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After War, A New Legacy of Peace in Laos

My decision on our mission in Afghanistan (7.7.16)

More than 14 years ago, after al Qaida attacked our nation on 9/11, the United States went to war in Afghanistan to combat these terrorists and the Taliban that harbored them.

Over the years, thanks to the heroic efforts of our military, intelligence officials, diplomats and development professionals, we pushed al Qaida out of its camps, helped the Afghan people topple the Taliban and establish a democratic government, dealt crippling blows to the al Qaida leadership, delivered justice to Osama bin Laden, and trained Afghan forces to take responsibility for their own security.

Given that progress, America's combat mission in Afghanistan came to a responsible end in December of 2014.

Compared to the 100,000 troops we once had there, today, fewer than 10,000 remain. And compared to their previous mission -- helping to lead the fight -- our forces are now focused on two narrow missions: training and advising Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorist operations against the remnants of al Qaida as well as other terrorists, including ISIL. Even as we remain relentless against those who threaten us, we are no longer engaged in a major ground war in Afghanistan.

Still, even these narrow missions continue to be dangerous. Over the past year and a half, 38 Americans -- military and civilian -- have given their lives in Afghanistan for our security. We honor their sacrifice. We stand with their families in their grief and their pride. And we resolve to carry on the mission for which they gave their last full measure of devotion.

Today, our mission in Afghanistan is not ours alone. For the second year now, Afghan forces are fully responsible for their own security. Every day, nearly 320,000 Afghan soldiers and police are serving and fighting -- and many are giving their lives -- to defend their country. Meanwhile, in another milestone, we recently removed the leader of the Taliban, Akhtar Mohammad Mansur.

Nevertheless, the security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. Even as they improve, Afghan security forces are still not as strong as they need to be. The Taliban remains a threat. And as President and Commander-in-Chief, I've made it clear that I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.

That is why today, based on the recommendation of our military leaders, my national security team, and in consultation with Congress, the Afghan government and international partners, I announced an adjustment to our posture.

Instead of drawing down to 5,500 troops by the end of this year, the United States will maintain approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan into next year, through the end of my administration. The narrow missions assigned to our forces will not change -- they'll remain focused on supporting Afghan forces and going after terrorists. However, maintaining our forces at this specific level will allow us to continue providing tailored support to help Afghan forces continue to improve. And we will continue supporting critical counterterrorism operations.

I know that when we first sent our forces into Afghanistan 14 years ago, few Americans imagined we'd be there -- in any capacity -- this long. As President, I've focused our strategy on training and building up Afghan forces. And because we have, we were able to end our major ground war there and bring home 90 percent of our troops.

Yet even as we work for peace, we must deal with the realities of the world as it is. And we must never forget what's at stake in Afghanistan. This is where al Qaida is trying to regroup and where ISIL is trying to expand its presence. And make no mistake, if these terrorists succeed in regaining areas and camps where they can train and plot, they will attempt more attacks against us. I will not allow that to happen.

This September, we'll mark 15 years since the attacks of 9/11. Once more, we'll pause to remember the nearly 3,000 lives we lost. We'll salute our men and women in uniform -- our 9/11 Generation -- who have served in Afghanistan and beyond. We'll honor the memory of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, including more than 2,200 American patriots who have given their lives in Afghanistan.

As we do, let's never forget the progress their service has made possible. Whether it's millions more Afghan children in school, or dramatic improvements to public health, or the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's history, Afghanistan is a better place than it once was. That’s progress we've helped make possible -- progress we can help sustain, in partnership with the Afghan people and our coalition partners. And that’s why I firmly believe that the decision I'm announcing today is the right thing to do -- for Afghanistan, for the United States and for the world.

President Barack Obama

On the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile (7.7.16)

Good evening, everybody. I know we've been on a long flight, but given the extraordinary interest in the shootings that took place in Louisiana and Minnesota, I thought it would be important for me to address all of you directly.

