By Jueseppi B.
January 22, 2014
05:01 PM EST
In less than a week, President Obama will deliver his fifth State of the Union address from the Capitol. I’m the President’s chief speechwriter and today I’ll be taking over the White House Instagram account to give you a look inside the process. I hope you’ll follow along.
A Day in the Life: Inside the State of the Union with Cody Keenan
President Obama’s Chief Speechwriter Cody Keenan takes over the White House Instagram account to give you a look inside the process.
Want to get involved in this year’s State of the Union?
- Get ready for the speech by visiting the official page.
- Watch White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough discuss why the State of the Union is so important.
- Find out how you can participate.
Cody Keenan is Assistant to the President and Director of Speechwriting
Related Topics: State of the Union
07:55 PM EST
As part of an unprecedented national effort to address alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum today to establish the “White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.” The taskforce will be charged with sharing best practices, and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors. The creation of this Task Force builds upon the President’s 2010 call to action, which urged the federal government to support survivors and aggressively take action against sexual assault.
The statistics around sexual assault in this country are nothing short of jarring. A report just released by the White House Council on Women and Girls entitled, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” reveals that nearly 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. These statistics are stunning, but still can’t begin to capture the emotional and psychological scars that survivors often carry for life, or the courage needed to recover.
Today’s report states that students experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault. This violence, and the stress, fear, and mental health challenges that often follow, combine to increase dropout rates and limit opportunities for success in college for women and girls. The Administration is committed to investing in women’s education, training, and full inclusion in the workforce, and the President strongly believes that combatting sexual assault is vital to that effort.
The President and Vice President Speak on Preventing Sexual Assault
January 22, 2014 | 17:31 |Public Domain
President Obama says that as a government, and as a nation, we have the capacity to stop sexual assault, support those who have survived it, and bring perpetrators to justice.
It’s important that we keep the faces, and life-stories of our women and girls in mind as we continue this work. My office was recently connected with a young woman named Lauren who had personally experienced an attack, and who began to speak out last year in hopes that she may help more women deal with the pain, and complex layers of grief that afflict millions of women in this country every year.
Lauren was raped during her sophomore year in college, by someone she knew and trusted. This is the case more often than not. The trauma of her attack was debilitating on several levels, but as she put it, it was her inability to tell anyone was caused the most harm. She worried it was her fault. Had she drank too much? Did she lead him on? Did he not hear her say “no?” Was it no one’s fault at all, because he had been drinking too?
Lauren put on a brave face to make her way to classes, to work, and across campus, day in and day out, but her heart ache was profound. She felt unsafe, unclean, and consumed by unrelenting feelings of guilt, shame, and anger. For six months, Lauren bore that pain in her heart, and retreating from the world; crying through most nights, and skipping most meals. She couldn’t eat, she struggled to interact with her friends and loved ones, she felt perpetually on the verge of tears, and at times couldn’t find the strength to get out of bed for days at a time.
With time, and eventually, the aide of a psychiatrist, and friends and family who she felt comfortable sharing her story with, Lauren began to find her way back. Every survivor’s story, and the challenges they face is unique, but ‘unique’ in this case, unfortunately does not mean rare. Lauren’s story is the story of millions of women, and one that we must never forget. In the years since, she has used her voice and her writing to raise awareness and advocate for other survivors. She is doing everything in her power to make sure that women know that what happened to her is wrong and inexcusable. It is deserved by no one. And it is her right to tell her story without shame or fear. Lauren is not alone, and we should all join in her in making sure that no one facing this kind of pain ever feels that they are.
We all have roles to play in preventing experiences like these. Through better education and awareness training for our young women. Through the improved mentor-ship and socialization of our boys and young men. Through the empowerment of bystanders to recognize dangerous situations and to speak up.Through improved survivor support services, and more victim-centered incident intake and justice response policies on our campuses.
The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault builds on federal efforts already underway which seek to break devastating cycles of violence on campuses, and around the country. For example:
- In 2012, the federal government issued a revised definition of rape that includes rapes of men, and which better reflects the realities of sexual assault. This new definition will improve our understanding of where and how often this crime occurs.
