Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2016
NOMINATION SENT TO THE SENATE:
Merrick B. Garland, of Maryland, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, vice Antonin Scalia, deceased.
|GOD IN THE TEMPLES OF GOVERNMENT||
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2016
NOMINATION SENT TO THE SENATE:
Merrick B. Garland, of Maryland, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, vice Antonin Scalia, deceased.
Background on Judge Merrick Garland
In a Rose Garden ceremony today at the White House, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States. Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, has more federal judicial experience than any other Supreme Court nominee in history. No one is better suited to immediately serve on the Supreme Court.
Throughout his career, Chief Judge Garland has shown a rare ability to bring people together and has earned the respect of everyone he has worked with. Chief Justice John Roberts, Garland’s colleague on the D.C. Circuit, once said that “anytime Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.” In 2010, as the Senate was beginning the process of confirming a successor to Justice John Paul Stevens, Senator Orrin Hatch said he saw Chief Judge Garland as “a consensus nominee” for the Supreme Court, adding “I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of [Senate] votes. And I will do my best to help him get them.”
Chief Judge Garland was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit 76-23, with majority support from both Republicans and Democrats. He has served for 19 years on that court – often considered the most important appellate court in the nation. For over 3 years, he has been the Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit, continuing to distinguish himself as one of the most impressive judges in the country. He has cultivated a reputation as a brilliant, meticulous judge with a knack for building consensus, playing it straight, and deciding every case based on what the law requires. As he has said, “The role of the court is to apply the law to the facts of the case before it—not to legislate, not to arrogate to itself the executive power, not to hand down advisory opinions on the issues of the day.”
Chief Judge Garland was born and raised in Illinois, by a mother who served as a community volunteer and a father who ran a small business out of the family home. His grandparents immigrated to the United States to escape persecution and find a better life. He won scholarships to attend Harvard University – where he graduated summa cum laude – and Harvard Law School, paying his way by taking a summer job as a shoe store stock clerk, selling his comic book collection and counseling undergraduates.
Chief Judge Garland began his career as a clerk for legendary Second Circuit Judge Henry Friendly and then Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. In just four years, Chief Judge Garland became a partner at a prominent law firm, with a practice focused on litigation and pro bono representation of disadvantaged Americans.
Throughout his career, Chief Judge Garland has demonstrated a commitment to putting his country first. In 1989, shortly after becoming a partner in private practice, Chief Judge Garland accepted a significant pay cut to became a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. under the Administration of President George H.W. Bush, where he investigated and prosecuted cases involving public corruption, drug trafficking and fraud. U.S. Attorney Jay Stephens, a Republican appointee, later described Garland’s service to that office as marked “by dedication, sound judgment, excellent legal ability, a balanced temperament, and the highest ethical and professional standards.”
He later was selected as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, and then as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. In these roles, he oversaw some of the most important federal criminal cases brought by the Department.
Chief Judge Garland’s work on the Oklahoma City bombing case was particularly notable and inspiring. In the wake of the bombing, he traveled to Oklahoma to oversee the case, and in the ensuing months coordinated every aspect of the government’s response – working with federal agents, rescue workers, local officials, and others to bring the perpetrators to justice. He also kept in close touch with victims and their families throughout the case, and for several years afterwards as well. Later, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, a Republican, wrote that, during his work on the Oklahoma City bombing case, Chief Judge Garland “distinguished himself in a situation where he had to lead a highly complicated investigation and make quick decisions during critical times.”
Chief Judge Garland has also devoted himself to being a mentor and teacher. He remains close with his law clerks throughout their careers, encouraging them to pursue public service and advising them on how best to do so. In addition, for almost twenty years, he has tutored second, third, and fourth grade students in Northeast DC in reading and math. Chief Judge Garland and his wife of nearly thirty years, Lynn, have two daughters, Becky and Jessie. The family enjoys skiing, hiking and canoeing, and together they have visited many of America’s national parks.
Merrick Garland is the chief judge of the most important federal appeals court in the nation. In this role, he has consistently forged consensus among judges across the ideological spectrum, and he is uniquely poised to serve immediately as a Supreme Court justice.
Born and raised in Illinois by a mother who served as a community volunteer and a father who ran a small business out of the family home, Garland was valedictorian of his public high school class. He won scholarships to attend Harvard University, where he graduated summa cum laude, and Harvard Law School, where he received his law degree magna cum laude and served on the Harvard Law Review. While in college, Garland worked a summer job as a shoe store stock clerk and sold his comic book collection to help pay his tuition. As a law student, he earned room and board by counseling undergraduates.
After law school, Garland clerked for legendary Second Circuit Judge Henry Friendly. Garland then clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. Garland became a partner at a prominent law firm in just four years, with a practice focusing on litigation and pro bono representation of disadvantaged Americans. In 1989, shortly after becoming a partner, he returned to public service by accepting a job as a federal prosecutor during the George H.W. Bush Administration, investigating and trying cases involving public corruption, drug trafficking, and fraud.
He later joined the Department of Justice, first as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and then as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. In these roles, he oversaw some of the Department’s most significant prosecutions in the 1990s, including coordinating the government’s response to the Oklahoma City bombing. Garland moved to Oklahoma in the days following that terrorist attack, and led the investigation and prosecution that ultimately brought Timothy McVeigh to justice. He also supervised the Department’s responses to the Unabomber and the Montana Freemen.
When Garland was nominated to the D.C. Circuit, Garland received overwhelming bipartisan praise from Senators, lawyers, and commentators, and was confirmed by a vote of 76-23 in 1997. In his 19 years on the D.C. Circuit, Garland has a track record of building consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law. In his confirmation process, Chief Justice Roberts noted, “Any time Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.” Senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time of Garland’s confirmation, has said Garland would be a “consensus nominee” for the Supreme Court who “would be very well supported by all sides.” Garland became Chief Judge in 2013.
Garland and his wife of nearly 30 years, Lynn, have two daughters, Becky and Jessie. The family enjoys skiing, hiking and canoeing, and together they have visited many of America’s national parks. Garland is known for mentoring his clerks, and since 1998, has volunteered as a tutor for elementary school students in Northeast Washington, D.C.
Sen. Hatch: “[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man.” [NewsMax, 3/13/16]
Reuters: “Senator Orrin Hatch said he had known [Garland], seen as a leading contender for the Supreme Court, for years and that he would be ‘a consensus nominee.’” [Reuters, 5/6/10]
Sen. Leahy: “What Senators ought to be talking about is the fact that Merrick Garland is a superb nominee. He has been seen as a superb nominee by Republicans and Democrats alike, by all writers in this field. At a time when some seem to want people who are not qualified, here is a person with qualifications that are among the best I have ever seen.” [Congressional Record, 3/19/97]
Chief Justice John G. Roberts: “Any time Judge Garland disagrees, you know you're in a difficult area. And the function of his dissent, to make us focus on what we were deciding and to make sure that we felt we were doing the right thing, I think was well-served. But Judge Garland disagreed, and so it's obviously, to me, a case on which reasonable judges can disagree.” [Transcript: Day Three of the Roberts Confirmation Hearings, 9/14/05]
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad: “I am writing to ask your support and assistance in the confirmation process for a second cousin… Merrick Garland has had a distinguished legal career.” [Letter from Gov. Terry Branstad to Sen. Chuck Grassley, 10/10/1995 via Congressional Record, 3/19/97]
Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating: “Last April, in Oklahoma City, Merrick was at the helm of the Justice Department's investigation following the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, the bloodiest and most tragic act of terrorism on American soil. During the investigation, Merrick distinguished himself in a situation where he had to lead a highly complicated investigation and make quick decisions during critical times. Merrick Garland is an intelligent, experienced and evenhanded individual.” [Letter from Gov. Frank Keating to Sen. Bob Dole, 2/19/1996 via Congressional Record, 3/19/97]
Ed Whelan, former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice and former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: “He's earned the respect of a range of folks, including conservatives, and I think he is the most likely to exercise judicial restraint.” [Washington Post, 4/23/10]
Charles J. Cooper, Assistant AG for the Office Of Legal Counsel in the Reagan Administration: “Not only is Merrick enormously gifted intellectually, but he is thoughtful as well, for he respects other points of view and fairly and honestly assesses the merits of all sides of an issue. And he has a stable, even-tempered, and courteous manner. He would comport himself on the bench with dignity and fairness.” [Letter from Charles J. Cooper to Sen. Orrin Hatch, 11/9/1995 via Congressional Record, 3/19/97]
Former Associate Attorney General Jay B. Stephens: “In sum, his service as an Assistant United States Attorney was marked by dedication, sound judgment, excellent legal ability, a balanced temperament, and the highest ethical and professional standards. These are qualities which I believe he would bring to the bench as well.” [Letter from Jay B. Stephens to Sen. Chuck Grassley, 11/28/1995 via Congressional Record, 3/19/97]
Curt Levey, Executive Director of the Committee For Justice: “You’ll have, if not a love fest, something close to it if [the choice is] a Garland.” [NY Mag, 4/23/2010]
Carrie Severino, Chief Counsel and Policy Director to the Judicial Crisis Network: “But of those the President could nominate, we could do a lot worse than Merrick Garland… He's the best scenario we could hope for to bring the tension and the politics in the city down a notch for the summer.” [Washington Post, 4/23/10]
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release March 16, 2016
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
IN A KEYNOTE DISCUSSION
AT SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST
FEATURING MISSY ELLIOTT, QUEEN LATIFAH,
SOPHIA BUSH, AND DIANE WARREN
Austin Convention Center
11:20 A.M. CDT
MS. LATIFAH: Wow. This is amazing. Well, to kick things off today, the first question is one that a lot of folks here in the audience are asking, so I’m going to throw it out to each one of you on the panel: What is the pivotal moment in your life that inspired your passion in you, either about a cause, an issue, whatever might have been on your mind? Anyone can take it. I mean, I can set it off if you need me to.
MS. ELLIOTT: You take it. Cleo, set it off. (Laughter.)
MS. LATIFAH: Secret Service, I don’t need it like that. (Laughter.) Not like that. It was a movie. I can tell you from me -- and I’ll just start off just to let everybody relax for a second.
For me, one of the most pivotal times in my life that I can remember something hitting me in such a strong way is in the ‘80s, when I was a teenager growing up in New Jersey, running around New York, hanging out, loving hip hop and music, and a high school -- crack was one of the biggest things that impacted my community, all of our communities, really. Crack and AIDS were two of the things that hit our communities so powerfully.
And maybe this wasn’t something that seemed to affect a lot of other people because the media only seemed to show it -- when you saw crack, you saw it connected to black people, primarily, in the inner cities. It was everywhere. AIDS was everywhere, and moving really fast. And I think the reason it affected me so deeply was because I saw friends who were just teenagers, kids experimenting with things, as we all do as teenagers. And you try that thing once, and someone who was just on the basketball team with me is now, like, just hooked on drugs and has no way out. That really broke my heart, and I saw it happen to a lot of my friends.
So it inspired me and a lot of my fellow students, as well as my mom, who was a teacher at my high school, to create an organization called Students Against Crack. This was our way of becoming involved in the issue and trying to put the word out there that we could -- don’t even do it, crack is whack. All of those phrases that you heard -- like, this is not cool. And it took us, kids who thought we were cool, to try to tell other kids that this is not cool, this is not what you want to do, and it will ruin your life.
Also, AIDS affected me closely because one of my -- two of -- one of my cousins had AIDS through intravenous drug use; the other one through a blood transfusion at the time, because there wasn’t a lot of protection on it at that time. And here it is -- two my big cousins, two of my favorite cousins who I loved so much, went from really virile, strong people to being withered away by this disease. And there was such a stigma around it and such fear created around it, but these are people I love, so I’m going to hug my cousin, and here you are making people afraid to even touch them, don’t even come in the hospital, don’t come -- so I knew that there was a lot of things that were being told and purported that weren’t really real.
And my only way to effect it was to try to make a record about it, or try to be involved in the things -- the AIDS dance-a-thons, and whatever we could do to raise money for research and getting the word out there that -- to get more information to people. Because it was a scary time in both of those things.
So that was something that kind of spurred me into action. It was the little action I could take as a teenager, but it was something that meant a lot to me.
So, I mean, you don’t have to go that deep with all of it, I’m just saying. (Laughter.) What was one of those things that affected you?
