in Congress?

     THE PRESIDENT:  I think that every day I’m asking myself, are there some things I can do better.  And I’m going to keep on asking that every single day.  The fact is that most of my interactions with members of Congress have been cordial and they’ve been constructive.  Oftentimes, though, we just haven’t been able to actually get what’s discussed in a leadership meeting through caucuses in the House and the Senate to deliver a bill.

     The good news is that now Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are from the same party; I think they can come together and decide what their agenda is.  They’ve got sufficient majorities to make real progress on some of these issues.  And I’m certainly going to be spending a lot more time with them now because that’s the only way that we’re going to be able to get some stuff done. 

And I take them at their word that they want to produce.  They’re in the majority; they need to present their agenda.  I need to put forward my best ideas.  I think the American people are going to be able to watch us and they’re paying attention to see whether or not we’re serious about actually compromising and being constructive.  And my commitment to them — and I’ve said this when I spoke to them — is, is that anywhere where we can find common ground, I’m eager to pursue it.

     Q    Are you going to have that drink with Mitch McConnell now that you joked about at the White House Correspondents Dinner?

     THE PRESIDENT:  You know, actually, I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know what his preferred drink is, but — my interactions with Mitch McConnell, he has always been very straightforward with me. To his credit, he has never made a promise that he couldn’t deliver.  And he knows the legislative process well.  He obviously knows his caucus well — he has always given me, I think, realistic assessments of what he can get through his caucus and what he can’t.  And so I think we can have a productive relationship.

     Phil Mattingly.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Another deadline coming up is your negotiators by November 24th have to figure out if they’re going to reach a deal with Iran on a nuclear area, a nuclear agreement.  I’m interested what your current perspective is on how those negotiations are going.  Also if it is your feeling that you have the power to implement any type of agreement that’s reached without any action from Congress?  And then, also I just wanted to quickly touch on the AUMF that you mentioned earlier.  Is that going to be more of a codification of the limits that you’ve put in place for the mission up to this point?  Or what should we be looking for on that when you send it to the Hill?  Thank you.

     THE PRESIDENT:  On the AUMF, the leaders are going to be coming here on Friday.  It will be an expanded group, not just the four leaders, but a larger group who all have an interest in the issues we’re discussing today.  And I’m actually going to invite Lloyd Austin, the CENTCOM Commander, to make a presentation about how our fight against ISIL is proceeding and I think to answer questions and assure that Congress is fully briefed on what we’re doing there.

     With respect to the AUMF, we’ve already had conversations with members of both parties in Congress, and the idea is to right-size and update whatever authorization Congress provides to suit the current fight, rather than previous fights. 

     In 2001, after the heartbreaking tragedy of 9/11, we had a very specific set of missions that we had to conduct, and the AUMF was designed to pursue those missions.  With respect to Iraq, there was a very specific AUMF.

     We now have a different type of enemy.  The strategy is different.  How we partner with Iraq and other Gulf countries and the international coalition — that has to be structured differently.  So it makes sense for us to make sure that the authorization from Congress reflects what we perceive to be not just our strategy over the next two or three months, but our strategy going forward.

     And it will be a process of listening to members of Congress, as well as us presenting what we think needs to be the set of authorities that we have.  And I’m confident we’re going to be able to get that done.  And that may just be a process of us getting it started now.  It may carry over into the next Congress.

     On Iran, because of the unprecedented sanctions that we put in place that really did have a crippling effect on Iran’s economy, they’ve come to the table and they’ve negotiated seriously around providing assurances that they’re not developing a nuclear weapon for the first time.  And they have abided by the interim rules.  We have been able to freeze their program, in some cases reduce the stockpile of nuclear material that they already had in hand.  And the discussions, the negotiations have been constructive. 

The international community has been unified and cohesive.  There haven’t been a lot of cracks in our alliance.  Even countries where we have some differences, like Russia, have agreed with us and have worked with us cooperatively in trying to find ways to make sure that we can verify and have confidence going forward that Iran doesn’t have the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon that could not only threaten friends of ours like Israel, trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, but could over the long term, potentially threaten us.

     Whether we can actually get a deal done, we’re going to have to find out over the next three to four weeks.  We have presented to them a framework that would allow them to meet their peaceful energy needs.  And if, in fact, what their leadership says, that they don’t want to develop a nuclear a weapon — if that is, in fact, true, then they’ve got an avenue here to provide that assurance to the world community, and in a progressive, step-by-step, verifiable way, allow them to get out from under sanctions so that they can reenter as full-fledged members of the international community.

     But they have their own politics, and there’s a long tradition of mistrust between the two countries.  And there’s a sizeable portion of the political elite that cut its teeth on anti-Americanism and still finds it convenient to blame America for every ill that there is.  And whether they can manage to say yes to what clearly would be better for Iran, better for the region, and better for the world, is an open question.  We’ll find out over the next several weeks.

     Q    Sir, on whether or not you have the power unilaterally to relax sanctions to implement an agreement?

     THE PRESIDENT:  There are a series of different sanctions.  There are multilateral sanctions; there are U.N. sanctions;  there are sanctions that have been imposed by us, this administration, unilaterally.  And I think it’s different for each of those areas.

But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.  What I want to do is see if we, in fact, have a deal.  If we do have a deal that I have confidence will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that we can convince the world and the public will prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, then it will be time to engage in Congress.  And I think that we’ll be able to make a strong argument to Congress that this is the best way for us to avoid a nuclear Iran; that it will be more effective than any other alternatives we might take, including military action.

But that requires it being a good deal.  And I’ve said consistently that I’d rather have no deal than a bad deal — because what we don’t want to do is lift sanctions and provide Iran legitimacy but not have the verifiable mechanisms to make sure that they don’t break out and produce a nuclear weapon.

     Ed Henry.  I missed you guys.  I haven’t done this in a while.

     Q    I know, I’ve missed you.  Thank you, Mr. President.  I haven’t heard you say a specific thing during this news conference that you would do differently.  You’ve been asked it a few different ways.  I understand you’re going to reach out, but you’ve talked about doing that before.  It’s almost like you’re doubling down on the same policies and approach you’ve had for six years.  So my question is, why not pull a page from the Clinton playbook and admit you have to make a much more dramatic shift in course for these last two years?

     And on ISIS, there was pretty dramatic setback in the last few days with it appearing that the Syrian rebels have been routed.  There are some Gitmo detainees who have rejoined the battlefield, helping ISIS and other terror groups, is what the reports are suggesting.  So my question is, are we winning?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it’s too early to say whether we are winning, because as I said at the outset of the ISIL campaign, this is going to be a long-term plan to solidify the Iraqi government, to solidify their security forces, to make sure that in addition to air cover that they have the capacity to run a ground game that pushes ISIL back from some of the territories that they had taken, that we have a strong international coalition that we’ve now built, but that they are on the ground providing the training, providing the equipment, providing the supplies that are necessary for Iraqis to fight on behalf of their territory.

And what I also said was that in Syria that’s been complicated and that’s not going to be solved any time soon.  Our focus in Syria is not to solve the entire Syria situation, but rather to isolate the areas in which ISIL can operate.  And there is no doubt that because of the extraordinary bravery of our men and women in uniform, and the precision of our pilots and the strikes that have taken place, that ISIL is in a more vulnerable position and it is more difficult for them to maneuver than it was previously. 

     Now, there’s a specific issue about trying to get a moderate opposition in Syria that can serve as a partner with us on the ground.  That’s always been the hardest piece of business to get done.  There are a lot of opposition groups in Syria along a spectrum from radical jihadists who are our enemies to folks who believe in inclusive democracy, and everything in between.  They fight among each other.  They are fighting the regime. 

And what we’re trying to do is to find a core group that we can work with that we have confidence in, that we’ve vetted, that can help in regaining territory from ISIL, and then ultimately serve as a responsible party to sit at the table in eventual political negotiations that are probably some ways off in the future. 

