Presidential Archive 2/18 – 2/24/09
By Linnie Frank Bailey
The President completed his first month in office with poll numbers showing most Americans support his ambitious plans to jolt the country out of recession. Legislation signed by the President during his first month included:
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
Signed: Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009
Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act
Signed: Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009
Digital Television (DTV) Delay Act
Signed: Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
Signed: Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009
The week ended with President Obama laying out his plans for future economic stability in a major prime-time speech to a joint session of Congress. While insisting the road ahead is hard, the President inspired the country to join him in meeting the challenges we face.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Housing Plan Rolled Out in Phoenix
President Obama unveiled his housing plan—the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan—in Arizona, the home state of his Presidential opponent John McCain. Arizona is one of many states hard hit by the mortgage crisis. It is estimated that Obama’s plan could directly help up to 9 million American homeowners facing foreclosure.
The President stressed that all homeowners will benefit from the plan because “in the end, all of us are paying a price for this home mortgage crisis. And all of us will pay an even steeper price if we allow this crisis to continue to deepen, but if we act boldly and swiftly to arrest this downward spiral, every American will benefit.” He laid out key elements of the plan including, refinancing help for some homeowners who receive their mortgages through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac; incentives for lenders to modify the terms of sub-prime loans at risk of default and foreclosure; and, steps to keep mortgage rates low for millions of middle class families looking to secure new mortgages.
"The plan I’m announcing focuses on rescuing families who have played by the rules and acted responsibly," the President said, "by refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it; by modifying loans for families stuck in sub-prime mortgages they can’t afford as a result of skyrocketing interest rates or personal misfortune; and by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low so that families can secure loans with affordable monthly payments."
First Lady Opens White House to DC Schoolchildren
“Did you know that African American slaves helped to build this house?” First Lady Michelle Obama asked a group of 180 DC-area 6th and 7th graders on a visit to the White House. The event, celebrating African American History Month, was hosted by the First Lady, with daughters Sasha and Malia sitting in the front row.
Mrs. Obama stressed the openness of the White House stating, “As the President and First Lady, Barack and I are just the caretakers of this house. We're just borrowing it for a little bit,” she stressed. “And while we live here, we're your neighbors. And we want you to feel welcome at the White House, which really is the people's house that belongs to all of us. So just remember that, okay?”
The First Lady encouraged the children to succeed and look to good role models. She highlighted the example of the White House's Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher, Rear Admiral Stephen W. Rochon, and then introduced the group Sweet Honey In The Rock, who performed for the guests.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The President’s First Foreign Trip
President Obama took his first foreign trip as President to Ottawa, Canada. He met with Governor General of Canada Michaelle Jean, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Leader of the Official Opposition Michael Ignatieff, as well as US Embassy employees and their families. After a successful meeting and press conference with the Prime Minister, the President visited a local store, cheered on by the throngs of Canadians who had come out to greet him.
Leon Panetta Becomes CIA Director
Vice President Joe Biden led the swearing-in of the President’s pick for CIA Director—Leon Panetta, stating, “He has the experience, the independence and the judgment to lead this agency, and to help it depart dramatically from the legacy of the last eight years.”
The First Lady Visits the Agriculture Department
First Lady Michelle Obama continued her federal agency tour with a visit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 300 employees rose to their feet in applause as she walked out on stage. Mrs. Obama presented a plant for a community garden that the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is starting. The seedling she brought came from the Jackson magnolia tree, which sits on the south portico of the White House. The tree was planted 180 years ago by President Andrew Jackson in honor of his wife Rachel, who passed away before he moved to the White House. This was the First Lady’s fourth visit to a federal agency, following earlier stops to the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Interior.
Friday, February 20, 2009
President Meets With Mayors
“You're on the front lines,” President Obama told a gathering of 85 mayors from America’s top cities. During a question and answer session all parties agreed with Obama’s assessment that mayors “are familiar with the pain that comes with making cuts that are broad and deep.” He went on to outline the importance of the newly signed Stimulus Bill in providing assistance to cities and states. He also stressed the need for vigilance in making sure the money from the act is spent efficiently and wisely, stating, "We can't tolerate business as usual -- not in Washington, not in our state capitals, not in our cities and towns."
Remembering the Gulf Coast
"We must ensure that the failures of the past are never repeated," President Obama said as he announced the extension of the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding and his decision to send two cabinet members to the region. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan are heading to the Gulf Coast and New Orleans in early March to evaluate firsthand the progress that's been made and assess the region's needs.
“The residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who are helping rebuild are heroes who believe in their communities and they are succeeding despite the fact that they have not always received the support they deserve from the Federal government,” the President said. “This executive order is a first step of a sustained commitment by my Administration to rebuild now, stronger than ever.”
This August will mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Michelle Obama Visits Transportation Department
In her fifth visit to a federal agency, First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Department of Transportation. As with her other agency stops, she explained it as a small gesture to introduce herself as a new resident of the city, and to thank federal workers for their service. With each visit, Mrs. Obama is met with thrilled federal employees and heavy applause.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Obama’s Host First Formal Dinner
President and Mrs. Obama hosted their first formal White House dinner, entertaining the country's governors at the National Governors Association Dinner. According to the Presidential website whitehouse.gov:
“After mingling in the main hall to jazz played by a small Marine music ensemble, the governors gathered in the State Dining Room. The President and First Lady, glamorously dressed in a sparkly black strapless gown and multi-strand necklace of pearls and diamonds, entered last to a greeting of applause.
The President gave a toast to the governors for their work—they’re “where the rubber hits the road,” he said—before dining on Wagyu beef, scallops, creamed spinach and huckleberry cobbler. The event’s formality grew more relaxed when guests made their way to the East Room, cleared out to form a dance floor, for a concert by Earth, Wind & Fire.”
Monday, February 23, 2009
Southern Governors May Turn Down Stimulus Money
A group of Southern Republican governors, led by probable 2012 Presidential candidate Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, say they will turn down some of the money from the economic stimulus package because they don't believe it will stimulate the economy. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour have also said they may not take the stimulus package's unemployment money. They oppose expanding eligibility for unemployment, because they believe it would increase employer taxes.
Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina questioned the motives of the Southern governors. Noting the large number of blacks in their states, he said their opposition to stimulus money is a “slap in the face to African-Americans.”
Darfur a Priority for Administration
President Obama and Vice President Biden met with actor and activist George Clooney to discuss the situation in Darfur where after six years of fighting, it is estimated that 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.7 million have been displaced. Bringing relief to the battered region of Darfur is a top priority for the administration, the President and Vice President assured Mr. Clooney.
Deficit Cut in Half by 2013
President Obama unveiled his plans to cut the massive deficit in half by the end of his first term, stating, “This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected, but I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay -- and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.”
The President made these comments during an unprecedented summit—open to the press- in which he took questions from guests which included members of Congress and leaders of the business and non-profit communities. He started with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who emphasized the need to cut excess from defense spending -- citing as an example reports that the two-year-old plan to overhaul the fleet of Marine One helicopters had gone significantly over-budget. Not missing a beat, the President stated that he had already given an order to investigate the matter and joked that he was happy with the current helicopter.
The administration also announced that $15 billion of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be available in two days—a week after the act was signed into law.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
President Addresses Congress
With polls indicating support from large majorities of Americans, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress tonight. In the prime-time speech, given to members of Congress, but also meant for the American populace, the President reiterated the ‘long road ahead’ to turn the country’s economic crisis around. He assured the American people of our ability to rise to the challenge as he outlined his plans for economic recovery.
On Thursday, the President is set to unveil his first budget proposal.