MRS. OBAMA: It is deep. Because there are a lot of young people here, and I think probably the common thread for us is that it was something that affected us deeply, something we felt passionately about.
For me, when I was younger, it was always the doubters. And I don’t know about young people here, but growing up as a black girl on the South Side of Chicago, where the expectations of me were limited, as I was trying to make my way and do good in school and apply to good colleges, there were always people around telling me what I couldn’t do, always telling me how far I should only dream. And my reaction to that at that time was to prove the doubters wrong. That spurred me -- “I’ll show you.” They give you strength. (Applause.)
But not every young person reacts to that that way. And there are many young people whose dreams get snuffed out with that kind of negative energy. And that brings me to today, now that I’m First Lady, one of the things --
MS. LATIFAH: Yes, you are. (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: But I still see the effects of that doubting on so many young people, particularly young girls. And as I’ve traveled around the country, I’ve heard some horrifying stories of young women being pushed down because they’re trying to get an education -- young girls like Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by terrorists because she was speaking out about the importance of girls getting an education.
Many of us heard about the Nigerian girls, 200 of them or so, kidnapped from their dormitory school rooms in the middle of the night by terrorists, because they were in school. You just think, grown men trying to snuff out the aspirations of little girls.
And that inspired me to launch Let Girls Learn, which all of us -- we’ve talked about that. Because today, there are 62 million young girls who are not in school around the world, adolescent girls who aren’t getting an education because there are cultural norms that keep them down. They have limited recess -- or resources. They can’t pay their school fees. The schools are too far. They don’t have bathrooms. They can’t go to school when they start to menstruate.
All of these stories generate the same kind of anger and that sense of unfairness and inequity that makes you want to move. So what I could do as a little girl, which is just try my best to control my own fate, I’m trying to carry that spirit over to these 62 million girls with the help of hopefully millions and millions of Americans here, young people like you who will be a part of that education process.
But it usually starts with something that moves you personally. And for me, 62 million girls not getting an education, that’s personal. (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: Definitely. Sophia?
MS. BUSH: It was interesting what you were saying about the AIDS epidemic -- really struck a chord. Because I remember being a little kid in the ‘80s in LA and not understanding what was going on. And like you said, hearing the way people would talk about people who were suffering -- and that upset me, that we could criticize someone suffering. And I think that was the beginning of turning on the awareness of why that happens, and, being a California kid, seeing what was happening to the environment -- seeing how people didn’t care about protecting our Earth, which keeps us all healthy. All of those things lit me up.
And the solution, for me, came from a lightbulb moment that had to do with education. I grew up going to summer camp, and learned how to be outspoken, and climb rocks with the boys, and do all the things that I had been told I maybe couldn’t do because I was a woman. And I became a camp counselor at the place where I had been a camper.
MS. LATIFAH: I wish I went to that camp.
MS. BUSH: I wish you were in my cabin, we would have had a really good time. I would have been like, where do you want to go today? (Laughter.) And truthfully, being a camp counselor and looking at young girls, teaching them how to do things, hearing them say, “Well, I can’t do that,” and saying, “Who told you so? Yes you can.” And watching them leave empowered women who had learned their own strength when maybe they had come in doubting themselves, that made everything make sense to me -- that if we educate girls, if we empower girls, if we say “Yes, you can” instead of “No, you can’t,” it all changes.
And now as an adult, having worked in the education space for so long, traveled the developing world, built schools -- much like you, I look at the disparity between women’s ability to get an education and men’s. And that has to change. That’s how we change the world. And it’s not just emotional, it’s supported by all the data, all the financial information -- all of the things that we need to say, this is an imperative now.
And that’s it for me -- 62 million girls. That doesn’t work. (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: No, that doesn’t work for sure. Miss Demeanor?
MS. ELLIOTT: Now, you all know I don’t normally talk. I’m so shy.
MS. LATIFAH: Talk to me, Miss Demeanor. (Laughter.)
MS. ELLIOTT: I’m super shy.
MS. LATIFAH: Super fly! (Laughter.)
MS. EILLIOT: I guess the change for me happened in junior high school. My mother was in an abusive relationship. And the day that she left was probably the change for me, because I got a chance to see the strength in her. The risks that she took not knowing where would we go, financially how it was going to work out for us -- that taught me a lot, as a woman, in being strong, and supportive of other women, too. Because I watched my mother be strong, and then because weak because she was so accustomed to being in this relationship.
So when she walked away, it was scary for her, but I watched her build up so much strength. And me looking at that made me who I am. And I always said that when -- as artists, when we have a voice and when we get a chance to have a voice, we should speak. And when God blessed you with a gift it’s not just to harbor it, it’s to share that wisdom.
MS. LATIFAH: Amen. (Applause.) I don’t mean to go to church on you all. No collection. Come on, now, come on, sister! (Laughter.)
MS. ELLIOTT: Get the choir! (Laughter.) But that’s -- I’ve been told so many times “What you do won’t work, you don’t fit the mold, you don’t look like -- the way that other artists look.” I wasn’t the correct size at the time. And I sit here today -- and this is why I sit here, because I am a walking testimony. By not listening to any of those things -- it took a lot of strength, because when people are telling you that, that can be very discouraging, and you start to believe that, and you start to plant that in your mind.
But here I am. Out of all the things, I never thought that I would be sitting here beside the First Lady -- (applause) -- and beside -- and up here with all these women who are walking testimonies. Look, see now, I told you all I’m going to be scared to talk, now I’m feeling to get up and start --
MRS. OBAMA: Missy was like, “I’m shy, I don’t like to talk.” (Laughter.) Go in. Go in, Missy.
MS. ELLIOTT: But you know, all of us up here are a walking testimony, now -- I think it’s great to have that. So the women and the young girls can see that you can become something. And all hope is not gone because somebody tell you you’re not going to make it or you don’t fit the mold, because every one of us up here have a story to tell. We didn’t just roll out of our bed, and she didn’t just become the First Lady without a struggle. She didn’t become a great songwriter without a struggle. She didn’t become a great actress without a struggle. She didn’t become a great so many things without a struggle. (Applause.)
So I ain’t going to talk you all to death. I’m done. (Laughter and applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: Thank you, Missy. Thank you, Miss. Diane, you want to share a little bit?
MS. WARREN: I mean, it’s about never giving up. And all of us here, nothing was handed to us -- nothing was handed to me, nothing was handed to anybody. It’s having a dream. And when they tell you you’re not good enough and the songs aren’t good enough, or you’re not pretty enough -- don’t listen to any of that, because it’s all -- can I say bullshit? (Laughter.) I was trying --
MS. LATIFAH: I knew you wouldn’t -- the first answer without one. Keep it real. Just let off, girl.
MS. WARREN: None of it is real. Because it’s just like everybody tries to hold you down, and you can’t let them because your dreams will take you -- and I’m sounding so cliché, but I mean, for me, the power of music -- like with you, with you -- music is so powerful, and no one can stop it. And songs -- you know what I mean? (Applause.)
And I’m not being very articulate, but music saved my life. I was a kid that -- I was a messed up kid. And when I found I could write songs, it just -- it saved my life. And I just realized that the power of music, it reaches everywhere, it touches everyone. And I don’t know -- everyone had much more interesting stories than me. I’m not really good at this stuff.
But I’m so proud to be here with -- I mean, whoever thought I’d ever be up here, as well? I’m echoing your sentiments.
MS. LATIFAH: Well, I think each story is just as powerful. Because I think that may be a misconception that people have, that you have to do some amazing, world-changing thing. And I think that is a bit off -- that’s off. Because you don’t have to -- if we all each -- I think the whole purpose of this is that we all galvanize, we all use all of this energy we have a little bit at a time in our own way to move the needle.
MRS. OBAMA: Well, it’s true, that’s how change happens. I mean, people think that you’ve got to be the President of the United States, and you look to the President and he’s got to do everything. But the truth is, the change that happens happens on the ground. It happens from the bottom up. (Applause.) It happens because, in particular, young people find their power and their voice, and they use it every single day.
All of these unfairnesses and inequities, you all experience that every day in your life -- the bully, that loudmouth, that person who’s saying -- they’re there all around you. All that stuff just follows you into adulthood. They’re there no matter what.
So now, you’re practicing that strength. You’re practicing understanding your passion. You’re practicing utilizing your power. And that starts right at home -- mentoring your young brothers and sisters, your cousins, being a role model to the people in your community. That’s where change happens. And then it trickles up to the leaders -- they follow where the country wants to go in so many ways. And sometimes you’ve got to push a little bit to get them to go the right way. (Laughter.) But the change really happens right here on the ground. (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: Excellent. Well, next we have a question for Diane and Sophia from one of our viewers at home. Charlotte asks, “We all have passions, but what can we do as individuals on a daily basis to make change happen?” That’s for Diane over there, and that’s also for Sophia. (Laughter.)
MS. BUSH: Okay. Well, thanks, girl. So something that I think is interesting is you were mentioning -- incremental change is what does it. And one of the favorite notes I got about a chance I suggested to the amazing and motivated and incredibly just excited young people who follow the things I talk about on social media, was from someone’s mom.
And I’ll rewind a bit -- when I turned 30, I watched all these women freaking out -- friends of mine, women I don’t know, being like, “I’m 30, my life is over.” And I thought, why? Your entering into what I hear is one of the best decades of your life. I feel smarter, more powerful, more true to myself. I’ve exercised my passion and I’ve learned how to trust myself. I’m confident. I want 30 to be amazing.
So I decided to build a school in Guatemala for my 30th birthday, and I asked fans to do it with me. (Applause.) I said, listen, fine, I could do this and it could just be a person thing, but if I motivate young people to take part in this, it will also feel like their school. So I said, what if we got -- if a school is going to be $30,000, what if we could raise, in $30 increments, that money, how can you help with that, how can you do that? And I started trying to suggest tangible ways to do it, because not everybody wants to wait until they’re the President or a CEO or successful enough that they think they can donate money, but $30 can make a difference.
And I suggested all of these things, and one day I said, listen, for any of the kids out there who live at home, your parents probably are just like me, have a serious coffee habit. What if you offer to your parents that every morning you will make coffee, get up and hang out with them, get up 10 minutes earlier, and for every day you make coffee they give you that $3, $4, $5 latte money they’re not spending at Starbucks. Raise $25, that educates a kid for a year in the developing world.
And a mom wrote to me and said, “I’ve spent every morning for the last two weeks with my daughter. This has changed our communication. I gave her 25 bucks, build that school. And I was like, yeah! (Applause.) And that’s small. That’s a small way to start having a global impact.
MS. WARREN: That was great. And I forgot the question that was so great. (Laughter.) Sorry.
MS. LATIFAH: You want to add on to -- go ahead. You want to follow up? Jump in.
MS. WARREN: I thought you were asking -- I don’t have to, I’m happy to --
MS. LATIFAH: Oh, the question was how you can make changes in your own way, individually, yourself, small changes.
MS. WARREN: I think just being the kindest person you can be and being the best person you can be. And by kind, I’m -- for my own personal thing it means being kind to all creatures, and that’s animals, and that’s not eating them. Okay. (Applause.) See, I was really brief.
MS. LATIFAH: Simple. Makes sense to me, you know what I mean? (Laughter.) But you know what, this is a clear difference. And this to me is how you show the differences. So to be kind every day in some small way, to be compassionate, to show that sort of love is -- can be your way. She thought of an idea and thought of all these different ways to attack a grand idea, if you will. But simple ways to attack it and make it happen.
You can do the same thing by simply showing love, showing love every day. And sometimes that in itself can be a challenge, because generally, you have to start with yourself, show yourself some love so that you can kind of put that out there into the world and be compassionate to others. (Applause.)
Now, we have a related audience question for Mrs. Obama about her time in the White House, which you all have had -- I’ve had a good time in your house.
MRS. OBAMA: Time is almost up.
MS. LATIFAH: No, no, no! (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: (Singing.) “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.” (Laughter.)
MS. WARREN: We should have put you on the song. You can sing.
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, no.
MS. WARREN: She can sing! Why wasn’t she on the song?
MS. LATIFAH: This question is from Rachel McGruder (ph). Rachel, where are you? Okay, there’s Rachel over here. What’s your question, Rachel?
Q Hello, ladies.
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, wait, Rachel is behind you.