That’s always been difficult.  As you know, one of the debates has consistently been, should the Obama administration provide more support to the opposition?  Could that have averted some of the problems that are taking place in Syria?  And as I’ve said before, part of the challenge is it’s a messy situation.  This is not a situation where we have one single unified, broad-based, effective, reliable —

     Q    — the idea that maybe we have to have —

     THE PRESIDENT:  Let me answer the question, Ed.  And so what we are going to continue to test is, can we get a more stable, effective, cohesive, moderate opposition? 

But that’s not the sole measure of whether we are “winning” or not.  Remember, our first focus, Ed, here is to drive ISIL out of Iraq.  And what we’re doing in Syria is, first and foremost, in service of reducing ISIL’s capacity to resupply and send troops, and then run back over the Syrian border — to eventually reestablish a border between Iraq and Syria so that slowly Iraq regains control of its security and its territory.  That is our number-one mission.  That is our number-one focus. 

There are aspects of what’s going on in Syria that we’ve got to deal with in order to reduce the scope of ISIL’s operations.  So, for example, our support for Kurds in Kobani, where they’ve been able to hold off ISIL and where we’ve been able to effectively strike ISIL positions consistently — that’s not just because we’re trying to solve a Syria problem.  That’s also because it gives us an opportunity to further weaken ISIL so that we can meet our number-one mission, which is Iraq. 

In terms of things to do differently, I guess, Ed, the question you’re asking is one actually I think I have answered.  If you’re asking about personnel, or if you’re asking about position on issues, or what have you, then it’s probably premature because I want to hear what —

Q    Your leadership.  Is there something about your leadership —

THE PRESIDENT:  Ed, what I’d like to do is to hear from the Republicans to find out what it is that they would like to see happen.  And what I’m committing to is making sure that I am open to working with them on the issues where they think that there’s going to be cooperation.

Now, that isn’t a change, because I’ve suggested to them before that where they think there’s areas of cooperation, I’d like to see us get some things done.  But the fact that they now control both chambers of Congress I think means that perhaps they have more confidence that they can pass their agenda and get a bill on my desk.  It means that negotiations end up perhaps being a little more real because they have larger majorities, for example, in the House and they may be able to get some things through their caucuses that they couldn’t before.

But the bottom line that the American people want to know and that I’m going to repeat here today is that my number-one goal — because I’m not running again, I’m not on the ballot, I don’t have any further political aspirations — my number-one goal is just to deliver as much as I can for the American people in these last two years.  And wherever I see an opportunity, no matter how large or how small, to make it a little bit easier for a kid to go to college, make it a little more likely that somebody is finding a good-paying job, make it a little more likely that somebody has high-quality health care — even if I’m not getting a whole loaf, I’m interested in getting whatever legislation we can get passed that adds up to improved prospects and an improved future for the American people.

Sam Stein.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Following the elections, congressional Republicans are pushing once again for major reforms to your health care act.  In the past, you’ve said you’re open to good ideas but you don’t want to undermine the bill.  Can you tell us what specific ideas you’re ruling out?  Have the election results changed your calculus on reforming the law?  And how confident are you heading into the second enrollment period? And on a totally unrelated matter — (laughter) — have you settled on a nominee to replace Attorney General Eric Holder, and if so, who is it?  (Laughter.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  You guys want to spread out your news a little bit, don’t you?  You don’t want it all in just one big bang. 

On the attorney general, we have a number of outstanding candidates who we’re taking a look at now, and in due course I will have an announcement.  And you’ll be there, Sam, when that’s announced.  But I’m confident that we’ll find somebody who is well-qualified, will elicit the confidence of the American people, will uphold their constitutional obligations and rule of law, and will get confirmed by the Senate.

     On health care, there are certainly some lines I’m going to draw.  Repeal of the law I won’t sign.  Efforts that would take away health care from the 10 million people who now have it and the millions more who are eligible to get it we’re not going to support.  In some cases there may be recommendations that Republicans have for changes that would undermine the structure of the law, and I’ll be very honest with them about that and say, look, the law doesn’t work if you pull out that piece or that piece.

     On the other hand, what I have said is there’s no law that’s ever been passed that is perfect.  And given the contentious nature in which it was passed in the first place, there are places where, if I were just drafting a bill on our own, we would have made those changes back then, and certainly as we’ve been implementing, there are some other areas where we think we can do even better.

     So if, in fact, one of the items on Mitch McConnell’s agenda and John Boehner’s agenda is to make responsible changes to the Affordable Care Act to make it work better, I’m going to be very open and receptive to hearing those ideas.  But what I will remind them is that despite all the contention, we now know that the law works.  You’ve got millions of people who have health insurance who didn’t have it before.  You’ve got states that have expanded Medicaid to folks who did not have it before, including Republican governors who’ve concluded this is a good deal for their state.

     And despite some of the previous predictions, even as we’ve enrolled more people into the Affordable Care Act and given more people the security of health insurance, health care inflation has gone done every single year since the law passed, so that we now have the lowest increase in health care costs in 50 years, which is saving us about $180 billion in reduced overall costs to the federal government in the Medicare program.

     So we are I think really proud of the work that’s been done. But there’s no doubt that there are areas where we can improve it.  So I’ll look forward to see what list they’ve got of improvements.

     Q    Is the individual mandate one of those lines you can’t cross?

     THE PRESIDENT:  The individual mandate is a line I can’t cross because the concept, borrowed from Massachusetts, from a law instituted by a former opponent of mine, Mitt Romney, understood that if you’re providing health insurance to people through the private marketplace, then you’ve got to make sure that people can’t game the system and just wait until they get sick before they go try to buy health insurance.  You can’t ensure that people with preexisting conditions can get health insurance unless you also say, while you’re healthy, before you need it, you’ve got to get health insurance. 

And obviously, there are hardship exemptions.  We understand that there are some folks who, even with the generous subsidies that have been provided, still can’t afford it.  But that’s a central component of the law.

     In terms of enrollment, we’ll do some additional announcements about that in the days to come.  Starting in the middle of this month, people can sign up again.  I think there are a number of people who the first time around sat on the sidelines in part because of our screw-ups on healthcare.gov.

That’s one area, Ed, by the way, that’s very particular.  We’re really making sure the website works super well before the next open enrollment period.  (Laughter.)  We’re double- and triple-checking it.  And so I think a lot of people who maybe initially thought we’re not sure how this works, let’s wait and see — they’re going to have an opportunity now to sign up.  And what’s been terrific is to see how more private insurers have come into the marketplace so that there’s greater competition in more markets all around the country.  The premiums that have come in that are available to people and the choices that are available are better than a lot of people I think had predicted. 

So the law is working.  That doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

     Major Garrett.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  And if you do miss us, allow me to humbly suggest we do this every week.  (Laughter.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  We might.  Who knows.  (Laughter.)  I’m having a great time.

     Q    Let me go back to immigration.  Moments before you walked out here, sir, Mitch McConnell said — and I quote — that if you in fact use your executive authority to legalize a certain number of millions of undocumented workers, it would “poison the well” — direct quote — and it would be “like waving a red flag in front of a bull.”  Do you not believe that is the considered opinion of the new Republican majority in the House and Senate?  And do you also not believe what they have said in the aftermath of last night’s results that the verdict rendered by voters should stop you or should prevent you from taking this action because it was a subtext in many of the campaigns?  Let me ask you a couple of specifics.  Republicans haven’t made a mystery about some of the things they intend to say —

     THE PRESIDENT:  Do I have to write all of these down?  (Laughter.)

     Q    You’re very well familiar with these.  These will not be mysteries to you.

     THE PRESIDENT:  No, but I —

     Q    Keystone XL pipeline — they will send you legislation on that.  They will ask you to repeal the medical device tax as a part of a funding mechanism of the Affordable Care Act.  And they have said they would like to repatriate some maybe $2 trillion of offshore revenue at the corporate level by reforming the corporate tax code without touching the individual tax code.  To use your words, Mr. President, are any of those three lines you cannot cross and also deal with what you perceive to be Republican attitudes about immigration?

     THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  I think, Major, that I answered the question on immigration.  I have no doubt that there will be some Republicans who are angered or frustrated by any executive action that I may take.  Those are folks, I just have to say, who are also deeply opposed to immigration reform in any form and blocked the House from being able to pass a bipartisan bill. 

I have said before that I actually believe that John Boehner is sincere about wanting to get immigration reform passed, which is why for a year I held off taking any action beyond what we had already done for the so-called DREAM kids, and did everything I could to give him space and room to get something done.  And what I also said at the time was, if, in fact, Congress — if this Congress could not get something done, then I would take further executive actions in order to make the system work better, understanding that any bill that they pass will supplant the executive actions that I take.

So I just want to reemphasize this, Major — if, in fact, there is a great eagerness on the part of Republicans to tackle a broken immigration system, then they have every opportunity to do it.  My executive actions not only do not prevent them from passing a law that supersedes those actions, but should be a spur for them to actually try to get something done.  And I am prepared to engage them every step of the way with their ideas.

I think we should have further broad-based debate among the American people.  As I’ve said before, I do think that the episode with the unaccompanied children changed a lot of attitudes.  I think what may also change a lot of attitudes is when the public now realizes that that was a very temporary and isolated event, and that, in fact, we have fewer illegal immigrants coming in today than we did five years ago, 10 years ago or 20 years go, but that what we also have is a system that is not serving our economy well.

Q    — Republicans who say the election was a referendum, at least in part, on your intentions to use executive authority for immigration.

THE PRESIDENT:  As I said before, I don’t want to try to read the tea leaves on election results.  What I am going to try to do as President is to make sure that I’m advancing what I think is best for the country.  And here’s an opportunity where I can use my administrative authorities, executive authorities, and lawfully try to make improvements on the existing system, understanding that that’s not going to fix the entire problem, and we’re much better off if we go ahead and pass a comprehensive bill.  And I hope that the Republicans really want to get it passed.  If they do, they’re going to have a lot of cooperation from me.

So let me just tick off — on Keystone, there’s an independent process.  It’s moving forward.  And I’m going to let that process play out.  I’ve given some parameters in terms of how I think about it:  Ultimately, is this going to be good for the American people?  Is it going to be good for their pocketbook?  Is it going to actually create jobs?  Is it actually going to reduce gas prices that have been coming down?  And is it going to be, on net, something that doesn’t increase climate change that we’re going to have to grapple with?

There’s a pending case before a Nebraska judge about some of the citing.  The process is moving forward.  And I’m just going to gather up the facts.

I will note, while this debate about Canadian oil has been raging — keep in mind this is Canadian oil, this isn’t U.S. oil — while that debate has been raging, we’ve seen some of the biggest increases in American oil production and American natural gas production in our history.  We are closer to energy independence than we’ve ever been before — or at least as we’ve been in decades.  We are importing less foreign oil than we produce for the first time in a very long time.  We’ve got a 100-year supply of natural gas that if we responsibly tap puts us in the strongest position when it comes to energy of any industrialized country around the world.

When I travel to Asia or I travel to Europe, their biggest envy is the incredible homegrown U.S. energy production that is producing jobs and attracting manufacturing, because locating here means you’ve got lower energy costs. 

So our energy sector is booming.  And I’m happy to engage Republicans with additional ideas for how we can enhance that.  I should note that our clean energy production is booming as well. And so Keystone I just consider as one small aspect of a broader trend that’s really positive for the American people.

     And let’s see — okay, medical device tax.  I’ve already answered the question.  We are going to take a look at whatever ideas — let me take a look comprehensively at the ideas that they present.  Let’s give them time to tell me.  I’d rather hear it from them than from you.

     Q    For example —

     THE PRESIDENT:  Major —

     Q    I’m just telling you what they said.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Conceivably, I could just cancel my meeting on Friday because I’ve heard everything from you.  (Laughter.)  I think I’d rather let Mitch McConnell —

     Q    I just asked if it was a line you couldn’t cross.

     THE PRESIDENT:  I’d rather hear from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner what ideas they’d like to pursue, and we’ll have a conversation with them on that.

     On repatriation, I said in my opening remarks that there is an opportunity for us to do a tax reform package that is good for business, good for jobs, and can potentially finance infrastructure development here in the United States. 

Now, the devil is in the details.  So I think, conceptually, it’s something where we may have some overlap, and I’m very interested in pursuing ideas that can put folks to work right now on roads and bridges and waterways and ports, and a better air traffic control system.  If we had one, by the way, we would reduce delays by about 30 percent.  We could reduce fuel costs for airlines by about 30 percent.  And hopefully that would translate into cheaper airline tickets, which I know everybody would be interested in.

     So there’s all kind of work we can do on our infrastructure. This may be one mechanism that Republicans are comfortable in financing those kinds of efforts.  So that will be part of the discussion that I think we’re prepared for on Friday and then in the weeks to come leading into the new Congress.

     Whew.  Major works me, man. 

Jim Acosta.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I know you don’t want to read the tea leaves, but it is a fact that your party rejected you in these midterms.  By and large, they did not want you out on the campaign trail in these key battleground states.  How do you account for that?  And your aides have said that this is the fourth quarter of your administration, but I don’t know if you saw the morning talk shows, but there were several potential candidates for 2016 who are out there already.  Is the clock ticking?  Are you running out of time?  How much time do you have left?  And what do you make of the notion that you’re now a lame duck?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, traditionally, after the last midterm of the two-term presidency, since I can’t run again, that’s the label that you guys apply. 

Here’s what I tell my team — I told them this last week and I told them this this morning — we had this incredible privilege of being in charge of the most important organization on Earth, the U.S. government and our military, and everything that we do for good around the world.

     And there’s a lot of work to be done to make government work better, to make Americans safer, to make opportunity available to more people, for us to be able to have a positive influence in every corner of the globe — the way we’re doing right now in West Africa.  And I’m going to squeeze every last little bit of opportunity to help make this world a better place over these last two years.

     And some of that is going to be what we can do administratively, and simple things like how do we make customer service better in every agency.  Are there things we can do to streamline how our veterans access care?  Are there better ways that we can make businesses understand the programs that are available to them to promote their business or exports? 

     So there’s a whole bunch of stuff to do on that front.  And as I said before, there’s going to be opportunities to work with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to get laws done.  And if you look at the history of almost every President, those last two years, all kinds of stuff happens; in some cases, stuff that we couldn’t predict. 

     So the one thing I’m pretty confident about, Jim, is I’m going to be busy for the next two years.  And the one thing that I want the American people to be confident about is that every day I’m going to be filling up my time trying to figure out how I can make their lives better.  And if I’m doing that, at the end of my presidency, I’ll say, we played that fourth quarter well.  And we played the game well. 

     And the only difference between I guess basketball and politics is that the only score that matters is how did somebody else do, not how you did.  And that’s the score I’m keeping.  Am I going to be able to look back and say, are more people working? Are there bank accounts better?  Are more kids going to college? Has housing improved?  Is the financial system more stable?  Are younger kids getting a better education?  Do we have greater energy independence?  Is the environment cleaner?  Have we done something about climate change?  Have we dealt with an ongoing terrorist threat and helped to bring about stability around the world?  And those things — every single day I’ve got an opportunity to make a difference on those fronts, which is —

     Q    And you’re not satisfied with where you are now?

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely not.  I wouldn’t be satisfied as long as I’m meeting somebody who has a — doesn’t have a job and wants one.  I’m not going to be satisfied as long as there’s a kid who writes me a letter and says, I got $60,000 worth of debt and I don’t know how to pay it back. 

And the American people aren’t satisfied.  So I want to do everything I can to deliver for them.

Q    And how about Democrats, the fact that they kept you out of these battleground states?  Does that kind of bug you a little bit?

THE PRESIDENT:  Listen, as I think some of you saw when I was out on the campaign trail, I love campaigning.  I love talking to ordinary people.  I love listening to their stories.  I love shaking hands and getting hugs and just seeing the process of democracy and citizenship manifest itself during an election.

