Monday, August 31, 2015

Alaska: The 49th State's Place in History

Today, the President is traveling to Alaska to meet with some of the Alaskans who are on the frontlines of climate change, one of the greatest challenges facing our nation. Follow along with the President's trip at WhiteHouse.gov/Alaska.

“The state’s God-given natural treasures are all at risk.”
President Obama


But just how did this treasure trove of national resources and beauty become a part of our union? While the President is en route, let's do a quick historical recap.

March 30, 1867

Secretary of State William H. Seward signed a treaty with Russia for the purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million. Despite the bargain deal (roughly two cents an acre), the purchase was ridiculed in Congress and in the press as “Seward’s folly,” and President Andrew Johnson’s “polar bear garden.” Nevertheless, the Senate ratified the purchase, adding a tremendous landmass (one-fifth the size of the rest of the U.S.) to America.

Check for the Purchase of Alaska
Cancelled check in the amount of $7.2 million, for the purchase of Alaska, issued August 1, 1868; Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury; Record Group 217; National Archives.

Despite a slow start in settlement, the discovery of gold in the late 19th century prompted thousands of Americans to migrate to the territory hoping to strike it rich. Alaska, rich in natural resources and beauty, has been contributing to American prosperity ever since.

Over Chilkoot Pass During the Gold Rush in Alaska
Over Chilkoot Pass During the Gold Rush in Alaska, National Archives and Records Administration

A vial of gold found in the case file of Heine v. Roth in the National Archives at Anchorage
A vial of gold from the Klondike Gold Rush found in the case file of Heine v. Roth in the National Archives at Anchorage


September 14, 1901

From the day of his inauguration, 26th President Theodore Roosevelt was brought into discussions on then-territory Alaska, as disputes over boundary lines ensued through 1902.

Protecting our lands and wildlife was one of the chief concerns of President "Teddy" Roosevelt. Known as our "Conservationist President," Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, and 150 National Forests, including the Tongass and the Chugach in Alaska.

Working with longtime friend and famous preservationist John Muir, he also created five National Parks – and added land to Yosemite National Park.

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir
Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir standing on Glacier Point above Yosemite Valley, California.



He eventually enabled the 1906 American Antiquities Act, which gave the President authority to restrict the use of particular public lands in America. It gave the President the power to protect "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" on federal land by designations. President Roosevelt declared Grand Canyon, Devil’s Tower, and many more national monuments during his time in office.

With this conservation mindset, President Roosevelt knew that Alaska a land filled with a wealth of natural resources, particularly those being discovered by gold rush enthusiasts needed to be protected and well-managed. In a speech to the 57th Congress in 1902, President Roosevelt stated the following:

No country has a more valuable possession – in mineral wealth, in fisheries, furs, forests, and also in land available for certain kinds of farming and stock growing. The forests of Alaska should be protected and as a secondary but still important matter, the game also….Laws should be enacted to protect the Alaskan salmon fisheries against the greed which would destroy them.
President Theodore Roosevelt


At his persuasion, Congress passed a series of acts designed to regulate the harvesting of Alaskan wildlife, including the Alaska Game Act, which was strengthened by an act amending the Alaska Game Act in 1908. In 1909, President Roosevelt also first protected the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.

Autumn on the tundra of the Yukon Delta
Autumn on the tundra of the Yukon Delta NWR

August 3, 1944

In early August 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) journeyed to Alaska for a six-day inspection and fishing trip, the second President to make the trip north. While in Alaska, FDR made stops at Adak, Kodiak, and Auke Bay, visiting with soldiers as part of a trip across the Pacific during World War II.

President Roosevelt and his party embark on a trout fishing expedition on Buskin Lake, Kodiak Island, Alaska, August  7, 1944.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his party embark on a trout fishing expedition on Buskin Lake, Kodiak Island, Alaska, August 7, 1944.

January 3, 1959

On this day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a special proclamation admitting the territory of Alaska into the Union as the 49th and largest state.

H.R. 7999, A bill to provide for the admission of the state of Alaska into the Union (House engrossed copy), June 22, 1957
H.R. 7999, A bill to provide for the admission of the state of Alaska into the Union (House engrossed copy), June 22, 1957

Learn more about Eisenhower's support for Alaskan statehood.