MS. LATIFAH: Which one is Rachel?
MRS. OBAMA: Who’s Rachel? (Laughter.) All right, that’s Rachel -- hey, Rachel. Rachel is going to come up on stage.
Q I really want to. (Laughter.) All right, great.
MRS. OBAMA: There we go.
Q Hi, ladies. So I was really interested to know, Mrs. Obama, what passions did you feel like you needed to give up when you learned you were going to the White House? And second, while you were in the White House, what things have inspired you to new passions when you leave? Thank you. (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Great questions. You know what, Rachel, I have to say, the platform of First Lady is so vast and so powerful and so unique that I have to say that -- I can’t say that I missed anything by being here and having this platform. This is a unique spotlight, and my goal has been to make sure I don’t waste it. That’s really been the thing. I mean, every day I wake up, it’s like, good lord, please make sure that I’m being relevant, that I’m having impact, that I’m making the difference, particularly in the lives of young people.
And I’ve tried to do that every day with every initiative that we started -- whether it’s making sure that our kids eat healthy and get good exercise -- you all eat your vegetables. (Laughter.) Making sure our kids here in the United States know that getting an education past high school is an absolute necessity to compete in a global economy. You guys have got to take your education seriously. To help in our military families, our men and women in uniform, to make sure everyone in this nation honors their service and doesn’t take it for granted. And know that when we got to war and we talk that kind of defense stuff, that there’s a family behind every big word we utter, and if we’re going to go to war, we’ve got to take care of the men and women who are serving them and honor them. (Applause.) To the work that we’re doing to educate girls around the world -- that impacts us. I mean, you think of the world problems, and we know from the statistics that girls who are educated, they raise healthier kids; lower HIV rates. It can boost an entire country’s GDP, having more educated women.
So I will tell you that I’m going to take all of that with me. Because while there’s this platform, and it’s very unique, what you realize just from the people on stage and everybody out here, there’s always a platform. And when I leave here, there will be another platform. I don’t know what that will feel like, but I will still have that same sense of obligation and responsibility that my parents taught me growing up -- that to whom much is given, much is expected.
So we’ve got to keep working on these issues. These are not issues that go away in a presidential term. They don’t go away in a lifetime. And why I work so much with young people is that you all are going to be the ones who take on these issues. You’re going to be the one that carries these things over the finish line -- whether it’s climate change, or global education, or health and fitness, you all are the ones who are going to have to do that work. And I want you all to feel good about yourselves, and be empowered, and feel prepared to take on the leadership roles that we’re going to need to have you -- we’re going to hand this stuff over to you, and we’re going to have your backs while you’re doing it.
And we’re not through yet. There’s a lifetime after the White House. So we will keep pushing. (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: Absolutely. Well, we got to talk a little bit of music, since we have such acclaimed musicians on this stage. We got to talk music. Our first music question is from Sarah Overdyer (ph). Sarah? There’s Sarah.
Q Hi, my name is Sarah Overdyer. And my question is, what album has influenced you the most? And now, I know that’s almost an impossible question, so one in your top five is okay. (Laughter.)
MS. ELLIOTT: What album influenced me the most? That’s hard for me to say. Yeah, that’s hard for me -- you know what, I would say -- geez. (Laughter.) I don’t want to say necessarily album. I know -- don’t have the Secret Service come with -- fighting me because I’m changing it up. (Laughter.)
There’s so many albums, but I want to say people like Queen Latifah, who is sitting on this stage. (Applause.) Her album, MC Lyte album, Salt-N-Pepa album. And the reason I say these women is because these women are the reason that I am an MC. I became an artist because of their music.
And Miss Queen Latifah taught us “U.N.I.T.Y” (Applause.) She taught us ladies first. (Applause.) So I have to say, their albums -- and I didn’t want to say one because they all impacted me for various reasons -- and I’m not just -- like I said, I’m not just saying that because I’ve known Latifah for how many years?
MS. LATIFAH: Many, many. I can’t even count. At least 20.
MS. ELLIOTT: But I still -- as close of friends that we are, I still look up to her because her music has done so much for me and taught me strength once again -- coming up behind her. And Lyte and Salt-N-Pepa, I would have to say those albums influenced me the most. But then I got some gospel albums, I got some R&B albums. I got some Michael Jackson, some -- no, I’m just playing. I got so many people.
But I want to say those three albums of those three artists. (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: Diane, come on, you’ve got to jump in on that.
MS. WARREN: I mean, there’s so many albums. I mean, from when I was a kid, I have to say the Beatles and Motown. That just defined -- that was songwriting at its finest, fine-tuned genius. That influenced me so much growing up. But there’s so many other things.
And I want to say one thing to you, Missy -- think about how many people are looking up to you like you look up to Queen Latifah. How cool is that? (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: Yes. I look up to her.
MS. WARREN: A lot of people.
MRS. OBAMA: For me, oh -- and people, I -- Stevie Wonder. Anything Stevie Wonder. (Applause.) The very first album of my whole life was “Talking Book.” And this bonded me to my grandfather -- we called him South Side, because he lived on the South Side. We weren’t very creative. (Laughter.)
But South Side loved music. And he was a carpenter, and he collected jazz, loved jazz. Had two turntables, reel-to-reel up in his little house. Had speakers everywhere. And I’d go over to South Side’s on Saturday, I’d play with his dog who I named Rex -- not very original. (Laughter.) And I would just play music with him. And for my birthday, he bought me “Talking Book,” and it had the Braille on it, Stevie Wonder’s Braille. And I played that album over and over and over again, until “Songs in the Key of Life.” And then I played that over and over and over again.
So Stevie Wonder. And for -- as Missy said, because he talked about unity. He talked about love and peace, and all of his songs were empowering. They were impactful. They were ones that would push you to look at change, to look at how you could affect the world. And he’s just one of the greatest songwriters on the planet. (Applause.) Stevie all the way.
MS. BUSH: Missy took my answer. I was going to say --
MS. LATIFAH: FLOTUS took my answer! (Laughter.)
MS. BUSH: Guys, great minds. Really, when you came out with U.N.I.T.Y, I remember just being like, yeah! She’s right! You just came in -- up on the scene with so much personality and presence. And to talk about the way that women deserved to be respected, and that people needed to look at each other like people. We were talking about it backstage and I was like, oh, man, I listened on my Walkman to you, and to Lauryn Hill. And my dad got me hooked on the Eagles, and people thought those were really weird CDs to all be in my backpack at the same time, but I was into it. (Laughter.)
It’s like this notion that you could, especially for you guys, be women on the forefront of your industry, on your own, not in somebody else’s band, just killing the game and saying things that mattered so much. It set such an example for me. And I know whoever is yelling out there for you and probably for everyone else in the audience -- and it was a really powerful thing to be taught by an artist who I loved. (Applause.) You’re a big deal.
MRS. OBAMA: Now, Queen, you’ve got to answer that question. You can’t moderate around that one. We want to know.
MS. LATIFAH: I was just going to slide on over. (Laughter.) Oh, I, like you all and Missy, have the most difficult time. We’ve been trying to pin something down, but Stevie Wonder would be one of my -- probably my all-time favorite because he’s had a song for every point and purpose in my life and everything I’ve gone through.
And, yes, “Songs in the Key of Life” is one of those records. But I think he influenced me in a way because I could talk -- he kind of let me know I could talk about -- he talked about things that were going on around my life, but he also talked about love, and then he also made a song for his daughter. (Singing) “Isn’t she lovely?” You know what I mean? Yeah, and he named her -- okay. And then he named his -- and then he said his --
MS. WARREN: We’re going to have a performance. (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: Oh, we’re going to have a performance.
MRS. OBAMA: That’s my bad, my bad. That wasn’t on the --
MS. LATIFAH: We’re going to have a -- for my girls’ performance. (Laughter.)
But, yeah, I think artists like that. Artists like Teena Marie were important to me because -- God bless her -- but I would read the credits on the albums -- and I loved the artist, her name was Teena Marie, you all should check her out if you’re not familiar with her. But she wrote and she produced all of her music. And to see -- to read all these credits -- and I would always read the credits from all the Motown stuff and the Jackson Five, and everybody -- even Stevie, to see how he wrote and produced all of this stuff. But then I saw Teena Marie, and I’m like, she wrote this and she produced it. It struck something in me. It said, I can write and I can create my own music. I know what I’m hearing in my head. I may not know how to work these things, but I can tell someone, hey, play this note or try this, or here’s -- play it on my two strings on the guitar and let the real guitarist take over.
But even that little thing was a lesson in empowerment, of how we could use our own voices. And of course later one, through all of the hip hop that came along. But even it was guys in hip hop that inspired me, like KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions and Salt-N-Pepa and (inaudible) but -- Public Enemy. Because they were talking about things that were happening in real life.
So we all knew how to party. I mean, party was just -- you’ve got a party gene in you, and the party gene kicks in at some point. You don’t have to really do much to manage it, it just goes. Then you’ve got to hold it back. (Laughter.) But to actually see something going on and to actually be able to talk about it knowing that we’ve got this music called hip hop, we can -- it’s almost like poetry to me. It all started as writing poetry for me. But to able to speak about something that’s happening in the world was -- that felt very powerful to me. It felt like something that I could use my voice in.
And so it’s kind of weird to write “Ladies First,” but then to be sitting with the First Lady is kind of -- it’s surreal. It is surreal. (Applause.) Ultimate album: Prince, “Purple Rain.” Okay, moving on. (Applause.) Taught me all about love.
But, Diane, I’ve got to -- and Missy, I’ve got to quickly jump to this because you all wrote a -- you wrote a song, Diane, about girl power, and you all got to sing it. And it’s called “This Is For My Girls,” and you just released it. I want you to talk a little bit about “This Is For My Girls.” What made you want to write it? What was it about it? Talk to us about it.
MS. WARREN: I wanted just to write a song -- I wanted to write the best female-empowerment song I knew how to write. And I’m so honored that -- come on, Missy Elliott is on it. She wrote the best rap ever. Like, it’s so cool. I just wanted to write a song that’s -- this is for my girls all around the world, stand up, hold your head up. Well, I’ll talk -- the clean version -- don’t take nothing from nobody. (Laughter.) It’s just about -- if you look at the lyrics to the song and listen to it, it encompasses about what we’re talking about here.
MS. ELLIOTT: Amazing record and amazing singers on it. And the message is important. And I wanted to be a part of it, too. When asked, I heard it and I was like --
MS. WARREN: I was so excited when you agreed to do it. It’s so cool.
MS. ELLIOTT: So for those records like that that is uplifting and encouraging to people and to young girls --
MS. WARREN: You can do anything. You listen to that song, you can do anything.
MS. ELLIOTT: Yes, I mean, like I said, we had the -- “Ladies First.” We had “Ladies Night.” (Laughter.) We had “Where My Girls At?” We had -- what was the -- we had so many of those records, but those records made us feel empowered. And I think we need more records like that. (Applause.)
MS. WARREN: Now we got one.
MS. LATIFAH: Definitely. And this one is out, so you can download it right now.
MS. ELLIOTT: We need a balance of music out here.
MRS. OBAMA: And I just want to thank all the artists who participated; Diane, obviously, for writing such a phenomenal anthem. (Applause.) And this is going to help -- as we were saying backstage, this is going to -- the proceeds -- if everyone that downloads this, the proceeds -- 100 percent of the proceeds are going to go to our Let Girls Learn Peace Corps fund to help these young women get the education that they need. (Applause.) And it’s just a sign of what a group of women can do together.
And we can change the world. We can have an impact on these girls. And they don’t even know we’re doing it. They don’t know that here in the United States, at South By Southwest, sitting on this stage are a group of women who care so deeply that they have put their talents to good use on behalf of a group of young women that we know need our support and our love. And I’m just proud to be a part of it. I didn’t have to do much but show up. So thank you, Diane. (Laughter.) Thank you for that.
And I want everybody to download that song, and I want you all singing that anthem. (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: Well, let’s talk a little bit more about how to harness our girl power. Kyle in our audience has a question for Sophia. Is Kyle around? Hey, Kyle!
Q Hi, I’m Kyle from Ohio University. (Applause.) Yeah! God Bobcats. So my question is, what advice do you have for men in regards to being better, more supportive allies for women and women’s equality? (Applause.)