But I’m also a practical guy.  And ultimately, every candidate out there had to make their own decisions about what they thought would be most helpful for them.  And I wanted to make sure that I’m respectful of their particular region, their particular state or congressional district, and if it was more helpful for them for me to be behind the scenes, I’m happy to do it.

Q    You don’t think it was a mistake?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t have — I’ll let other people analyze that.  But what I will emphasize is that one of the nice things about being in the sixth year of your presidency is you’ve seen a lot of ups and downs and you’ve gotten more than your fair share of attention.  And I’ve had the limelight, and there have been times where the request for my appearances were endless.  There have been times where, politically, we were down — and it all kind of evens out, which is why what’s most important I think is keeping your eye on the ball, and that is are you actually getting some good done.

Scott Horsley, last question.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You mentioned that where your policies actually were on the ballot they often did better than members of your party.  Does that signal some shortcoming on your part or on the party’s part in framing this election and communicating to the American people what it is that Democrats stand for?

THE PRESIDENT:  I do think that one area where I know we’re constantly experimenting and trying to do better is just making sure that people know exactly what it is that we’re trying to accomplish and what we have accomplished in clear ways that people can — that understand how it affects them.  And I think the minimum wage I talked about a lot on the campaign trail, but I’m not sure it penetrated well enough to make a difference. 

     Part of what I also think we’ve got to look at is that two-thirds of people who were eligible to vote just didn’t vote.  One of the things that I’m very proud of in 2008 and 2012 when I ran for office was we got people involved who hadn’t been involved before.  We got folks to vote who hadn’t voted before, particularly young people. 

And that was part of the promise and the excitement was if you get involved, if you participate, if you embrace that sense of citizenship, then things change — and not just in abstract ways, they change in concrete ways.  Somebody gets a job who didn’t have it before.  Somebody gets health care who didn’t have it before.  Or a student is able to go to college who couldn’t afford it before.  And sustaining that, especially in midterm elections, has proven difficult; sustaining that sense of, if you get involved and if you vote then there is going to be big change out there.  And partly I think when they look at Washington, they say, nothing is working and it’s not making a difference, and there’s just a constant slew of bad news coming over the TV screen, then you can understand how folks would get discouraged.

     But it’s my job to figure this out as best I can.  And if the way we are talking about issues isn’t working, then I’m going to try some different things.  If the ways that we’re approaching the Republicans in Congress isn’t working, I’m going to try different things — whether it’s having a drink with Mitch McConnell or letting John Boehner beat me again at golf, or weekly press conferences — I don’t know if that would be effective.  (Laughter.)  Whatever I think might make a difference in this, I’m going to be trying out up until my last day in office.

     But I’ll close with what I said in my opening statement.  I am really optimistic about America.  I know that runs counter to the current mood, but when you look at the facts, our economy is stronger than just about anybody’s.  Our energy production is better than just about anybody’s.  We’ve slashed our deficit by more than half.  More people have health insurance.  Our businesses have the strongest balance sheets that they’ve had in decades.  Our young people are just incredibly talented and gifted, and more of them are graduating from high school, and more of them are going on to college, and more women are getting degrees and entering into the workforce.

And part of the reason I love campaigning is you travel around the country, folks are just good.  They’re smart and they’re hardworking.  And they’re not always paying a lot of attention to Washington, and in some cases they’ve given up on Washington.  But their impulses are not sharply partisan, and their impulses are not ideological.  They’re really practical, good, generous people. 

     And we continue to be a magnet for the best and brightest from all around the world.  We have all the best cards relative to every other country on Earth.  Our armed forces, you talk to them — I had a chance this morning to just call some of our health service that is operating in Liberia, and the amount of hope and professionalism that they’ve brought has galvanized the entire country, and has built — they’ve built a platform effectively for other countries suddenly to start coming in.  And we’re seeing real progress in fighting the disease in a country that just a month or a month and a half ago was desperate and had no hope.

     So all that makes me optimistic.  And my job over the next couple of years is to do some practical, concrete things — as much as possible with Congress; where it’s not possible with Congress, on my own — to show people why we should be confident, and to give people a sense of progress and a sense of hope.

     That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be ongoing nagging problems that are stubborn and can’t be solved overnight.  And probably the biggest one is the fact that despite economic growth, wages and income have still not gone up.  And that’s a long-term trend that we’ve seen for 10, 20, 30 years.  And it makes people worried about not just their own situation, but whether their kids are going to be doing better than they did, which is the essence of the American Dream.  I think there are some concrete things we can do to make sure that wages and incomes do go up.  Minimum wage in those five states was a good start. 

But I think more than anything what I want to communicate over these next two years is the promise and possibility of America.  This is just an extraordinary country.  And our democracy is messy.  And we’re diverse and we’re big.  And there are times where you’re a politician and you’re disappointed with election results.  But maybe I’m just getting older — I don’t know.  It doesn’t make me mopey.  It energizes me because it means that this democracy is working.  And people in America were restless and impatient, and we want to get things done.  And even when things are going good, we want them to do better.  And that’s why this is the greatest country on Earth.  That’s why I’m so privileged to have a chance to be President for the next couple years.

     All right?  Thank you, everybody.

Transcript: Remarks by Obama before signing executive order

President Barack Obama on July 21 signed an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors. The order also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment. The following is a transcript, provided by the White House, of the president’s remarks from the East Room.…

     THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  I know I’m a little late.  But that’s okay because we’ve got some big business to do here. 

Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming.  You organized, you spoke up, you signed petitions, you sent letters — I know because I got a lot of them.  (Laughter.) And now, thanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government — government of the people, by the people, and for the people — will become just a little bit fairer.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Amen.  (Applause.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  It doesn’t make much sense, but today in America, millions of our fellow citizens wake up and go to work with the awareness that they could lose their job, not because of anything they do or fail to do, but because of who they are —  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender.  And that’s wrong.  We’re here to do what we can to make it right — to bend that arc of justice just a little bit in a better direction. 

In a few moments, I will sign an executive order that does two things.  First, the federal government already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Once I sign this order, the same will be explicitly true for gender identity.  (Applause.)   

And second, we’re going to prohibit all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against their LGBT employees.  (Applause.)    America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people. 

Now, this executive order is part of a long bipartisan tradition.  President Roosevelt signed an order prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry.  President Eisenhower strengthened it.  President Johnson expanded it.  Today, I’m going to expand it again. 

Currently, 18 states have already banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  And over 200 cities and localities have done the same.  Governor Terry McAuliffe is here; his first act as governor was to prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  (Applause.)  Where did Terry go?  Right back here. 

I’ve appointed a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public servants to positions across my administration.  They are ambassadors and federal judges, special assistants, senior advisors from the Pentagon to the Labor Department.  Every day, their talent is put to work on behalf of the American people.

Equality in the workplace is not only the right thing to do, it turns out to be good business.  That’s why a majority of Fortune 500 companies already have nondiscrimination policies in place.  It is not just about doing the right thing — it’s also about attracting and retaining the best talent.  And there are several business leaders who are here today who will attest to that. 

And yet, despite all that, in too many states and in too many workplaces, simply being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can still be a fireable offense.  There are people here today who’ve lost their jobs for that reason.  This is not speculative, this is not a matter of political correctness — people lose their jobs as a consequence of this.  Their livelihoods are threatened, their families are threatened.  In fact, more states now allow same-sex marriage than prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers.  So I firmly believe that it’s time to address this injustice for every American. 

Now, Congress has spent 40 years — four decades — considering legislation that would help solve the problem.  That’s a long time.  And yet they still haven’t gotten it done.  Senators Terry [Tammy] Baldwin and Jeff Merkley are here.  They have been champions of this issue for a long, long time.  We are very proud of them.  I know they will not stop fighting until fair treatment for all workers is the federal law of the land.  Everyone thanks them for that.  (Applause.)   

But I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act.  The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all.


THE PRESIDENT:  Amen.  Amen.  (Applause.)  Got the “amen” corner here.  (Laughter.)  Well — (sings) — (laughter.)  You don’t want to get me preaching, now.  (Laughter.)     

