WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama endorsed his friend and former Vice President Joe Biden for President. In a nearly 12-minute video filmed at his Washington-area home and posted online, President Obama said, “Choosing Joe to be my Vice President was one of the best decisions I ever made, and he became a close friend. And I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a President right now.”
At the beginning of the Democratic presidential primary process last year, President Obama made clear that he would stay neutral because he believed that, in order for the Democratic Party to succeed in November, Democratic voters would have to select their nominee.
He also made clear that he would offer counsel to candidates who sought it out, be ready to help unify the Democratic Party at the culmination of the process, and campaign vigorously for the eventual nominee in the general election.
Just like he did in 2018, President Obama looks forward to campaigning aggressively for Democrats up and down the ballot this year. While campaigning during this cycle will look different than it normally does, what hasn’t changed is the need for all Democrats to get involved, stay engaged, and help Joe Biden and Democratic candidates win in November. This election is too important for anyone to sit out.
“Joe was there as we rebuilt from the Great Recession and rescued the American auto industry,” President Obama said. “He was the one asking what every policy would do for the middle class and everyone striving to get into the middle class. That’s why I asked him to implement the Recovery Act, which saved millions of jobs and got people back on their feet – because Joe gets stuff done. …
“Joe helped me manage H1N1 and prevent the Ebola epidemic from becoming the type of pandemic we’re seeing now. He helped me restore America’s standing and leadership in the world on the other threats of our time, like nuclear proliferation and climate change.
“Joe has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery. And I know he’ll surround himself with good people – experts, scientists, military officials who actually know how to run the government and care about doing a good job running the government, and know how to work with our allies, and who will always put the American people’s interests above their own. …
“Now Joe will be a better candidate for having run the gauntlet of primaries and caucuses alongside one of the most impressive Democratic fields ever. Each of our candidates were talented and decent, with a track record of accomplishment, smart ideas, and serious visions for the future. …
“In other words, elections matter. Right now, we need Americans of goodwill to unite in a great awakening against a politics that too often has been characterized by corruption, carelessness, self-dealing, disinformation, ignorance, and just plain meanness. And to change that, we need Americans of all political stripes to get involved in our politics and our public life like never before.
“For those of us who believe in building a more just, more generous, more democratic America where everybody has a fair shot at opportunity. For those of us who believe in a government that cares about the many, and not just the few. For those of us who love this country and are willing to do our part to make sure it lives up to its highest ideals – now’s the time to fight for what we believe in.”
Since leaving office, President Obama has remained politically active, campaigning and issuing endorsements in key races in 2017; holding regular fundraisers for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the DNC, the DCCC and the DSCC; and endorsing more than 300 candidates up and down the ballot and holding rallies in 11 states in the 2018 mid-term elections.
This is a statement from the Office of Barack Obama:
Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.
But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about. This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.
Over the years, politicians of both parties have worked together to write legislation that would have told these young people – our young people – that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here a certain number of years, and if you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you’ll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship. And for years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill.
That bill never came. And because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm. Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.
But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?
Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.
It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it’s up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I’m heartened by those who’ve suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.
Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.
What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.
Barack Obama will leave office with a 60% approval rating, one of the highest ratings for an outgoing president – remarkable considering the unprecedented opposition and obstruction he has faced from the moment he swore his oath.
It bears reminding that no one came into the presidency with more challenges than Obama – not Washington, Lincoln or FDR. None of them on their first day, had to contend with an imploding economy headed into a Great Depression at the same time the country was embroiled in two foreign wars, not to mention the swine flu epidemic and environmental disasters (BP Oil spill) that came soon after.
Despite the best efforts of the Republicans to insure Obama’s failure, Obama brought the economy back from the brink of a Great Depression, saved the American auto industry, launched the renewable energy industry, restored America’s leadership in the world (Paris Climate Agreement, Iran Nuclear Agreement, opening relations with Cuba after more than 50 years), succeeded where seven presidents before him failed to provide nearly universal affordable, accessible health care. Despite unprecedented opposition – including bills that were tabled – he made inroads into immigration reform, gun violence prevention, criminal justice reform, advanced manufacturing. He accomplished the most sweeping financial protections since the Depression, and yet the stock market has nearly tripled during his tenure, hitting record after record, and since signing Obamacare into law, America’s businesses have added more than 15 million new jobs.
Eight years since taking office, an economy that was shedding 800,000 jobs a month, has had the longest streak of job creation in history; wages have grown faster than any time in the past 40 years. Last year, the poverty rate fell at the fastest pace in almost 50 years while the median household income grew at the fastest rate on record. And Obama did it while cutting deficits by nearly two-thirds.
His signature Affordable Care Act – which should be his crowning achievement – has brought health insurance to 20 million American adults and 3 million children. For the first time ever, more than 90% of Americans have health insurance. Health costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years. Every American now has the benefit of true patient protections that hadn’t existed before, when everyone was at the mercy of for-profit insurance companies: people can’t be rejected for pre-existing conditions, there are no annual or lifetime caps, a cap on what private-insurance can spent on non-patient care, and if you lose your job (or your marriage) or start a business, you can still have access to affordable health insurance. Obama’s health reforms have saved an estimated 87,000 lives, when before, more than 20,000 were dying simply for lack of access to health care, not counting how many tens of thousands suffered debilitating diseases that could have been prevented or cured early.
The high school graduation rate is now 83 percent – the highest on record –and more young people graduate from college than ever before. Those who decide not to pursue college, have more options, from expanding access to apprenticeships, to launching high-tech manufacturing institutes, to revamping the job training system and creating programs like TechHire to help people train for higher-paying jobs in months, not years.
Obama brought back 180,000 American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, eliminated from the face of the earth the mastermind of the September 11 2001 terror attacks that succeeded in knocking America off its foundation, and yes, kept America safe from another major, orchestrated attack, foiling plots. And, with the coalition he forged and a relentless campaign of 16,000 airstrikes, the US is “breaking the back” of ISIS, taking away safe havens (most recently in Libya), and done this at a cost of $10 billion over two years, the same amount that was spent in just one month at the height of the Iraq War.
He accomplished a minor miracle by bringing nearly 200 nations together – including China and India – around a climate agreement that could literally save this planet. With new models for development, American assistance is helping people around the world feed themselves, care for their sick, and power communities across Africa. And almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago. And he applied climate action initiatives here, to stem the destruction and public health disasters of pollution, wild fires, drought, floods.
Obama used his executive authority more than any other president to protect iconic historic, cultural and ecological sites across the country representative of the full spectrum of America’s diverse heritage, paying homage to civil rights, women’s suffrage, workers rights, LGBT rights and adding 554 million acres to our national birthright.
He did more to address systemic racism than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, including unleashing DoJ investigations into police departments and challenging voter suppression – and yet does not seem to get the appreciation he should from Black Americans. Boy will they miss him.
Years from now, perhaps not that many – we will realize how much was squandered – Obama’s talent, his compassion, his sense of justice and fairness, his brilliance. How much more could have been accomplished in solving the intractable problems of our time. The progress that could have been made to ameliorating climate change, income inequality, advancing healthcare, promoting quality education and job training, protecting and preserving the environment, advancing peace initiatives.
My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop. In fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days. But for now, whether you are young or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I’m asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.
I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written: Yes, we can.
Yes, we did. Yes, we can.
It seems that destiny put Obama into the presidency at this time – his election was the result of a confluence of events without which he never would have become the first African-American (half white) President: the historic implosion of the Bush/Cheney administration amid recession and war and John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for his vice president.
This set of circumstances positioned him to preside during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s assassination; the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the March on Washington, Medicare. He was president for the erection of the Martin Luther King Jr. monument and the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History& Culture on the mall.
All the big domestic enterprises were accomplished in his first two years, when he had a Democratic-controlled Congress, despite Senate Republicans using the filibuster to an unprecedented degree. All of which are likely to be erased or overturned within days of Donald Trump taking over the Oval Office.
All that will be gone because Hillary Clinton, despite winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, was denied the presidency. Trump’s elevation through the Electoral College was accomplished through voter suppression, Russian hacking and fake news, and was not a repudiation of Obama, who leaves office with 60% approval – one of the highest – while Trump comes into office with 40% approval the lowest approval rating of any incoming president.
Obama’s most important legacy? His grace, dignity, compassion, brilliance that he brought to his office. His calm, cool demeanor, his careful reasoning in face of extraordinary challenges. His unrelenting quest for fairness and justice. The way he always seemed to have a clear-eyed understanding of what American people were feeling, and his ability to always find the right words. Oh how we will miss that “professorial” style for which he was chided. We will miss No Drama Obama.
Every aspect of Obama’s legacy will now be erased – and if Trump could, he would erase Obama’s name altogether. Except one: you can count on Trump to blame Obama for any bad thing that happens, from the inevitable crash of the economy to a new global war.
The only solace I take is that Obama has created the templates for solutions, which hopefully before I die, will be taken out, dusted off, and implemented in order to propel this nation back on the path to being a more perfect union.
As we look back on the past eight years, President Obama asked each member of his Cabinet to write an Exit Memo on the progress we’ve made, their vision for the country’s future, and the work that remains in order to achieve that vision. At the same time, President Obama has composed a letter to the American people, which will accompany the Cabinet Exit Memos. You can view each memo at go.wh.gov/CabinetInReview.
Letter from President Obama
To my fellow Americans,
Eight years ago, America faced a moment of peril unlike any we’d seen in decades.
A spiraling financial crisis threatened to plunge an economy in recession into a deep depression. The very heartbeat of American manufacturing – the American auto industry – was on the brink of collapse. In some communities, nearly one in five Americans were out of work. Nearly 180,000 American troops were serving in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the mastermind of the worst terror attack on American soil remained at large. And on challenges from health care to climate change, we’d been kicking the can down the road for way too long.
But in the depths of that winter, on January 20, 2009, I stood before you and swore a sacred oath. I told you that day that the challenges we faced would not be met easily or in a short span of time – but they would be met. And after eight busy years, we’ve met them – because of you.
Eight years later, an economy that was shrinking at more than eight percent is now growing at more than three percent. Businesses that were bleeding jobs unleashed the longest streak of job creation on record. The auto industry has roared its way back, saving one million jobs across the country and fueling a manufacturing sector that, after a decade of decline, has added new jobs for the first time since the 1990s. And wages have grown faster over the past few years than at any time in the past forty.
Today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, another 20 million American adults know the financial security and peace of mind that comes with health insurance. Another three million children have gained health insurance. For the first time ever, more than ninety percent of Americans are insured – the highest rate ever. We’ve seen the slowest growth in the price of health care in fifty years, along with improvements in patient safety that have prevented an estimated 87,000 deaths. Every American with insurance is covered by the strongest set of consumer protections in history – a true Patients’ Bill of Rights – and free from the fear that illness or accident will derail your dreams, because America is now a place where discrimination against preexisting conditions is a relic of the past. And the new health insurance marketplace means that if you lose your job, change your job, or start that new business, you’ll finally be able to purchase quality, affordable care and the security and peace of mind that comes with it – and that’s one reason why entrepreneurship is growing for the second straight year.