MS. BUSH: Yes. Thank you for asking that question. It’s so important. And I must say, shout-out to all the guys here in the audience today for showing up, for caring, for loving the women in your life. (Applause.) It’s an important thing.
You know, we care so much about the girls around the world who don’t have education access because we know that they deserve equal rights. But we can’t get there alone. We can’t just be sitting here saying we need this -- we need men like you and the men in this room and the men out there who are aware to say, my friend, my sister, my neighbor, my coworker, my mother -- they deserve what I have.
And I think that it’s really important first to just say, your empathy is beautiful. The first thing first, listen. Listen to a women you care about tell her story so that you can hear what it’s like on our end, and then ask that person what it is they might need. For me, I would ask everyone in this room to get involved with the First Lady’s initiative. I would ask everyone in this room to look up the Girl Project, it’s what I’m working on every day to make sure that the out of 62 million girls who don’t have education access, the 50 million who can’t get to secondary school get it. You referenced it -- GDPs go up in countries where women go to school. And for every year of education, a women’s earning power goes up 10 percent. Every year of secondary school education, it goes up 25 percent. Those women invest 90 percent of those earnings back into their families and their communities.
So it’s an emotional thing for us, and it’s also, as I said earlier, a global imperative. And whether you want to get involved and jump on social media with us, and use these hashtags, and post your #ManForWoman, #62MillionGirls selfie -- I want to see it. I expect it after this is over.
MS. LATIFAH: That sounds sexy to me. (Laughter.) Sounds sexy.
MS. BUSH: I’m into it. Yeah. Selfies for education are very sexy to us. Or you want to motivate your friends, maybe your guy’s sports team to go out there and volunteer for a cause that supports women. There’s so much that you can do. I think asking the question first and then listening to the answer of the women you care about second is a great place to start. (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: And we have another audience question for Mrs. Obama regarding the Let Girls Learn project, the initiative she started -- she and President Obama launched last year.
MRS. OBAMA: He did something, too. (Laughter.) Let’s not forget about him, the President. He was involved, too.
MS. LATIFAH: We never forget about President Obama.
MRS. OBAMA: He’s one of those guys out there -- the involved.
MS. LATIFAH: But he launched that last year. Sally House (ph). Sally? Hi, Sally.
Q What is the one easy thing that all of us as Americans can do to help women get education equality around the world?
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you for that. I mean, we’ve tried to make it easy. You can go on social media. You can go to #62MillionGirls. We’re working with a number of organizations -- you can go there, take the pledge. You have examples of many, many things that people can do. Host a car wash. Buy your mom some coffee and donate the money. There are so many things you can do. But you can just go to #62MillionGirls or 62MillionGirls.com and find out how to help.
But one of the things I want to say in response to what men can do is when you have a seat at the table and you have access to power -- whether you are an employer or a CEO or on a board, or whether you are a professor in a classroom, whether you’re sitting around a table -- the question you can ask yourselves is, is there diversity around the table? (Applause.) Are there voices and opinions who don’t sound like yours?
Because I’m always of the mindset that we reach better answers when we have a broad array of voices, when there are women at the table, when there are minorities, when there are folks who have different experiences. We’re better able to empathize, to get a better handle on things. So if you’re a man at the table, and you look around and there are only men at the table, then you should ask yourselves, how can I do better? Because there are a lot of men-only tables going on in this country and around the world. And the only people who can change that are the men at the table. (Applause.)
So I urge you, particularly young people, as you grow up and you marry and you have a wife and you raise a daughter, these are the women who are going to be impacted by the things that we aren’t doing today. And you may not feel it now as a single man, but to know that you could raise a daughter that could live in a part of the world where she couldn’t go to school, that you could have a wife that could be taken advantage of, beaten, that she wouldn’t be given her just due -- in this country today, women still earn 70 cents on the dollar to every dollar a man makes.
There’s a lot of work that men can do right here in this country and around the world, but you’ve got to have an understanding. You’ve got to have empathy. It can’t just be about what’s good for you, it’s got to be what’s good for all of us. And I hope we’re all raising young men who are coming to these positions of power with a different level of sensitivity and understanding, and, as I said -- I can’t say it more -- with empathy to create inclusion. And that’s how we start to fix this problem.
So we need you, men. Get it together. (Applause.)
MS. LATIFAH: We need you, men. And if I could add onto that, when you see me, you probably don’t see the men around me who impacted my life in such a huge way, starting with my father.
My father was a police officer, SWAT, tactical, Mel Gibson, “Lethal Weapon” guy running up the -- that guy. And my mother, thank god, smoothed me out, because I would have been as crazy as him. But he encouraged me. He encouraged the things that my brother was allowed to do -- if he was taking my brother camping, I got to go camping. If it was learning how to shoot -- which is something normal in a cop family -- I was part of it. I was included in everything, and encouraged along the way.
The group of rappers that I grew up around, the Flavor Unit, I met a crew full of boys, a crew full of guys, dudes, but who didn’t block me from expressing those things. If anything, “No, La, you can make that line better, you can change that.” It pushed me. They pushed me further. They didn’t exclude me. And so it made me better.
My partner of 20-plus years who I’ve known since 10th grade in high school -- Shakim Compere is around here somewhere. (Applause.) But without him, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. So my partner in my company is a man, a man who respected my mind. And I could sit around -- we would sit around and talk about how to come up with things, how we could do this, how -- just to prove to each other we could do it, or prove it to the world. But had he not respected me, had he kind of run with the boy pack and said, oh, no, girls should just stay here -- we wouldn’t have done half the things we’ve done.
And it makes us so much more rich, so much more great. And Missy can attest to this because we sit on the phone and talk about it for hours. When we talk about what’s missing in hip hop, we -- women is what’s missing in hip hop. Women is why you’re not getting as rich a diverse sound in the music as you should, because I’m sorry, whenever you remove a woman’s voice from anything, you are lacking. There’s no possible way you could be at your best if you remove women from the equation. (Applause.)
And for men, I don’t ever want it to be that sort of thing where we’re afraid to talk to one another, or it becomes “I have to be less in order to make you feel like more” on either side. I think that communication is so important, that we both has so much to offer, that there are things that guys can do that girls can’t do and we have to be realistic about that. There’s so many things that women can do that guys can’t do, but there’s so many more things we can do together. (Applause.) And I think that is a very important things for us to recognize. It only makes our entire world stronger and greater and better, and richer future.
So keep up the good work, guys, especially you guy feminists out there. Yeah, you, that guy! That guy right there! Keep up the good work. (Applause.)
Well, to wrap things up, I received two questions over and over and over for the First Lady. And I thought they would be the best to close on. Well, the question that the people want to know is what is the one thing you will miss the most about being First Lady? And will you run for President? (Applause.)
MS. BUSH: I told you.
MS. LATIFAH: The people want to know, not me! The people! (Applause.)
MS. BUSH: We want you.
MRS. OBAMA: Okay, the people. People want to know. What will I miss most about being First Lady? You all. It’s the young people -- you’re going to make me cry -- that I interact with every day. The young people in this country keep me inspired, because I see myself in them, in you all. I see that little girl on the South Side who was told she couldn’t. I see the scared kid, I see the kid with doubts. And I just know that if I can do this and be here -- I’ve gone to great colleges and have all these wonderful experiences -- you can do it, too.
So spending that time with you all, touching you all, laughing with you, just experiencing this journey with our young people of all ages -- I will miss that as First Lady, but I’m going to keep doing it for the rest of my life. (Applause.) So it’s the people. You can’t be in public life and not love people. It’s a hard thing to do. And there’s some people who do it and they don’t love people. You’ve got to love people, and I do. And I’m going to continue to work with our young people all over the world.
Not as President. I will not run for President. No, nope, not going to do it. Hey, and here’s one of the reasons why -- because I’ve got these two young people at home. And being the kids -- the daughters of a President, just think about it. Come on, young people -- not so easy. They’ve handled it with grace and with poise, but enough is enough. (Applause.)
And also, what did we say earlier? There are so many ways to impact the world. I mean, you don’t have to be President of the United States to do wonderful, marvelous things. And I don’t plan on slowing down any time soon. You talk about your thirties being good? Your fifties, woo! Phenomenal. (Applause.) And I expect to go into my sixties blazing! Blazing -- (applause) -- and trying to be as fly and as healthy as I can be. Remember that 106-year-old woman, Ms. McLaurin, who was dancing with us? I told her, I want to be just like you -- 106 and moving and grooving.
So there is so much that I can do outside of the White House. And sometimes there’s much more that you can do outside of the White House, without the constraints and the lights and the cameras and the partisanship. There’s a potential that my voice could be heard by many people who can’t hear me now because I’m Michelle Obama, the First Lady. And I want to be able to impact as many people as possible in an unbiased way, and to try to keep reaching people. And I think I can do that just as well by not being President of the United States. And you can -- you all can, too.
Now, I hope there are some people in the audience who want to be President of the United States, because we need you. We need you out there. We need good, smart, decent people with strong values and strong morals who want to go into politics. (Applause.) So I would encourage all of you to consider a life in public service. Even if you want to make money, find a way to help somebody. Find a way to turn your blessings into something powerful that affects the lives of others. Because that’s how we keep this country strong. So I hope you all will consider public service. (Applause.)
So with that, I will go off into the sunset. (Laughter.)
MS. LATIFAH: Not just yet. Spend a little more time with us, won’t you?
MRS. OBAMA: Yes.
MS. LATIFAH: We love you. South By Southwest, please join me in thanking Mrs. Obama and our panel one more time. (Applause.)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 16, 2016
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT RECEPTION IN HONOR OF
WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
5:23 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Hello, hello, hello! (Applause.) You know, I can already tell this is kind of a rowdy bunch. (Applause.) It is good to see all of you. Welcome to the White House.
Thank you, Sana, for your incredible work. Ms. Marvel may be your comic book creation, but I think for a lot of young boys and girls, Sana is a real-life superhero. And there are a lot of them in this room, so I want to acknowledge a couple of them. First of all, we’ve got Cecile Richards in the house, making sure that women’s health care is on the front burner. (Applause.) We’ve got America’s first female NFL Coach, Dr. Jennifer Welter. (Applause.) We have some outstanding members of Congress, including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.)
Now, I know I was the second choice for this gathering. (Laughter.) You don't have to confirm it, I know it. (Laughter.) But Michelle has been at South by Southwest talking about her “Let Girls Learn” initiative to help 62 million girls around the world who are out of school and getting them into the classroom. So I could not be more proud of her work, and I will do my best to fill in. (Laughter.) Because this is a pretty special event.
We have people here who’ve been working together to advance women’s equality for decades, as well as members of a rising generation of activists and advocates and leaders who are picking up the mantle, taking the baton, and they are moving things forward. And it’s because of all of you that we’ve accomplished so much these past seven years.
Thanks to your efforts, the first law I signed when I came into office was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) We have expanded paid sick days and equal pay for more families, created more opportunities for women small business owners. We passed the Affordable Care Act, which covers women’s preventive care -- (applause) -- including contraception -- that says women can’t be charged more for health insurance just because they’re women. (Applause.) We are fighting hard against campus sexual assault. (Applause.)
Around the world, we lifted the global gag rule, developed a strategy to combat gender-based violence. And I am incredibly proud that I’ve appointed more female appointees and judges than any other President. (Applause.) In fact, the majority of my senior advisors are women. (Applause.) Including on my national security team. They are a tough bunch. (Laughter.)
And what’s happening here at home is a reflection of the fact that the world has made enormous progress. A century ago, most women in the world were denied suffrage. Today, women in almost every country have the right to vote. Since 1990, maternal mortality rates have fallen by 44 percent. Women are living longer lives. We’ve cut extreme poverty in half. More women are going to school, earning their degrees, entering the workforce, contributing to their economies, and shaping the course of their nation.
What we’ve seen, even in our own lifetimes, is that change is possible. That’s why we have to keep fighting, because there are battles that still need to be won. We still need to fight for economic equality, for equal opportunities for entrepreneurs, for equal pay for equal work. We still need to make sure that paid family leave is not the exception around the country, but is the rule. (Applause.) So that women, especially low-income women, don’t lose their jobs for minor things like giving birth. (Applause.) We have to end violence against women. (Applause.) We have to end practices like child marriage. We’ve got to make sure that girls around the world have the same opportunities as boys to go to school. (Applause.)
