Today is World Refugee Day.
If you've been fortunate enough to have been born in America, imagine for a moment if circumstance had placed you somewhere else. Imagine if you'd been born in a country where you grew up fearing for your life, and eventually the lives of your children. A place where you finally found yourself so desperate to flee persecution, violence, and suffering that you'd be willing to travel thousands of miles under cover of darkness, enduring dangerous conditions, propelled forward by that very human impulse to create for our kids a better life.
That's the reality for so many of the families whose plights we see and heart-rending cries we hear. And to watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question: are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?
Our ability to imagine ourselves in the shoes of others, to say “there but for the grace of God go I,” is part of what makes us human. And to find a way to welcome the refugee and the immigrant – to be big enough and wise enough to uphold our laws and honor our values at the same time – is part of what makes us American. After all, almost all of us were strangers once, too. Whether our families crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we’re only here because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, how our last names sound, or the way we worship. To be an American is to have a shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve the chance to become something better.
That’s the legacy our parents and grandparents and generations before created for us, and it’s something we have to protect for the generations to come. But we have to do more than say “this isn’t who we are.” We have to prove it – through our policies, our laws, our actions, and our votes.
Partagé 17056 fois
Publié le 16/06
I’m often asked what I’m reading, watching, and listening to, so I thought I might share a short list from time to time. There’s so much good writing and art and variety of thought out there these days that this is by no means comprehensive – like many of you, I’ll miss “The Americans” – but here’s what I’ve been reading lately. It’s admittedly a slightly heavier list than what I’ll be reading over the summer:
Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging, by Alex Wagner
I once wrote a book on my own search for identity, so I was curious to see what Alex, daughter of a Burmese mother and Iowan Irish-Catholic father – and a friend of mine – discovered during her own. What she came up with is a thoughtful, beautiful meditation on what makes us who we are – the search for harmony between our own individual identities and the values and ideals that bind us together as Americans.
The New Geography of Jobs, by Enrico Moretti
It’s six years old now, but still a timely and smart discussion of how different cities and regions have made a changing economy work for them – and how policymakers can learn from that to lift the circumstances of working Americans everywhere.
Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick Deneen
In a time of growing inequality, accelerating change, and increasing disillusionment with the liberal democratic order we’ve known for the past few centuries, I found this book thought-provoking. I don’t agree with most of the author’s conclusions, but the book offers cogent insights into the loss of meaning and community that many in the West feel, issues that liberal democracies ignore at their own peril.
“The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy,” by Matthew Stewart, The Atlantic
Another thought-provoking analysis, this one about how economic inequality in America isn’t just growing, but self-reinforcing – and what that means for education, health, happiness, even the strength of our democracy.
In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, by Mitch Landrieu
A few years ago, I eulogized the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who was slain by a white supremacist in his church in Charleston, South Carolina. And I’ll never forget something Clem said while he was alive: “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.” That’s something Mitch takes to heart in this book, while grappling with some of the most painful parts of our history and how they still live in the present. It’s an ultimately optimistic take from someone who believes the South will rise again not by reasserting the past, but by transcending it.
“Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life,” by Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael D. Rich, RAND Corporation
The title is self-explanatory, but the findings are very interesting. A look at how a selective sorting of facts and evidence isn’t just dishonest, but self-defeating to a society that has always worked best when reasoned debate and practical problem-solving thrive.
Partagé 3259 fois
Publié le 16/05
Over the past few days, the first class of Obama Foundation Fellows gathered to get to know each other and share what they’ve learned from their inspiring work. From Minnesota to Mali, these 20 leaders have dedicated their lives to building a better world. I can’t wait to learn from each of them and watch their impact grow as they work together and with us over the next two years.
Partagé 155278 fois
Publié le 08/05
There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.
The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working – that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense. The JCPOA is in America’s interest – it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. And the JCPOA is a model for what diplomacy can accomplish – its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea. Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes – with Iran – the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans.
That is why today’s announcement is so misguided. Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.
Debates in our country should be informed by facts, especially debates that have proven to be divisive. So it’s important to review several facts about the JCPOA.