Our dependence on foreign oil has been cut by more than half, and our production of renewable energy has more than doubled. In many places across the country, clean energy from the wind is now cheaper than dirtier sources of energy, and solar now employs more Americans than coal mining in jobs that pay better than average and can’t be outsourced. We also enacted the most sweeping reforms since the Great Depression to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from punishing Main Street ever again. These actions didn’t stifle growth, as critics predicted. Instead, the stock market has nearly tripled. Since I signed Obamacare into law, America’s businesses have added more than 15 million new jobs. And the economy is undoubtedly more durable than it was in the days when we relied on oil from unstable nations and banks took risky bets with your money.
The high school graduation rate is now 83 percent – the highest on record – and we’ve helped more young people graduate from college than ever before. At the same time, we’ve worked to offer more options for Americans who decide not to pursue college, from expanding apprenticeships, to launching high-tech manufacturing institutes, to revamping the job training system and creating programs like TechHire to help people train for higher-paying jobs in months, not years. We’ve connected more schools across the country to broadband internet, and supported more teachers to bring coding, hands-on making, and computational thinking into our classrooms to prepare all our children for a 21st century economy.
Add it all up, and last year, the poverty rate fell at the fastest rate in almost fifty years while the median household income grew at the fastest rate on record. And we’ve done it all while cutting our deficits by nearly two-thirds even as we protected investments that grow the middle class.
Meanwhile, over the past eight years, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland. Plots have been disrupted. Terrorists like Osama bin Laden have been taken off the battlefield. We’ve drawn down from nearly 180,000 troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan to just 15,000. With a coalition of more than 70 nations and a relentless campaign of more than 16,000 airstrikes so far, we are breaking the back of ISIL and taking away its safe havens, and we’ve accomplished this at a cost of $10 billion over two years – the same amount that we spent in one month at the height of the Iraq War.
At the same time, America has led the world to meet a set of global challenges. Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our kids. With new models for development, American assistance is helping people around the world feed themselves, care for their sick, and power communities across Africa. And almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago. All of this progress is due to the service of millions of Americans in intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, diplomacy, and the brave men and women of our Armed Forces – the most diverse institution in America.
We’ve also worked to make the changing face of America more fair and more just – including by making strides towards criminal justice reform, making progress towards equal pay, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and advancing the cause of civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights. I appointed two extraordinary women to the Supreme Court, marking the first time in history that three women sit on the bench, including the first Latina. And today in America, marriage equality is finally a reality across all fifty states.
This is where America stands after eight years of progress. By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started – a situation I’m proud to leave for my successor. And it’s thanks to you – to the hard work you’ve put in; the sacrifices you’ve made for your families and communities; the way you’ve looked out for one another.
Still, 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. And for all that we’ve achieved, there’s still so much I wish we’d been able to do, from enacting gun safety measures to protect more of our kids and our cops from mass shootings like Newtown, to passing commonsense immigration reform that encourages the best and brightest from around the world to study, stay, and create jobs in America.
And for all the incredible progress our economy has made in just eight years, we still have more work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a dignified retirement. We have to acknowledge the inequality that has come from an increasingly globalized economy while committing ourselves to making it work better for everyone, not just those at the top, and give everyone who works hard a fair shot at success.
And here’s the thing – over the past eight years, we’ve shown that we can. Last year, income gains were actually larger for households at the bottom and the middle than for those at the top. We’ve also made the tax code fairer. The tax changes enacted over the past eight years have ensured that the top one percent of Americans pay more of their fair share, increasing the share of income received by all other families by more than the tax changes in any previous administration since at least 1960. Simply put, we’ve actually begun the long task of reversing inequality. But as the global economy changes, we’ll have to do more to accelerate these trends, from strengthening unions that speak for workers, to preventing colleges from pricing out hardworking students, to making sure that minimum wage workers get a raise and women finally get paid the same as men for doing the same job. What won’t help is taking health care away from 30 million Americans, most of them white and working class; denying overtime pay to workers, most of whom have more than earned it; or privatizing Medicare and Social Security and letting Wall Street regulate itself again – none of which middle-class Americans voted for.
We will have to move forward as we always have – together. As a people who believe that out of many, we are one; that we are bound not by any one race or religion, but rather an adherence to a common creed; that all of us are created equal in the eyes of God. And I’m confident we will. Because the change we’ve brought about these past eight years was never about me. It was about you. It is you, the American people, who have made the progress of the last eight years possible. It is you who will make our future progress possible. That, after all, is the story of America – a story of progress. However halting, however incomplete, however harshly challenged at each point on our journey – the story of America is a story of progress.
Recently, I asked each member of my talented and dedicated Cabinet to prepare a detailed report on the progress we’ve made across the board these past eight years, and the work that remains to make this country we love even stronger. Today, I’m sharing them with you. And I hope you’ll share them with others, and do your part to build on the progress we’ve made across the board.
It has been the privilege of my life to serve as your President. And as I prepare to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen, I’m proud to say that we have laid a new foundation for America. A new future is ours to write. And I’m as confident as ever that it will be led by the United States of America – and that our best days are still ahead.
President Obama has taken an extraordinary next step to having normalized relations with Cuba last year: he is ending the so-called “wet-foot/dry foot” policy that gave Cuban migrants a privilege afforded no other group: the idea that a Cuban national only had to set foot on American soil to be embraced into legal residency and fast-tracked to citizenship. This was a privilege not afforded the Central Americans fleeing unbelievably horrendous violence and poverty, or any other group. Recently, a group of Cuban migrants were actually air-lifted by the United States from El Salvador, when El Salvadorans are unable to escape the murder capital of the world. The move putting Cuban migrants on equal footing with other migrants could not be taken until the Obama Administration obtained assurances from the Cuban government that Cuban migrants who were returned would not be prosecuted or harmed. Senator Marco Rubio’s relatives took advantage of such easy access, as did Senator Ted Cruz. Perhaps they will be more amenable to finding a more just solution to immigration reform. –– Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Here is the statement from President Obama:
Today, the United States is taking important steps forward to normalize relations with Cuba and to bring greater consistency to our immigration policy. The Department of Homeland Security is ending the so-called “wet-foot/dry foot” policy, which was put in place more than twenty years ago and was designed for a different era. Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement priorities. By taking this step, we are treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries. The Cuban government has agreed to accept the return of Cuban nationals who have been ordered removed, just as it has been accepting the return of migrants interdicted at sea.
Today, the Department of Homeland Security is also ending the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program. The United States and Cuba are working together to combat diseases that endanger the health and lives of our people. By providing preferential treatment to Cuban medical personnel, the medical parole program contradicts those efforts, and risks harming the Cuban people. Cuban medical personnel will now be eligible to apply for asylum at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, consistent with the procedures for all foreign nationals.
The United States, a land of immigrants, has been enriched by the contributions of Cuban-Americans for more than a century. Since I took office, we have put the Cuban-American community at the center of our policies. With this change we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws. During my Administration, we worked to improve the lives of the Cuban people – inside of Cuba – by providing them with greater access to resources, information and connectivity to the wider world. Sustaining that approach is the best way to ensure that Cubans can enjoy prosperity, pursue reforms, and determine their own destiny. As I said in Havana, the future of Cuba should be in the hands of the Cuban people.
On January 10, P resident Barack Obama returned to his adopted hometown of Chicago to deliver his farewell address to the nation in a way and a venue that had never been done before. In many ways, the speech neatly bookended the beginning of his career in national politics, starting with the 2004 breakthrough speech to the Democratic National Convention, continuing through the 2008 campaign. The themes, the earnest desire to do all he could to bring the country together, to make progress on behalf of all Americans, were all there. The speech was at once extraordinarily realistic and pragmatic yet idealistic, devoid of the cynicism that he would have been entitled to after all the obstacles, the vicious attacks, the nonstop efforts to delegitimize his presidency and demean him. He rose above it all, clinging to the values and principles which he holds most dear, exemplifying the very model of a national leader.
Without dwelling on it, he addressed the despair and despondency of millions and millions of Americans that he will be succeeded by someone who is diametrically opposite and opposed. The fear is that his legacy – record growth in jobs creation, wage increases, historic health care, historic international agreements on climate change, historic progress on civil rights – will all be erased. But he exhorted those who believe in progress to soldier on, to participate, to be engaged. Instead of complaining, run for office. Characteristically, he gave only brief mention of his achievements during his 8 years in office – not the least saving the nation from falling into a Great Depression, extracting us from two foreign wars, addressing numerous climate and environmental catastrophes and emergencies ranging from swine flu to Ebola, to terrorism. With great humility of a truly great and exceptional man, he thanked his Vice President Joe Biden, his wife,First Lady Michelle Obama and his children, his white House staff, those who worked and volunteered for his elections, and said he was about to resume the most cherished position of all: citizen.
And like Washington’s farewell speech, exhorting Americans to be vigilant against foreign interference, and Eisenhower’s farewell speech, warning about the military-industrial complex, Obama offered his own warning: to be vigilant in protecting democracy from enemies, foreign and domestic who would undermine the very values and principles that are foundational, and that vigilance is the responsibility of all citizens.
“The future should be ours,” Obama exhorted. “But that potential will only be realized if our democracy works. Only if our politics better reflects the decency of our people. Only if all of us, regardless of party affiliation or particular interests, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now…
“Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power. We, the people, give it meaning. With our participation, and with the choices that we make, and the alliances that we forge. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. That’s up to us. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured…
“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen. Citizen….
“I do have one final ask of you as your President — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I’m asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.
“I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written: Yes, we can.”
Here is a highlighted transcript of the speech, which took just under an hour to deliver – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Chicago! (Applause.) It’s good to be home! (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. (Applause.) All right, everybody sit down. (Applause.) We’re on live TV here. I’ve got to move. (Applause.) You can tell that I’m a lame duck because nobody is following instructions. (Laughter.) Everybody have a seat. (Applause.)
My fellow Americans — (applause) — Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well wishes that we’ve received over the past few weeks. But tonight, it’s my turn to say thanks. (Applause.) Whether we have seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people, in living rooms and in schools, at farms, on factory floors, at diners and on distant military outposts -– those conversations are what have kept me honest, and kept me inspired, and kept me going. And every day, I have learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man. (Applause.)
So I first came to Chicago when I was in my early 20s. And I was still trying to figure out who I was, still searching for a purpose in my life. And it was a neighborhood not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills. It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: I can’t do that.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it.
After eight years as your President, I still believe that. And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea –- our bold experiment in self-government. It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.
What a radical idea. A great gift that our Founders gave to us: The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat and toil and imagination, and the imperative to strive together, as well, to achieve a common good, a greater good.
For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande. (Applause.) It’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It’s what powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima, Iraq and Afghanistan. And why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs, as well. (Applause.)
So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional — not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change and make life better for those who follow. Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It’s always been contentious. Sometimes it’s been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some. (Applause.)
If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history — (applause) — if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9/11 — (applause) — if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens –- (applause) — if I had told you all that, you might have said our sights were set a little too high. But that’s what we did. (Applause.) That’s what you did.