For more than two centuries, we have strived, often at great cost, to form “a more perfect union” — to make sure that “we, the people” applies to all the people.  Many of us are only here because others fought to secure rights and opportunities for us. And we’ve got a responsibility to do the same for future generations.  We’ve got an obligation to make sure that the country we love remains a place where no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, or how you started out, or what your last name is, or who you love — no matter what, you can make it in this country. 

That’s the story of America.  That’s the story of this movement.  I want to thank all of you for doing your part.  We’ve got a long way to go, but I hope as everybody looks around this room, you are reminded of the extraordinary progress that we have made not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years.  In the last two years.  (Applause.)  In the last one year.  (Applause.)  We’re on the right side of history. 

I’m going to sign this executive order.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

(The executive order is signed.)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s State of the State address. Transcript

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker delivered his fourth State of the State address on Jan. 22.

Here is the text, as prepared for delivery:

First, before I acknowledge anyone else, I would like to recognize my good friend and fellow Harley rider, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel.

Speaker Vos, Speaker Pro Tem August, President Ellis, Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Minority Leader Larson, Minority Leader Barca, members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Constitutional Officers, tribal leaders, members of the Cabinet, distinguished guests, members of the Legislature, most importantly, fellow citizens of the great state of Wisconsin, it is an honor to appear before you tonight.

Before we get started, I would like to introduce the First Lady of Wisconsin, my wife, Tonette. Also in the gallery are our sons, Matt and Alex, and my family; my parents, Llew and Pat, my brother, David, my sister-in-law, Maria, and my nieces, Isabella and Eva.

Next to my wife is Major General Don Dunbar, our Adjutant General. I want to thank him and the more than 10,000 members of the Wisconsin National Guard. Thank you for being here.

The state of our state is strong and improving every day. The economy is dramatically better and our finances are in great shape. Still, there is more work to be done.

Thankfully, the days of double-digit tax increases, billion-dollar deficits, and major job loss are gone. We replaced them with massive tax cuts, growing budget surpluses, and significant job growth. Wisconsin is going back to work.

Tonight, we have some really great news about the economy and our fiscal situation. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently verified that the state will have $911 million more than previously projected. These new revenues are not a one-time windfall, or budget gimmick, but come from a strong economic recovery, where more people are working, more employers are hiring, and personal income is going up. They also come from good stewardship of the taxpayers’ money.

What do you do with a surplus? Give it back to the people who earned it. It’s your money. I propose that we deposit a portion of these new revenues in the state’s rainy day fund and use the remainder to provide much needed tax relief to you_the hardworking taxpayers of Wisconsin.

Tonight, I will propose a Blueprint for Prosperity, which will continue to improve our economy, while preserving our strong fiscal standing.

So how did we get these positive results? A true commitment to real structural reforms for state and local government budgets led to our long-term fiscal stability. Meaningful tax cuts that keep more money in your pocket rather than requiring you to send it to Madison, changes to laws and regulations that make sense if you’re trying to start a business or find a job, and bipartisan investments in worker training are some of the driving forces behind the strong economic recovery.

So, how do we measure the impact of the recovery? Well, the unemployment rate in Wisconsin is the lowest it has been since 2008. Initial unemployment insurance claims are at a 12-year low.

Private sector job creation between April and November was the best since 1994. The seasonally adjusted private sector job growth from November 2012 to November 2013 ranked Wisconsin higher than Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.

According to the latest national report, personal income grew 4.4 percent over the year; faster than the U.S. In fact, Wisconsin ranked as the 4th best state in the country for personal income growth from the second quarter to the third quarter in 2013. After years of a stagnant market, a key component of the American Dream, home sales are up by nearly 11 percent and housing permits are up 12.9 percent. And according to quarterly and monthly job reports, more than 100,000 jobs have been created over the past three years.

Let me introduce you some of the people hired since I took office: Joann Stephens from Appleton is employed as a Quality Engineer at Surface Mount Technology. Heyward Gualandi from Madison is employed as a Sales Supervisor at Beechwood Sales and Services. Ben Lang from Brookfield is employed as a Design Engineer at Metcast Service Tech Resources. Dominic Petri from Cedarburg is employed as a Design Engineer at TLX Technologies. Lucas Klemann from Appleton is employed as a CNC Operator at M & M Tool and Mold. Bob Stoffel from Hartford is employed as a Brake Operator at Steel Craft Corporation. Patti Sharer from New Berlin is employed as an Accounting Specialist at Hastings Air Energy Control. Scott Grinder from Reedsburg is employed as a Maintenance Technician at Milwaukee Valve. Rick Banach from Oak Creek is employed as a Supervisor at Rexnord. Angela Hayward from Madison is employed as a Nursing Assistant at UW Hospital and Clinics. David Sohl from Madison is employed as an Organ Procurement Organization Surgical Recovery Coordinator at UW Hospital and Clinics. And Chris Barber of Two Rivers, is employed as a welder

at Ariens Company.

As a candidate for Governor, I announced an aggressive jobs goal because I wanted people, like Joann and Heyward and Patti and Rick, to be able to find work. Every time we help someone find a job, it makes for a stronger home, a stronger community, and a stronger state.

Each of these people were looking for a job, or a better opportunity, over the past three years. They represent the people and the families behind the numbers. These are the faces of an improving economy in our state. Wisconsin is going back to work.

When I spoke about our jobs goal more than four years ago, I also made a pledge to help the people of Wisconsin create 10,000 new businesses by 2015. Tonight, I am proud to announce we exceeded that goal with nearly 13,000 new businesses created so far.

This is a great sign for the future as thousands of new employers bring the potential of even more jobs. Think about it, if each of these new ventures grew by 15 employees or more by next year, we would more than exceed our 250,000 jobs goal.

New businesses, like 5-Point Fabrication in Ashwaubenon and SOLOMO Technology in Madison, will help us reach our goal.

Others are helping, too. During the past week, I visited Hartford Finishing in Hartford to announce 94 new jobs. EmbedTek in Hartland committed to creating up to 72 more jobs on Friday.

A & B Process Systems in Stratford hired 50 more people over the past year and Greenheck in Schofield added 209 jobs since 2011. These are just the employers I visited in the past few days.

Throughout the past year, we helped Amazon.com expand and create up to 1,250 jobs here in Wisconsin. EMCO Chemical Distributors moved up from Illinois with about 187 jobs. Hanna Cylinders announced the same thing and brought 105 jobs to our state. All three of these companies moved into Kenosha County. These are just a small sample of the many good news stories showing Wisconsin is going back to work.

This is a stark contrast to the negative job outlook of the past. During my predecessor’s last term, Wisconsin lost more than 133,000 jobs and lost more than 27,000 businesses. In 2009, the unemployment rate peaked at 9.2 percent.

During that same year, Wisconsin’s ranking in Chief Executive Magazine’s best and worst states for business was 43rd. In 2009, a survey of employers by the chamber of commerce showed just 4 percent thought our state was heading in the right direction. Now, our ranking is up to 17th_one of the fastest jumps of any state in the country. As of last month, 95 percent of the employers surveyed said Wisconsin is headed in the right direction. That’s right, ninety-five percent.

Another reason for our positive revenue numbers is our prudent fiscal management. Three years ago, we inherited a state government with a $3.6 billion budget deficit. The state had past due bills to Minnesota, owed more than $200 million to the patient compensation fund, and raided $1 billion from the segregated transportation fund. At the same time, they only had $1.7 million in the rainy day fund.

Sure, we had to make some tough decisions, but they paid off. We ended our fiscal year in 2013 with a $759 million surplus; we paid back Minnesota, filled the fund to help injured patients of medical malpractice, and restored funding for transportation. And the rainy day fund, well, it’s now 165 times bigger than it was when we took office.

We are turning things around. We are heading in the right direction. We are moving Wisconsin forward.

A year ago, I laid out the priorities my administration would focus on to get our state working again. Let me tell you a bit more about the positive things we are doing to continue to improve our economy, while maintaining a balanced budget:

Manufacturing and agriculture are two of our core industries in Wisconsin. Thankfully, both are playing a big role in our economic recovery. In 2013, CNBC ranked us as one of the top states for new manufacturing jobs. From November 2012 to November 2013, we rank 7th highest in the country in manufacturing job growth.

