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The National Scene

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By Linnie Frank Bailey 

While encouraging volunteerism in America this summer with his “United We Serve” campaign—the President continued to monitor the escalating violence in Iran following the election. Ignoring the calls of his Republican critics who say he should speak more forcefully against the current Iranian leadership, Obama instead found the right tone by expressing outrage, however not allowing America to become as he put it, “the political football” in Iran.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
President Announces ‘United We Serve’

President Barack Obama laid the groundwork for a nationwide community service program this summer.  Called ‘United We Serve’ the volunteer program will run from June 22 to September 11, 2009. In announcing the program the President stated, “This summer, I’m calling on all of you to make volunteerism and community service part of your daily life and the life of this nation.  And when I say “all,” I mean everyone – young and old, from every background, all across this country. We need individuals, community organizations, corporations, foundations, and our government to be part of this effort.” The President encouraged Americans to visit the website Serve.gov to find a local project, or to register an ongoing community service project:

“If you’re involved in a service project in your community, go to Serve.gov and register it on this website, so that other people can sign up to join you. If you have an idea for a project – like getting a group together to volunteer each week at a homeless shelter, or read to kids at your local library, or pick up trash in a local park – you can go online and register that too. The website has everything you need to get started. And if you’re someone who’s interested in volunteering, you can go to Serve.gov to find opportunities in your community.”

A ‘Unique Moment in History”

Continuing the theme of community service, First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the Greater DC Cares Annual Business and Non-profit Philanthropy Summit. She thanked community leaders for their hard work and encouraged them to continue, saying: “…I believe that we’re in a unique moment in history.  Maybe you’re seeing the same thing. I’m feeling it as I’m traveling not just around D.C. but around the country. But people really want to get involved….They’re looking for a way to turn their frustration, excitement, anxiety into action.”

The First Lady also hosted a harvest party in the White House garden with students from Bancroft Elementary in D.C. who helped with the planting. A healthy meal was prepared with produce from the garden, including harvested lettuce, sugar snap peas, and berries. Mrs. Obama said the garden was “a fun and interesting way to talk to kids about healthy eating and nutrition.”

Friday, June 19, 2009
Obama Addresses Hispanic Prayer Breakfast

Speaking on the role of faith in America’s history, the President addressed the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference. In describing the importance of prayer, President Obama said, “Prayer is more than a last resort. Prayer helps us search for meaning in our own lives, and it helps us find the vision and the strength to see the world that we want to build.” While addressing the group of Hispanic leaders the President also discussed immigration stating:

“The American people believe in immigration, but they also believe that we can’t tolerate a situation where people come to the United States in violation of the law, nor can we tolerate employers who exploit undocumented workers in order to drive down wages. That’s why we’re taking steps to strengthen border security, and we must build on those efforts. We must also clarify the status of millions who are here illegally, many who have put down roots. For those who wish to become citizens, we should require them to pay a penalty and pay taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line behind those who played by the rules.  That is the fair, practical, and promising way forward, and that’s what I’m committed to passing as President of the United States. We must never forget that time and again, the promise of America has been renewed by immigrants who make their story part of the American story. We see it in every state of our country.  We see it in our families and in our neighborhoods.”

The Importance of Dads

In honor of Father’s Day, the President kicked off a series of events and conversations on what it means to be a father, including:

A barbeque at the White House for students from local schools to discuss the importance of fatherhood and personal responsibility. Renowned chef Booby Flay prepared the meal.

A White House town hall meeting where the President was joined by wellknown fathers from across the country, including Dwayne Wade, Antwaan Randle El, Morehouse College President Dr. Robert Franklin, Motorola CEO Greg Brown, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and White House staffers Reggie Love and Michael Strautmanis.

Obama discussed his own goals as a father and addressed absentee fathers by saying:

“When fathers are absent—when they abandon their responsibilities to their children—we know the damage that that does to our families. Some of you know the statistics: Children who grow up without fathers are more likely to drop out of school and wind up in prison. They’re more likely to have substance abuse problems, run away from home, and become teenage parents themselves.  And I say this as someone who grew up without a father in my own life. I had a heroic mom and wonderful grandparents who helped raise me and my sister, and it’s because of them that I’m able to stand here today. But despite all their extraordinary love and attention, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel my father’s absence. That’s something that leaves a hole in a child’s heart that a government can’t fill. That’s why it is time for all men to step up and be responsible fathers.” Some of you might be worried that if you didn’t have a father, then you don’t know how to be one when your turn comes. Some of you might even use that as an excuse, and say, ‘Well, if my dad wasn’t around, why should I be?’ Let’s be clear: Just because your own father wasn’t there for you, that’s not an excuse for you to be absent also—it’s all the more reason for you to be present. There’s no rule that says that you have to repeat your father’s mistakes. Just the opposite -- you have an obligation to break the cycle and to learn from those mistakes, and to rise up where your own fathers fell short and to do better than they did with your own children. That’s what I’ve tried to do in my life.”

Monday, June 22, 2009
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

The President signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, to protect Americans, particularly children, from the dangers of smoking.  Obama said that more than 8 million Americans suffer from at least one serious illness caused by smoking, and that almost 90% of all smokers began before their 18th birthday, concluding, “I know—I was one of these teenagers, and so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time….This legislation will not ban all tobacco products, and it will allow adults to make their own choices. But it will also ban tobacco advertising within a thousand feet of schools and playgrounds. It will curb the ability of tobacco companies to market products to our children by using appealing flavors. It will force these companies to more clearly and publicly acknowledge the harmful and deadly effects of the products they sell. And it will allow the scientists at the FDA to take other common-sense steps to reduce the harmful effects of smoking.”

Lower Drug Costs for Seniors

The President announced a significant agreement with pharmaceutical companies that will help lower drug costs for Seniors. As reported on whitehouse.gov:

“The companies agreed to $80 billion in prescription drug discounts over the next 10 years. The agreement was described as part of the upcoming health care reform legislation. Drug manufacturers that participate in Medicare Part D will either pay a rebate to Medicare or offer a substantial discount of at least 50 percent on prescription drugs to seniors who fall within the infamous “doughnut hole”— payments between $2700 and $6153.75 not covered by Medicare. The deal will help close this unfair gap in coverage, providing relief for millions of seniors who have been burdened by these out-of-pocket expenses, making it easier for them to get the prescriptions that they need. In addition to providing half-price discounts, the pharmaceutical companies will offer other discounts and savings to total an $80 billion reduction in costs.”

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