You were the change. You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started. (Applause.)
In 10 days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy.
AUDIENCE: Nooo —
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, no, no — the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected President to the next. (Applause.) I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me. (Applause.) Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.
We have what we need to do so. We have everything we need to meet those challenges. After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth. Our youth, our drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours. But that potential will only be realized if our democracy works. Only if our politics better reflects the decency of our people. (Applause.) Only if all of us, regardless of party affiliation or particular interests, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.
That’s what I want to focus on tonight: The state of our democracy. Understand, democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argued. They quarreled. Eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity -– the idea that for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together; that we rise or fall as one. (Applause.)
There have been moments throughout our history that threatens that solidarity. And the beginning of this century has been one of those times. A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism -– these forces haven’t just tested our security and our prosperity, but are testing our democracy, as well. And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland. In other words, it will determine our future.
To begin with, our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity.And the good news is that today the economy is growing again. Wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are all rising again. Poverty is falling again. (Applause.) The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records. The unemployment rate is near a 10-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower. (Applause.) Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years. And I’ve said and I mean it — if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system and that covers as many people at less cost, I will publicly support it. (Applause.)
Because that, after all, is why we serve. Not to score points or take credit, but to make people’s lives better. (Applause.)
But for all the real progress that we’ve made, we know it’s not enough. Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class and ladders for folks who want to get into the middle class. (Applause.) That’s the economic argument. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic ideal.While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and in rural counties, have been left behind — the laid-off factory worker; the waitress or health care worker who’s just barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills — convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful — that’s a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.
But there are no quick fixesto this long-term trend. I agree, our trade should be fair and not just free. But the next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete.
And so we’re going to have to forge a new social compact to guarantee all our kids the education they need — (applause) — to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now, and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from this new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their very success possible. (Applause.)
We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.
There’s a second threat to our democracy — and this one is as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. And such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Now, I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10, or 20, or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say. (Applause.) You can see it not just in statistics, you see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.
But we’re not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do. (Applause.) If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves. (Applause.) If we’re unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we will diminish the prospects of our own children — because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of America’s workforce. (Applause.) And we have shown that our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.
So if we’re going to be serious about race going forward, we need to uphold laws against discrimination — in hiring, and in housing, and in education, and in the criminal justice system. (Applause.) That is what our Constitution and our highest ideals require. (Applause.)
But laws alone won’t be enough. Hearts must change. It won’t change overnight. Social attitudes oftentimes take generations to change. But if our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us need to try to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction — Atticus Finch — (applause) — who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
For blacks and other minority groups, it means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face — not only the refugee, or the immigrant, or the rural poor, or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who, from the outside, may seem like he’s got advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change. We have to pay attention, and listen. (Applause.)
For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s — (applause) — that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness. When they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment but the equal treatment that our Founders promised. (Applause.)
For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, and Italians, and Poles — who it was said we’re going to destroy the fundamental character of America. And as it turned out, America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; these newcomers embraced this nation’s creed, and this nation was strengthened. (Applause.)
So regardless of the station that we occupy, we all have to try harder. We all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family just like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own. (Applause.)
And that’s not easy to do. For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, and increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste — all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there. (Applause.)
And this trend represents a third threat to our democracy. But politics is a battle of ideas. That’s how our democracy was designed. In the course of a healthy debate, we prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent might be making a fair point, and that science and reason matter — (applause) — then we’re going to keep talking past each other, and we’ll make common ground and compromise impossible. (Applause.)
And isn’t that part of what so often makes politics dispiriting? How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations? (Applause.) How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing? It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating. Because, as my mother used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you. (Applause.)
Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil; we’ve doubled our renewable energy; we’ve led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet. (Applause.) But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change. They’ll be busy dealing with its effects: more environmental disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.
Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country — the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders. (Applause.)
It is that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse — the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket.
It’s that spirit — a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might — that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression; that allowed us to build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but built on principles — the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion, and speech, and assembly, and an independent press. (Applause.)
That order is now being challenged — first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets and open democracies and and civil society itself as a threat to their power. The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile. It represents the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or the propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.
Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform, because of our intelligence officers, and law enforcement, and diplomats who support our troops — (applause) — no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years. (Applause.) And although Boston and Orlando and San Bernardino and Fort Hood remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever. We have taken out tens of thousands of terrorists — including bin Laden. (Applause.) The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken away about half their territory. ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens America will ever be safe. (Applause.)
And to all who serve or have served, it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief. And we all owe you a deep debt of gratitude. (Applause.)
But protecting our way of life, that’s not just the job of our military. Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So, just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are. (Applause.)
And that’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firmer legal footing. That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties. (Applause.) That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans, who are just as patriotic as we are. (Applause.)
That’s why we cannot withdraw from big global fights — to expand democracy, and human rights, and women’s rights, and LGBT rights. No matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem, that’s part of defending America. For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism and chauvinism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.
So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid. (Applause.) ISIL will try to kill innocent people. But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight. (Applause.) Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world — unless we give up what we stand for — (applause) — and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.
Which brings me to my final point: Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. (Applause.) All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. (Applause.) When voting rates in America are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should be making it easier, not harder, to vote. (Applause.) When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. (Applause.) When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our congressional districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes. (Applause.)
But remember, none of this happens on its own. All of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.
Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power. (Applause.) We, the people, give it meaning. With our participation, and with the choices that we make, and the alliances that we forge. (Applause.) Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. That’s up to us. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.
In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken…to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.” And so we have to preserve this truth with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one. (Applause.)
America, we weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character aren’t even willing to enter into public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are seen not just as misguided but as malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them. (Applause.)
It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen. (Applause.) Citizen.
So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life. (Applause.) If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing. (Applause.) If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. (Applause.) Show up. Dive in. Stay at it.
Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in other people, that can be a risk, and there will be times when the process will disappoint you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America — and in Americans — will be confirmed. (Applause.)
Mine sure has been. Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in a Charleston church. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch. I’ve seen wounded warriors who at points were given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other. (Applause.)
So that faith that I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change — that faith has been rewarded in ways I could not have possibly imagined. And I hope your faith has, too. Some of you here tonight or watching at home, you were there with us in 2004, in 2008, 2012 — (applause) — maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off. Let me tell you, you’re not the only ones. (Laughter.)
Michelle — (applause) — Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the South Side — (applause) — for the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. (Applause.) You took on a role you didn’t ask for and you made it your own, with grace and with grit and with style and good humor. (Applause.) You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. (Applause.) And the new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. (Applause.) So you have made me proud. And you have made the country proud. (Applause.)
Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women. You are smart and you are beautiful, but more importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion. (Applause.) You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad. (Applause.)
To Joe Biden — (applause) — the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son — you were the first decision I made as a nominee, and it was the best. (Applause.) Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother. And we love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our lives. (Applause.)
To my remarkable staff: For eight years — and for some of you, a whole lot more — I have drawn from your energy, and every day I tried to reflect back what you displayed — heart, and character, and idealism. I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, start incredible new journeys of your own. Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you. You guarded against cynicism. And the only thing that makes me prouder than all the good that we’ve done is the thought of all the amazing things that you’re going to achieve from here. (Applause.)
And to all of you out there — every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town, every kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change — you are the best supporters and organizers anybody could ever hope for, and I will be forever grateful. (Applause.) Because you did change the world. (Applause.) You did.
And that’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than when we started. Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans, it has inspired so many Americans — especially so many young people out there — to believe that you can make a difference — (applause) — to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.
Let me tell you, this generation coming up — unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic — I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, and just, and inclusive America. (Applause.) You know that constant change has been America’s hallmark; that it’s not something to fear but something to embrace. You are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber all of us, and I believe as a result the future is in good hands. (Applause.)
My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. (Applause.) I won’t stop. In fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my remaining days. But for now, whether you are young or whether you’re young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President — the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago. I’m asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change — but in yours.
I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written: Yes, we can. (Applause.)
Yes, we did. Yes, we can. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you. May God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
Today, President Obama authorized a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016. “Russia’s cyber activities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government. These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” the White House stated.
“Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election,” President Obama stated . These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process. These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year. Such activities have consequences. Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response.”
The President issued an executive order that expands upon his authority to respond to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our allies or partners.
Using this new authority, Obama sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations. In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information. The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, that the government charges were being used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes. Also, the State Department is declaring “persona non grata” 35 Russian intelligence operatives who will have to leave the US within 72 hours.
Finally, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity –including the codes and IP addresses – to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.
“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities,” the President added. “We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized. In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance. To that end, my Administration will be providing a report to Congress in the coming days about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections.”
As for the timeline, senior administration officials, answering journalists’ questions, stated:
“Our first priority was publicly disclosing the information – it was most important to make public what we knew – and we did that October 7. That was a unique if not unprecedented step to come out with the common view of US intelligence agencies that a foreign power was influencing our election. We also wanted to give warning directly to the Russians, in public and in private, numerous times, that we knew what they were doing and were preparing a response. We wanted them to absorb that message and have that affect their behavior. We were concerned about securing the election – and there is no evidence that the Russians tampered with the vote. The priority for our cybersecurity efforts was to make sure our election was secure. But the material that had been hacked and was being released – it was not like that genie could be put back in the bottle. We were putting this together in context with [hacked] information being shared, publicly released and reported on by the news media. We wanted to do [respond] as methodically as possible: what we could do with sanctions, with diplomats, with the Joint Analysis Report (JAR), and preparing other elements.”
They added that it takes considerable time to put together a package of sanctions – you need to have the evidence sufficient to stand up in court to justify the actions.
“Sanctions packages are time consuming – establishing the basis, then finding the target list. JAR itself is complex procedure as putting together info we can share publicly that provides the best possible guidance about what we know – and response to harassment [of our diplomats] is something focusing on for some time.”
The incoming administration, under Donald Trump, has dismissed the allegations. Trump stated that “we should just get on with our lives,” and signaled he would undo sanctions leveled against Putin, including the sanctions that were put into place after Russia annexed Crimea and engaged in hostilities intended to overthrow the Ukrainian government.
But the Administration officials, pointing to “flagrant violation of norms” that have also seen in interference in our election as well as a level of harassment of US diplomats in Russia – one even being assaulted by a Russian police officer – along with malicious cyber attacks that have been leveled against critical American infrastructure and American companies. to a level that is unprecedented during in the post-Cold War era and has been developing over a period of years,” threaten national security and democratic regimes.
“There is no debate in the US administration: it is a fact that Russia interfered in our democratic election. We have established that to our satisfaction. We would never expect Russia to acknowledge what they did, don’t do it; still deny they are interfering in Ukraine. We say to journalists, look at what they say and what they do. This is a country that has intervened in sovereign country even though can see – bombed civilians, but they deny it. It is not a ‘he said/she said’ situation. There are facts.”
“We have one president at a time. President Obama will execute the duties of his office until January 20. He’s acting on what he believes is in best interest of the United States.”