And I want to begin by expressing my condolences for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

As I said in the statement that I posted on Facebook, we have seen tragedies like this too many times. The Justice Department, I know, has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge. The governor of Minnesota, I understand, is calling for an investigation there, as well. As is my practice, given my institutional role, I can't comment on the specific facts of these cases, and I have full confidence in the Justice Department’s ability to conduct a thorough and fair inquiry.

But what I can say is that all of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings, because these are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. And I just want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues.

According to various studies -- not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years -- African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over. After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites. African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites. African American defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime.

So that if you add it all up, the African American and Hispanic population, who make up only 30 percent of the general population, make up more than half of the incarcerated population.

Now, these are facts. And when incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same. And that hurts. And that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue. It's not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about. All fair-minded people should be concerned.

Now, let me just say we have extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. They’ve got a dangerous job. It is a tough job. And as I've said before, they have a right to go home to their families, just like anybody else on the job. And there are going to be circumstances in which they’ve got to make split-second decisions. We understand that.

But when we see data that indicates disparities in how African Americans and Latinos may be treated in various jurisdictions around the country, then it's incumbent on all of us to say, we can do better than this; we are better than this -- and to not have it degenerate into the usual political scrum. We should be able to step back, reflect, and ask ourselves, what can we do better so that everybody feels as if they’re equal under the law?

Now, the good news is, is that there are practices we can institute that will make a difference. Last year, we put together a task force that was comprised of civil rights activists and community leaders, but also law enforcement officials -- police captains, sheriffs. And they sat around a table and they looked at the data and they looked at best practices, and they came up with specific recommendations and steps that could ensure that the trust between communities and police departments were rebuilt and incidents like this would be less likely to occur.

And there are some jurisdictions out there that have adopted these recommendations. But there are a whole bunch that have not. And if anything good comes out of these tragedies, my hope is, is that communities around the country take a look and say, how can we implement these recommendations, and that the overwhelming majority of police officers who are doing a great job every single day, and are doing their job without regard to race, that they encourage their leadership and organizations that represent them to get behind these recommendations.

Because, ultimately, if you can rebuild trust between communities and the police departments that serve them, that helps us solve crime problems. That will make life easier for police officers. They will have more cooperation. They will be safer. They will be more likely to come home. So it would be good for crime-fighting and it will avert tragedy.

And I'm encouraged by the fact that the majority of leadership in police departments around the country recognize this. But change has been too slow and we have to have a greater sense of urgency about this.

I'm also encouraged, by the way, that we have bipartisan support for criminal justice reform working its way through Congress. It has stalled and lost some momentum over the last couple of months, in part because Congress is having difficulty, generally, moving legislation forward, and we're in a political season. But there are people of goodwill on the Republican side and the Democratic side who I've seen want to try to get something done here. That, too, would help provide greater assurance across the country that those in power, those in authority are taking these issues seriously. So this should be a spur to action to get that done, to get that across the finish line. Because I know there are a lot of people who want to get it done.

Let me just make a couple of final comments. I mentioned in my Facebook statement that I hope we don't fall into the typical patterns that occur after these kinds of incidents occur, where right away there’s a lot of political rhetoric and it starts dividing people instead of bringing folks together. To be concerned about these issues is not to be against law enforcement. There are times when these incidents occur, and you see protests and you see vigils. And I get letters -- well-meaning letters sometimes -- from law enforcement saying, how come we’re under attack? How come not as much emphasis is made when police officers are shot?

And so, to all of law enforcement, I want to be very clear: We know you have a tough job. We mourn those in uniform who are protecting us who lose their lives. On a regular basis, I have joined with families in front of Capitol Hill to commemorate the incredible heroism that they’ve displayed. I’ve hugged family members who’ve lost loved ones doing the right thing. I know how much it hurts. On a regular basis, we bring in those who’ve done heroic work in law enforcement, and have survived. Sometimes they’ve been injured. Sometimes they’ve risked their lives in remarkable ways. And we applaud them and appreciate them, because they’re doing a really tough job really well.