August 31, 2015

Today, President Obama becomes the first President to visit America's Arctic, witnessing firsthand the impacts of climate change on this region on the frontlines. The President, along with Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers, will discuss the challenges of how to best manage the future of this region, and the people and natural resources that reside there.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Announcing the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs

On June 24, 2015, President Obama approved Presidential Policy Directive 30, U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts, and signed an Executive Order on the recovery of U.S. hostages taken abroad. These steps directed key organizational changes to ensure that the U.S. Government is doing all it can to safely recover Americans taken hostage overseas and is responsive to the needs of their families. Among the changes the President announced was the need to enhance our focus on diplomatic efforts to ensure the safe return of American hostages to their families.

In signing the Executive Order, the President outlined our whole of government approach to hostage recovery and announced that a new Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs would engage at the highest levels of foreign governments to secure the safe return of U.S. hostages. Today, the President has appointed Jim O’Brien to serve as the first Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. In this role, Mr. O’Brien will report to the Secretary of State and will work closely with the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell also established under the Executive Order and the rest of the U.S. Government to synchronize diplomatic efforts in support of comprehensive strategies to bring home American hostages. He will also work directly with the families of hostages as part of the U.S. Government team dedicated to securing the safe return of their loved ones.

Mr. O’Brien is uniquely qualified to serve in this position given his extensive background in diplomacy and international negotiations. He brings years of diplomatic experience having served as the Special Presidential Envoy for the Balkans, Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Principal Deputy Director of Policy Planning at the Department of State. As Secretary of State John Kerry has said, “Jim is exactly the right person for a job that demands a high level of diplomatic experience and the ability to analyze and find effective remedies to complex problems.”

The appointment of Jim O’Brien is an important milestone in the President’s enhancements of the United States’ response to hostage events and to implement the findings and recommendations of the review ordered by the President.

Lisa Monaco is the President's Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.

More than 4.75 Million Records Released

In September 2009, the President announced that — for the first time in history — White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in May 2015. This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to more than 4.75 million — all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

This blog post will be updated throughout the day as the President travels to New Orleans to meet with the Mayor and residents who have rebuilt their lives since the storm. Stay tuned here for updates on the trip and to watch his remarks at 4:55 p.m. EDT.

Today's Schedule:

EDT

10:45AM The President departs the White House en route to Joint Base Andrews
11:00AM The President departs Joint Base Andrews en route to New Orleans, Louisiana

CDT

12:20PM The President arrives in New Orleans, Louisiana
12:45PM The President meets with residents and youth, New Orleans, Louisiana
2:55PM The President participates in a resilience roundtable, Andrew P. Sanchez Community Center, New Orleans, LA
3:55PM The President delivers remarks, Andrew P. Sanchez Community Center, New Orleans, LA
5:00PM The President departs New Orleans en route to Washington, DC


Share the Facts

98% of families displaced by Katrina are back in their homes.

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We've provided more than $5.2 billion since 2009 for rebuilding schools, hospitals, roads, police and fire stations, and historic museums and buildings.

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We’re supporting high-growth, high-wage industries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama

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Get the Facts

Since taking office, President Obama has made it a key priority to continue and expedite the recovery and rebuilding efforts since Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, by:

  • Supporting the needs of survivors
  • Bolstering the recovery efforts already underway by state, local, and federal officials by cutting red tape to deploy important resources quickly
  • Investing in hard-hit communities
  • Ensuring that affected communities build back stronger and more resilient
  • The President has directed his Administration to take an all-of-nation approach — to work closely with and support the work of all of our partners, including state and local governments, tribal and volunteer organizations, the private sector, and families

10 years after Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast is building back stronger and more resilient:

98% of families displaced by Katrina are back in their homes.
We've provided more than $5.2 billion since 2009 for rebuilding schools, hospitals, roads, police and fire stations, and historic museums and buildings.

Read more on the Administration's post-Katrina recovery efforts.

See what community-building programs are already at work in your area with this interactive map.

Share how you’ve seen these programs at work in your community. If you’ve got a photo, share that with us, too.

More on Resilience Planning

President Obama is making the biggest commitment in American history to reduce carbon emissions and slow the impacts of climate change.