Milk production went up at double the national rate over the past year. And agricultural exports grew by 6 percent through the first three quarters of 2013, while dairy exports grew by 34 percent.

To keep these positive trends going, we put in place the manufacturing and agriculture production tax credit last year. Now, if you are an employer in one of these key industries, you should look at growing in Wisconsin as this credit will eventually wipe out almost all of your taxable liability. That is a really big deal because it gives you the opportunity to invest the capital necessary to help create more jobs. This program is a game changer for employers in manufacturing and agriculture.

Argon Industries in Milwaukee and Gro Alliance in Cuba City told us the credit was a factor in their decision to grow in Wisconsin. Others, like Kenall Manufacturing, decided to move up to Kenosha from Illinois, and the manufacturing

tax credit was a big part of their choice to relocate in Wisconsin.

In addition to the credit, we made major investments in agriculture this year. At the University of Wisconsin, we are expanding the Dairy Resource Center at Babcock Hall and building a new Meat Science and Muscle Biology Laboratory. Thank you to our industry partners for matching our investment. We have a similar partnership with Dane County on improvements for the World Dairy Expo.

We are proud to be America’s Dairyland, but we are also one of the top states for corn, soybeans, potatoes, cherries, and other foods. Many may be surprised to know we are the number one producer of cranberries in the United States. And 95 percent of the ginseng exported to China comes from our state. Last April, we signed a ten-year agreement while on my trade mission in China worth between $150 and $200 million, and Tom Hack and Butch Weege from the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin are with me here tonight.

Not only is Asia a major market for our ginseng, many people now come to north central Wisconsin to tour our ginseng operations. Food- and beverage-related tourism continues to grow. From tours of breweries, wineries, cheese factories, cranberry fests, and even spice operations, Wisconsin is a great destination.

Overall, tourism continues to improve across our fine state. I was just at the World Championship Snowmobile Derby in Eagle River this weekend. The crowd was great and the snow was perfect. During the past summer, we made a strategic investment, which will boost Wisconsin’s $2.3 billion sport fishing industry; and in less than a year, we have already increased stocking more than four times over, putting 440,000 walleyes into our lakes. In the coming years, resorts, guides, bait dealers, marinas, and all of the other local businesses that depend on good fishing will benefit as Wisconsin becomes the premiere destination for walleye fishing in the Midwest. Yet another reminder that Wisconsin is fun in all four seasons.

Since I took office, the economic impact of the tourism industry has grown by $2 billion to $16.8 billion. We have many great partners, including our 11 tribal governments across the state. After years of cuts to the tourism budget, we put more resources in for marketing in 2011 and, again, in 2013. It is paying off as people see the value for their money in Wisconsin_as well as the incredible hospitality and, most importantly, the FUN at tourism sites all across our great state.

Thankfully, people will have more money to spend at those attractions because of our tax relief. Since 2011, we have reduced the burden on the hard-working taxpayers in Wisconsin by $1.5 billion.

In the budget, we dropped the number of tax brackets and cut tax rates for everyone who pays income taxes in our state. On top of that, we passed $100 million worth of property tax relief this past fall. For the third year in a row, property taxes actually went down on a median-valued home in Wisconsin. In fact, with the tax controls we already put in place, property taxes on a typical home in December of 2014 will actually be lower than they were in December of 2010. What a difference a few years make.

During the ten years before I took office, property taxes went up by 27 percent. If property taxes had continued to grow at the pace they did during Governor Doyle’s final term in office, the typical homeowner would have paid $680 more by the end of this term.

It seems like a long time ago, but taxes went up $1.7 billion in Governor Doyle’s last budget in 2009. Four years later, our budget lowered the tax burden by nearly $1 billion.

In addition to putting plenty of money back into the hands of consumers and employers in this state, we are doing more to get people the skills they need to work. As of last Friday, JobsCenterofWisconsin.com, had nearly 50,000 jobs listed on it. However, a significant number of the people looking for work today don’t have the skills required for the jobs available. This is why we invested $100 million into worker training. We want to ensure everyone who wants a job can find a job.

Specifically, we just kicked off Wisconsin Fast Forward. This is a program to provide customized worker training in key areas, like manufacturing, construction, and customer service. And we increased support for our technical colleges, so they can expand courses in areas like health care, information technology, and advanced manufacturing.

Together with the University of Wisconsin System, we created the new UW Flexible Option, so adults can reduce the amount of time and money needed to get a UW degree in important areas, like engineering and health care. And we funded new positions at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and at the Medical College of Wisconsin to increase the number of primary care doctors in rural and underserved areas of the state.

We are also doing more to get skilled tradesmen and women into the workforce. Through November, the number

of apprentices is up 34 percent from the previous year.

Filling all the positions available in the state, now and in the future, also requires us to think and act in new ways. Tonight, I want to share with you the stories of some incredible people. A few might say these individuals have disabilities, but I want to talk about their unique abilities in the workplace.

Patrick Young works at Tailored Label Products in Menomonee Falls. About a year ago, he gave me a tour of where he works. Patrick is here tonight with the COO of that company, Jeff Kerlin. Jeff told me that Patrick adds tremendous value to his company – not only in morale but in productivity.

Like Patrick, Brady Dockendorf and Joe Nueman love their jobs. Both of them are employed at Features Sports Bar and Grille in Holmen. They showed me where they work and their supervisor said they are both key players on their team.

Steven Pils and I first met at the Piggly Wiggly in Lake Geneva. His boss, Mark Stinebrink, is here with him tonight and he says that people go out of their way to go through Steven’s checkout lane, just to talk to him.

These are just a few of the many people all across the state who are sometimes defined as having a disability. Thankfully, their employers took a closer look and saw their true abilities.

Similarly, Project SEARCH is a year-long program for high school students with disabilities. One young woman I met has acute autism. Through Project SEARCH, she found a position sterilizing surgical equipment. This was a way to use her unique abilities to do a job that few others could do as well as she does. They identified her ability instead of getting hung up on her disability.

Tonight, I am pleased to announce the start of a year-long initiative called A Better Bottom Line_it’s about employment opportunities for people with disabilities. It’s an idea borrowed from a friend of mine-Delaware Governor Jack Markell-who used it as his agenda during his recent term as the chair of the National Governors Association.

Make no mistake, A Better Bottom Line is not about charity. A Better Bottom Line means helping both the individual and the company do well. We are looking for ways to help employers hire people who will add value to their organizations.

All throughout 2014, I will highlight employers, who find the unique abilities and hire people with disabilities, as well as organizations, which help people with disabilities grow their skills and find meaningful work.

We will focus on companies, like Walgreens. At one of their distribution centers, where more than 50 percent of the employees have disabilities, they experienced a 120 percent productivity increase. Now, they are expanding that successful model to retail locations across the state and the country.

As part of the Blueprint for Prosperity, which I will announce tonight, we will use the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to expand Project SEARCH. Currently, there are seven businesses in the program in Wisconsin. We will fund an expansion of 20 more over the next three years.

In addition, the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation currently serves more than 17,000 people. The recent law I signed at Independent Living Resources in La Crosse will help us serve an additional 6,000 individuals with disabilities. We will use the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to provide training to people with disabilities to fill needs in key industries.

All in all, we understand that for an economic recovery to be real, we cannot leave anyone behind.

We are looking for new ways to help connect people looking for work to the skills they need to fill available jobs across the state. In addition to our tech colleges and our worker training programs, this means investing more in our K-12 schools.

We support Dual Enrollment Academies, like the new one at WCTC, that allows high school seniors from eight school districts to take courses in Information Technology, Tool & Die, and Welding/Fabrication for both high school and technical college credits.

Tonight, I want to introduce some of the students in the program, Thomas Putnam, Justin Cerny,

Jacob Rosenthal, Dale Medved, Alexander Hoelke, Samuel Fex, Tyler Polaski, Collin Hodson, John Davis,

Zachary Rademan, Micah Kordik, and Scott Thom.