And that is why we celebrate Women’s History Month -- not to get complacent, but to take a moment each year and celebrate the achievements that women have fought so hard to achieve, and to rededicate ourselves to tackling the challenges that remain.
Now, our policies are aimed at bringing about equality. But a lot of what we have to do is not just up to government or corporate policy, it’s up to each of us. One thing I’ve been thinking about this past week is the unique challenges women face in the virtual world. Last Friday, I was at South by Southwest, where the epidemic of online harassment was a topic of discussion. We know that women gamers face harassment and stalking and threats of violence from other players. When they speak out about their experiences, they’re attacked on Twitter and other social media outlets, even threatened in their homes. One study shows that on Twitter, female journalists receive three times the abuse as their male colleagues. Too many young people face cyberbullying, especially in the LGBT community.
And what’s brought these issues to light is that there are a lot of women out there, especially young women, who are speaking out bravely about their experiences, even when they know they’ll be attacked for it -- from feminist bloggers who refuse to be silenced, to women sports reporters who are opening up about the extreme safety precautions they need to take when traveling for work. Every day, women of all ages and all backgrounds and walks of life are speaking out. And by telling their stories, by you telling your stories, women are lifting others out of the shadows and raising our collective consciousness about a problem that affects all of us.
After all, the Internet is not something separate from our lives, it is completely interwoven in our lives. It’s how we connect with one another, and where we get our information, and how we create and break new ground, and where people work and earn their livelihoods. If you’re a teenager, I promise you, you are basically online all the time. (Laughter.) I know. I’ve got a couple of them. (Laughter.) The point is, the Internet is a public space where women have every right to exist freely and safely and without fear. (Applause.)
Obviously, this is not unique to the Internet. Women have been up against this kind of nonsense since the beginning of time. As long as women have dared to enter the public space -- whether they’re fighting for their rights or simply walking the streets, there have been times where they’ve been harassed by those who apparently see the mere presence of women as a threat.
But what’s also true is that women have been speaking up and fighting back for just as long. And we can’t let up now. And by the way, this is not just the role for women. It's about men speaking up and demanding better of themselves and their peers, their sons, their friends, their coworkers. (Applause.) Because we’re all in this together. (Applause.)
Now, whenever I point out that women, or whenever I point out that any group of Americans face challenges that some of us don’t, I'm apparently being “divisive.” (Laughter.) There he goes again, being divisive -- by pointing out that women earn less than men, or that women are frequent targets of sexual harassment, online or offline, or that women face greater threats of sexual violence. Essentially, they’re arguing that by pointing out these challenges I'm dividing us.
I want to say to those critics, this shouldn’t divide us because you should care about it, too. (Applause.) This is not about one group versus another. This is about how all of us can improve the situation for all of our daughters -- and all of our sons -- for future generations. This should matter to all Americans. Because we know that countries where women enjoy equality and can fulfill their potential do better than countries where women are oppressed. When any group of Americans are experiencing discrimination or not being treated fairly, that hurts all of us -- and it undermines our ideals. It corrodes our aspiration to ensure that every single one of us is entitled to a life of liberty and that we're able to pursue our happiness.
And when our society makes it possible for women to contribute their talents to our communities, then we all win. We all succeed. When technology is the key to the 21st century and economic success -- I personally would like to see more women coders. (Applause.) I don't want them experiencing harassment. I want them to be able to come up with the great new software that’s going to revolutionize some aspect of life.
When our companies need all the talent that they can get to compete around the world, we should be encouraging every CEO to make sure their workforces are reflective of America. We should be encouraging women to chase their ambitions, and climb as high as their hard work and their skills can take them.
When it’s long past time for our leaders to reflect the majority of the population, wouldn’t it be better for America if women weren’t discouraged from seeking office because of double standards -- (applause) -- and we had more women in positions of power and high office? (Applause.)
I want to be clear. I'm not stereotyping here. But I'm pretty sure that if we had more women in charge things would work better. (Applause.) I'm pretty sure that's true. I'm not saying you all are always right. (Laughter.) I just want to be clear about that. (Laughter.) I'm in a household where I'm outnumbered and I just want -- I know there are times where you, too, can be somewhat unreasonable. (Laughter.) But, in general, as a whole, I think it's fair to say that things would be a whole lot better if it was more reflective of our populations and the people who are doing a lot of the work that gets unpaid, and who are holding communities together, and making community organizations work, and making places of worship work, and making child-rearing work. (Applause.)
The good news is, is that we’ve got a real opportunity to build a freer and fairer and more just society -- online and offline. That’s why this spring, we’ll be hosting the first ever White House Summit on the United State of Women. (Applause.) It’s going to be a chance to build on the progress that we’ve made to advance women’s equality, and to address the challenges that still remain.
And I’m incredibly optimistic about what we can achieve at this summit and beyond. And I draw my optimism from the fact that we've already achieved so much. I've told this story before, but my grandmother, who helped raise me, she worked in a bank. So she worked her way up from being a secretary, with a high school education, all the way up to being the vice president of a regional bank. And she was smart and she was hardworking, and she was really good at her job.
And at some point, she hit the glass ceiling, though. And then she trained men to do the job of “supervising” her, even though she knew the job better than they did. Today, my daughters believe that every door is open to them. They would not put up with that. (Laughter.) It wouldn’t even occur to them that they couldn’t climb to the top of whatever field that they chose. (Applause.) In the space of one generation, women like those in this room have moved mountains. They know you can be the Speaker of the House because they’ve seen Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) Right? They know that they can draw comic books, or can direct film, or can be an astronaut, or do whatever they want. (Applause.)
And I've got to be careful -- this is not a political event. (Laughter.)
And they’ve got role models like Dr. Welter, who once said, “My opportunity could create other opportunities, and I love everything about that.” That's what all of you represent here. And that's the work that you’ve done together and with us these past seven years -- fighting for a better future for my daughters, but also for our sons.
Because I believe as much as I believe in anything that we liberate ourselves when we liberate others. We give ourselves opportunity when we give other people opportunity. (Applause.) We benefit when we see other people prosper. And together, I know that we can fulfill the basic promise of our nation -- that every child, no matter what her background or income or race or gender, that she can succeed. She can make of her life what she will.
You guys are all examples of that. So keep up the great work. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 14, 2016
UPDATED GUIDANCE FOR THE FIRST LADY’S
LET GIRLS LEARN EVENTS THROUGHOUT MARCH
As we celebrate the first anniversary of Let Girls Learn - and March as Women’s History Month - the First Lady will participate in a series of events in support of adolescent girls’ education around the world. Globally, more than 62 million girls are not in school - more than half of whom are adolescent - because of financial, physical, and cultural barriers in accessing education. When a girl receives a quality education, she is more likely to earn a decent living, raise a healthy, educated family, and improve the quality of life for herself, her family, and her community.
Wednesday, March 16th
Austin, TX * 11:00AM CT--The First Lady will travel to Austin to host the keynote event at the SXSW Music Conference where she will discuss Let Girls Learn, and the ways students across the country can take action on critical issues like adolescent girls education.
The First Lady’s keynote event will include a group discussion with Missy Elliot, Sophia Bush, and Diane Warren, moderated by Queen Latifah. This powerhouse group of women bring their collective years of experience to the table for a dialogue on passion, music, and the importance of girls’ education worldwide. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements associated with the First Lady's visit to South by Southwest.
AOL MAKERS is collaborating with Let Girls Learn and will be livestreaming the First Lady's event via MAKERS.com.
Week of March 21st
Cuba & Argentina—During the President and First Lady’s trip to Cuba and Argentina, Mrs. Obama will highlight Let Girls Learn and continue meeting with young people to discuss ways that youth around the world can become global citizens through education advocacy and community leadership.
Additional information including press credentialing information forthcoming.
Tuesday, March 29th
Washington, DC—The First Lady will attend the 2016 Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award at the U.S. Department of State. 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the International Women of Courage Award.
The Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award annually recognizes women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release March 14, 2016
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT “HAMILTON AT THE WHITE HOUSE”
State Dining Room
1:47 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: What’s going on? We’re at the White House! (Laughter.) Are you all excited?
MRS. OBAMA: I am so excited! Well, let me start by thanking the extraordinary performers from Hamilton! (Applause.) They’re here! They’re all here! (Laughter.) On this stage, we have Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Applause.) We have Daveed Diggs. (Applause.) Christopher Jackson -- Mr. Washington! (Applause.) And the beautiful Phillipa Soo. (Applause.)
And I have to give a special shout-out to the students that we have here. (Applause.) We have students from Laurel High school. (Laughter and applause.) I know, it’s you. (Laughter.) Osbourn High School is in the house. (Applause.) Is that all you got? (Laughter.) Loudoun County High School. (Applause.) You all -- oh, that’s okay. (Laughter.) You’re representing on this side, though.
I have been waiting for this day for a long, long time -- this day right here when we’re in the White House with this amazing cast. We host a lot of special events here. We do a lot of really cool things. But this for me personally is the coolest. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. And when I say long time, I do mean long time -- (laughter) -- seven years -- seven years -- back when the President and I first got to the White House.
And here’s what we thought we wanted to do -- we wanted to change things up here in the White House a little bit. We wanted to open the doors really wide to a bunch of different folks who usually don’t get access to this place.
We also wanted to highlight all different kinds of American art -- on all the art forms: Paintings, music, culture -- especially art forms that had never been seen in these walls. So what did we start with? We started with spoken word, because no one had ever held a poetry slam in the White House, that’s for sure. (Laughter.) So we scoured the country looking for the hottest spoken-word talent out there, and we found this young guy named Lin-Manuel Miranda from New York City. (Applause.) And a lot of folks were raving about this guy. I mean, Barack and I -- okay, all right, cool, cool. We can do this, we can do this. (Laughter.)
So Lin will remember, right before the event, we do a photoline with all the artists in the Blue Room. So Lin walks up, and Barack and I go, oh, it’s great to meet you, and what are you going to do tonight? And he’s like, I’m going to do a piece about Alexander Hamilton.
Now, Barack and I, we’re open-minded. (Laughter.) We consider ourselves creative people. But we both kind of looked at each other like, oh, okay, this should be interesting. (Laughter.) And then Lin-Manuel got onstage in the East Room, where we’ll be later on today, and he got onstage in between the big portraits of George and Martha Washington, and he proceeded to perform the song “Alexander Hamilton,” which, as you all know, is the opening number of this amazing musical.
And of course, we were blown away. We were sitting there -- there are probably shots of us sitting there with our mouths open going, “Who is this dude? What is he up to?” (Laughter.) And back then, he told us that he was going to do an entire musical about Alexander Hamilton. And we knew that this had the potential of being really, really good based on his performance, but what we didn’t know -- could never have imagined that it would be a work of genius -- true genius.
I saw the off-Broadway version of Hamilton, got to meet the whole cast then. Was I excited enough? (Laughter.) Was I excited enough to see you all? And it was simply, as I tell everybody, the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life. And I became a fan, a devotee. The cast, man, made up of such diverse, talented -- oh, gosh -- people that I’d ever seen.
The show is creative. It is hilarious. It is memorable. And I loved it so much that I saw it again when you guys went to Broadway. I don’t think I came backstage, I snuck out. (Laughter.) And then I made my husband and my children go see it -- you guys got to see them. And of course, my children, because I loved it so much, they were like, “It couldn’t be that good.” (Laughter.) You know how you all are with -- if your mom likes it, it can’t be cool. I raved about it so much, so they went in very skeptical. But they came out true believers, like everyone does when they see the show.
As we all know, Hamilton has become not just a Broadway hit, but a global sensation. Shows are sold out until January, February, or whatever. It is the hardest ticket to get on the planet. It brought the house down at the Grammys, we all saw that. That was really cool. And it’s one of the best-selling cast albums in half a century, is what my notes are telling me here. (Laughter.)
And that is not surprising, because Hamilton is an amazing story that is beautifully told. Through Hamilton, Lin-Manuel reveals all the drama and the glory, the heartbreak that run through our nation’s history. And he shows us that the icons in our history books were real people with real brilliance, but also with real flaws.
So really, Hamilton teaches us history the way it really should be taught. I mean, to my mind, this is what school should be. (Laughter.) We’d have a lot of great historians if we could only figure out how to do this more -- for more subjects. I remember I was telling Lin-Manuel that he’s got to do this for, like, the Middle East, and all the other issues. You’ve got to talk about slavery. You’ve got to cover it all. (Laughter.)
