• Vice President Joe Biden with Officer Reeshemah Taylor at a Medal of Valor ceremony, Feb., 20, 2013.

    Vice President Joe Biden congratulates Officer Reeshemah Taylor of the Osceola County Corrections Department after presenting her with the Medal of Valor, during a Medal of Valor ceremony with Attorney General Eric Holder, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House, Feb., 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    Vice President Joe Biden today recognized 18 public safety officers for exhibiting exceptional courage in a Medal of Valor ceremony at the White House. The Medal of Valor is the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer, and it is bestowed on those whose heroic actions were above and beyond the call of duty.

    The Vice President, who was joined by Attorney General Eric Holder, highlighted the bravery of the men and women who were being honored, and paid tribute to the spouses of the recipients who had lost their lives in the line of duty. He also talked about the special qualities that are unique to those who put themselves in danger to save others:

    My association with firefighters and police has been... the essence of my public life. And as many of these things that I do, I still grapple with what makes you do what you do? I’m just thankful that you do.

    You can't explain it, but you know it when you see it. I see it in the shield over someone’s heart. I see it in the men and women who are sitting here before us today...Thank God for you. You’re from different backgrounds, but you’re the glue that literally binds communities together at times of stress. You’re that face that shows up for a woman on the second floor of a burning building just when she thinks it’s all over for her... The amazing thing about all of you is that the very things you do when you’re on duty to save people’s lives, you do when you're off duty. There’s no separation.

  • In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama issued a call to better equip American graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. Specifically, he called on the nation’s high schools to forge new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math—the “STEM” subjects – calling them  “the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.”

    Indeed, students with STEM skills are a driving force that keeps America competitive, creative, and innovative. As just one example—the most common educational background of CEO’s in the S&P 500 companies is not finance or business… but engineering. Whether it’s by unearthing new discoveries, inventing new technologies, or starting innovative companies—STEM-educated students are well-poised to make an enormous positive impact when they enter the workforce.

    Earlier this month, at a White House ceremony where some of the nation’s top scientists and innovators were awarded the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation, President Obama spoke about this tremendous potential of STEM-educated Americans to make a difference. He marveled at the honorees’ great range of extraordinary accomplishments, including new discoveries about the depths of space and our oceans, the invention of batteries that today help power everything from cell phones to cars, and the development of the LASIK eye surgery technique and other medical innovations that have improved countless lives.  

  • In less than two weeks, dangerous across the board budget cuts are slated to take effect, potentially threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs, our national security and our economic recovery. The President has laid out a specific plan with detailed cuts to avoid the sequester and reduce the deficit in a balanced way by cutting spending, reforming entitlements and closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest and big corporations - loopholes not available to the middle class -- and Congressional Democrats have put forward a balanced approach as well.

    The only party unwilling to compromise to avoid these devastating cuts are Congressional Republicans, who would rather see our recovery and middle class economic security be put at risk than close one tax loophole for big corporations and the wealthiest.

    Tonight, in an effort to distract from this reality, the Leader of the Republican party took to the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal to engage in an amazing act of revisionist history. Instead of communicating with the American people - who support a balanced approach to reduce the deficit - about finding a compromise, the Republican Leadership once again launched a series of false attacks instead of putting forward ways to resolve this issue in a bipartisan way.

    So let's set the record straight.

    1. Speaker Boehner asked “What spending are you willing to cut to replace it?” Here they are: The fact is, the President has a detailed, balanced plan with spending cuts. He is willing to make tough choices. Now it’s time for the Speaker to do the same. The Speaker has yet to name one tax loophole he’s willing to close. Not one.
    2. The Speaker said the sequester is "an ugly and dangerous way" to cut spending. We agree. But in the past he’s led Congressional Republicans to threaten the sequester as a political tool. In the Wall Street Journal on January 6, 2013: “Mr. Boehner says he has significant Republican support, including GOP defense hawks, on his side for letting the sequester do its work. ‘I got that in my back pocket,’ the speaker says.”
    3. In that same article in the Wall Street Journal Speaker Boehner boasts about using the sequester as leverage. “Republican willingness to support the sequester, Mr. Boehner says, is ‘as much leverage as we're going to get.’ That leverage, he reasons, is what will force Democrats to the table on entitlements.”

