Barack Hussein Obama – President of the United States, stood at the “Door of No Return” in Ghana this past week. The infamous “door” was where millions of captured Africans last saw their homeland before they were sent into slavery. Although the President himself is not descended from slaves, his wife and daughters are, and as an American of African descent he surely understood the symbolism of his visit.
Through Obama’s visit, African-Americans struggling with the ravages of this country’s economic downturn, were reminded of the fortitude of both those who survived the journey from Africa, and their descendants.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Where is the Stimulus Money?
Various members of the Administration, including Vice President Joe Biden, are meeting with citizens in person and
online to identify the use of Recovery Act stimulus funds.
The White House maintains a website with Recovery Act information: www.recovery.gov. For the state of California, stimulus fund spending information can be found at: www.recovery.ca.gov.
Aome local highlights of recently announced Recovery Act projects include: In Riverside, stimulus funds are being used to provide summer jobs to over 4000 disadvantaged young people ages 14 through 24.
In Corona, funds are being used to save 300 employee jobs, including school counselors and high school librarians.
Temecula was able to drop planned furlough days for over 2800 school employees because of stimulus funds.
Stimulus money is funding meals for elderly Inland residents.
Transportation and water reclamation projects are being funded in the Inland area.
Critics of the Administration, including most Inland Republicans, continue to denounce the stimulus bill as not helping economic conditions.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
President Attends G-8 in Italy
President Barack Obama arrived in Italy for a summit of the Group of Eight (G-8) industrial nations. The meeting took place in L’Aquila, a region of Italy struck by an earthquake in April.
Leaders, including Obama, toured the damaged area. The G-8 representatives continued their discussion on ways to combat the global recession and stop Iran’s nuclear proliferation.
Obama presided over a side meeting of the major economies with a focus on global climate issues.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Obama Has Audience With Pope
President Barack Obama, his family, and some senior members of the Administration met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The President met privately with Pope Benedict and was then joined by the first lady. L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s daily newspaper, has given Obama favorable reviews despite disagreements on abortion and stem-cell research. In a break from tradition, Pope Benedict had sent Obama a personal note of congratulations the day after his election and rearranged his schedule to meet with the President following the current G-8 Summit.
U.S. President Online in Africa
In preparation for his first trip as President to sub-Saharan Africa, the Administration collected
questions and comments from over 75 African countries via text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and newspapers. Similar to the way online town halls are conducted in America, the Administration selected journalists in Africa to field questions for the President from the many that were received. The African journalists included: Ms. Angela Quintal of Independent Newspapers in South Africa,
Mr. Mamadou Thior of Radio Television Senegal (RTS), and Mr. Peter Kimani of The Standard in Kenya.
President Obama was also interviewed by AllAfrica.com prior to his trip.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Obama Reminds Ghana “Yes We Can!”
Stating, “I have the blood of Africa within me,” President Obama addressed the Ghanaian parliament and President John Atta Mills in Accra, Ghana. Obama, who was warmly greeted by masses of people in Ghana, stated that “despite the progress across Africa that has been made in the latter half of the 20th century and the early 21st, much of Africa’s promise has not been fulfilled.”
In his trademark approach, Obama gave a speech that was part tough love (“Good governance is the key to development…that’s the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.”) part history lesson, (“Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent. In many places, the hope of my father’s generation
gave way to cynicism, even despair.”) and, part inspiration (“For just as it is important to emerge from the control of other nations, it is even more important to build one’s own nation.”)
The President concluded his speech at the Accra International Conference Center by reminding Ghanaians:
“Here is what you must know: The world will be what you make of it. You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease and end conflicts and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can.”
Full Circle -- Obama Stands at “Door of No Return”
Following his speech in Accra, the President and first family traveled to Ghana’s Atlantic coast to visit the fort in which men, women, and children were housed in barbaric conditions before being sent on a treacherous journey into slavery. Built in the 1600s, Cape Coast Castle served as Britain’s West Africa headquarters for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which saw millions of shackled Africans exported to Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas.
The Obama’s toured the castle including the infamous “Door of No Return” which was the last stop for Africans as they left their home continent. In brief comments the President noted that a church was housed above the dungeons that held the prisoners. He also implied the fort should be a source of hope as well as repository of painful memories saying, “It reminds us that as bad as history can be, it’s always possible to overcome.”
Monday, July 13, 2009
Alabama Physician Nominated for U.S. Surgeon General
President Obama announced his nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. Dr. Benjamin is an Alabama family physician, who runs the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, which provides care to people regardless of their financial situation. The clinic was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, however Benjamin, who founded the clinic in 1990, fought to rebuild it.
In 2002, Dr. Benjamin became president of the Alabama State Medical Association, making her the first African American woman to head a state medical society. Among her other honors: she served as Chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States, and as the Associate Dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. She
was also the first African-American woman and physician under 40 to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. She received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 1998.
Benjamin, 52, attended Xavier University in New Orleans and was in the second class of Morehouse School of Medicine. She received her MD degree from the University of Alabama Birmingham, and an MBA from Tulane University. In announcing the nomination, the President highlighted Dr. Benjamin’s dedication to the community, saying “Even though she
could have left the state to make more money as a specialist or as a doctor in a wealthier community, Regina Benjamin returned to Alabama and opened a small clinic in Bayou La Batre.”
Rebuilding Urban Communities
In a day-long discussion hosted by The White House Office of Urban Affairs and the Domestic Policy Council policy experts were joined by the President and members of the Administration to discuss the changing landscape in urban communities across the country. The roundtable discussions included what currently works in these environments, as well as how the federal government
can be a more effective partner with community leaders.
The President, drawing on his own experience as a community organizer, spoke on some of the challenges facing urban communities today, saying: “What is clear is we’re going to need to do more than just help our cities weather the current economic storm. We’ve got to figure out ways to rebuild them on a newer, firmer, stronger foundation for our future. And that requires
new strategies for our cities and metropolitan areas that focus on advancing opportunity through competitive, sustainable, and inclusive growth.”
Obama didn’t just look at the nation’s inner cities, but added, “Even as we’ve seen many of our central cities continuing to grow in recent years, we’ve seen their suburbs and exurbs grow roughly twice as fast -- that spreads homes and jobs and businesses to a broader geographic area. And this transformation is creating new pressures and problems, of course, but it’s also opening up new opportunities, because it’s not just our cities that are hotbeds of innovation anymore, it’s our growing metropolitan areas.”
The President outlined some specific goals, including:
Taking a hard look at how Washington helps or hinders our cities and metro areas -- from infrastructure to transportation; from housing to energy; from sustainable development to education.
And we’re going to make sure federal policies aren’t hostile to good ideas or best practices on the local levels. We’re going to put an end to throwing money at what doesn’t work -- and we’re going to start investing in what does work and make sure that we’re encouraging that.
Investments in innovative and proven strategies. The first, Promise Neighborhoods, is modeled on Geoffrey Canada’s successful Harlem Children’s Zone. It’s an all-encompassing, all-handson- deck effort that’s turning around the lives of New York City’s children, block by block. And what we want to do is to make grants available for communities in other cities to jumpstart their
own neighborhood-level interventions that change the odds for our kids.
The second proposal we call Choice Neighborhoods -- focuses on new ideas for housing in our cities by recognizing that different communities need different solutions. So instead of isolated and monolithic public housing projects that too often trap residents in a cycle of poverty and isolate them further, we want to invest in proven strategies that actually transform communities and enhance opportunity for residents and businesses alike.”
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