There is no contradiction between us supporting law enforcement -- making sure they’ve got the equipment they need, making sure that their collective bargaining rights are recognized, making sure that they’re adequately staffed, making sure that they are respected, making sure their families are supported -- and also saying that there are problems across our criminal justice system, there are biases -- some conscious and unconscious -- that have to be rooted out. That’s not an attack on law enforcement. That is reflective of the values that the vast majority of law enforcement bring to the job.

But I repeat: If communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement officers who are doing a great job and are doing the right thing, it makes their lives harder. So when people say “Black Lives Matter,” that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter; it just means all lives matter, but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.

This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives. This is recognizing that there is a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens. And we should care about that. We can’t dismiss it. We can’t dismiss it.

So let me just end by saying I actually, genuinely, truly believe that the vast majority of American people see this as a problem that we should all care about. And I would just ask those who question the sincerity or the legitimacy of protests and vigils and expressions of outrage, who somehow label those expressions of outrage as “political correctness,” I’d just ask folks to step back and think, what if this happened to somebody in your family? How would you feel?

To be concerned about these issues is not political correctness. It’s just being an American, and wanting to live up to our best and highest ideals. And it’s to recognize the reality that we’ve got some tough history and we haven’t gotten through all of that history yet. And we don’t expect that in my lifetime, maybe not in my children’s lifetime, that all the vestiges of that past will have been cured, will have been solved, but we can do better. People of goodwill can do better.

And doing better involves not just addressing potential bias in the criminal justice system. It’s recognizing that too often we’re asking police to man the barricades in communities that have been forgotten by all of us for way too long, in terms of substandard schools, and inadequate jobs, and a lack of opportunity.

We’ve got to tackle those things. We can do better. And I believe we will do better.

Thanks very much, everybody.

Link zum Video

Obamas offizielle Song- und Leselisten für den Sommer 2016

Felicia Escobar: "Immigrants are the American character" (16.9.2016)

Growing up in a Mexican-American family in San Antonio, Texas, I was raised to be proud of both my Mexican and American heritage. I was taught the values of this country by my parents, grandparents, and very large network of extended family and friends. I was taught that anyone can achieve their dreams, if they work hard. But I never thought I’d end up in the White House. And as someone who’s worked on public policy and social justice issues all her life, I never thought I’d get the opportunity to be part of the progress we’ve made under this remarkable president.

Last night, President Obama kicked off the month with a speech celebrating the strides that Hispanic Americans have made together over the past eight years -- and he thanked the Hispanic American community for having his back and lifting him up. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this one: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: "Immigrants Are the American Character"

Under President Obama, we’ve brought back the economy from the brink and helped make sure more families have access to the same basic opportunities: a good-paying job, affordable health care, and a good education. Since the President took office, about 4 million more Hispanic Americans have health care than before, and more Hispanic students are graduating high school than ever before.

And last year, across every race and age group in America, incomes grew at the fastest rate on record -- and Hispanic American families had some of the fastest income growth.

I started my career fighting for DREAMers, and am personally proud of our work to bring these inspiring young people out of the shadows and to keep families together. Through the President’s executive actions to modernize our immigration system, more than 740,000 DREAMers have been able to contribute to the only country they’ve ever known.

But we all know there is more work to do. And while we have not achieved our ultimate goal of passing commonsense immigration reform, we have broadened and deepened the coalition of support, and I am confident we will get there because you will continue to fight for it.

As President Obama said last night, "Immigrants aren’t somehow changing the American character; Immigrants are the American character."

When I reflect on the work we have left to do, I think of the values my family taught me in San Antonio, and of their boundless faith in this country: the idea that if we stay optimistic and stick together, progress is possible.

This is Progress (21.9.16)

Over the past eight years, we’ve made incredible progress in our economic recovery. Our businesses have created more than 15 million new jobs since early 2010. Twenty million people now have the security of health coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Together, we’ve turned around an economy in freefall and put it on a stronger, more durable course.

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