Second Estimate of GDP for the Second Quarter of 2015

Real GDP growth in the second quarter was revised markedly upward, as consumers spent more and businesses invested more than previously estimated. The economy grew at a much faster pace in the second quarter than in the first, with strong personal consumption leading the rebound. At this time in the global economy, it is essential that we continue to do everything we can to maintain America’s domestic economic momentum—including avoiding a return to fiscal brinksmanship or unnecessary austerity by passing an on-time budget that reverses the sequester, increasing investments in infrastructure as part of a long-term transportation reauthorization, and other steps to foster long-term growth.

FIVE KEY POINTS IN TODAY'S REPORT FROM THE BUREAU OF ECONOMIC ANALYSIS (BEA)

1. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose 3.7 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter according to the BEA’s latest estimate, well above the first quarter’s 0.6 percent pace and the BEA’s initial second-quarter estimate of 2.3 percent growth. In the second quarter, the increase in GDP growth was led by a faster pace of personal consumption growth than in the first quarter and a shift from negative to positive net export growth. Structures investment, which declined sharply in the first quarter and was previously thought to have declined in the second, is now estimated to have grown. Overall, real GDP has now risen 2.7 percent over the past four quarters. Real Gross Domestic Output (GDO)—an alternative gauge of economic output that is potentially more accurate (though not predictably stronger or weaker) over the long term, which BEA calls “the average of GDP and Gross Domestic Income (GDI)”—rose 2.1 percent in the second quarter and has risen 2.5 percent over the past four quarters, indicating a similar trend for growth as GDP albeit with a different quarterly pattern.

Chart: Real GDP and GDO Growth, 2007-2015

2. The 1.4 percentage point upward revision to real second-quarter GDP was spread across many components of economic output. Business fixed investment accounted for a little more than a third of the overall revision, as investment in structures, equipment, and intellectual property were all higher than previously estimated. Indeed, business investment—weighed down by reduced oil-related investment in the wake of oil price declines and previously thought to have fallen—is now estimated to have grown in the second quarter. State and local government purchases also accounted for 0.3 percentage point of the overall revision, as did inventory investment. Personal consumption, net exports, and federal government spending also each saw small positive upward revisions. Notably, this was an especially broad-based revision without any downward revisions in major components of GDP.

Chart: Revisions to Real GDP Growth in 2015:Q2

3. Initial estimates of Gross Domestic Output (GDO) growth over the long term tend to predict subsequent revisions to GDP growth. GDO is the Council of Economic Advisers’ term for the average of GDP and Gross Domestic Income (GDI)—two measures that should conceptually be identical but differ due to measurement error. While not systematically stronger or weaker than GDP over time, GDO can provide a more accurate picture of economic output, in part because independent errors to GDP and GDI tend partially to cancel out when the two are added. Relatedly, early GDO estimates appear to provide information about the extent to which GDP will eventually be revised. When GDO is estimated to grow faster than GDP, GDP tends to be revised up, and vice versa. The chart below shows the association between revisions to GDP growth incorporating all annual revisions to date (the “years later” measure) and the gap between initially estimated GDP and GDO. Of course—as with virtually all economic data when there are noisy statistics—it is important to focus on longer-term trends. Our analysis here is based on four-quarter growth rates of GDP and GDO, and we caution against focusing too much on the quarterly gap.

Initial GDO Estimates Predict "Years Later" GDP Revisions

4. A slowdown in business investment during the recovery has been led by oil-driven declines in structures and equipment spending, while intellectual property investment—including research and development—has accelerated throughout the recovery. Structures and equipment investment grew markedly more slowly over the first half of 2015 than they had earlier in the recovery, largely reflecting reduced oil investment in the low-price environment. These components have restrained overall business investment growth. But at the same time, investment in intellectual property, which chiefly comprises research and development and software, has grown progressively faster. In fact, research and development investment has grown 7.9 percent over the past four quarters, the fastest pace since 2007 and three times faster than overall economic growth. The acceleration in overall IP spending has been relatively steady throughout the recovery, while equipment and structures investment have been volatile. Many economists view research and development as an important source of productivity growth.