There are any number of actions that we’re taking that will [fall to next administration]. .When a new administration takes office, entirely in their judgment a to whether to continue the course we set in number of areas.
“But Russian actions have been sustained over an extended period of time, and by any definition, are against our national interest, not just the interests of this president – harassment of our diplomats is a direct threat of ability of US to conduct diplomacy. Interference with our election is a pattern we see in other western democracies, including some of our closest allies. Malicious cyber targeting of American critical infrastructure would be of concern to future administrations.
“We know from our own consultations this is of concern to American business, and we would expect future administrations to be concerned about the impact on the American economy of Russian cyber activity. We are taking these actions because of pattern of behavior of period of time, replicated in other countries. We believe is the right approach to take.
“We’re taking these actions consistent with our assessment of what Russia has done – they have been interfering in both the American democratic process and in the conduct of American diplomacy. That should concern all Americans and members of both parties – a sustained effort to both harass our diplomatic personnel and interfere in our democratic process. We have no reason to believe that Russia’s activities will cease – they have been engaged in malicious cyber activity not just here in the United States but in other democratic countries. One reason to sustain [these] activities is that there is every reason that Russia will continue to interfere… These are executive actions. If a future president decided to allow in Russian intelligence agents, reopen those diplomatic compounds that are being used for intelligence, that compromises US national security.”
Here are the details from the White House:
Sanctioning Malicious Russian Cyber Activity
In response to the threat to U.S. national security posed by Russian interference in our elections, the President has approved an amendment to Executive Order 13964. As originally issued in April 2015, this Executive Order created a new, targeted authority for the U.S. government to respond more effectively to the most significant of cyber threats, particularly in situations where malicious cyber actors operate beyond the reach of existing authorities. The original Executive Order focused on cyber-enabled malicious activities that:
Harm or significantly compromise the provision of services by entities in a critical infrastructure sector;
Significantly disrupt the availability of a computer or network of computers (for example, through a distributed denial-of-service attack); or
Cause a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain (for example, by stealing large quantities of credit card information, trade secrets, or sensitive information).
The increasing use of cyber-enabled means to undermine democratic processes at home and abroad, as exemplified by Russia’s recent activities, has made clear that a tool explicitly targeting attempts to interfere with elections is also warranted. As such, the President has approved amending Executive Order 13964 to authorize sanctions on those who:
Tamper with, alter, or cause a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.
Using this new authority, the President has sanctioned nine entities and individuals: two Russian intelligence services (the GRU and the FSB); four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.
The Main Intelligence Directorate (a.k.a. Glavnoe Razvedyvatel’noe Upravlenie) (a.k.a. GRU) is involved in external collection using human intelligence officers and a variety of technical tools, and is designated for tampering, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with the 2016 U.S. election processes.
The Federal Security Service (a.k.a. Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti) (a.k.a FSB) assisted the GRU in conducting the activities described above.
The three other entities include the Special Technology Center (a.k.a. STLC, Ltd. Special Technology Center St. Petersburg) assisted the GRU in conducting signals intelligence operations; Zorsecurity (a.k.a. Esage Lab) provided the GRU with technical research and development; and the Autonomous Noncommercial Organization “Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems” (a.k.a. ANO PO KSI) provided specialized training to the GRU.
Sanctioned individuals includeIgor Valentinovich Korobov, the current Chief of the GRU; Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov, Deputy Chief of the GRU; Igor Olegovich Kostyukov, a First Deputy Chief of the GRU; and Vladimir Stepanovich Alexseyev, also a First Deputy Chief of the GRU.
In addition, the Department of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals,Evgeniy Bogachev and Aleksey Belan, under a pre-existing portion of the Executive Order for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.
Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev is designated today for having engaged in significant malicious cyber-enabled misappropriation of financial information for private financial gain. Bogachev and his cybercriminal associates are responsible for the theft of over $100 million from U.S. financial institutions, Fortune 500 firms, universities, and government agencies.
Aleksey Alekseyevich Belan engaged in the significant malicious cyber-enabled misappropriation of personal identifiers for private financial gain. Belan compromised the computer networks of at least three major United States-based e-commerce companies.
Responding to Russian Harassment of U.S. Personnel
Over the past two years, harassment of our diplomatic personnel in Russia by security personnel and police has increased significantly and gone far beyond international diplomatic norms of behavior. Other Western Embassies have reported similar concerns. In response to this harassment, the President has authorized the following actions:
Today the State Department declared 35 Russian government officials from the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Russian Consulate in San Francisco “persona non grata.” They were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status. Those individuals and their families were given 72 hours to leave the United States.
In addition to this action, the Department of State has provided notice that as of noon on Friday, December 30, Russian access will be denied to two Russian government-owned compounds, one in Maryland and one in New York.
Raising Awareness About Russian Malicious Cyber Activity
The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) that contains declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence services’ malicious cyber activity, to better help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.
The JAR includes information on computers around the world that Russian intelligence services have co-opted without the knowledge of their owners in order to conduct their malicious activity in a way that makes it difficult to trace back to Russia. In some cases, the cybersecurity community was aware of this infrastructure, in other cases, this information is newly declassified by the U.S. government.
The report also includes data that enables cybersecurity firms and other network defenders to identify certain malware that the Russian intelligence services use. Network defenders can use this information to identify and block Russian malware, forcing the Russian intelligence services to re-engineer their malware. This information is newly de-classified.
Finally, the JAR includes information on how Russian intelligence services typically conduct their activities. This information can help network defenders better identify new tactics or techniques that a malicious actor might deploy or detect and disrupt an ongoing intrusion.
This information will allow network defenders to take specific steps that can often block new activity or disrupt on-going intrusions by Russian intelligence services. DHS and FBI are encouraging security companies and private sector owners and operators to use this JAR and look back within their network traffic for signs of malicious activity. DHS and FBI are also encouraging security companies and private sector owners and operators to leverage these indicators in proactive defense efforts to block malicious cyber activity before it occurs. DHS has already added these indicators to their Automated Indicator Sharing service.
“Cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges the United States faces today. For the last eight years, this Administration has pursued a comprehensive strategy to confront these threats. And as we have demonstrated by these actions today, we intend to continue to employ the full range of authorities and tools, including diplomatic engagement, trade policy tools, and law enforcement mechanisms, to counter the threat posed by malicious cyber actors, regardless of their country of origin, to protect the national security of the United States,” the White House stated.
The catastrophe in Syria is often leveled at President Obama as a horrible scar on his legacy. But what is ignored is the context, and also how Libya, which was an important achievement, was used as a weapon to attack Obama as well as Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
So it is rather remarkable that none of the news outlets are reporting a significant victory in Libya, routing out the last ISIS stronghold, in Sirte.
But to begin:
What is happening in Syria today is where Libya would have easily been, the scale of carnage that Syria turned into, if Obama had not intervened with a coalition of countries including Arab States. At the time, Republicans including Donald Trump, cheered. During the election, the action was demonized, and used in the incessant conspiracy harangue about Benghazi.
So it is really hypocritical that Obama is criticized for not intervening more strenuously in Syria, when in fact, he did all that he could do given the convoluted circumstances and inconvenient alliances and oppositions. Take Turkey, for instance, which opposed the Kurds and worked against the US support of Kurds against ISIS, but US needed access to Turkey’s bases from which to strike at ISIS and needed Turkey’s support of Syrian refugees. (These nuances go beyond Donald Trump’s comprehension.)
The red line that was crossed when Assad used chemical weapons? Recall that Obama was poised to strike, the military was on alert, but the cowardly Congress refused to give its Authorization of Military Force (progressives are still upset that Obama uses the Bush-era 9/11 authorization to go after ISIS). But still, Obama was able to get Assad to give up chemical weapons without the US firing a shot or a single troop sacrificed. How? Putin.
But what could not be anticipated was Russia assisting Assad in the massacre of the Syrian people. Putin, after all, claimed to be joining the coalition against ISIS. Instead, it was a rout of the moderate rebels fighting Assad. Would Americans have endorsed a war with Russia? Would Americans have supported sending 180,000 ground troops into Syria?
As for not providing enough aid to moderate rebels? There weren’t very many to be found – millions of dollars of supplies and only 50 “moderate rebels” identified. What would have happened if it was discovered the US thought it was supplying “moderate” rebels but actually the armaments went to ISIS fighters? Can you imagine?
“For years, we’ve worked to stop the civil war in Syria and alleviate human suffering,” President Obama said in his final press conference of 2017. “It has been one of the hardest issues that I’ve faced as president. The world as we speak is united in horror at the savage assault by the Syrian regime and its Russia and Iranian allies on the city of Aleppo. We have seen a deliberate strategy of surrounding and the seigeing and starving innocent civilians. We’ve seen relentless targeting of humanitarian workers and medical personnel, entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble and dust…
“We all know what needs to happen. There needs to be an impartial international observer force in Aleppo that can help coordinate an orderly evacuation through safe corridors. There has to be full access for humanitarian aid, even as the United States continues to be the world’s largest donor of humanitarian to the Syrian people and beyond that, there needs to be a broader ceasefire that can serve as the basis for a political, rather than a military solution. That’s what the United States is going to continue to push for, both with our partners and through multilateral institutions like the UN.
“Regretfully but unsurprisingly, Russia has repeatedly blocked the security council from taking action on these issues so we’re going to keep pressing the security council to help improve the delivery of humanitarian to those who are in such desperate need and to ensure accountability, including continuing to monitor any potential use of chemical weapons in Syria. And we’re going work in the U.N. General assembly as well, both on accountability and to advance a political settlement because it should be clear that although you may achieve tactical victories over the long term, the Assad regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy. That’s why we’ll continue to press for a transition to a more representative government. And that’s why the world must not avert our eyes to the terrible events that are unfolding.
“The Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are trying to confiscate the truth. The world should not be fooled and the world will not forget.”
Meanwhile, the US was not exactly not doing anything in Syria. The US operated tens of thousands of air strikes against ISIS, and has been the largest donor of aid to Syrian refugees.
And the US has not stood idly by in Libya, either, but assisted in the liberation of Sirte from ISIL. The Administration issued this statement:
Statement by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa O. Monaco on the Successful Operation to Liberate Sirte from ISIL
The United States congratulates the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan people on their successful operation to liberate Sirte from ISIL. The United States is proud to have supported the advance of the GNA-aligned forces into Sirte with precision airstrikes to eject ISIL from the only city that it controlled outside of Iraq and Syria.
We applaud the courage of the Libyan people, including the residents of Sirte, al-Bunyan al-Marsous forces, and others, who carried out this operation. We commend Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj for his leadership and dedication to the Libyan people. We also extend our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives fighting for this important cause.
The U.S. military conducted a carefully tailored counterterrorism operation, at the request of the GNA, to target ISIL while taking great care to minimize harm to civilians. This partnered operation has substantially reduced ISIL’s manpower in Libya, ended its brutal reign over Sirte’s population, and removed its primary base in Libya, dealing a blow to its ability to plot attacks in Libya and abroad. This progress comes as Libyans mark one year since the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement.
