By Jueseppi B.
Happy Valentine’s Day to everybody, but most especially my wife Nita! We got engaged a little over three years ago in one of our country’s great National Parks, in our case the home of the world’s most famous Portuguese Water Dog (read our story here). That made me a natural candidate to promote this great new video from the good folks at the Interior Department highlighting some of America’s epic National Park engagements. For those mulling locations for that most special and anxiety-filled popping of questions, I can’t recommend them highly enough, and they hold up very well in subtle “whose engagement was better” contests.
The coolest Valentine’s Day video you’ll watch all day
Published on Feb 14, 2013
As stewards of America’s National Parks, Wildlife Refuges and other public lands, we get to see many wonderful events on a daily basis. None of which are more exciting than when we see visitors using our Nation’s public lands for their most memorable moments.
Of course they’re also beautiful and romantic for first dates, fifth anniversaries, or random weekends when you can’t think of what to do. Check out NPS.gov to get started , and here’s the page for the White House if you find yourself nearby.
For more Valentine’s Day engagement intrigue, here’s another charming and bipartisan story about engagements at the US Capitol, which may not be a National Park, but is on the National Park Service‘s National Register of Historic Places — which is still pretty good… I guess. (Just kidding.)
“If Momma‘s happy, everybody’s happy”
By Secretary Janet Napolitano February 14, 2013 The White House Blog
Flying on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border and overlooking the Rio Grande River, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tours the border in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine helicopter over Clint, Texas, Feb. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Last week, I traveled to San Diego, CA and Clint and El Paso, TX where I saw firsthand the need for more modernized immigration laws that make it harder for criminals and transnational criminal organizations to operate, while encouraging immigrants to choose to pursue a pathway to legal immigration rather than breaking the law.
Over the past four years, we have dedicated historic levels of personnel, technology, and resources to the Southwest border, and undertaken an unprecedented effort to transform our Nation’s immigration enforcement systems into one that focuses on public safety, border security, and the integrity of the immigration system. We have matched our success at the border with smart, effective immigration enforcement, with a focus on identifying and removing criminal aliens and other public safety threats, recent border crosser’s, repeat violators, and employers who break the law. We have also increased funding to our state and local law enforcement partners to make sure they have the resources they need.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano attends an operational briefing from the federal agencies assigned to border and maritime security operations at U.S. Coast Guard Station San Diego, Calif., Feb. 4, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The results of these efforts are clear. Attempts to cross the border illegally are down nearly 80 percent from their peak, seizures of illegal drugs, weapons and other contraband are up, and some of the safest communities in America are found in our border states.
Our immigration system has been broken for too long, and Congress must act. At the Department of Homeland Security, we look forward to continuing to work closely with our many federal, state, local, and tribal partners, to build on the historic progress that we have made to help us keep our communities safe and secure.
On Tuesday, President Obama laid out his agenda for the coming year. Citing the importance of a strong middle class, he provided the framework necessary to move America forward.
The White House Photo Office followed the President throughout the day, and they’ve put together a collection of images from the State of the Union, which include the President greeting Members of Congress, reactions of his speech from the audience and a few special behind the scene looks. Check out the gallery below and visit our State of the Union page to share your own reactions from the State of the Union.
This afternoon, President Obama will sit down for a discussion about the State of the Union and his plan to create jobs and strengthen the middle class. Be sure to check it out.
What You Need to Know About President Obama’s Plan to Provide High-Quality Early Education for All Children
By Megan Slack February 14, 2013
“In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”
President Barack Obama, State of the Union, February 12, 2013
The beginning years of a child’s life are critical for building the early foundation needed for success later in school and in life. Leading economists agree that high-quality early learning programs can help level the playing field for children from lower-income families on vocabulary, social and emotional development, while helping students to stay on track and stay engaged in the early elementary grades. Children who attend these programs are more likely to do well in school, find good jobs, and succeed in their careers than those who don’t.
Despite the benefits of early education, our nation has lagged in making sure high-quality programs are available for our youngest kids. While 39 states and the District of Columbia offer state funded pre-school, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that the United States ranks 28th out of 38 countries for the share of four-year olds enrolled in early childhood education. And just 3 in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in high-quality programs that prepare kids with the skills they need for kindergarten.
In particular, studies show that children from low-income families are less likely to have access to high-quality early education, and less likely to enter school prepared for success. By third grade, children from low-income families who are not reading at grade level are six times less likely to graduate from high school than students who are proficient. And the high costs of private preschool and lack of public programs also narrow options for middle-class families.
That’s why, in his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality pre-school to every child in America.
The President is proposing a new federal-state partnership to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year old children with high-quality preschool. His proposal will also expand access to high-quality preschool for children from middle class families and incentivizing full-day kindergarten policies.
Under his proposal, the U.S. Department of Education would allocate dollars to states based their share of four-year olds from low- and moderate-income families (those at or below 200% of the poverty line) and funds would be distributed to local school districts and other partner providers to implement the program. In order to access federal funding, however states would be required to meet quality benchmarks that are linked to better outcomes for children, include:
- State-level standards for early learning
- Qualified teachers for all preschool classrooms
- A plan to implement comprehensive data and assessment systems.
Funds under this program may also be used to expand full-day kindergarten once states have provided preschool education to their low- and moderate-income students.
The President’s proposal will also help expand the availability of Early Head Start, which provides early learning opportunities before kids begin preschool, as well as voluntary home visiting programs. Home visiting programs enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services and educational support that will improve a child’s health, development, and ability to learn.
By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson February 14, 2013 The White House Blog
When I first became Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I made a list of my priorities for the Agency.Working for environmental justice was at the top of that list. Ensuring equal environmental protections for all Americans is the unfinished business of the environmental movement.
It’s a simple idea – that all Americans are entitled to clean air to breathe, safe water to drink and a healthy community to raise their families – but often, it is America’s low-income and minority communities that bear the brunt of our country’s pollution.
As a result, these communities are also hit harder by the many illnesses pollution is linked to – conditions like asthma, heart disease, cancer and strokes. Studies show that minority groups face a greater risk of having asthma, and once they have it, they are at a greater risk of needing emergency treatment. African-American children are hospitalized for asthma at twice the rate of white children, and asthma-related deaths among African-American children take place at a rate of four times that of non-Hispanic white children. Hispanic children — especially of Puerto Rican descent — also face higher rates of asthma.
Dirty air, polluted water and contaminated lands not only put families at higher risks of serious and potentially costly diseases – they also discourage new developments and new jobs. Poison in the ground often means poison in the economy. Limiting the economic possibilities of low-income and minority communities only makes it harder to break the cycle of poverty.
Shortly after I was sworn in, I asked EPA employees to make environmental justice part of every decision we make. I called on the whole Agency to think creatively and work hard to make certain that our efforts reach all communities. Plan EJ 2014 – the environmental justice strategy we unveiled more than two years ago– is the tool we created for answering that call. It is aimed at ensuring that environmental justice is integrated into all of EPA’s day-to-day responsibilities – everything from permitting, compliance and enforcement, to community-based programs and the work we do with other federal agencies.
As I prepare to leave EPA, one of my last acts as administrator is issuing the Plan EJ 2014 Progress Report. The report provides ample evidence of how far we have come in making environmental justice an integral and permanent part of EPA’s day-to-day business. It also details how we have mobilized the entire federal government to incorporate environmental justice into the work each agency conducts.
For the first time in our 42 year history, we have laid the groundwork for EPA to fully implement its environmental justice mission of ensuring environmental protection for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity or income level. I am proud of the work we have started and the progress we have made, and I am confident that it will continue long after I depart.
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