Chart: Contributions to Real Business Fixed Investment Growth

5. Real private domestic final purchases (PDFP)—the sum of consumption and fixed investment—rose 3.3 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter, and is growing at a faster year-over-year pace than overall GDP. Real PDFP—which excludes the often noisy components like net exports, inventories, and government spending—is generally a more reliable indicator of next-quarter GDP growth than current GDP. While GDO aims to measure output growth more accurately in a given quarter by reducing measurement error, PDFP aims to measure signals of future economic growth by eliminating some of the noisy components in GDP. Over the past four quarters, PDFP grew by 3.4 percent, a faster rate than overall GDP growth. In analogy to the relationship between GDP and PDFP, the sum of wages and corporate profits is an especially important component of Gross Domestic Income (GDI), the income-side output measure that is combined with GDP to produce GDO. In fact, while PDFP tends to predict next-quarter GDP especially well, wages and profits tend to predict GDP over the next four quarters especially well—despite being more volatile than PDFP. Real wages and profits have grown 2.6 percent over the past four quarters, roughly in line with current trends in GDP and GDO.

Real PDFP and Wages & Profits Growth, 2007-2015

As the Administration stresses every quarter, GDP figures can be volatile and are subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one single report, and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Here’s How the Federal Government is Working with Local Communities to Create Change, in One Map:

As the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, it’s my job to oversee the implementation and enforcement of the President’s priorities across the Administration.

You might call us the nerve center where goals become initiatives, and initiatives become programs at work on the ground in local communities and states across the country.

With that in mind, let’s go back to basics for a second and focus on something we can all agree on:

Any plans that we want to make for improving communities across the country need to be hatched in partnership with those communities -- by the people who live in them, work in them, and stand to benefit from them.

Take a look at the federal programs at work in your area.

This week marks ten years since the neighborhoods of New Orleans were left devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Since then, community partnerships with the federal government have helped revitalize those communities. They’ve made sure the city’s vital health clinic system stays funded and delivering high quality services. They’ve laid the groundwork to open the Loyola Avenue-Union Passenger Terminal Streetcar Line in the city’s business district. They’ve brought the number of homeless veterans in New Orleans to a functional zero by December of 2014 – more than a year ahead of the proposed goal. (Hear straight from a New Orleanian about the role open data played in the city's transformation.)

There are projects like these at work across the country, whether you realized it or not.

Over the course of the past six years, this Administration has been steadily creating programs in partnership with the communities they intend to serve – from southeastern Kentucky to Fresno to Detroit.

While there are a lot of things we have been up to from addressing climate change to poverty alleviation, we are taking a new approach -- one that relies on communities developing plans that best fit their needs rather than the laundry list of programs the government has. It’s pretty simple. First, we partner with communities by seeking out their plans or vision. Second, we take a one-government approach that crosses agency and program silos to support communities in implementing their plans for improvement. Finally we focus on what works, using data to measure success and monitor progress.

Take a look at how local programs have changed New Orleans communities.
Construction and development of the Loyola Avenue-Union Passenger Terminal Streetcar Lines had stalled out, leaving low-income areas underserved for decades. A $45 million TIGER grant ensured the streetcar expansion was completed by 2013, and has connected residential neighborhoods -- including low-income communities -- directly with Amtrak and intercity bus service.
See how local programs have transformed communities within Fresno, CA.
The plot of land at Belmont and Poplar Avenues was virtually abandoned. AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps has since installed water-saving irrigation, cleaned up the alleys, built a community garden, and planted native trees.

We wanted to give the American public a sense of exactly what that looks like – and give you the opportunity to take a look at what’s at work in your area. So today, we released a snapshot view of the Obama administration’s community-based initiatives. It combines datasets from initiatives across more than 15 Federal agencies – and we’re adding datasets and features as we continue building it.

Take a look – see what’s at work in your area.

Then, share how you’ve seen these programs at work in your community. If you’ve got a photo, share that with us, too.

From the start, this map has been built in the open, and source code is available on GitHub. We want to know what you think, and how we can improve it – so share your thoughts with us here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Consumers Beware: 5 Tips to Keep you Scam-Free This Summer

For Media and Partners Features Work With Us Features You're invited to read and use our bilingual articles covering trusted, timely, and valuable government information. What's on This Page Consumers Beware: 5 Tips to Keep you Scam-Free This Summer A Friend of a Friend Might Be a Scammer Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans With Disabilities Act Three Things to Consider Before Trusting A Financial Advisor Consumers Beware: 5 Tips to Keep you Scam-Free This Summer For the majority of Americans who plan to take a vacation, attend a concert, or work on their home or garden this summer, this season comes with its own unique consumer challenges. Here are the top five scams and frauds to be alert for this time of year

Countering Iran: How the U.S. and Our Allies Will Confront Iran’s Destabilizing Activities

Throughout our negotiations with Iran, we were clear-eyed about Iran’s efforts to destabilize the Middle East, and we resolved not to let the regime off the hook. In fact, from sponsoring terrorist activity to human rights abuses, Iran continues to pursue destabilizing activities in the Middle East region that the U.S. and our allies continue to monitor and address.