We know that ISIL will continue its attempts to terrorize the Libyan people and sow instability in North Africa, and that Libyan efforts against terrorism continue in other parts of Libya. We stand ready to help the GNA as it secures and rebuilds Sirte. The United States also remains committed to working with the GNA, Libyans throughout the country, and regional partners to counter ISIL and other violent extremist organizations.
With the end of his presidency in sight, President Obama is working to accomplish as much progress as he could before the Donald Trump Administration comes in promising to undo it all.
The White House offered this Fact Sheet Announcing New Commitments to the Equal Pay Pledge, a who’s who of the best places for women to work:
The White House launched the Equal Pay Pledge in June at the first-ever United State of Women Summit, encouraging companies from across the American economy to take action to advance equal pay. Today we are announcing new signatories to the White House Equal Pay Pledge and highlighting the critical role that businesses can play in reducing the national gender pay gap.
These 44 newly-committed employers bring the total number to more than one hundred companies and organizations that collectively employ millions of Americans. The new commitments are from a diverse range of employers, including AT&T, eBay, The Estée Lauder Companies, InterContinental Hotels Group, Mastercard, Yahoo, Square and Zillow Group.
Equal Pay has been an Administration priority since President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law as his first piece of legislation. Policies that ensure fair pay for all Americans and that help businesses to attract the strongest talent can not only narrow the pay gap, but also boost productivity and benefit our economy.
Today, women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force and more women than ever are the breadwinners in their families. More women are also working in positions and fields that have been traditionally occupied by men. Yet in 2015, the typical woman working full-time all year in the United States earned only 80 percent of what the typical man earned working full-time all year. The pay gap is even greater for African American and Latina women, with African American women earning 63 cents and Latina women earning 54 cents for every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic man. The gender wage gap continues to be a very real and persistent problem that continues to shortchange American women and their families.
EMPLOYERS FOR PAY EQUITY BUSINESS CONSORTIUM
This year on Women’s Equality Day, a group of White House Equal Pay Pledge employers formed an independent business consortium, Employers for Pay Equity—to help private industry players share best practices and develop better hiring, promotion, and pay policies. Today, Employers for Pay Equity is announcing a partnership with Simmons College to carry the consortium’s work forward. Simmons College will play a leading role in hosting the consortium to establish pay equity as a best business practice and a means to grow a more equitable workforce for all Americans.
By signing the Equal Pay Pledge, these employers are:
Acknowledging the critical role businesses must play in reducing the national pay gap.
Committing to conducting an annual company-wide gender pay analysis across occupations.
Reviewing hiring and promotion processes and procedures to reduce unconscious bias and structural barriers.
Embedding equal pay efforts into broader enterprise-wide equity initiatives.
Pledging to take these steps as well as identify and promote other best practices that will close the national wage gap to ensure fundamental fairness for all workers.
We thank all who have joined in this pledge and encourage the business community to continue to implement and uphold pay equity policies.
WHITE HOUSE EQUAL PAY PLEDGE
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law. Policies that ensure fair pay for all Americans and that help businesses attract the strongest talent can not only narrow the gender pay gap, but also boost productivity and benefit our economy. Yet, the typical woman working full-time all year in the United States only earns 80 percent of what a typical man working full-time all year earns. While the gap has narrowed slightly over the past few years, there is much more work to be done to ensure fair pay for all.
Building on the Administration’s numerous actions to close the national pay gap, the White House challenged businesses to take the Equal Pay Pledge. Several U.S. private sector companies have come together in support of advancing equal pay.
We received a very positive response to the pledge and welcome our new signatories, including the employers below.
These signatories put forth their pledges as follows:
Equal Pay Pledge
Adobe is proud to join the list of companies committed to equal pay. Paychecks are important, not only because they cover the needs of employees and their families, but also because they are an important indicator of fair treatment. Gender should have no part in driving pay decisions.
We have already reported our U.S. pay data relative to gender and race, and we will continue to report our pay data annually. This equal pay commitment is part of a larger diversity and inclusion strategy with three key areas of focus: building a diverse talent pipeline; broadening our recruiting efforts to ensure a diverse candidate pool; and helping all employees grow once they are part of Adobe.
Investing to bring out the best in everyone, regardless of gender or background, contributes to the success of the business and the most important asset – our people.
Amalgamated Bank is proud to take the White House Equal Pay pledge to keep compensation fair, to practice our own values of fairness, diversity and inclusion, and to never stop looking for ways to do better. We believe that pay equality isn’t an accomplishment, it’s standard operating procedure. For nearly 100 years, Amalgamated Bank has been the progressive bank for the progressive community. We strive to lead by example among financial institutions and ensure equal access to financial services for all people, which also means that our own employees receive equal pay for equal work. By helping those both inside and outside the bank who do good do better, we believe everyone benefits.
AT&T’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has been visible and steadfast for nearly half a century. It dates back to the establishment of our Supplier Diversity Program in 1968, and our first Employee Resource Group in 1969. Today, more than 120,000 employees have active memberships in our Employee Resource Groups and Employee Networks.
Diversity and inclusion is essential to our culture and our success. It fosters big ideas, fresh perspectives and opportunities, and bold leadership. It plays an essential role in innovation, and it helps us play a more vital role in our communities. Engaging in practices that support diversity, inclusion, and equality is a basic part of how we do business.
Signing on to the White House Equal Pay Pledge reinforces and validates what we already deliver to our employees: equal pay for comparable work, experience and performance, regardless of gender, race, religion, or age. We’re proud to continue the practices that have created our fair and equitable workplace.
Autodesk today announces that we are signing the White House Equal Pay Pledge. Autodesk looks at inclusion comprehensively—how we attract, retain and develop top talent; how we include the widest range of entrepreneurs and developers using our software in our ecosystem; and how we expand opportunity globally to underrepresented segments of society. Equal pay is at the foundation of inclusion—this means we consider all of our employees, with all of the dimensions of diversity that they bring, whole contributing members of our organization deserving of equal compensation.
We currently conduct an annual review our compensation packages based on gender and ethnicity, but we recognize there is still much more to do and that signing this pledge is a commitment to ongoing self-reflection and analysis as an organization, which is why we do not take this lightly. In addition to a commitment to equal pay, our signature is also a commitment to creating and maintaining an inclusive environment where people can contribute fully and achieve personal and professional success.
Colgate-US has long been highly committed to the principles of fairness and equity the White House Equal Pay Pledge serves to support and is proud to add its name to the number of organizations taking this pledge.
eBay – For more than 20 years, eBay has sought to build a company that supports Connected Commerce – commerce that is enabled by people, supported by technology, and open to everyone. In accordance with our vision, we believe deeply that we must have a diverse workforce and an inclusive workplace to ensure we reflect the perspectives of the tens of millions of customers that we serve globally. That’s why eBay is proud to join with the White House in pledging to close the gender wage gap.We at eBay are committed to ensuring that we pay our people fairly based on their role, contribution and impact – not on factors unrelated to the work they do. We have supported strategic initiatives, like our Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) and eBay Women in Technology (eWIT), that aim to support gender diversity in our workplace and the ability of women to build lasting, successful careers at our company. Additionally, in early 2016, we undertook an extensive, global study of gender pay equity that considered the main components of compensation. We are pleased to report that our study found pay parity between male and female employees.
Going forward, we are committed to conducting on-going reviews of our compensation practices and, when necessary, we will take appropriate action to make sure that our employees continue to be paid fairly and equitably. Ongoing commitment to equal pay principles is essential to ensuring we deliver on this pledge, and we will continue to review our practices globally to make sure we are creating the best possible workplace for all of our employees.
Edison International, we understand that diversity of thought is fueled by diversity of people engaged in an inclusive and fair work environment. We are committed to ensuring that gender pay equity is a part of the fairness experienced by all of our employees. Therefore, we are pleased to sign the White House Equal Pay Pledge.
We are a diverse company that succeeds when our employees are able to bring their best selves to the workplace. The ability to attract, retain, and develop a diverse workforce allows us to leverage our unique experiences, better reflect the communities we serve, and ensure equity and inclusion that benefits both our company and our customers.
As part of our pledge, we commit to continue our annual review of compensation, which is used to understand any potential gaps in pay and to take action when appropriate. In addition, Edison International aims to further increase equal employment opportunities and to break down employment barriers by continually seeking diverse representation in our hiring and promotional opportunities. We continue to analyze and evolve our pay practices and market demands for talent and to foster an inclusive work environment where our employees can fully contribute, find opportunities for advancement, and feel valued.
The Estée Lauder Companies is honored to partner with the White House in its effort to promote gender equality in the workplace.
As a Company founded by a pioneering entrepreneur, Mrs. Estée Lauder, we are proud to continue her legacy of empowering women, supporting families, and promoting equality.
Founded on strong family values 70 years ago, we have always believed that our people are our greatest asset. We take pride in maintaining a unique, creative and diverse workforce where everyone’s contributions are fairly rewarded. We are proud that women constitute 85% of our employees worldwide, with 50% of our senior vice president positions and above in the U.S. held by women.
We understand that equal pay not only affects women but also their families, their communities, and our shared economy. By signing the Equal Pay Pledge, we are underscoring our commitment to ensure that all women and men are compensated fairly in terms of capabilities and experience.
We remain committed to providing a dynamic and supportive workplace for all our employees to foster their growth, success and well-being.
Exelon is pleased to sign the White House Equal Pay Pledge and we are committed to doing all we can to help close the national gender pay gap. Research shows that the typical American working woman makes 79% of what the typical working man makes – this translates to a loss of $500,000 over her lifetime. For Latino and African American women this cumulative loss nearly doubles. Diversity and inclusion is critical to Exelon’s success and our workforce programs must include transparency and fairness. As a result, we are joining other leading companies and conducting an annual audit of compensation, hiring and promotion practices. Through these efforts, Exelon is stating unequivocally that we value every worker, male and female. Advancing pay equity is not simply good business practice, but the right thing to do.
The Honest Company is honored to sign the White House Equal Pay Pledge and join the other companies who have taken on this economic and social imperative. Our mission – to empower people to live a happy & healthy life – is at the heart of our business, and our company culture embodies our name: Honesty, Transparency, Openness. This applies both to how we treat our consumers as well as our employees. Diversity and gender equity are strategic pillars for our organization, and we are committed to ensuring all employees benefit from a workplace that is inclusive and fair. We are proud to stand with the White House and other companies who share these values.
InterContinental Hotels Group: Our ambition is to be number one for guests, owners and colleagues. A critical part of this ambition is our commitment to upholding equitable compensation practices regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. That’s why we are pleased to sign the White House pledge.
Mastercard: We believe that diversity and inclusion are essential to creating an inclusive environment for our colleagues, helping them to better serve our customers worldwide. At the same time, to ensure that our employees reflect the customers we serve and today, we source talent from numerous industries and backgrounds.
We are committed to this important pledge and will continue to review and enhance our policies and practices to ensure they reflect our values and connecting our employees to “Priceless Possibilities.” Our “Whole You” program is based on the premise of providing benefits to employees at different stages of life both at work and outside of work.