  • The White House Photo Office just released a set of behind the scenes photos from January 2013. Images include scenes from the Inaugural swearing-in and festivities, meetings around the White House and more. 

    Check out the gallery below, and see all the images on Flickr.

    • President Barack Obama works on his inaugural address with Jon Favreau

      President Barack Obama works on his inaugural address. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Barack Obama listens as Vice President Joe Biden presents proposals

      Vice President Biden presents proposals as part of the response to the shootings in Newtown. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden during the inaugural swearing-in ceremony

      President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden during the inaugural swearing-in ceremony. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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    • President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Ball

      President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Ball. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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    • President Barack Obama meets with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough

      President Barack Obama meets with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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  • Watch this video on YouTube

    Just 10 days from now, Congress might allow a series of severe and automatic budget cuts to take place that will hurt our economic growth, add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls, and threaten military readiness.

    But, as President Obama said this morning, these cuts don’t have to happen -- Congress has the power to stop them.

    In 2011, President Obama explained today, Congress passed a law saying that if they couldn’t agree on a plan to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion – including the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction lawmakers in both parties have already accomplished over the last few years – about $1 trillion in automatic, arbitrary cuts would start to take effect this year.

    “The whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing tax loopholes and so forth,” President Obama said. “And so this was all designed to say we can't do these bad cuts; let’s do something smarter.  That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration.”

    Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t compromised, these cuts are now poised to take effect next Friday, President Obama said:

    Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. It won’t consider whether we’re cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day. It doesn’t make those distinctions. 

    Emergency responders like the ones who are here today -- their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded. Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed. Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings.

    And already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf. And as our military leaders have made clear, changes like this -- not well thought through, not phased in properly -- changes like this affect our ability to respond to threats in unstable parts of the world. 

  • For President's Day, we thought we'd do a bit of catching up with Bill Allman, the White House curator. He took us to the East Room of the White House and gave us the story on Theodore Roosevelt's official portrait.

    President Roosevelt served in the White House from 1901 to 1909, and even in keeping with the standard for activity for commanders in chief, our 26th president was famously busy. That made finding time to sit down so that John Singer Sargent could do his work difficult.

    Hear how this portrait came about:

    • George Washington’s Personal Copy of the Acts of Congress

      George Washington’s personal copy of the Acts of Congress. His signature appears inside. (Courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)

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    • George Washington's Bookplate

      George Washington's bookplate, which he pasted inside the front cover of the Acts of Congress. (Courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)

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    • Page One of George Washington’s First Inaugural Address

      Page one of George Washington’s First Inaugural Address. (National Archives, Records of the U.S. Senate)

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    • Page Eight of George Washington’s First Inaugural Address

      Page eight of George Washington’s First Inaugural Address. (National Archives, Records of the U.S. Senate)

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    • Invitation to the 1949 Inauguration of Harry S. Truman Addressed to The President and Mrs. Truman

      Invitation to the 1949 Inauguration of Harry S. Truman addressed to The President and Mrs. Truman.

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    • President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon Leaving National Presbyterian Church

      President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon leaving National Presbyterian Church following a pre-inaugural service.

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    • Herbert Hoover Takes the Oath of Office

      Herbert Hoover takes the oath of office from Chief Justice (and former President) William Howard Taft.

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    • Lyndon B. Johnson’s Family Bible

      Lyndon B. Johnson’s family, which was used when he took the oath as Vice President and President.

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    • Franklin D. Roosevelt Takes the Oath of Office at his First Inauguration

      Franklin D. Roosevelt takes the oath of office at his first inauguration.

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    • Richard Nixon Takes the Oath of Office, Administered by Chief Justice Warren Burger

      Richard Nixon takes the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice Warren Burger.

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    • This Bible was Used to Swear-In Gerald R. Ford as Vice President and Later as President

      This Bible was used to swear-in Gerald R. Ford as Vice President and later as President.