And I’m just thrilled that Lin-Manuel and the cast and crew of Hamilton have committed themselves to bringing this show and its lessons to as many young people as possible. I am just as proud of them for that kind of work as I am for their talent. They’re offering reduced-price tickets and squeezing in new shows -- and this is true for a cast that -- I hear you all just got some understudies. They’re helping over 20,000 New York City students attend at least a performance. They’ve developed this fabulous curriculum and materials that you all have been studying, I understand.
And today, they’ve come here to spend the day with all of you. I think you all are probably some of the luckiest young people on the planet right now, right here, today. (Applause.) And, as we were saying backstage, this is really a full-circle moment for us in so many ways. Seven years later, that first performance won our hearts, and Lin-Manuel is back at the White House with the entire cast with this amazing crew of young people.
So I’m excited. And I want to thank Lin-Manuel and the entire Hamilton cast and crew. Thank you for moving mountains to be here. We know you guys are so busy, and taking the time out to spend an entire day here and to just bless us with another performance this evening is -- it’s cool. It’s really cool.
So you guys, I want you to take advantage of this time. I know we’re in the White House, and I know it seems all fancy -- it is fancy. (Laughter.) But ask questions. Don’t be shy. Talk a lot -- no, really. Really. This really -- we’re doing this for you.
And I also want you, because this is such a special moment, to find a way that you’re going to move this forward. Because there are a lot of kids who would love to be in this seat. So what are you going to do to spread this energy when you leave here? Who else can you touch? Who could benefit from the time that you’ll have?
We think the world of young people in this country. That’s why, every time we do an amazing performance like this where we have big fancy folks at night, we make sure that we bring the young people in so that they get a special touch. Because you guys are our future, and you have a President and a First Lady who love you to death. We love you like you’re our kids, and we want the absolute best for you. We want to expose you to the absolute best that this country and this world has to offer. And then we expect you to do great things with it.
Be really good people with strong values. Love education. Be kind to each other. And be leaders in your community in whatever way you can. We need you. We need good, smart young people running the world.
So enjoy this time. You guys, be good. (Laughter.) I don’t know what’s going to happen when I leave, but I’ll be watching. (Laughter.) And I’ll see everyone later on this evening. So have a great time. (Applause.)
Remarks by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Prime Minister Kenny of Ireland at St. Patrick's Day Reception
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 15, 2016
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA,
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN,
AND PRIME MINISTER KENNY OF IRELAND
AT ST. PATRICK’S DAY RECEPTION
4:59 P.M. EDT
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Hello, folks! Welcome to the White House. Folks, my name is Joe Biden. I work for Barack Obama. (Applause.) And I have the great honor of introducing our next three guests.
In 1963, President Kennedy addressed the Irish parliament and said, “Our two nations, divided by distance, have been united by history.” Today we celebrate that shared heritage that has defined so many of us as individuals, and it’s defined our country, as well.
And it’s clear why this day is so important to many of you, and to me and the President, who have ancestors who are from Ireland, who left behind everything to find a new home and find a place in that Promised Land -- America. In the face of oppression, they held strong, strong, strong beliefs. They planted deep roots, and they looked to the future. It’s the immigrant story of all who came here.
And the truth is that the greatest contribution the Irish brought to this country is a set of values: hard work, family, a sense of community, pride, faith, and idealism.
My mother had an expression -- and I mean this sincerely -- she talked about being Irish was about family, faith, but most of all, it was about courage. She said, because without courage, you cannot love with abandon. And to be Irish is to be able to love with abandon -- to be able to dream.
Oscar Wilde said, “Yes, I’m a dreamer, for a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight. And his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” Millions -- millions -- of Irish men and women look to that dawn, and they forge their dreams into the foundation stones that literally formed this great nation of ours, all believing in something that defines America in a single world. The uniqueness of this country, in my view, can be summed up in one word. We're all about possibilities. Anything -- anything -- is possible.
That's who we are as Americans. In my view, that's the Irish of it. I felt it. My family has felt it. All of you have felt it. And the three people I’m about to introduce, they have felt it, as well.
Ladies and gentlemen -- my friend, the President of the United States, Barack Obama; the Taoiseach of Ireland, Enda Kenny; and his wife, Fionnuala. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House, everybody. (Applause.) Happy St. Patrick’s Week. Once again, today is not technically St. Paddy’s Day. And once again, this does not seem to bother any of you one bit. (Laughter.) But if you are lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough. (Applause.)
This, of course, is one of my favorite events. I get to welcome my people. (Laughter and applause.) And the Obamas of Leinster are nothing if not welcoming. We’ve got “trad.” We’ve got pints of black. It’s up to you to provide the “craic.” (Applause.)
This is my eighth St. Patrick’s Day as President. And this is my 25th set of St. Patrick’s Day remarks as President. This is true. When you include the speeches I’ve given in Dublin and Northern Ireland, we are pushing 30. But, fortunately, the Irish are not short on inspiration.
Everybody here is Irish -- I am positive of it. There’s some particularly “indomitable Irishry” in the house. But we are thrilled to once again host Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.) His wife, Fionnuala -- give her a bigger round of applause. (Applause.) And we are in the presence of one of America’s great Irish-American heroes -- Vice President Joe Biden. (Applause.)
Blessed are the peacemakers -- and from Northern Ireland, we welcome their first female First Minister, Arlene Foster -- (applause) -- and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. (Applause.) The UK’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers is here. Give her a big round of applause. (Applause.) And Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan -- they’ve done a great job of representing their governments in the negotiations that led to the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements. So we're very proud of them. (Applause.)
And former Senator Gary Hart, as Secretary Kerry’s personal representative, has done an extraordinary job representing America -- (applause) -- along with our Consul General in Belfast, Dan Lawton. Thank all of you. (Applause.)
In addition, our Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Matthew Barzun, is here, as is our Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley. (Applause.) As you can see and hear, although Kevin has only been in Ireland for 18 months, he has crammed in almost eight years of work. One of his legacies will be his “Creative Minds” initiative, in which he’s been busy connecting the next generation of Irish and American leaders who will be singing in this room someday. So, thank you, Kevin. Your Mayo grandparents would be proud. (Applause.)
And one of the warmest women you’ll ever meet is Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson. (Applause.) I'm going to embarrass Anne for a second. A few days ago, she became the first woman ever admitted into the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. (Applause.) And to underscore what a big deal this is, only one other person ever has been “adopted” into that society. This is true -- it was this guy right here, George Washington. So you are keeping good company, Anne. Congratulations. (Laughter.)
Our Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, is also here. And she may have made the longest trip. And although Caroline never likes to draw attention to herself, she’s out here somewhere. (Applause.) Obviously, Caroline’s family will forever represent the centrality of Irish heritage to our American story.
There’s a whole brood of Irish-American members of Congress here, as well, including from Caroline’s family -- Joe Kennedy, who’s a new father to a baby girl. (Applause.) That's worth congratulating. You can't beat daughters. If anyone is in need of a good song, Joe Crowley has one of the finer singing voices in Washington. (Laughter.) But, Joe, please wait until I'm done speaking. (Laughter.)
Now, some of you may have seen a front page of the Galway City Tribune last summer that blared, in huge print, “He’s On the Way! Hopes that Obama will make Paddy’s Day speech in Eyre Square.” I don't know how this rumor got started. It might have been somebody on my staff who just wanted another trip to Ireland. (Laughter.) But I do have joyous memories of my own trips to the Emerald Isle. And Ireland really is, as Seamus Heaney described it -- a place that can “catch the heart off guard and blow it open.” Most of all, I remember how the Irish people made me feel so at home -- like my cousin Henry, and his pubkeeper, Ollie, who are here again today. (Applause.) There you go! They’re around here somewhere.
So I now understand what President Kennedy meant when he said that once he couldn’t run again, he’d endorse the Democratic candidate who would promise to appoint him ambassador to Ireland. (Laughter.) I would like to point out I have not yet endorsed -- (laughter.) A certain commitment, quietly made, would not hurt.
Of course, for the Irish, home is everywhere. And perhaps no other country in the world is more “everywhere” than the United States. We are braided together in so many ways, America and Ireland. We’ve been for centuries, through history and bloodline. We’ve waged war side by side. We’ve waged peace side by side. We are family and we are friends.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Proclamation. And I’m struck with how ahead of its time the proclamation was. It was a daring document; one which its authors were very particular to address to “Irishmen and Irishwomen.” It’s built around “religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities,” and “cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”
Cherishing all the children of the nation equally. That's a vision statement 100 years ago, and it would be a visionary statement today. It's a universal value, like the ones in America’s own founding documents, that compels us to continually look forward; that gives us the chance to change; that dares us, American and Irish alike, to keep toiling towards our better selves.
Cherishing all the children of the nation equally means striving to make sure they grow up with equal rights and equal opportunities. And I should point out that Ireland, last year, legalized marriage equality, and a month later, America was proud to join you. (Applause.) This year, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is allowing Irish LGBT groups to march for the very first time. (Applause.) As Ambassador Anderson has said, “Irish America is making a statement: There are no second-class citizens, no children of a lesser God.”
Cherishing all the children of the nation equally means making our immigration system smarter and fairer and more just. I think of something powerful that the Taoiseach said here a few years ago about people “waiting to be herded into ships; mothers soothing children, perhaps not even their own; husbands calling for wives, and wives calling for husbands -- two peoples who would cross that single dividing ocean, the Irish to freedom; the Africans to slavery.”
My own daughters have the blood of both peoples, Irish and Africans, running through their veins. And that makes them something more powerful -- it makes them Americans. All of us come from someplace else. America is made of generations of men and women who crossed oceans and borders to come here, some in extraordinarily dire circumstances. Tireless waves of immigrants -- from Ireland, yes, but also Italy and Germany, from Russia and China, Southeast Asia, from Latin America and Africa. And many set down roots and became some of our most influential citizens.
We encourage the latest generation of eligible immigrants -- some 8.8 million permanent residents, including many Irish -- to take the same step in their American journey. Many are students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as my own daughters, as Joe’s children and grandchildren -- students who bravely came out as undocumented in the hopes that they could earn the right to become citizens and make a difference in the country that they love.
Our neighbors, our classmates, our friends -- they did not come here in search of a free ride. They came to work, and to study, and to serve in our military, and above all, to contribute to our success. That is the American Dream. And the American Dream is something that no wall will ever contain. (Applause.)
Cherishing all the children of the nation equally means nurturing a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. Eighteen years of peace means a whole generation has grown up living the dreams of their parents and grandparents. To travel without the burden of checkpoints, or roadblocks, or soldiers on patrol. To enjoy a sunny day free from the ever-present awareness that violence could blacken it at any moment. To befriend or fall in love with whomever they want. And while so many of you in this room negotiated the terms of peace, the fate of peace is up to our young people. After all, 18 years of peace means that peace can vote now. So we have to keep setting an example, through our words and our actions, that peace is a path worth pursuing.
The Irish author, Colum McCann, who America now claims as our own, I understand is here today. Where are you, Colum? He’s an excellent writer. He may be -- he’s all the way in the back. I love his books. There he is right there. (Applause.) Colum once wrote, “Peace is indeed harder than war, and its constant fragility is part of its beauty. A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work, we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”
That’s what so many of you have worked to do -- again and again and again. And the world has noticed. As I said in Belfast, hope is contagious. And you’ve designed a hopeful blueprint for others to follow. You’re proof of what’s possible. I’m very proud that my administration has played a part in helping you to make hope one of your greatest exports. (Applause.)
In closing, on the occasion of my final St. Patrick’s Day with all of you --
AUDIENCE: Nooo --
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I mean, we may meet in a pub in Dublin or something. (Applause.) I'm saying, in the White House. (Laughter.) And my 30th set of remarks for an Irish audience, I’d like to close with a poem from an Irishwoman, Eavan Boland, that she wrote about a 30th anniversary.
this is the day to think of it, to wonder:
all those years, all those years together --
the stars in a frozen arc overhead,
the quick noise of a thaw in the air,
the blue stare of the hills -- through it all
this constancy: what wears, what endures.
To the constancy of our enduring friendship. May Ireland and America forever cherish and brilliantly sustain all our sons and daughters equally.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day, everybody. Goodnight and may joy be with you all.