MWWPR was founded 30 years ago on progressive ideals that continue to fuel our vision, inspire our progress, and motivate our employees today. Our agency’s ethos of “Matter More” serves as our guiding principle – we strive to not only help our clients matter more to the people who matter most, but to ensure that all our employees feel valued for the contributions they make.
Engaging and retaining our incredible staff is our agency’s highest priority, and demonstrating fairness and inclusion is fundamental to our talent strategy. Our management committee is comprised of a majority of women, many of whom actively mentor junior female colleagues, and we regularly review our hiring and promotion processes to ensure we are evaluating and rewarding all employees equally.
For MWWPR, signing the Equal Pay Pledge is an important next step in demonstrating our commitment to our people, and we are honored to be the first public relations firm to take the pledge. We hope to inspire our colleagues in the industry to make a similar commitment, and are proud to stand with other leaders in the business community as we continue prioritizing equality and transparency across our agency.
Nestlé in the US: At Nestlé, we value our employees’ health and wellness, which includes the opportunity to work in an environment where one feels empowered, appreciated and respected. Enhancing gender balance in our workforce is one of our company’s core societal commitments, globally and in the U.S., which is why each of our operating companies in the US is pleased to reaffirm our commitments by signing the White House Equal Pay Pledge.2016 marks Nestlé’s 150th year in business and we know that in order to be in business for the next 150, we must promote inclusive opportunities that respect the contribution of all of our employees. Nestlé believes that striving towards equal pay, fair hiring, retention and promotion practices, and investing in leadership and professional development opportunities for women is good for our people, our consumers and our business. We remain dedicated to enhancing gender balance in our workforce. To that end, we will continue to invest in programs including providing support for dual-career spouses as part of our International Dual Career Network, hosting networking events in conjunction with the Network of Executive Women Leadership Summit, continuing to find opportunities to publicly celebrate the accomplishments of our women executives throughout our businesses and encouraging eligible employees to take advantage of our Parent Support Policy, which offers up to 14 weeks of paid leave for primary caregivers with the option of extending unpaid leave up to six months.
Each Nestlé business in the US will continue to review its hiring practices, assessments, and promotion decisions at the business level on an annual basis and work towards improving our ability to achieve gender balance and foster an equitable environment for all of our employees.
New Belgium Brewing is proud to sign on to the White House Equal Pay Pledge. As a 100% employee owned company, we know that when we take care of one another our workplace and our business are healthier. We’re proud to have women and men in every part of our company working side by side, earning wages that reflect our commitment to equal pay, advancement based on merit, and a spirit of community.
SoulCycle: Led by a female CEO and founded by two women, SoulCycle’s commitment to supporting and advancing women has always been part of the company’s DNA. The support and respect that we extend to each rider who walks through our 67 studio doors extends to our company-wide culture. We’re committed to nurturing the health and happiness of all of our team members, and that includes our hiring practices and compensation. As a company, we understand the importance of supporting and advancing women throughout their careers, and we know that our team thrives when they’re compensated fairly for their contributions. We’re proud that women make up 86% of our studio leadership.
We applaud the White House for its efforts to eliminate the gender wage gap and promote equal pay. We pledge to continue taking action individually and collectively as a team to pay equality.
Square is proud to sign the Equal Pay Pledge as a natural extension of our existing commitment to pay equity. Square was built on the principle of inclusion which is reflected not only in the products and services that we provide to our sellers, but also in our internal policies and work environment. We strive to recruit, retain, promote, and compensate our employees on the basis of their qualifications, performance, and potential. We also work with our managers and employees in efforts to prevent gender-based bias from entering the workplace. Most of all, we are committed to continually reviewing our policies and practices to identify and act upon further opportunities for improvement—we will always strive for inclusion, fairness, and equality.
Workday – Since day one, we’ve embraced diversity – including different experiences, perspectives, insights, backgrounds, and skills – because it fuels innovation, and creates a broader connection to the world. We believe that all employees deserve equal pay, and an equal chance to succeed. That’s why we’re proud to join the White House in signing the Equal Pay Pledge, as it supports our ongoing commitment to close the gender wage gap.As part of this commitment, we’ve developed reporting capabilities within our product that can uncover and potentially address the gender wage gap. We and many of our customers use these reporting capabilities to evaluate our pay practices to ensure our employees are compensated fairly. Knowledge is power, and we believe that technology can provide the information organizations need to create a more equal and inclusive workplace.
Yahoo, with more than one billion unique users across the world each month, has a distinct opportunity to leverage the power of our platforms to advance inclusion and diversity at the company, and across the tech industry. We recognize that building an inclusive and diverse workplace is more than a theoretical goal. It is a mission-critical business imperative that we must address with the same level of urgency and commitment that we apply to other strategic initiatives. And pay equity is a critical and inextricable component of this mission.
We are proud to have been recognized in 2015-2016 for our strides in paving the way for gender equality (Watermark Index Award winner), for being a best place to work for LGBT employees (scoring 100% on Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for the tenth year in a row), for being a best place to work for parents (named by Elle Magazine and Fatherly.com), and by being named as an employer whose work significantly impacts communication access for people with hearing loss (receiving the National Access Award by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)).
Zillow Group is honored to sign the White House Equal Pay Pledge and join other companies who are committed to this effort. Zillow Group evaluates pay equity twice a year, is building out training to be aware of our unconscious biases, and reviews hiring and promotion processes. We are constantly striving to ensure that our compensation and benefits package matches our values of inclusion and equity. In addition to our generous maternity and parental leave policies, Zillow Group offices have designated nursing rooms, fully equipped with hospital grade pumps and fridges. Since 2010, we have offered free overnight breast milk shipping for nursing mothers on business trips. As a company, we invest in our people since they are investing in us. We believe the private sector plays a critical role in reducing the national pay gap and are proud of our internal efforts to provide gold-star benefits and gender pay equity for all our employees.
WE ARE ALSO JOINED BY THE FOLLOWING BUSINESSES:
Association of Equipment Manufacturers
GBD Architects Incorporated
Global Experience Specialists
Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc
Margaux’s Bookkeeping, Inc.
Robinson & Kardonsky, P.C.
Stanton Chase International
BUILDING ON A RECORD OF SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES
Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken a number of actions to support working families and combat the pay gap, including:
Publishing a final regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. The program provides subsidies to working families and last year provided services for roughly 1.4 million children aged 0-13, most of whom are younger than 5. The rule, which has not been comprehensively revised since 1998, will provide a roadmap to states on how to implement the new law and clarify ambiguities around provisions that deal with eligibility for services; health and safety requirements; and how best to support the needs of parents and providers as they transition to the new law. It also clarifies that worker organizations can provide professional development to child care workers and contribute to discussions around the rates states set for subsidies.
Signing his first piece of legislation as President, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pair Act, in January 2009 making it easier for employees to challenge unfair pay practices.
Creating the National Equal Pay Task Force in January 2010 to implement his pledge to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, which included representatives from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management. The Task Force has issued reports on its progress, including Fighting for Equal Pay in the Workforce, Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, andFifty Years After the Equal Pay Act. In addition, since the creation of the Equal Pay Task Force in 2010, the EEOC has received over 18,000 charges of sex-based pay discrimination, and through its independent enforcement efforts, the EEOC has obtained over $140 million in monetary relief for victims of pay discrimination on the basis of sex.
Calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes in the defenses for equal pay violations, providing stronger remedies, and expanding protections against discrimination for employees who share or inquire about information about their compensation at work.
Signing a Presidential Memorandum in May 2013 directing the Office of Personnel Management to develop a government-wide strategy to address the gender pay gap in the federal workforce, leading to a report in April 2014 and new guidance in July 2015—which cautioned against reliance on a candidate’s existing salary to set pay, as it can potentially adversely affect women who may have taken time off from their careers or propagate gaps due to discriminatory pay practices by previous employers.
Issuing an Executive Order in April 2014 and publishing a Department of Labor rule in September 2015 prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees who discuss or inquire about their compensation.
Announcing a White House Equal Pay Pledge, with more than 50 leading businesses signing on to take action to advance equal pay. By signing the pledge, these companies are committing to conduct an annual company-wide gender pay analysis, review hiring and promotion processes, embed equal pay efforts in broader equity initiatives, and identify and promote best practices that will close the wage gap.
Hosting a White House Summit on Working Families in June 2014, highlighting the issues that women and families face, setting the agenda for a 21st century workplace, and announcing of a number of steps to help working families thrive.
Hosting the United State of Women Summit in June 2016, highlighting the progress that has been made over the course of this Administration and discussing public and private sector solutions to the challenges that still lie ahead.
Signing a Presidential Memorandum in January 2015 directing federal agencies to advance six weeks of paid sick leave to federal employees with new children, calling on Congress to grant another six weeks of paid leave for federal employees, and calling on Congress to pass legislation that gives all American families access to paid family and medical leave.
Publishing a final Department of Labor rule in May updating outdated overtime regulations, expanding overtime pay protections to 4.2 million additional Americans, boosting wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years, and allowing workers to better balance their work and family obligations.
Issuing an Executive Order in February 2014 requiring federal contractors to raise their minimum wage initially to $10.10 an hour, indexing it, and lifting the tipped minimum wage (which disproportionately impacts women)—and urging Congress, states, cities, and businesses to do the same.
Directing the Office of Personnel Management and federal agencies to enhanceworkplace flexibility for federal employees to the maximum extent practicable, including enshrining a right to request flexible work arrangements.
Signing into law the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which requires agencies to support and establish policies for telework by eligible employees.
Calling on Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to workers who have limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer). The legislation would also prohibit employers from forcing pregnant employees to take paid or unpaid leave if a reasonable accommodation would allow them to work.
Finalizing a Department of Labor rule updating its sex discrimination guidelinesfor federal contractors for the first time since 1978, to align with current law and address barriers to equal opportunity and pay, such as pay discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, a lack of workplace accommodations for pregnant women, and gender identity and family caregiving discrimination.
Collecting summary employee pay data from certain employers to improve investigations of possible pay discrimination, which remains a contributing factor to persistent wage gaps. Starting March 2018, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will add the summary pay data to the annual Employer Information Report or EEO-1 report that is coordinated by the EEOC and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
Announcing the Department of Labor’s award of $54 million in “Strengthening Working Families” grants to help low- to middle-skilled parents access the affordable, quality child care they need to earn an education, participate in training programs, and compete for better-paying jobs in emergency industries.
Expanding access for women to higher-paying jobs through a proposed rule updating equal employment opportunity requirements in registered apprenticeships and through a Mega-Construction Projects (MCP) Initiative at the Department of Labor.