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    • George Bush Reviews his Speech at Blair House Prior to his Inauguration

      George H. Bush reviews his speech at Blair House prior to his inauguration.

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    • Draft of William J. Clinton’s Inaugural Address

      Draft of William J. Clinton’s Inaugural Address. The handwriting and editing marks on the page are President Clinton’s.

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    • Ronald Reagan Gives the Inaugural Address from the U.S. Capitol

      Ronald Reagan gives the Inaugural Address from the U.S. Capitol.

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    • John F. Kennedy’s Reading Copy of the Inaugural Address

      John F. Kennedy’s reading copy of the Inaugural Address. This is one of the pages President Kennedy read from at the lectern.

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    • Page Two of the Reading Copy for George W. Bush’s Second Inaugural Address

      Page two of the reading copy for George W. Bush’s second Inaugural Address. The underline marks were made by President Bush.

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    • Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Walk Down Pennsylvania Avenue During the 1977 Inaugural Parade

      Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House during the 1977 Inaugural Parade.

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    • Barack Obama Pauses to Look Back at the Scene Before Leaving the Platform

      President Obama pauses to look back before leaving the platform following the inaugural swearing-in ceremony. (Official White House P

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    Last month, President Obama began his second Inaugural Address by saying, “Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.” President Obama’s words resonate as the anniversary of George Washington’s birthday approaches on February 22, popularly known as Presidents’ Day.

    Over two centuries ago, on April 30, 1789, George Washington delivered his first Inaugural Address knowing that he had little to guide him in the job that lay ahead but the principles stated in the Constitution. The Articles of the Constitution had been debated, discussed, and agreed upon just two summers earlier by the delegates of the Constitution Convention, and were still untested. Nevertheless, Washington was a strong supporter of the Constitution and would look to it for guidance in his unprecedented role as President.

    During Washington’s first year in office, Congress ordered 600 copies of the Acts of Congress to be printed and distributed to federal and state government officials. The book compiled the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other legislation passed by the first session of Congress.

  • President Obama at the Hyde Park Career Academy Chicago, Illinois, Feb. 15, 2013

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks to discuss proposals unveiled in the State of the Union Address that focus on strengthening the economy for the middle class and those striving to get there, at Hyde Park Academy, Chicago, Ill., Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama was in Chicago on Friday to talk about the importance of making sure every child in America has every chance in life to succeed. Speaking at the Hyde Park Career Academy, which is less than a mile from the Obama's home in that city, the President discussed the recent death of Hadiyah Pendleton, a Chicago teenager who was shot just days after attending the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC.

    Hadiyah's parents were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address on Tuesday, where President Obama discussed the need to prevent this kind of senseless violence and protect American children. But the important goal of  keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is not enough to ensure a bright future for all of our children, and the President also laid out a plan to rebuild ladders of opportunity for every American who is willing to work hard and climb them. This includes making sure every child in America has access to high-quality pre-K, and raising the minimum wage so that no family that works hard and relies on a minimum wage is living in poverty. But creating a path into the middle class also means transforming high-poverty communities into places of opportunity that can attract private investment, improve education, and create jobs, and President Obama talked about his plan to make that happen:

  • In this week’s address, President Obama calls for quick action on the proposals he made during the State of the Union to grow our economy and create jobs, including making America a magnet for manufacturing, strengthening our education system through high-quality preschool for every child, and raising the minimum wage. 

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • President Barack Obama and President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy, Feb. 15, 2013

    President Barack Obama and President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy address the media at the start of their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Italian President Giorgio Napolitano joined President Obama today in the Oval Office for a discussion about the deep and abiding friendship between our two countries. President Obama thanked Italy for their contributions to the NATO alliance, and called President Napolitano, whose term ends in May,  a visionary leader, "who has helped to guide and steer Europe towards greater unification, but always with a strong transatlantic relationship in mind."

    But the primary focus of the conversation was on the world economy and President Obama's plan to pursue a U.S.-European Union free trade agreement, which he discussed in his State of the Union address earlier this week.