- In 2011, the Department of Education and Vice President Joe Biden announced historic guidance to help schools understand their obligations to prevent and respond to campus sexual assault, as well as increase federal compliance and enforcement actions.
- President Obama signed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in March 2013. The revised legislation includes protections for LGBT, Native American, and immigrant victims that experience some of the highest rates of violence. VAWA also funds specialized training for law enforcement and prosecutors. In order to support survivors in the healthcare system, the legislation increases funding for specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners.
Both the President, and all of us on the Council on Women and Girls are committed to ending sexual assault and supporting survivors by improving school responses to violence, bettering criminal justice responses to survivors, and committing vital resources where it will do the most good. The Administration will also work empower both women and men to stand up against sexual assault, in order to change a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist.
We can and must change our nation’s attitudes toward these devastating crimes, and we all have a role to play in preventing violence, and supporting the millions of survivors across the country as they seek to rebuild their lives. The President has renewed his call to action to bring an end to sexual assault, and his entire team is eager to partner across government education, academia, and communities everywhere to ensure that our women and girls feel safe, secure, and in position to thrive when they head to school, and out into the world.
President Obama Meets with the Presidential Commission on Election Administration
January 22, 2014 | 3:46 |Public Domain
President Obama meets with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which was created following the President’s 2013 State of the Union pledge to identify non-partisan ways to shorten lines at polling places, promote the efficient conduct of elections, and provide better access to the polls for all voters. There will be a pool spray at the top of the meeting.
10:53 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Glad you guys made it to work.
I just want to say thank you publicly to all the wonderful people here who served on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. I think all of us recall that in the last election in 2012, we had reports around the country of tremendously long lines for people when they tried to vote, and in some cases for hours they were stuck. The day of the election I said that we’re going to need to do something about it.
I think all of us share the belief that, regardless of party affiliation, that our democracy demands that our citizens can participate in a smooth and effective way. And I called on Congress to work with us, but I also thought that it was important for us to have a bipartisan, independent panel that could actually dig into the facts and try to determine what can we do to improve this situation.
And unlike a lot of countries, we’ve got a pretty complex system. We vote a lot. We have local jurisdictions that run these elections and it makes things a little bit more complicated. But I was confident that if we put some good minds to work, they could come up with some recommendations. As a consequence, we set up this commission.
I asked my top attorney during my election campaign, Bob Bauer, to join with Mitt Romney’s top attorney in 2012, Ben Ginsberg, to co-chair this commission. I think it’s fair to say that they may have voted for different candidates in 2012 — (laughter) — but what they shared was a reputation for integrity, for smarts, and a commitment to making sure that our democracy works the way it’s supposed to.
And they have now, working with the rest of this commission, put together an outstanding series of recommendations with an important goal, which is that no American should have to wait more than half an hour to vote. And they should know they should be confident that their vote is being properly counted and is secure. A lot of the recommendations they’ve made are common sense; they are ones that can be embraced by all of us. Importantly, my understanding is a lot of the commission recommendations are directed not simply to Congress or the federal government, but rather to the state and local jurisdictions who are largely responsible for our elections.
And so we intend to publicize this and to then reach out to stakeholders all across the country to make sure that we can implement this, in part because one of the troubling aspects of the work that they did was hearing from local officials indicating that we could have even more problems in the future if we don’t act now. The good news is, is that the recommendations that are contained in this commission report are eminently glittering.
So I just want to publicly, again, thank both Bob and Ben for taking on this largely thankless job. And I want to thank all of you for being so diligent and maintaining a sense of urgency, producing an outstanding report in a relatively short period of time.
So thank you very much, everybody.
10:57 A.M. EST
January 22, 2014 | 53:26 |Public Domain
White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing.
Statements and Releases January 22, 2014
Today, as we reflect on the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, we recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health. We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom. And we resolve to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children. Because this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.
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