This speech by President Barack Obama at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida spelling out his administration’s approach to counterterrorism may well be one for the history books: a kind of place marker to where we were when Donald Trump came to power and overturned everything. People will be pining for the days when the Commander-in-Chief could give a cogent statement describing mission, success, and reaffirming American values and respect for life. – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Here is a highlighted transcript:
Good afternoon, everybody. I was just told that was going to be the last “Hail to the Chief” on the road, and it got me kind of sentimental. I want to first and foremost say thanks to all of you. Just before I came here, I was able to visit with some of the men and women from MacDill Air Force Base, Central Command, our Special Operations Command to thank them for their extraordinary service. And so to you and your families, and to the extended family of American servicemembers, let me say that our nation owes you an unbelievable debt of gratitude. We are grateful for you, and will be praying for you over the holidays. (Applause.)
As you know all too well, your mission — and the course of history — was changed after the 9/11 attacks. By the time I took office, the United States had been at war for seven years. For eight years that I’ve been in office, there has not been a day when a terrorist organization or some radicalized individual was not plotting to kill Americans. And on January 20th, I will become the first President of the United States to serve two full terms during a time of war. (Applause.) Now, we did not choose this fight, but once it came to us, the world saw the measure of our resolve.
The most solemn responsibility for any President is keeping the American people safe. In carrying out that duty, I have sent men and women into harm’s way. I’ve visited troops around the globe. I have met our wounded warriors, and I’ve grieved with Gold Star families. I know better than most that it is because of your service and your sacrifice that we have been able, during these eight years, to protect our homeland, to strike crippling blows against terrorist networks, and fortify our friends and our allies. So today, I’d like to reflect on that work, and talk about the foundation that we will leave for the next administration.
I came to this office with a set of core convictions that have guided me as Commander-in-Chief. I believe that the United States military can achieve any mission; that we are, and must remain, the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. (Applause.) I believe that we must never hesitate to act when necessary, including unilaterally when necessary, against any imminent threats to our people. But I have also insisted that it is unwise and unsustainable to ask our military to build nations on the other side of the world, or resolve their internal conflicts, particularly in places where our forces become a magnet for terrorists and insurgencies. Instead, it has been my conviction that even as we focus relentlessly on dismantling terrorist networks like al Qaeda and ISIL, we should ask allies to do their share in the fight, and we should strengthen local partners who can provide lasting security.
And these convictions guided the policies we pursued both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When I took office, the United States was focused overwhelmingly on Iraq, where nearly 150,000 American troops had spent years fighting an insurgency and helping to build a democratic government. Meanwhile, al Qaeda had regrouped in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was actively planning attacks against our homeland. So we brought nearly 150,000 troops home from Iraq, consistent with the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the previous administration, and we surged our efforts along with our allies in Afghanistan, which allowed us to focus on dismantling al Qaeda and give the Afghan government the opportunity to succeed.
And this focus on al Qaeda — the most dangerous threat to the United States at the time — paid dividends. Today, by any measure, core al Qaeda — the organization that hit us on 9/11 — is a shadow of its former self. (Applause.) Plots directed from within Afghanistan and Pakistan have been consistently disrupted. Its leadership has been decimated. Dozens of terrorist leaders have been killed. Osama bin Laden is dead. (Applause.) And, importantly, we have built a counterterrorism capability that can sustain this pressure against any terrorist network in South Asia that might threaten the United States of America. That was because of the work of our outstanding servicemembers.
Moreover, that early decision to strengthen our efforts in Afghanistan allowed us to build the capacity of Afghans to secure and defend their own country. So today, there are less than 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan. Instead of being in the lead against the Taliban, Americans are now supporting 320,000 Afghan security forces who are defending their communities and supporting our counterterrorism efforts.
Now, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture. The situation in Afghanistan is still tough. War has been a part of life in Afghanistan for over 30 years, and the United States cannot eliminate the Taliban or end violence in that country. But what we can do is deny al Qaeda a safe haven, and what we can do is support Afghans who want a better future, which is why we have worked not only with their military, but we’ve backed a unity government in Kabul. We’ve helped Afghan girls go to school. We’ve supported investments in health care and electricity and education. You have made a difference in Afghanistan, and America is safer for it. (Applause.)
Of course, the terrorist threat was never restricted to South Asia, or to Afghanistan, or Pakistan. Even as al Qaeda has been decimated in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the threat from terrorists metastasized in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. And most dangerously, we saw the emergence of ISIL, the successor to al Qaeda in Iraq, which fights as both a terrorist network and an insurgency.
There’s been a debate about ISIL that’s focused on whether a continued U.S. troop presence in Iraq back in 2011 could have stopped the threat of ISIL from growing. And as a practical matter, this was not an option. By 2011, Iraqis wanted our military presence to end, and they were unwilling to sign a new Status of Forces Agreement to protect our troops from prosecution if they were trying to defend themselves in Iraq.
In addition, maintaining American troops in Iraq at the time could not have reversed the forces that contributed to ISIL’s rise — a government in Baghdad that pursued a sectarian agenda, a brutal dictator in Syria who lost control of large parts of the country, social media that reached a global pool of recruits, and a hollowing out of Iraq’s security forces, which were ultimately overrun in Mosul in 2014. In fact, American troops, had they stayed there, would have lacked legal protections and faced a choice between remaining on bases or being drawn back into a sectarian conflict against the will of Iraq’s elected government or Iraq’s local populations.
But circumstances changed. When ISIL made substantial gains first in Mosul and then in other parts of the country, then suddenly Iraqis reached out once again for help. And in shaping our response, we refused to repeat some of the mistakes of the 2003 invasion that have helped to give rise to the organization that became ISIL in the first place.
We conditioned our help on the emergence of a new Iraqi government and prime minister that was committed to national unity, and committed to working with us. We built an international coalition of nearly 70 nations, including some of Iraq’s neighbors. We surged our intelligence resources so that we could better understand the enemy. And then we took the fight to ISIL in both Iraq and Syria, not with American battalions but with local forces backed by our equipment and our advisors and, importantly, our Special Forces. In that campaign, we have now hit ISIL with over 16,000 airstrikes. We have equipped and trained tens of thousands of partners on the ground.
And today, the results are clear: ISIL has lost more than half its territory. ISIL has lost control of major population centers. Its morale is plummeting. Its recruitment is drying up. Its commanders and external plotters are being taken out, and local populations are turning against it. (Applause.)
As we speak, ISIL faces an offensive on Mosul from Iraqitroops and coalition support.That’s the largest remaining city that it controls. Meanwhile, in Syria, ISIL’s self-declared capital in Raqqa is being squeezed. We have attacked ISIL’s financial lifeline, destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of oil and cash reserves. The bottom line is we are breaking the back of ISIL. We’re taking away its safe havens. (Applause.) And we’ve accomplished all this at a cost of $10 billion over two years, which is the same amount that we used to spend in one month at the height of the Iraq War. (Applause.)
So the campaign against ISIL has been relentless. It has been sustainable. It has been multilateral. And it demonstrates a shift in how we’ve taken the fight to terrorists everywhere from South Asia to the Sahel. Instead of pushing all of the burden onto American ground troops, instead of trying to mount invasions wherever terrorists appear, we’ve built a network of partners.
In Libya, where U.S. airpower has helped local militias dislodge a dangerous ISIL cell. In Mali, where U.S. logistics and intelligence support helped our French allies roll back al Qaeda branches there. In Somalia, where U.S. operations support an African Union-led force and international peacekeepers. And in Yemen, where years of targeted strikes have degraded al Qaeda in the Peninsula.
And these offensive efforts have buttressed a global effort to make it harder for terrorist networks to breach our defenses and spread their violent ideologies. Working with European allies who have suffered terrible attacks, we’ve strengthened intelligence-sharing and cut in half the flow of foreign fighters to ISIL. We’ve worked with our tech sector to supports efforts to push back on terrorist messages on social media that motivate people to kill. A recent study shows that ISIL’s propaganda has been cut in half. We’ve launched a Global Engagement Center to empower voices that are countering ISIL’s perversion of Islam, and we’re working closely with Muslim-majority partners from the Gulf to Southeast Asia.
This is your work. We should take great pride in the progress that we’ve made over the last eight years. That’s the bottom line.
No foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland. (Applause.) And it’s not because they didn’t try. Plots have been disrupted. Terrorists have been taken off the battlefield. And we’ve done this even as we drew down nearly 180,000 troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today there are just 15,000.
New partnerships have been built. We’ve respected the rule of law. We’ve enlisted our values in this fight. And all of this progress is due to the service of millions of Americans like you — in intelligence and in law enforcement, in homeland security, in diplomacy, in the armed services of the United States of America. It’s thanks to you — (applause) — thanks to you.
Now, to say that we’ve made progress is not to say that the job is done. We know that a deadly threat persists. We know that in some form this violent extremism will be with us for years to come. In too many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, there has been a breakdown of order that’s been building for decades, and it’s unleashed forces that are going to take a generation to resolve.Long-term corruption has rotted too many nation-states from within. Governance is collapsing. Sectarian conflicts rage. A changing climate is increasing competition for food and water. (Applause.) And false prophets are peddling a vision of Islam that is irreconcilable with tolerance and modernity and basic science. And in fact, every one of these trends is at play inside of Syria today.
And what complicates the challenge even more is the fact that for all of our necessary focus on fighting terrorists overseas, the most deadly attacks on the homeland over the last eight years have not been carried out by operatives with sophisticated networks or equipment, directed from abroad. They’ve been carried out by homegrown and largely isolated individuals who were radicalized online.
These deranged killers can’t inflict the sort of mass casualties that we saw on 9/11, but the pain of those who lost loved ones in Boston, in San Bernardino, in Fort Hood and Orlando, that pain continues to this day. And in some cases, it has stirred fear in our populations and threatens to change how we think about ourselves and our lives.
So while we’ve made it much more difficult — you have made it much more difficult — to carry out an attack approaching the scale of 9/11, the threat will endure. We will not achieve the kind of clearly defined victory comparable to those that we won in previous wars against nations. We won’t have a scene of the Emperor of Japan and Douglas MacArthur in a surrender. And the reason we won’t have that is because technology makes it impossible to completely shield impressionable minds from violent ideologies. And somebody who is trying to kill and willing to be killed is dangerous,particularly when we live in a country where it’s very easy for that person to buy a very powerful weapon.
So rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs, or deploying more and more troops, or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat, and we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained.
In the time remaining, let me suggest what I think should guide this approach. First of all, a sustainable counterterrorism strategy depends on keeping the threat in perspective. The terrorist threat is real and it is dangerous. But these terrorists want to cast themselves as the vanguard of a new world order. They are not. They are thugs and they are murderers, and they should be treated that way. (Applause.) Fascism threatened to overrun the entire world — and we had to wage total war in response. Communism threatened not only to overturn a world order, but threatened nuclear holocaust — so we had to build armaments and alliances to contain it. Today’s terrorists can kill innocent people, but they don’t pose an existential threat to our nation, and we must not make the mistake of elevating them as if they do. That does their job for them. It makes them more important and helps them with recruitment.
A second and related point is that we cannot follow the path of previous great powers who sometimes defeated themselves through over-reach. By protecting our homeland while drawing down the number of troops serving in harm’s way overseas, we helped save resources, but more importantly, we saved lives. I can tell you, during the course of my eight years, that I have never shied away from sending men and women into danger where necessary. It’s always the hardest decision I make, but it’s one that I’ve made where the security of the American people is at stake. And I’ve seen the costs. I’ve held the hands of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I’ve met the caskets of the fallen at Dover. And that’s why I make no apologies for only sending our troops into harm’s way when there is a clear mission that is achievable and when it is absolutely necessary.