    President Napolitano expressed enthusiasm for the proposed agreement, saying he believes it will represent "a relevant contribution for promoting a new wave of development of technologic advancement of social justice on both shores of the Atlantic. And I think it can represent even something more. It is to say a new historic stage in relations between Europe and the United States -- not only economically, but also from a political and moral point of view." 

  • Watch the West Wing Week Here.

    Here’s a quick glimpse at what happened this week on WhiteHouse.gov:

    State of the Union: On Tuesday, President Obama provided his vision for the country in the State of the Union address. President Obama said our generation’s challenge is “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.”

    The President looks to grow the middle class through balanced deficit reduction, education reform, comprehensive immigration reform, and manufacturing among others.

    If you missed the speech or want to see the address again view our enhanced broadcast with easy-to-read charts, infographics, and statistics. While on our page share your thoughts from the Tuesday speech through the Citizens Response tool, which allows you to actually go line by line and share with others from across the country what touched you the most.

    You can read the President’s full remarks here and listen to the audio here.

  • Today, in a virtual Q&A live from the White House, Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, answered questions submitted by citizens via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook about the President's plans for immigration reform. The “Open for Questions” session was moderated by Elianne Ramos from LATISM. Check it out below.

    Watch President Obama's 2013 State of the Union Address and share your Citizen Response.

  • This week, in his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined plans to build a stronger America, including actions to help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. This vision builds on the continuing work of the White House Startup America initiative, an ongoing effort to inspire and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the United States.

    Just last week, entrepreneurs from across the country gathered at the White House to celebrate Startup America’s success thus far—and its two-year anniversary—by presenting ambitious plans for growing vibrant startup communities in Arizona, Colorado, DC, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.  

    After achieving several early milestones in its first year, Startup America’s momentum has only continued to grow.  Here’s how:

    Calling on Congress: In February 2012, the President signed a bill fulfilling his call to expand Self-Employment Assistance, a proven way to let states empower unemployed workers to start their own businesses. Then, in April 2012, the President signed into law the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, allowing small businesses and startups to more efficiently raise capital from investors, including through regulated crowdfunding platforms that the SEC is expected to approve this year.  And, just last month, building on the 18 small business tax cuts he has already signed into law, the President extended through 2013 a crucial tax cut for investments in small businesses by signing the American Taxpayer Relief Act.

    This year, President Obama will continue to call on Congress to build an immigration system for the 21st century that meets our economic and security needs. This includes common-sense reforms to cut waiting periods and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and innovators who will help create jobs and grow our economy.

  • Editor's note: This post was originally published on the Commerce Blog.

    Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

    Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and JCourosef Kerscher, the President of BMW Manufacturing, stand in front of a BMW X5. (Courtesy of Commerce.gov)

    Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank visited BMW Manufacturing today and delivered remarks on the President’s plan to make America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing. The Deputy Secretary highlighted the President’s proposals for a new Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, the SelectUSA program, and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. Blank’s visit comes on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he outlined a broad agenda for revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, spurring innovation, and accelerating export growth.

    During her remarks, Blank emphasized key Commerce programs that will drive President Obama’s “Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Manufacturing” plan. For example, Commerce is going to lead a team of federal agencies in the new Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership. The President has proposed a new program to support communities that do the hard work and analysis to identify key projects that will bolster their ability to attract investment. A competitive process will select communities that have done effective planning but need a little help to build additional assets.

  • Today, in a virtual Q&A live from the White House, Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden, answered questions submitted by citizens via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook about the President's plan to reduce gun violence. The “Open for Questions” session was moderated by iVillage. Check it out below.

    Watch President Obama's 2013 State of the Union Address and share your Citizen Response.

  • President Obama delivers remarks during the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal ceremony (February 15, 2013)

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 15, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Today, President Obama recognized the recipients of the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal -- which we award to Americans who have "performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens." It is one of the highest honors a civilian can receive.

    At a ceremony in the East Room, the President described the importance of our common citizenship.

    "In America, we have the benefit of living in this big and diverse nation," he said. "We’re home to 315 million people who come from every background, who worship every faith, who hold every single point of view. But what binds us together, what unites us is a single sacred word: citizen."