So why did the U.S. spend nearly two years negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran?

It’s a fair question with an important answer: As destabilizing as Iran’s regional activities are, they would be exponentially more dangerous with a nuclear weapon. And now that we’ve taken a nuclear-armed Iran off the table, we can ratchet up the pressure on its destabilizing activities—including its support for terrorism.

We are committed to countering Iran’s actions that threaten our national security interests and those of our allies, especially Israel. Here's how:

Strengthening the Defense and Security of Israel:

The United States and Israel have forged a deep and enduring bond since the United States became the first country to recognize Israel in 1948. The close engagement—at all levels—between the two countries reflects how our histories, interests, and values are so deeply intertwined between our two peoples. President Obama knows that Israel’s national security is paramount and that is why, under his leadership, the United States has provided an unprecedented level of support to Israel since he took office.

Under President Obama, we are helping Israel address new and complex security threats to ensure Israel maintains its Qualitative Military Edge (QME), or its ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat through superior military capability and means. Here’s what that looks like:

Strengthening Israel's Security

Intensifying Security Cooperation with Gulf States:

For the past 70 years, the United States has maintained a core national security interest in the security and the stability of our allies in the Gulf region – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. We’ve long cooperated on confronting the extraordinary challenges posed by ISIL, al Qaeda, the Assad regime’s war in Syria, and Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.

As President Obama has said, we will continue to maintain a strong force posture in the region to deter aggression; bolster the security of our regional friends and allies; ensure the freedom of navigation of international waterways and the free flow of energy to world markets; and address nefarious actors that seek to sow the seeds of instability. Here’s what that looks like:

Cooperating with the Gulf States

Maintaining Restrictions on Iranian Missile and Arms Activity:

Under the Iran deal, Iran will receive relief from nuclear-related sanctions only after it has implemented key measures to roll back its nuclear program and enhance transparency. However, the Iran deal also includes additional arms and missile restrictions for a significant period of time: five years for the arms embargo and eight years for missile restrictions. What’s more, the United States and international community will maintain a broad set of multilateral and unilateral tools, including sanctions, to continue to restrict Iranian conventional arms and missile-related activity. Here’s what that looks like:

Restricting Missile and Arms Restrictions

The Bottom Line:

The nuclear deal is an element of our broader efforts to confront and counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. The United States has long worked with its allies and partners to address Iran’s support for terrorism and regional militancy—and the Iran deal does nothing to weaken our resolve to continue to push back and defend our interests and friends. By neutralizing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, we are better positioned than ever to work with Israel and other partners to promote regional stability and advance our mutual security.

In a letter to Congressman Jerrold Nadler, President Obama laid out exactly what our efforts to counter Iran would look like and how they are strengthened by the implementation of the Iran deal.

As I have underscored repeatedly, it is imperative that, even as we effectively cut off Iran's pathways to a nuclear weapon through implementation of the JCPOA, we take steps to ensure we and our allies and partners are more capable than ever to deal with Iran's destabilizing activities and support for terrorism.
President Obama

Read his entire letter here:

President Obama's Letter on Countering Iran

Colin Kahl is the Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President.

Monday, August 24, 2015

One Veteran's Perspective on the Iran Deal

This morning, Congressman Seth Moulton sent the following message to the White House email list to share why, as a combat veteran, he supports the Iran deal. You can learn more about the historic deal here: www.whitehouse.gov/Iran-deal


I was in the first company of Marines to enter Baghdad in 2003.

As a combat veteran, I know the cost of war. It is something I still carry with me today in the U.S. House of Representatives, where I have the privilege of representing the people of northeast Massachusetts. And I am reminded of it every time the questions of war and peace come before Congress.

In September, we will face that question once more when members of Congress consider whether or not to support the Iran nuclear agreement.

During the Iraq war, I saw the weapons and influence of the Iranian regime, and I deeply understand the threat Iran poses to America and our allies like Israel. That is why it is so crucial that the international community works together to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

After careful deliberation, I believe the Iran nuclear deal does just that. You can investigate the deal yourself here.