We also enrolled more than 1,200 high school students in the Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship Program. In December, I signed legislation at Nicolet Technical College to add at least 500 more high school students to the program.

We created a $1,000 per pupil incentive for high schools to provide career and technical education programs. We created a scholarship for high school students, who excel in technical education. To find out more about these and other programs, please visit prosperity.wi.gov.

Employers tell us they have tremendous needs for IT professionals, yet most states do not allow computer science courses to complete math or science requirements for high school graduation. Working with State

School Superintendent Dr. Tony Evers, we changed the law with the hope that more young people will pursue careers in computer science-related fields.

Students in other countries have great success identifying skills and interests early in school, so they can take right courses for a career path.

In the state budget, we funded Academic and Career Plans for our schools to help kids as early as sixth grade start preparing for their career.

So many employers tell us they would take on more work and create more jobs, if they could only fill the positions they have open today, particularly in manufacturing. We need to remind our young people about the valuable careers available in our skilled trades. Many students, as well as parents, and even high school guidance counselors, don’t know that manufacturing jobs pay 25 percent more than the average job in Wisconsin, and are more likely to have benefits.

We need to recognize the manufacturing advantage we have here in Wisconsin. It means valuing our sons and daughters, who are high skilled welders and machinists and tool and die operators, as much those who are doctors and lawyers.

Overall, our reforms help improve the quality of education for all of our students in Wisconsin. A recent report by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance showed the reforms we put into place in 2011 gave schools the tools to more than make up for the budget adjustments. Plus, schools can hire and fire based on merit, they can pay based on performance, which means we can put the best and brightest in our classrooms and pay to keep them there.

Every child, regardless of where they live or what their parents do for a living deserves a chance to have a great education at the public school, charter school, choice school, virtual school, or home school environment right for them. With this in mind, we increased funding for our traditional public schools by $387 million and expanded the choice program for other families across the state.

We are proud of our positive reforms in education. ACT scores continue to be higher than the national average, graduation rates are better than when I took office, and also, third grade reading scores are up.

We are also working to make college more affordable for students and their families. As the father of two sons who are in college, I can relate. After years of 5.5 percent average tuition increases, we now have a two-year tuition freeze, for the first time in the history of the UW System.

Last year, I met Anastasia McCain at UW-Green Bay. She is pretty impressive. She goes to school full-time and works three jobs to cover the costs of her textbooks, supplies, and housing. She told me that our tuition freeze is taking weight off her parents, as they work to send three kids to college, and allowing her to save money toward her goal: law school.

Along with her tonight are Hannah Bresson and Stephanie Johnson from UW-La Crosse. I met Hannah and Stephanie at their school when I announced our tuition freeze. And they, like students at campuses across the state, appreciate the break on their tuition. Thanks for being here.

In addition to improving education, reforming government also helps create jobs. Many of the employers moving from Illinois to Wisconsin mention our stable fiscal situation, as well as our improving economic climate, as reasons for their move north.

Unlike Illinois, our pension fund is the only one in the country that is fully funded. Wisconsin’s per capita pension and debt level is one of the lowest in the country. Stability at both the state and local level is good for employers, who want to grow, and for those who want to come to Wisconsin.

Our unemployment insurance reforms save employers tens of millions of dollars, while protecting the unemployed as they seek work. We are trying to make it easier to create jobs.

Most importantly, we are helping people transition from government dependence to true independence. We are helping people live the American Dream, which comes, not from the heavy hand of the government, but from the dignity that comes from work. Our reforms offer people more freedom, more opportunity, and, ultimately, more prosperity.

Our reforms are based on common sense. We ask those receiving unemployment checks to seek work four or more times a week instead of two. We ask adults without children seeking food stamps to enroll in employment training. We’re not making it harder to get government assistance; we’re making it easier to get a job.

We are putting in place similar reforms for Medicaid, too. Years ago, under Governor Doyle, eligibility for BadgerCare Plus went up, but not enough funds were budgeted, so many people living in poverty were put on a waiting list. This year, for the first time in Wisconsin history, everyone living in poverty will be able to access health care under Medicaid.

For those living above poverty, we transition them into the marketplace. I believe Medicaid is for those living in poverty,

and our goal should be to help lift more and more people out of the depths of economic despair.

Our Wisconsin Plan is unique as we are able to cover everyone living in poverty, reduce the number of uninsured, and still not expose Wisconsin taxpayers to the uncertain potential cost of the federal Medicaid expansion.

Helping more people transition from government dependence to true independence is not only good for the taxpayers, it is good for employers, too, as more and more jobs are created in our growing economy and employers need more skilled workers to fill those positions. Most importantly, it is good for the people, who can now control their own lives and their own destinies.

Yet another way to improve the economy is to put people to work building and maintaining our infrastructure. After my predecessor raided more than $1 billion from the state transportation fund, we reversed that trend.

In our current budget, we invest $6.4 billion into the state transportation system.

This is welcome news for all those who work so hard to build and maintain our roads and bridges. People like the crew with me tonight, who helped open the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay ahead of schedule and on budget. With us are Dean Schmitz, Matthew Gehrman, Brian Firari and Travis Schreiner from Zenith Tech, and Scott Nachreiner and Joseph Quist from Lunda. We are also joined by some of our hard-working folks from Department of Transportation; Will Dorsey, Robert Arndorfer, Dale Weber, Randy Asman, Tom Buchholz, and Brian Roper. Thank you all for your hard work and thank you to Secretary Mark Gottlieb for your leadership in completing this project so quickly.

Good roads and bridges and freight rail and ports and transit and airports are important to more than just construction workers, they are vital to a thriving economy. All sorts of industries rely on a strong transportation system: manufacturers, farmers, miners, loggers, retailers, and many others.

Overall, this is just a summary of all of the good work we are doing to improve the economy and to strengthen our fiscal standing. Tonight, I thank our partners in the private sector, as well as my staff, our Cabinet, and our state employees for their hard work over the past few years to meet these objectives.

I also thank you, the members of the state Legislature, for your partnership. Our work together to enact meaningful reforms is a sharp contrast to the dysfunction often on display in our nation’s capital. Since taking office, more than 97 percent of the bills I have signed into law have had bipartisan support. We do more than talk, we get positive things done for the people of our state and I want to thank you for working with me to do just that.

We’ve made tremendous progress on the priorities I outlined a year ago, and now, we’re seeing positive results. Looking ahead, we have the opportunity to do even more good work for the people of Wisconsin. Again, I ask for your help and support.

Tonight, I propose a Blueprint for Prosperity to help provide more opportunities for the citizens of Wisconsin.

Specifically, I ask you to work with me over the next few weeks to return the vast majority of the new surplus directly to the hard-working taxpayers of Wisconsin and to add more than $100 million to the state’s rainy day fund. As it has over the past few years, lowering the tax burden will contribute to a stronger economy and a better fiscal situation in the future.

Our Blueprint for Prosperity will put more than $800 million back into the hands of the hard-working taxpayers all across the state through tax cuts and withholding changes. Once passed, the total tax relief provided since I took office will be roughly $2 billion.

First, we will reduce property taxes by $406 million. This is more than four times larger than the property tax relief we passed last year, and it is vitally important to protect working families, senior citizens, farmers, and small businesses. The typical homeowner will see an actual reduction of $101 dollars on their next property tax bill.

Second, we will reduce income taxes by $98.6 million. To ensure we don’t leave anyone behind in our economic recovery, we will target this tax relief to the lowest income tax bracket. If you’re a family of four making $40,000, your savings will be $58. No one will get a bigger savings than that.

Third, earlier today, I directed Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler to adjust withholding for state income taxes by $322.6 million, so you can keep more of your hard-earned paycheck. This will put more money in the hands of consumers and will continue to stimulate the economy. Starting in April, a typical working family of four will see $57.90 more in their paychecks each month. By the end of this year, that’s more than $520 dollars.