    Twelve individuals and their families were on hand this morning. You can read more about them here. But the President also recognized and honored six educators from Sandy Hook Elementary -- who died trying to protect their students.

    "[When] Dawn Hochsprung, and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel D’Avino, Anne Marie Murphy…showed up for work at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14th of last year, they expected a day like any other -- doing what was right for their kids; spent a chilly morning readying classrooms and welcoming young students -- they had no idea that evil was about to strike," he said. "And when it did, they could have taken shelter by themselves. They could have focused on their own safety, on their own wellbeing. But they didn’t. They gave their lives to protect the precious children in their care. They gave all they had for the most innocent and helpless among us."

    Read the full remarks here. Or watch the video here:

    Additional information

  • "America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny.  And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them." President Barack Obama, State of the Union, February 12, 2013

    In his State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a plan to build on the progress we’ve made over the last four years to expand opportunity for every American and every community willing to do the work to lift themselves up. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges we face. It will take a collaborative effort—between business and federal, state, and local officials; faith-based and non-profit organizations; kids and parents—to ensure that hard work leads to a decent living for every American. Read more about his plan below.

    Reward hard work by raising the minimum wage

    The President believes that no one who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty. But right now, a full-time minimum wage worker makes $14,500 a year – which leaves too many families struggling to make ends meet. A family of four supported by a minimum wage worker still living below the poverty line, even counting tax credits for working families.  That’s why the President is calling on Congress to raise the Federal minimum wage to $9.00 and index it to inflation thereafter, so that working families can keep up with rising costs.

    Raising the minimum wage to $9 would directly boost the wages of about 15 million workers by the end of 2015, and a range of economic studies show that raising the minimum wage increases earnings and reduces poverty without jeopardizing employment. For a working family earning $20,000 - $30,000, the extra $3,500 per year from raising the minimum wage would cover:

    • The family’s spending on groceries for a year
    • The family’s spending on utilities for a year
    • The family’s spending on gasoline and clothing for a year
    • Six months of housing

    Read more about President Obama's plan to raise the minimum wage here.

  • Earlier this evening, President Obama sat down with Americans from across the country to discuss his State of the Union address and his plan to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.

    During the virtual conversation, the President answered questions about a range of topics, from steps to reduce gun violence to his plan to reward hard work by raising the minimum wage. The President also addressed some more personal questions from participants on recommended reading, Valentine’s Day plans and baby names.

    Check out the full video of the President’s Hangout below. And if you have thoughts about the State of the Union, you can share your Citizen Response with the White House using a new online tool.

    Use the links below to jump to specific questions and answers during the hangout (questions are paraphrased):

  • This week, the President delivered the first State of the Union address of his second term, and then brought his proposals to a factory in North Carolina and a school in Georgia, presided over a Medal of Honor ceremony, honored the outgoing Secretary of Defense, and hungout on Google Plus. 

  • President Obama at the Decatur Community Recreation Center, Feb. 14, 2013.

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks on early education and his plan to ensure high-quality preschool for every child, at the Decatur Community Recreation Center in Decatur, Ga., Feb. 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama laid out a plan for reigniting the true engine of America’s economic growth: a thriving, growing, rising middle class. A key component of that plan is making sure that every American has the skills they need for the competitive global job market, which means that education must begin at the earliest possible age. 

    The President proposed working with states like Georgia to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America, and today he paid a visit to that state to see firsthand how the programs they have put in place are making a difference in the lives of our youngest citizens:

    Study after study shows that the earlier a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road.  But here’s the thing:  We are not doing enough to give all of our kids that chance. The kids we saw today that I had a chance to spend time with in Mary's classroom, they're some of the lucky ones -- because fewer than 3 in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. 

    Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for the poor children who need it the most, the lack of access to a great preschool education can have an impact on their entire lives. And we all pay a price for that. And as I said, this is not speculation. Study after study shows the achievement gap starts off very young. Kids who, when they go into kindergarten, their first day, if they already have a lot fewer vocabulary words, they don’t know their numbers and their shapes and have the capacity for focus, they're going to be behind that first day. And it's very hard for them to catch up over time.