Let me be clear: I do not, and we should not, trust Iran to comply with this agreement. But this deal is not based on trust. It's based on enforceable verification measures that are comprehensive enough to be effective.

Inspections will also give us greater intelligence on Iran than we have today.

I respect that some, including a few veterans, may disagree and feel that there is the possibility of a "better deal" out there. To them I say, what's the alternative?

You may hear of two: increasing our sanctions regime or pursuing a military option. Here's why those are just not acceptable:

Increasing sanctions — let alone maintaining them — would only work if the international coalition behind the sanctions holds together. But our allies have been clear: They agreed to sanctions to force Iran to the negotiating table to secure a deal like the one we now have. If we walk away from that deal, we walk away alone.

The other option, taking military action against Iran, would once again imperil the lives of Americans to achieve much less than this deal achieves by diplomatic means. Military action would only set Iran's nuclear program back a few years at most, reaffirm their pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and drive the program underground.

Both these options leave us worse off than we are under the terms of the Iran deal. The fact is there is no "better deal" that will prevent Iran from building a bomb.

No deal is perfect, especially one negotiated among adversaries. But, in our ongoing confrontation with a great threat to world peace, we have found the best available option by peaceful means rather than pursuing a worse option through war.

It is for these reasons that I support the Iran deal.

And if you read it for yourself, I feel you will too.

Thank you.

We Need Your Voice (and Nominations) for the Summit on Worker Voice

America is at its strongest when we work together to build prosperity that all of us contribute to and share. We are our best when the working men and women who are engines of economic growth are true partners in industry and innovation, with a robust voice in their workplaces. That’s why, last week, President Obama announced his intention to host a White House Summit on Worker Voice on October 7.

Now, we need your help finding workers, employers, and organizers from across the country to join this conversation.

Our economy has come a long way from the economic crisis we faced when President Obama took office. American businesses have created 13 million jobs over the past 65 months, the longest consecutive streak of job growth on record. But we have more work to do to help middle-class wages grow and adapt to the changing nature of work in the 21st century. The Summit on Worker Voice will provide a historic opportunity to bring together a diverse group of leaders – including workers, employers, unions, organizers, and other advocates and experts – to explore ways to ensure that hardworking Americans are both driving our nation’s economic resurgence and also sharing in the benefits of the growth that they are helping to create.

We know that many of you are doing great work across the country to prove this time-tested principle – that as employers, workers, and communities, we thrive when we stand together and support each other. We need the voices of hardworking Americans who stand up for better conditions in their workplaces. We need the voice of forward-thinking employers who are rejecting the old “us v. them” approach to their employees, instead finding win-win solutions by listening to them. We need the voices of tech innovators building new tools to allow workers to join together to make their voices heard.

You know, we don’t have all the answers here in Washington. We will be more successful in creating shared prosperity if we put our heads together to find new ways to help workers raise their voices together. That’s why we’re pleased to announce that we’ll be accepting nominations for people from across the country to attend the Summit in Washington, D.C. on October 7. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in the conversation with senior leaders from business, unions, and government who share their commitment to fairer, more productive, and more prosperous workplaces. And we will be counting on attendees to learn from each other too, and to take those lessons back to their communities to make even more of a difference.

We’re looking for nominees who are making a difference for worker voice in their communities. Do you know someone who is bringing coworkers together to discuss common workplace issues, or who is inspiring workers to speak up? Do you know an employer who has taken great lengths to listen to their employees and learn what really matters to them? If so, nominate them to attend the Summit on Worker Voice.

There are limited spaces for attending the Summit at the White House, but there will be many other opportunities for joining the conversation. We’ll continue to provide updates on the blog about how you can join in.

Next Steps in Developing the Precision Medicine Initiative

The President’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) is dedicated to enabling a new era of medicine through research, technology, and policies that will lead to the development of individualized, tailored treatments for patients. This vision will allow everyone to become an active participant in scientific discovery – furthering an open and inclusive model for better recruitment of and partnership with research participants. Why is this so important? We have seen incredible innovations in health care, and central to many of those advances have been people participating in research. PMI will provide the foundation that allows all Americans to sign up and share their data in a safe and responsible way, leading to scientific breakthroughs that will ultimately pave the way to better options for patients.