Let me now introduce our honored guest, Taoiseach Kenny. Please, come to the stage. (Applause.)
PRIME MINISTER KENNY: (Speaks in Irish.) Thank you, and you're all welcome.
Mr. President; Mr. Vice President; Mr. Flannigan; First and Deputy First Minister; Ambassadors; ladies and gentlemen: When I was outside, I said to the President, it’s not often you get the chance of speaking with the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, and my wife. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: There she is.
PRIME MINISTER KENNY: And so I said, the election is over in Ireland. There are a few things I want to say about it. So I’m going to speak for two hours. (Laughter.) That was just a fleeting thought. (Laughter.)
Thank you, Mr. President. It gives Fionnuala and myself, on behalf of the people of Ireland, the greatest of pleasure to mark St. Patrick’s Day/Week/time with you, a special time for the Irish family worldwide.
And let me again thank you, President, for all the times we've been here, for the warmth of your hospitality, the generosity of your time, and the continued interest that you and your administration have shown for Ireland and Northern Ireland. Gary Hart, George Mitchell, Joe Biden, Kevin O’Malley, everybody -- thank you. (Applause.)
And actually the bowl of shamrock is more important than it looks because it’s a symbol. It’s a link. It’s a symbolic link, a symbolic claim going back these many St. Patrick’s Days.
Now, you all know what happened. A teenager was taken away from his home. He was transported to Ireland. He was put into slavery, mind sheep on a hillside. He was a shepherd, yes, but he was also a slave. And those who made him a slave had no idea that in time and in the process, they were also making him the saint and symbol of a nation.
Similarly, years later, having returned to the scene of his slavery, he picked up a little three-piece, piece of greenery, just to illustrate an idea. You will understand that this was in the days before PowerPoint displays and so on. And to St. Patrick, the shamrock was just a handy little piece of greenery, just a prop. No more than that. And that tiny piece of greenery became the quintessence, the instantly recognizable brand of a modern nation. And more, here in this White House, designed by James Hoban, from Dublin, it has become a yearly reminder of the ties that bind our two nations. And the ties that bind America and Ireland are ties of blood and kinship; ties of trade and tradition; ties of hopes and dreams.
Mr. President, I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to you for your outstanding leadership over the last seven years, to thank you for all you've done for Irish-U.S. relationships in that time. (Applause.)
Sir, Mr. President, you came into office at the most challenging times in terms of the global economic situation. And I believe that your steadfast and courageous leadership played a huge role in ensuring that the global recession did not become a global depression. (Applause.)
Leadership requires courage. Ultimately, that's what politics is about -- the triumph of hope over hate. Because when hate is deployed, it doesn't just diminish those who deploy it, it diminishes all of us. Whereas hope, hope is that golden currency that never devalues, that never tarnishes. And hope -- and not hatred -- was what animated the dreamers and the patriots in the 1916 rebellion in Dublin. Hope -- not hatred -- was what animated great Presidents, like Lincoln, to turn enemies into friends.
Very many of the Irish found hope in America. They found opportunity. They found challenge. And they found a society that valued hard work and that valued contribution. They became police officers, nurses, firefighters, domestic servants, dockers, coal miners, railroaders, and so on. They built bridges and railways and docks and skyscrapers.
During my time as Taoiseach, we’ve reached out to the Irish diaspora as never before to see more of those descendants of those who left coming back to experience a new Ireland, where, in the words of Seamus Heaney, hope and history rhyme.
So, although a small country, we’ve always been committed to making a big difference in the world. We know that any contribution that we can make to tackling global problems such as terrorism, hunger, climate change, can only be achieved through strong global partnership.
I want to applaud publicly President Obama’s tireless efforts on the world stage in promoting dialogue, common sense, and partnership in the pursuit of peace and a sustainable future for humanity. (Applause.)
Ask any of the 35 million Americans who now have the hope and the realization of health assistance in their time of need, and they can answer, Barack Obama delivered that for me. (Applause.)
In conclusion, let me again mention 1916. As many of you know, the United States is the only country that was specifically mentioned in the 1916 Proclamation. The signatories recognized, as they said, the support of our exiled children in America, a reference to the many millions of our people in this country who supported the cause of Irish freedom for generations. The inscription is on the bowl: Our exiled children in America.
Let me just conclude on this. What St. Patrick did, whether he realized it or not, was actually the quintessence of great leadership -- or should I say, in the words of one more eloquent and more famous than I, the audacity of hope, and the determination to leave the world better than he found it, just like President Barack Obama. (Applause.)
And so now it is my pleasure and my privilege on behalf of the people of our country and the 70 million Irish people all over the world, to present this bowl of shamrock, tried and tested, to President of the United States Barack Obama.
Thank you all very much. Hope you have a wonderful evening. (Applause.)
The pool entered the East Room around 4:25 p.m. and found guests mingling about. The event began a few minutes past its scheduled 4:45 p.m.
start time, with Vice President Biden introducing President Obama and Prime Minister Kenny. Biden talked fondly of those who decades ago came to the United States from Ireland, saying their's was the "immigrant story of this country."
Biden said Irish immigrants "planted deep roots" and instilled their values in American culture. The Veep added that Irish immigrants helped create a feeling that "anything, anything is possible" in the United States. "That's the Irish of it," Biden said. "My family has felt it. ... All of you have felt it." With that, he introduced the two leaders.
Obama welcomed the guests to the White House, declaring "Happy St. Patrick's Week," as the crowd cheered and hoisted their drinks in the air. (And what were they drinking? Your pooler is glad you asked. Spotted from the press area near the bar: of course, Guinness; lighter beers that could not be identified due to the bartenders' stealthy label placement; white wine; a variety of spirits; ample glasses of champagne; and, in a festive twist, what appeared to be green-colored champagne.)
The president noted that it's not quite St. Patrick's Day, but added: "That doesn't seem to bother any of you." He called the reception "one of my favorite events" because he gets "to welcome my people," a reference to Irish ancestry on his mother's side. He would later note his daughters possess African and Irish blood making them truly American as he continued the immigration theme Biden started. Obama also remarked the remarks were the 30th St. Patrick's Day ones he has made on U.S. or Irish soil in his years as chief executive. And he thanked those from both countries who helped ink recent peace accords in Northern Ireland -- including former Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland. (Your pooler did not see Sen. Hart in the crowded room.)
While Obama's post-presidency career plans remain unclear, he made a pitch for either Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to nominate him for ambassador to Ireland. "I have not endorsed yet," he said to much laughter. The president managed to slip in his second Chicago reference of the year, noting that city's St. Patrick Day parade will, for the first time, include LGBT organizations. He also tipped his cap to Ireland's embrace of marriage equality. Obama also managed an immigration pitch, calling for a "smarter" and "fairer" U.S. system. In an apparent swipe at GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, Obama said "no wall can ever contain" what immigration does for America.
As he closed, Obama noted this will be "my final St. Patrick's with all of you." The guests, in unison, and loudly, sighed. "Maybe we'll meet in a pub in Dublin," Obama replied.
Prime Minister Kenny wrapped up the festivities by thanking Obama profusely for his leadership at home and abroad, pointing to his signature health care law and stewardship of the global economy, which was on the brink of disaster when he took office. Kenny called Obama's leadership "outstanding" and "steadfast," adding it helped prevent the "Great Recession" from careening into another "Great Depression." He called Obama's years a "triumph of hope over hate." Kenny even compared Obama to St. Patrick -- whose story can be Googled -- because both had "the audacity of hope and the determination to leave the world a better place than he found it." He then presented Obama with the customary bowl of Shamrocks as the crowd cheered, and wrapping the 44th U.S. president's final St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House.
U.S. lawmakers spotted in and around the ornate East Room: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Joseph Crowley of New York, and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass.
Thus concludes another St. Patrick's Day celebration at the White House. Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day celebrations on Thursday, everyone. Your pooler always advises against drinking and driving. So take Metro after enjoying a few pints of Guinness. Maybe the rail system will be running normally by then. Maybe.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release March 15, 2016
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT LET’S MOVE! PARENTING BLOGGERS EVENT
11:50 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hey, everybody! (Applause.) Well, welcome to the White House. You guys, sit down, rest yourselves! (Laughter.) Well, I am so excited. I’ve heard you guys have been having a good time. Is that correct?
MRS. OBAMA: I want to welcome all of the many amazing moms and I think all of the 10 or so dads in the house. Go, dads! Go, dads. (Laughter.) I’m so glad you all are here, really. We’ve just been looking forward to this day for quite some time. So I hope that everybody is treating you well and that you’re enjoying your time here at the White House.
I want to start, of course, by thanking my good friend Dominique, and just -- for that wonderful introduction. But as you were speaking, I was also thinking in the back, we’ve had some good times. We have done some pretty incredible things out on that lawn and all over the world. And you did do a backflip, though. You did. (Laughter.) That day, you did a backflip, and we were all marveling at the fact that you just popped a flip out like that. (Laughter.) Isn’t Dominique amazing? (Applause.) I mean, just terrific, poised. And I have seen her go from being a single, professional woman on the go -- you got married since we’ve known you. You now have two little kids, two little girls who I’m going to see next week hopefully.
So I’ve watched you not grow up, but grow into a more complex version of yourself. And I’m really proud of you and grateful for the work that you’ve done as co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. So she’s been a terrific champion and ambassador to us. Thank you, Dominique. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
Now, I also want to thank all of you for joining us today at the White House. And thank you for the work that you all are doing to inform and empower parents around so many important issues –- everything from breastfeeding, to child nutrition, to getting kids to be more physically active. You all are taking on some of the biggest challenges that parents are facing when it comes to their kids’ well-being. And that’s really why we invited you here today to talk more about Let’s Move! Because no one plays a bigger, more important role in our kids’ health than we do as parents. In fact, I’m not sure if many of you know the history of my involvement in childhood obesity and Let’s Move!, but I came to this issue really as a mom.
Believe it or not, we haven’t always lived here in the White House. (Laughter.) Although sometimes it feels that way. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was a busy working mom with a job as an associate dean and eventually as vice president at the University of Chicago hospitals. And life back then was a constant juggling act for our family. Barack was traveling all the time –- he was running for some office at some point in time. (Laughter.) He was going back and forth to Washington. And at the time, the girls were little, and they had those little-kid schedules, boy, filled with soccer practice and birthday parties, playdates and dance classes.
We were always rushing, always pressed for time. And as a result, meal times were all about whatever was quick and easy -– the drive-thru, the microwave, takeout –- any convenience food you could think of, we did it. And this went on for quite a while, but one day, I got a wakeup call. We were at our pediatrician’s office for a routine checkup, and after doing the exam -- you know, they take the measurements and weigh them and measure their head and all that stuff -- our doctor got this look of concern on his face. And he asked me, “What are you all eating at home?” And right then and there, I remember, in his -- the exam room, my heart sank. The thought that I was maybe doing something that wasn’t good for my kids was devastating.
And maybe some of you can relate, but as an overachiever, I was like, “Wait, what do you mean, I’m not getting an A in motherhood? Is this like a B-? A C+? What are you telling me?” (Laughter.) But it really threw me. And that was my lightbulb moment -- when I realized that we needed to make some real changes in our family routine. So I rolled up my sleeves, went home, did some homework, and I searched for, obviously, simple, affordable approaches and started making some changes.
For starters, I tried to cook more -– nothing crazy, just a few more home-cooked dinners each week. Maybe baked chicken on Monday, pasta and a salad on Wednesday. And I always tried to make a nice Sunday dinner that would provide leftovers for the week. Instead of cookies and chips for snacks and sugary drinks, we switched to fruit and string cheese and lots of water. And dessert in our household went from being a basic human right every night -- (laughter) -- to being a special treat for weekends.
So we really shook things up. And I have to tell you, this new routine was not very popular at first. I still remember how the girls would sit at the kitchen table and I’d sort out their lunches, and they would sit with their little sorry apple slices and their cheese sticks. (Laughter.) And they’d have these sad little faces. They would speak longingly of their beloved snack foods that were no longer in our pantry. (Laughter.) And as they ate their veggies each night at dinner, they would curse their mother under their breath -– which was okay as long as it was under their breath. (Laughter.)