Number three, we need the wisdom to see that upholding our values and adhering to the rule of law is not a weakness; in the long term, it is our greatest strength. (Applause.) The whole objective of these terrorists is to scare us into changing the nature of who we are and our democracy. And the fact is, people and nations do not make good decisions when they are driven by fear. These terrorists can never directly destroy our way of life, but we can do it for them if we lose track of who we are and the values that this nation was founded upon. (Applause.)
And I always remind myself that as Commander-in-Chief, I must protect our people, but I also swore an oath to defend our Constitution. And over these last eight years, we have demonstrated that staying true to our traditions as a nation of laws advances our security as well as our values.
We prohibited torture, everywhere, at all times — and that includes tactics like waterboarding. And at no time has anybody who has worked with me told me that doing so has cost us good intelligence. (Applause.) When we do capture terrorists, despite all the political rhetoric about the need to strip terrorists of their rights, our interrogation teams have obtained valuable information from terrorists without resorting to torture, without operating outside the law. Our Article III courts have delivered justice faster than military trials. And our prisons have proven more than capable of holding the most dangerous terrorists.
Consider the terrorists who have been captured, lawfully interrogated, and prosecuted in civilian courts. Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square. Dzohkar Tsarneyev, the Boston Marathon bomber. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber.” American juries and judges have determined that none of these people will know freedom again. But we did it lawfully. And the wheels of justice right now are turning for others — terrorists like Ahmed Warsame, an al-Shabaab commander, and Abu Khatalla, accused leader of the Benghazi attacks. We can get these terrorists and stay true to who we are.
And, in fact, our success in dealing with terrorists through our justice system reinforces why it is past time to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo. (Applause.) This is not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of many military leaders. During my administration, we have responsibly transferred over 175 detainees to foreign governments, with safeguards to reduce the risk of them returning to the battlefield. And we’ve cut the population in Gitmo from 242 to 59. The politics of fear has led Congress to prevent any detainees from being transferred to prisons in the United States — even though, as we speak, we imprison dangerous terrorists in our prisons, and we have even more dangerous criminals in all of our prisons across the country; even though our allies oftentimes will not turn over a terrorist if they think that terrorist could end up in Gitmo; even though groups like ISIL use Gitmo in their propaganda. So we’re wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to keep fewer than 60 people in a detention facility in Cuba. That’s not strength. Until Congress changes course, it will be judged harshly by history, and I will continue to do all that I can to remove this blot on our national honor. (Applause.)
Number four, we have to fight terrorists in a way that does not create more terrorists. For example, in a dangerous world, terrorists seek out places where it’s often impossible to capture them, or to count on local governments to do so. And that means the best option for us to get those terrorists becomes a targeted strike. So we have taken action under my command, including with drones, to remove terrorists from the battlefield, which protects our troops and has prevented real threats to the American people. (Applause.)
Now, under rules that I put in place and that I made public, before any strike is taken outside of a warzone, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured. And while nothing is certain in any strike, and we have acknowledged that there are tragic instances where innocents have been killed by our strikes, this is the highest standard that we can set. Nevertheless, we still have critics who suggest that these strikes are wrong. And I say to them, you have to weigh the alternatives. Drone strikes allow us to deny terrorists a safe haven without airstrikes, which are less precise, or invasions that are much more likely to kill innocent civilians as well as American servicemembers.
So the actions that we’ve taken have saved lives at home and abroad. But the point is, is that we do have to be careful to make sure that when we take actions, we’re not alienating local populations, because that will serve as recruitment for new terrorists.
Number five, transparency and accountability serve our national security not just in times of peace, but, more importantly, in times of conflict. And that’s why we’ve made public information about which terrorist organizations we’re fighting and why we’re fighting them. We’ve released assessments of non-combatants killed in our operations, taken responsibility when mistakes are made. We’ve declassified information about interrogation methodsthat were wrong so we learn from past mistakes. And yesterday, I directed our government for the first time to release a full description of the legal and policy frameworks that guide our military operations around the world.
This public information allows for a more informed public debate, and it provides a potential check on unfettered executive power. The power of the presidency is awesome, but it is supposed to be bound by you, our citizens. (Applause.) But here’s the thing: That information doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t work if the people’s representatives in Congress don’t do their jobs, if they’re not paying attention. (Applause.)
Right now, we are waging war under authorities provided by Congress over 15 years ago — 15 years ago. I had no gray hair 15 years ago. (Laughter.) Two years ago, I asked Congress, let’s update the authorization, provide us a new authorization for the war against ISIL, reflecting the changing nature of the threats, reflecting the lessons that we’ve learned from the last decade. So far, Congress has refused to take a vote.
Democracies should not operate in a state of permanently authorized war. (Applause.) That’s not good for our military, it’s not good for our democracy. And, by the way, part of the reason that’s dangerous is because today, with our outstanding, all-volunteer force, only one percent of the population is actually fighting. (Applause.) Which means that you are carrying the burden. Which means that it is important for us to know what it is that we’re doing and have to explain what we are doing to the public, because it becomes too easy to just send one percent of the population out to do things even if they’re not well thought through.
If a threat is serious enough to require the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, then members of Congress should at least have the courage to make clear where they stand -– not on the sidelines — (applause) — not on cable TV shows, but by fulfilling their constitutional duty and authorizing the use of force against the threats that we face today.That’s how democracies are supposed to work.
Number six, alongside our outstanding military work, we have to draw upon the strength of our diplomacy.Terrorists would love to see us walk away from the type of work that builds international coalitions, and ends conflicts, and stops the spread of deadly weapons. It would make life easier for them; it would be a tragic mistake for us.
Just think about what we’ve done these last eight years without firing a shot. We’ve rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. That’s not just my assessment, that’s the assessment of Israeli intelligence, even though they were opposed to the deal. We’ve secured nuclear materials around the globe, reducing the risk that they fall into the hands of terrorists. We’ve eliminated Syria’s declared chemical weapons program. All of these steps have helped keep us safe and helped keep our troops safe. Those are the result of diplomacy. And sustained diplomatic efforts, no matter how frustrating or difficult they sometimes appear, are going to be required to resolve the conflicts roiling the in Middle East, from Yemen, to Syria, to Israel and Palestine. And if we don’t have strong efforts there, the more you will be called upon to clean up after the failure of diplomacy.
Similarly, any long-term strategy to reduce the threat of terrorism depends on investments that strengthen some of these fragile societies. Our generals, our commanders understand this. This is not charity. It’s fundamental to our national security. A dollar spent on development is worth a lot more than a dollar spent fighting a war. (Applause.)
This is how we prevent conflicts from starting in the first place. This is how we can ensure that peace is lasting — after we’ve fought. It’s how we stop people from falling prey to extremism — because children are going to school and they can think for themselves, and families can feed themselves and aren’t desperate, and communities are not ravaged by diseases, and countries are not devastated by climate changes.
As Americans, we have to see the value of empowering civil societies so that there are outlets for people’s frustrations, and we have to support entrepreneurs who want to build businesses instead of destroying. We have to invest in young people because the areas that are generating terrorists are typically having a huge youth bulge, which makes them more dangerous. And there are times where we need to help refugees who have escaped the horrors of war in search of a better life. (Applause.) Our military recognizes that these issues of governance and human dignity and development are vital to our security. It’s central to our plans in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Let’s make sure that this wisdom is reflected in our budgets, as well.
And finally, in this fight, we have to uphold the civil liberties that define us. Terrorists want us to turn on one another. And while defeating them requires us to draw upon the enormous capabilities of all of our government, we have make sure changes in how we address terrorists are not abused. This is why, for example, we’ve made extensive reforms in how we gather intelligence around the world, increasing oversight, placing new restrictions on the government’s ability to retain and search and use certain communications so that people trust us, and that way they cooperate and work with us.
We don’t use our power to indiscriminately read emails or listen to phone calls just targeted at folks who might be trying to do us harm. We use it to save lives. And by doing so, by maintaining these civil liberties, we sustain the confidence of the American people and we get the cooperation of our allies more readily. Protecting liberty — that’s something we do for all Americans, and not just some. (Applause.)
We are fighting terrorists who claim to fight on behalf of Islam. But they do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world, and they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America’s military. (Applause.)
If we stigmatize good, patriotic Muslims, that just feeds the terrorists’ narrative. It fuels the same false grievances that they use to motivate people to kill. If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam, we’re not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we’ll also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend.
So let my final words to you as your Commander-in-Chief bea reminder of what it is that you’re fighting for, what it is that we are fighting for. The United States of America is not a country that imposes religious tests as a price for freedom. We’re a country that was founded so that people could practice their faiths as they choose. The United States of America is not a place where some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny, or carry a special ID card, or prove that they’re not an enemy from within. We’re a country that has bled and struggled and sacrificed against that kind of discrimination and arbitrary rule, here in our own country and around the world.
We’re a nation that believes freedom can never be taken for granted and that each of us has a responsibility to sustain it. The universal right to speak your mind and to protest against authority, to live in a society that’s open and free, that can criticize a President without retribution — (applause) — a country where you’re judged by the content of your character rather than what you look like, or how you worship, or what your last name is, or where your family came from — that’s what separates us from tyrants and terrorists.
We are a nation that stands for the rule of law, and strengthen the laws of war. When the Nazis were defeated, we put them on trial. Some couldn’t understand that; it had never happened before. But as one of the American lawyers who was at Nuremberg says, “I was trying to prove that the rule of law should govern human behavior.” And by doing so, we broadened the scope and reach of justice around the world. We held ourselves out as a beacon and an example for others.
We are a nation that won World Wars without grabbing the resources of those we defeated. We helped them rebuild. We didn’t hold on to territory, other than the cemeteries where we buried our dead. Our Greatest Generation fought and bled and died to build an international order of laws and institutions that could preserve the peace, and extend prosperity, and promote cooperation among nations. And for all of its imperfections, we depend on that international order to protect our own freedom.
In other words, we are a nation that at our best has been defined by hope, and not fear. A country that went through the crucible of a Civil War to offer a new birth of freedom; that stormed the beaches of Normandy, climbed the hills of Iwo Jima; that saw ordinary people mobilize to extend the meaning of civil rights. That’s who we are. That’s what makes us stronger than any act of terror.
Remember that history. Remember what that flag stands for. For we depend upon you — the heirs to that legacy — our men and women in uniform, and the citizens who support you, to carry forward what is best in us — that commitment to a common creed. The confidence that right makes might, not the other way around. (Applause.)
That’s how we can sustain this long struggle. That’s how we’ll protect this country. That’s how we’ll protect our Constitution against all threats, foreign and domestic.
I trust that you will fulfill that mission, as you have fulfilled all others. It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your Commander-in-Chief. I thank you for all that you’ve done, and all that you will do in the future. May God bless you. May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)