And that’s why we want to hear from YOU.

Precision Medicine Champions of Change

In July, the White House celebrated nine remarkable Champions of Change in Precision Medicine and highlighted the efforts of organizations committed to providing more individuals with easier, more efficient access to their health data.

Hear more about the importance of this initiative from nearly a dozen researchers and advocates here.

Moving precision medicine forward must be a team effort. We need all sectors to work together. We need people to actively engage in research and voluntarily choose to share their data with responsible researchers who are working to understand health and disease. We need healthcare providers to share their insight and help translate new findings into better care. And we need a strong, secure, and nimble infrastructure for health data that protects privacy, ensures security and facilitates new research models. Leaders in healthcare must continue to work with the brightest minds from the technology sector on designing and testing new methods for opening up patient data and allowing individuals to donate their data to research. Over the course of this administration, we’ve seen incredible advances in health technology, including widespread adoption of electronic health records. Yet, there is still more work to do. Too many people are unable to access, share, or move their health data easily.

That’s why we’re looking to a broad range of stakeholders to learn about new or expanded initiatives and programs aimed at enabling new ways to improve health and treat disease – and ways to use this information to inform our precision medicine efforts going forward.

We know of exciting work in each of the key areas listed below, and are looking for additional examples of these types of efforts. These initiatives could include:

  • New approaches for deploying precision medicine into patient care to improve health.
  • Exciting new ways to engage patients, participants, and partners in research, and get the word out about PMI, including through the use of novel technologies.
  • The deployment of innovative ways of including historically excluded and underserved populations in research.
  • The development of robust APIs in electronic health record systems that can support patients accessing their clinical data and donating it for research.
  • The creation of workable models of information sharing across organizational boundaries with appropriate privacy and security protections.
  • Technology to support the storage and analysis of large amounts of data, with strong security safeguards.
  • Novel analytics to help combine diverse data sets with appropriate privacy and security protections to answer precision medicine questions.
  • New solutions for security issues in building large research data sets.
  • Steps to increase the number of high quality data scientists and technologists working in healthcare.
  • The development of grand challenges, competitions, and prizes to foster innovation.

Please share any new activities that support these goals or others that advance precision medicine here by 5 PM ET on September 21, 2015. With support from patients, research participants, researchers, providers, and private sector innovators, we can make precision medicine a reality. We need your creativity, on-the-ground experience, and enthusiasm to realize the promise of delivering individually tailored treatments to patients. Visit the White House Precision Medicine website to share your experience and help with this important initiative. We’re listening.

Stephanie Devaney is Project Manager for the Precision Medicine Initiative.

West Wing Week: 8/21/15 or, "A Look Ahead"

Last week, we took you behind the scenes of some of the summer's most momentous White House moments. This week, we'll preview some of the exciting events on the President's schedule in the weeks to come.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The 10 New Resilience AmeriCorps Cities Selected for Its Climate Resilience Pilot Program

We know that when it comes to action on climate change, some of the best work is happening in small towns and big cities across the country.

Earlier this year, local leaders in Fort Collins, Colorado, unanimously adopted some of the most aggressive goals in the nation to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions: 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2030, which would put the city on a path to be carbon neutral by 2050. And in Salt Lake City, Utah, community leaders have put forward the “Sustainable Salt Lake – Plan 2015” that reflects a broad and ambitious agenda to protect its city’s resources, enhance local assets, and establish a path toward greater resiliency and vitality for the community.

But we also know that local resources are often stretched thin, particularly in the low-income communities that need help the most. The third U.S. National Climate Assessment noted that socioeconomic disparities can exacerbate the vulnerability of certain populations, including low-income communities and some communities of color, due in part to limited capacity and resources necessary to prepare and adapt. For example, sea level rise poses the greatest risk to those who live in low-lying neighborhoods on the coast – communities that are often home to vulnerable populations. Rates of asthma – which may be exacerbated by climate change – among African American children are more than double the rates of white children, and Hispanic children are nearly twice as likely as white children to be hospitalized for asthma.

That’s why, last month, the Administration announced Resilience AmeriCorps, a first of its kind effort to support local resilience-building efforts. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have partnered with The Rockefeller Foundation and Cities of Service to place AmeriCorps members in communities to provide capacity building and technical support for climate resilience. Through the program, AmeriCorps members will provide much needed capacity for communities to do things like develop climate preparedness plans, build volunteer networks, and take advantage of the resilience tools available through our Climate Resilience Toolkit.