For everyone watching from home, go to Prosperity.WI.gov to see how much you will save under our plan, and then contact your legislator to offer your support.

In addition, our Blueprint

for Prosperity will increase the Wisconsin Fast Forward program by $35 million to focus on three new areas:

First, investment in our technical colleges to eliminate waiting list in high demand fields, like manufacturing, agriculture and Information Technology;

Second, help high school students get training in high demand jobs through dual enrollment programs between our high schools and technical colleges;

And third, support programs helping people with disabilities enter the workforce, as I outlined in our Year of A Better Bottom Line initiative.

I ask that the funds already set aside in the Joint Finance Committee from the surplus at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation be used for the expansion of Wisconsin Fast Forward.

Tonight, I’m calling on you, the members of the Legislature to pass this Blueprint For Prosperity and return this money to the people of the state. Tomorrow, I will call for a special session to move forward with legislation to return this surplus to the taxpayers and to invest in our technical colleges, train workers for high-demand jobs, and support employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

When I ran for governor, Wisconsin faced big economic and fiscal crises. As I travelled the state then, I saw the impact that job losses had on so many individuals and families. I saw the stress on the faces of people all across the state as so many worried about making the mortgage each month or paying to put food on the table. It was then and there that I set a big goal to make up for the jobs lost in the past and to aim high for a recovery that did not leave anyone behind.

To take on the economic and fiscal crises of the past, we came in and made some pretty bold moves. Now, three years later, we see a dramatic turnaround in our state. These are historic times. The $911 million budget surplus shows that the economy is coming back strong as more people are working, more employers are hiring and personal income is up.

Our reforms are helping the people of Wisconsin create more jobs and more opportunity and these reforms are helping restore fiscal sanity to state and local governments. Tonight, I call on the members of the Legislature to continue to build on these positive reforms by passing our Blueprint for Prosperity.

Some might say that we should keep more of this surplus in Madison. I disagree.

When I travel the state, people don’t tell me that they want to keep sending more money to Madison. They don’t tell me that taxes are too low or even that taxes are just right. Overwhelmingly, people across the state tell me that one of the best ways to fuel the economic recovery is to reduce their tax burden.

The best way to prepare for the future is by continuing to grow our economy, not by keeping more money in Madison. With a rainy day fund seven times larger than we had ever had before I took office, now is the time to send your money back to you, the hard working taxpayers of Wisconsin.

Now is the time to add to the many faces of the economic recovery that you saw earlier.

Now is the time to ensure that budget surpluses, like the one we celebrate here tonight – continue in the future.

Now is the time, once again, to put the power back in to the hands of the people.

Now is the time to pass our Blueprint for Prosperity, and help move Wisconsin forward.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the great State of Wisconsin.

Secretary Kerry: Equal treatment in visas for same-sex spouses

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 2 announced important visa changes for same-sex couples during a speech at the U.S. Embassy in London.

The changes come after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision in the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act that barred the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages.

Speaking mostly to people who work at the embassy, Kerry said, “One of our most important exports by far is America’s belief in the equality of all people.”

The secretary then said that effective immediately, when a same-sex spouse applies for a visa, the State Department will consider it in the same manner it reviews an application from an opposite-sex spouse.

That means, said Kerry, “If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally.  And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world.”

Kerry, who as a senator in 1996 was one of only 14 to vote against DOMA, also said that U.S. immigration will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries.

“Every married couple will be treated exactly the same,” he said, “and that is what we believe is appropriate. Starting next year, that will include same-sex couples from England and Wales, which just this year passed laws permitting same-sex marriage that will take effect in 2014.”

The following is a transcript of Kerry’s remarks:

Thank you.  Well, thanks for gathering, I know on relatively short notice.  I really appreciate it.  One of the – first of all, it’s great to be in London, and thank you for all of you here.  How many of you are embassy?  You all raise your hands.  How many are consular section?  A few.  Most of them I left behind in the consular section now, anyway.  Well, thank you for joining us.

One of the most special things that we get to do – you guys, come on in.  Let’s get everybody in here before we start, whoever’s standing in.  I know we have one of the largest consular sections in the world here.  I think Moscow may be slightly larger.  But the work that you all do here is really important, because for many people, you’re the first faces that people get to see of America and the first impression they get.  And hopefully, it can be a good one.  Obviously, sometimes there are visa issues and it doesn’t always turn out the way people want it to be. 

But we appreciate what you do, and the fact is that one of the greatest responsibilities of the U.S. State Department is to show people who America is, who we are as people, and what we value as Americans.  And that’s what every single one of you do every single day here at Embassy London, and it’s what our colleagues do at posts all around the world.  I just came from addressing a very large gathering in Islamabad, Pakistan, a difficult tour of duty, but equally important in terms of our efforts to promote democracy and promote the values of human rights and so forth.

So when I first came here in my first stop, my first foreign stop as secretary of state 27 countries ago, I said to everybody that you’re all ambassadors no matter what you’re doing here, and that is true.  When you step out of the embassy and go down the street or wherever you live, wherever you are, you’re an ambassador of our country.  And when you treat people with respect and you give them the best of yourselves, you show them the best of America, and that means showing them what we believe, what we stand for, and what we share with the world.

One of our most important exports by far is America’s belief in the equality of all people.  Now, our history shows that we haven’t always gotten it right.  As I mentioned yesterday in Islamabad, slavery was written into our Constitution before it was written out.  And we are still struggling to make equal the rights between men and women and to break the glass ceiling and to make sure that all people are created equal.  That is what we try to do, I think wearing our heart on our sleeve, and sometimes our warts, more than almost any other nation on the face of the planet.  We believe in working to do better and to live up to these higher values, and we try to do it in a lot of different ways.

Today is one of those days.  I’m very pleased to be able to announce that effective immediately, when same-sex spouses apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it will consider the application of opposite-sex spouses.  And here is exactly what this rule means:  If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally.  If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally.  And if you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world.

Now, as long as a marriage has been performed in a jurisdiction that recognizes it so that it is legal, then that marriage is valid under U.S. immigration laws, and every married couple will be treated exactly the same, and that is what we believe is appropriate.  Starting next year, that will include same-sex couples from England and Wales, which just this year passed laws permitting same-sex marriage that will take effect in 2014. 

And as you know, more than two years ago, President Obama instructed our Department of Justice to stop enforcing DOMA.  Then just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States declared DOMA unconstitutional. 

Today, the State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government, I’m proud to say, is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States. 

I am proud to say that I voted against DOMA, one of 14 votes against it and the only person running for election that year who voted against it, and it’s one of the better votes that I’ve cast.  It was the right vote then, it’s the right vote today.  And I’m pleased to make this announcement today because this is one of those moments where policy and values join together.  And I think those of you in the consular division, more than me or more than any of us back at the State Department on a daily basis, are going to bet you’d be the people who get to make this a reality for people.

So those of you working today in the consular section will make history when you issue some of the first visas to same-sex couples, and you will be some of the first faces to welcome them to the United States in an always – a country that obviously is always trying to tweak and improve and do better by the values around which we were founded.  You share in the great responsibility of making our country live its values, and you make possible the journey of those who want to visit our country for that reason and many more.

I might remark that I get to sit up on the seventh floor of the State Department looking out straight at the Lincoln Memorial.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous march on Washington and of Martin Luther King’s unbelievably eloquent and historic plea for equality.  So that is where the dream was declared, the march goes on, this is several more steps in that march.  I can’t thank you enough for your hard work, and as always, I am proud to call myself your colleague.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Supreme Court audio of DOMA arguments

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 27 heard oral arguments in the challenge to the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Cameras are not permitted in the courtroom. But shortly after the arguments, the court released audio from the day’s proceedings, as well as a transcript.

The justices are expected to vote on the cases at the end of this week. However, decisions aren’t expected until the end of June – which also is Pride time around the world.

Same-sex couples can marry in the District of Columbia and nine states – Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington.

Thirty states ban same-sex marriage in their constitutions and 10 states ban same-sex marriage by legislative act. New Mexico is the only state where the law is silent on the issue.

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