So we faced some initial resistance. But here’s the thing -- we stuck with it, and eventually, our kids adjusted. Their palettes actually changed, and they got used to eating food that wasn’t drenched in sugar, salt and fat. And at our next checkup, everything was back to normal. And our pediatrician was amazed. He asked me, he said, “What did you all do?” And he wasn’t asking hypothetically; he really wanted to know how we’d been able to turn things around so quickly. Because he told me that in his practice, he was seeing an increase in the number of families struggling with the exact same problem. We had long discussions in the doctor’s office about rising childhood obesity rates and the impact he was seeing on his patients’ health outcomes -– increased type II diabetes, high blood pressure. He was seeing all this. He saw the impact on their dental care. I mean, the list could go on and on. This is what he was experiencing on the ground.
Now, fast-forward to a couple of years later, when Barack was first elected President and I had to figure out what was I going to do as First Lady. And I knew I wanted to work on causes that were personal to me, something that I cared deeply about. And I thought back to my family’s experience with healthy eating, the question that our doctor had asked us. That’s when I decided that Let’s Move! would be my attempt to help other families across this country answer that same question.
And that’s really the point of Let’s Move! -– to try to make things easier for parents who are doing everything they can to keep their kids healthy. Now, to achieve this goal, we’ve been working to provide better information for parents through efforts like MyPlate, as you heard about -- a simple icon to explain what makes a healthy plate.
We’re revamping food nutrition labels so that parents don’t have to stand in the grocery aisle squinting and scratching their heads to try to figure out which product is actually healthy or not. We’re working to build healthier communities for our families, so we’re supporting mayors nationwide who are doing great things like revitalizing parks, creating youth sports leagues so our kids have more to do, laying down bike paths to make it easier for people to just get out and walk.
We’re taking on food marketing as well, engaging celebrities like Steph Curry -- one of our household favorites -- Jordan Sparks to promote our new fruits and veggies campaign, FNV. We’re working with Sesame Street to use everyone’s favorite furry friends to promote fresh produce in over 30,000 grocery stores.
And finally, as many of you know, we’re working to create healthier daycare centers and schools for all of our kids, with more nutritious food and more physical activity. We have helped install more than 4,000 salad bars in schools that are serving more than 2 million kids. We’ve eliminated junk food marketing in our classrooms. We’ve pushed schools to provide 60 minutes of physical activity each day. And we’ve set higher standards for the food that we serve in schools for our kids. And I have to say, this is one of my proudest achievements -- all of us. Today, I am proud to say that 97 percent of schools are now meeting these new standards. Remember all the fuss? Well, they’re getting it done, and that’s terrific. (Applause.)
And as a result of continuing to push on that effort, 31 million kids are eating healthier school meals every day. Look we believe that when you’re doing your best to serve your kids nutritious food at home, that work shouldn’t be undermined in the school lunchroom. Instead, it should be supported.
And that’s really the bottom line when we talk about this issue: That parents should have more control and more choices when it comes to their kids’ health. And we’re doing everything we can to make your jobs, our jobs just a little bit easier.
But of course, we also understand that government alone can’t solve this problem. And at the end of the day, this is really on us as parents. We’re the only ones in charge, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. And we often have to make our kids do things that they don’t want to. I mean, if our kids came home and told us -- which my kids would do -- “I don’t like math,” we wouldn’t say, “Okay, no more math classes for you. You’re done with that.” (Laughter.) When they don’t want to go to the dentist, we don’t say, “Okay, no more checkups, no more cleanings, no braces for you. You don’t like it, I’m not going to make you do it. Of course we don’t do that. So why would we treat nutrition any differently? Why would we look at our kids and go, “You don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.”
As adults we get to and have to make the final call. And honestly, that was just about the only thing I had going for me back when I changed my own family’s diet. My girls were little then. They couldn’t drive. They didn’t have jobs, so they didn’t have any money. (Laughter.) So they had to eat the food that I bought them. And I was the one who decided what to buy at the grocery store.
And that’s really our secret weapon -- as parents, we decide where to spend our money. And believe it or not, we truly have the power to control the marketplace for food in this country. Just think about it. All these healthier, better-for-you products that we’re seeing on the shelves now, they didn’t just come out of nowhere. Fast-food places didn’t just randomly decide to add apple slices and skim milk to their kids’ meals. No, these products were developed because we demanded them, and companies stepped up to meet the demand.
And if we want to keep seeing better food options for our families, then we need to keep raising our voices and convincing more parents to join us in voting with their wallets. We as parents need to be leading this conversation about kids’ health in this country. So when naysayers claim that we just can’t afford to serve our kids healthy food, it’s up to us as parents to push back and say, “We can’t afford not to give our kids nutritious food.” Because when we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars treating obesity-related diseases, we simply don’t have the luxury to ignore this issue.
And when folks mock our efforts, it’s parents who need to be out there saying, “Excuse me, but our children’s health isn’t a joke. One third of kids being overweight or obese isn’t funny. Kids being diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure at young ages is just not a laughing matter.” This is a serious issue, and we need to be doing something about it.
And you all are such powerful messengers on this issue. You have such an incredible platform. Just the 150 of you in this room alone reach tens of millions of people. Let’s just step back. (Laughter.) Just look at yourselves, all the power that you’re wielding right here in this room. Mommy bloggers -- and the 10 dads, yeah. (Laughter.) So don’t ever doubt the difference you all can make, both as bloggers with a national reach, and as leaders in your own family.
And I know changing habits and routines is not easy. I know there are times when you don’t feel like fighting those food battles with your kids. But I can tell you from my own experience that when you start young with your kids and you keep at it, eventually, you reap the rewards.
See, my girls today as young women, teenagers -- you’ve seen them. They’re growing up. (Laughter.) They still enjoy their weekly dessert, and they still eat out just like regular teenagers. But more often than not, I see them reaching for a piece of fruit as a snack when they’re hungry. Right now, I see them doing on their own -- looking for ways to incorporate exercise into their lives. They’re doing this all on their own, without any prodding or involvement from their parents. Now that they’re able to make their own decisions, they have this foundation of knowledge that was built when they were younger, just when I thought they weren’t listening to me. (Laughter.) Go figure that out.
And as First Lady, I’ve seen the impact of this work on a national scale, as well. After so many years, childhood obesity rates have stopped rising, and rates for our youngest kids have actually started to fall. And I have no doubt that if we keep pushing forward on this issue, one day, we will look back on the food we used to feed our kids and it’ll be like looking back on the days when we didn’t wear seat belts or bike helmets or sunscreen. We’ll be like, “Man, can you believe we used to eat that stuff?” (Laughter.)
So make no mistake about it, what we’re doing is working. And we can’t let up now, not when we’re finally starting to see some progress. So for those of you who are wondering, I have no intentions of stopping this work once my family leaves the White House. (Applause.) It’s not like I have a one-year or two-year timeframe on this issue. For me, this issue is the rest-of-my-life kind of timeframe. Because I know that’s what it’s going to take to truly solve this problem.
And truly, I hope that all of you will stick with me on this issue for years to come, even as your kids grow up and become human beings. (Laughter.) We need to keep at it for all the other families and parents out there who are still pushing and working on this issue. I hope that you all will use your voice -- continue to use your voices and your influence to inspire and support other parents as they work to raise healthy kids. If we all keep working together, I know we can keep making a difference on this issue, and I know we can keep doing better for our next generation. Because we need them healthy and strong and focused.
So once again, I really want to thank you all. This was the reason why we wanted to have you here. Yeah, we wanted to talk to you about Let’s Move! and show you all our nifty gadgets, but we wanted to reward you in some way for the hard work that you’ve been doing out there, and give you the information hopefully that will help you spread the word even more. There is power in this room. There is power in individual voices and you all are showing it every single day. And I could not be more proud of this group and all that you’ve achieved.
So keep it up. Don’t get tired. (Laughter.) There’s a lot more work to do. I hope you all enjoy getting to see the White House Kitchen Garden. We’re just getting -- we haven’t even done the planning, so what you’re going to see is the hoop houses, right? Everything is hooped over. When are we going to do the planting? What’s our -- in early April, we bring the kids out and we start our planting. But we wanted you to at least see what’s out there, so I hope you enjoy that. The bees are out there, too. Hopefully they’re quiet.
But I really, truly look forward to working with you all in the months and years ahead. So enjoy yourselves, and God bless you all. Thanks so much. (Applause.)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 15, 2016
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND PRIME MINISTER KENNY OF IRELAND
AFTER BILATERAL MEETING
11:17 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, well top of the morning to you. It is good to welcome back Taoiseach Kenny and the delegation from the Emerald Isle, from Ireland. It is not quite St. Patrick’s Day yet, but nevertheless, we always like an excuse to celebrate our Irish heritage and, more importantly, to once again affirm the incredible friendship and partnership that we have with Ireland.
Taoiseach Kenny, when he first came into office, Ireland was in dire straits economically. And we’ve seen significant progress in the rebound of the Irish economy. Much as here in the United States, we’ve seen a strong recovery, but we also are aware that a lot more work needs to be done.
There was just an election in Ireland, and we live at a time when there’s a lot of volatility in the electoral process. But the one thing that is constant is the importance of us continuing to trade, continuing to encourage investment, and to boost jobs and opportunity in our respective countries.
We also have had an opportunity to discuss some of the larger issues that are impacting the region and the world. Ireland historically has punched above its weight when it comes to humanitarian assistance, dealing with migrants who are displaced because of war, peacekeeping activities around the world. And so we’ve been very grateful to hear the kinds of work that Ireland is already doing, and want to continue to partner with them on that front.
We had a chance to discuss the progress that’s been made in Northern Ireland with the Fresh Start Agreement, building on the previous agreements that have been made so that we can solidify the peace that is going to be so important for the people of Northern Ireland. And I’m very proud of the work that the United States -- most recently through our envoy, Gary Hart -- has done to help partner in that process. And I’ll have an opportunity to stop in and discuss some of these issues with the Northern Ireland leaders later today.
And we had a chance to discuss immigration, an issue that is near and dear to the hearts of the Irish people because they understand how important it’s been for Irish Americans, and it has given them a sense of compassion and sympathy and understanding about these issues generally. And I indicated to the Taoiseach that we are going to continue to work as hard as we can to find opportunities to make sure that the United States of America continues to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And we very much appreciate his insights in this.
So, overall, it’s been an outstanding discussion as always. We’re going to have an opportunity to go over to the luncheon hosted by Speaker Ryan, and I’m sure enjoy some good music as well as some good food. And then, this afternoon we’ll have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day reception. I’m pretty sure that the fountain is green out there. And Michelle and the girls all appreciate so much the travels they’ve had in Ireland. We’re always glad to reciprocate to the Taoiseach, the delegation, and all our friends from across the Atlantic.
PRIME MINISTER KENNY: I thank the President and First Lady and the American government for the privilege again as we’re here in the Oval Office to continue the very long tradition of connection with the United States and particularly in relation to St. Patrick’s Day.
The President has given you a rundown on the issues that we’ve discussed here. We had a conversation about the referendum in respect of Britain and its position with the European Union. We favor very strongly Britain remaining a separate member. And I think the President was interested in the challenges that Prime Minister Cameron faces both internally and externally, and I’ve given him an account of the workings of the European Council in bringing about the proposition that Prime Minister Cameron could actually put a referendum to his people.
I also gave the President a briefing on the background of the European Council meeting dealing with migration and the unprecedented challenge that this presents for members of the European Union with particular reference to some countries. And obviously, the next meeting continues on Thursday and Friday of this week, and I’ll go back to attend that.
I thanked President Obama for appointing Gary Hart. He had quite an influence on the workings and proceedings in the lead-in to the Fresh Start Agreement, which is now in operation. We thank the United States again for their continuing effort and interest in that. I referred to the ongoing interest of the Vice President and his work on that as well, and in reference to Ambassador O’Malley, who President Obama appointed.
We also spoke on a number of the other issues that affect us, and raised the question of the potential Norwegian Air deal with the President. And we hope that that can be brought to a conclusion sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Other than that, it’s been a great privilege to be here again. And I wish you and Michelle and Malia and Sasha the very best for the future. We’ve had a delightful breakfast hosted by the Vice President this morning. And we’re very happy to be back here in America and continue the connections that go back for several centuries now between our two countries. And we will work with you, and express the hope that the United States will continue to look at Ireland in a way that cements those foundations that are there for very many years.