Today, we are thrilled to share the announcement of the cities selected for the Resilience AmeriCorps pilot program: Anchorage, Alaska; Boulder, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; El Paso, Texas; Minot, North Dakota; New Orleans, Louisiana; Norfolk, Virginia; Phoenix, Arizona; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Today’s announcement responds to a key recommendation of the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. Last fall, the Task Force told us that local jurisdictions could greatly benefit from focused climate resilience and preparedness expertise provided by programs such as those established by CNCS. Resilience AmeriCorps members will help local leaders in these cities as they plan for and address the impacts of extreme weather events and other climate-related risks while also helping local governments and communities develop the programs, relationships, and capacity needed to support greater community resilience.

With cities, states, and tribes already confronting the costly impacts of climate change, the Administration remains determined in working hand-in-hand with communities as they develop smart strategies and stronger partnerships for building climate resilience.

My Letter to the President:


Today, the White House is launching a new Tumblr account called "Letters to President Obama," where we'll highlight letters that Americans have written to the President. Follow along here.

Earlier this morning, Natoma Canfield — a cancer survivor from Ohio — sent the following message to the White House email list, sharing what happened when she wrote the President a letter encouraging him to "stay focused" in his efforts to reform America's health care system.

Didn't get the email? Sign up for email updates here.


In December of 2009, I was a 50-year-old divorced woman, self-employed, and struggling to support myself and pay for my health insurance.

But in 1995, I'd had a very small bout with breast cancer — carcinoma in situ — which meant the insurance companies would forever see me as a woman with cancer. And that meant I had to pay more for my insurance.

My rates kept going up until I couldn't pay for my insurance any longer. I sure tried — I cut back everything, but nothing made a difference. I had to cancel.

In a last-ditch effort, desperate to let someone know my plight, I wrote President Obama a letter straight from my heart. I shared my story with him and told him how much people like me needed his help. And he actually read it!

The original letter from Natoma Canfield, outside the Oval Office.
The original letter from Natoma Canfield, hanging on the wall in the hall between the Oval Office and the President's Private Office in the West Wing. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

A few months later, however, my fears came true. In March of 2010, I passed out at work, and found out soon after that I had a rare type of leukemia — acute lymphoblastic leukemia with the Philadelphia chromosome, to be specific.

I went to the Cleveland Clinic and was placed in a great program on their leukemia floor, where I would fight for my life. While I was there, my sister Connie Anderson was asked to introduce the President at an event in Strongsville, Ohio.

Then one day, the President sent me a note, then another — and even called me on the phone. I couldn't believe it. Connie and my brother Ken were able to go to the signing of the Affordable Care Act, and later I finally got to meet the President myself in Parma, Ohio.

I really believe all of the excitement helped keep me alive. And today, I'm happy to say that I'm cancer-free.

Of course, I can't begin to thank the President enough for the Affordable Care Act. During the fight to pass the law, he said that he carried my story with him every day, as a reminder of what the Act would mean for people all across our country. He later decided to frame the letter, which is now hanging up outside the Oval Office.

As the President has said, "because of this law, there are other Americans — other sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers — who will not have to hang their fortunes on chance. These are the Americans for whom we passed this law."

I'm so grateful to have a President who truly cares about the people that he serves.

Natoma Canfield
Medina, Ohio


To see some more of the letters that people across America have written to President Obama, follow our "Letters to President Obama" Tumblr account here.

Weekly Address: It’s Time for Congress to Pass a Responsible Budget

In this week's address, the President spoke to the economic progress that our country has made, from 13 million new jobs created over the past five and a half years, to 17 states raising the minimum wage. Congress needs to do its part to continue to help grow the economy, but instead left town last month with a great deal undone.

Congress failed to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, which enjoys bipartisan support and is tasked solely with creating American jobs by growing exports. And most pressingly, the Republican Congress failed to uphold their most basic responsibility to fund the government, leaving them only a few weeks once they return to pass a budget, or shut down the government for the second time in two years.

The President made clear that Congress needs to get to work on behalf of the American people and reach a budget agreement that relieves the harmful sequester cuts and keeps our economy growing.

Transcript | mp4 | mp3