First, the JCPOA was not just an agreement between my Administration and the Iranian government. After years of building an international coalition that could impose crippling sanctions on Iran, we reached the JCPOA together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
Second, the JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For decades, Iran had steadily advanced its nuclear program, approaching the point where they could rapidly produce enough fissile material to build a bomb. The JCPOA put a lid on that breakout capacity. Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran has destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium – the raw materials necessary for a bomb. So by any measure, the JCPOA has imposed strict limitations on Iran's nuclear program and achieved real results.
Third, the JCPOA does not rely on trust – it is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, so that we can catch them if they cheat. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away.
Fourth, Iran is complying with the JCPOA. That was not simply the view of my Administration. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal, and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Fifth, the JCPOA does not expire. The prohibition on Iran ever obtaining a nuclear weapon is permanent. Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.
Finally, the JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior – including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Every aspect of Iranian behavior that is troubling is far more dangerous if their nuclear program is unconstrained. Our ability to confront Iran’s destabilizing behavior – and to sustain a unity of purpose with our allies – is strengthened with the JCPOA, and weakened without it.
Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East. We all know the dangers of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. It could embolden an already dangerous regime; threaten our friends with destruction; pose unacceptable dangers to America’s own security; and trigger an arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it.
In a dangerous world, America must be able to rely in part on strong, principled diplomacy to secure our country. We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.
Partagé 2638 fois
Publié le 16/04
Each one of these 20 young people has impressed me in their own unique way. Through their work around the world—from India to El Salvador to my hometown of Chicago—they’ve collaborated with their communities to work towards solving some of the greatest challenges of our time. Fellows, I couldn’t be more excited to see the ways your work will continue to change the world we live in. Welcome to the team.
Partagé 39455 fois
Publié le 04/04
This week, 50 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed on his hotel balcony in Memphis, I spent a few hours in Washington, D.C. with my friend Congressman John Lewis and a group of young men for a My Brother's Keeper Alliance roundtable.
During our time together, we reflected on Dr. King’s remarkable legacy – his teachings of nonviolence, his moral urgency, the courage and strength required to stand up for what you believe in, especially when it’s hard.
John and I weren’t there to lecture these young men. Their generation already knows about justice and fairness, right and wrong, the world as it is and the world as it should be.
We were there to share our experiences across three generations, to ask questions, and to learn from each other. My thanks to John and these young men for participating in this conversation and for teaching me so much.
Partagé 1269 fois
Publié le 22/03
Partagé 5717 fois
Publié le 08/03
Our most important task as a country is to make sure our young people can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them. Four years ago, My Brother's Keeper was created to help boys and young men of color get the support and guidance all of our kids should have. This is something I will be invested in for the rest of my life, and I look forward to continuing the journey with all of you.
Partagé 18585 fois
Publié le 12/02
Today, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald became the first black artists to create official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian. To call this experience humbling would be an understatement.
Thanks to Kehinde and Amy, generations of Americans — and young people from all around the world — will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this country through a new lens. They’ll walk out of that museum with a better sense of the America we all love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Inclusive and optimistic. And I hope they’ll walk out more empowered to go and change their worlds.
Partagé 3137 fois
Publié le 08/02
This month, we tell the stories of a special set of heroes: The African American community organizers and active citizens who have, throughout our history, brought people together in pursuit of a more just, inclusive, and generous America. The pioneers who challenged us to dream bigger.
C.T. Vivian is one of those heroes. A Baptist minister, C.T. Vivian was one of Dr. King’s closest advisors. “Martin taught us,” he says, “that it’s in the action that we find out who we really are.” And time and again, Reverend Vivian was among the first to be in the action. In 1947, he joined a sit-in to integrate an Illinois restaurant. He was one of the first Freedom Riders. In Selma, he stood on the courthouse steps to register blacks to vote -- and was beaten, bloodied and jailed for it. In standing up, he helped inspire a young woman to sit down and hold her ground. Her name was Rosa Parks. She said of him, “Even after things had supposedly been taken care of and we had our rights, he was still out there, inspiring the next generation, including me.”
And me. Without the sacrifices and hard-won battles of folks like C.T. Vivian, I may have never had the honor to serve as your president.
And that’s the beauty of this nation: Each new generation stands on the successes of the last -- and reaches up to bend the arc of history in the direction of more freedom, more opportunity, more justice.
As we continue to reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of African Americans this month, let us resolve to continue our march toward a day when every person knows the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.