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Did you click on this section wondering what in the world this would be? Well, it really is News from the Whitehouse. In this day and age it's important to get as much information as you can from one source, so I've added this section for those who wish to keep up with the news that comes from our Nation's capital. In the future I'll add other sections as requested and fit for addition.
Before we get to the news, here's some links that could be useful;
Find your Congressional Representative; http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml
Find your Senators; http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Or how about an index of all Government Agencies and Departmetns? http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/All_Agencies/index.shtml
When I took office, the American auto industry – the heartbeat of American manufacturing – was on the verge of collapse. Two of the Big Three – GM and Chrysler – were on the brink of failure, threatening to take suppliers, distributors and entire communities down with them. In the midst of what was already the worst recession since the Great Depression, another one million Americans were in danger of losing their jobs.
As President, I refused to let that happen. I refused to walk away from American workers and an iconic American industry. But in exchange for rescuing and retooling GM and Chrysler with taxpayer dollars, we demanded responsibility and results. In 2011, we marked the end of an important chapter as Chrysler repaid every dime and more of what it owed the American taxpayers from the investment we made under my Administration’s watch. Today, we’re closing the book by selling the remaining shares of the federal government’s investment in General Motors. GM has now repaid every taxpayer dollar my Administration committed to its rescue, plus billions invested by the previous Administration.
Less than five years later, each of the Big Three automakers is now strong enough to stand on its own. They’re profitable for the first time in nearly a decade. The industry has added more than 372,000 new jobs – its strongest growth since the 1990s. Thanks to the workers on our assembly lines, some of the most high-tech, fuel-efficient cars in the world are once again designed, engineered, and built right here in America – and the rest of the world is buying more of them than ever before.
When things looked darkest for our most iconic industry, we bet on what was true: the ingenuity and resilience of the proud, hardworking men and women who make this country strong. Today, that bet has paid off. The American auto industry is back.
For our autoworkers and the communities that depend on them, the road we’ve taken these past five years has been a long and difficult one. But it’s one we’ve traveled together. And as long as there’s more work to do to restore opportunity and broad-based growth for all Americans, that’s what we’ll keep doing to reach the brighter days ahead.
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Johannesburg, South Africa
10:06 A.M. EST
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us onboard this pretty remarkable flight to South Africa. As you know, in addition to the President and the First Lady, we have former President Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush onboard. We also have former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In addition, from the President’s administration, we have National Security Advisor Susan Rice and the Attorney General, Eric Holder.
Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications is with us today, and he can give you some information about a bunch of (inaudible) when we get to the Johannesburg. And we will obviously keep you updated as developments require along the way.
With that, I turn it over to Ben.
MR. RHODES: I won’t add much to what Jay said other than we’ll let the South African government speak to the details of the program. We do expect President Obama to speak as part of the program. So again, they’ll have the full run of show. But in terms of the President’s participation, we do expect him to deliver remarks.
And with that, we’ll take questions.
Q But do you guys have any plans for Obama to meet with members of the Mandela family or any of the other world leaders who might be there?
MR. RHODES: We’ve been in touch with the Mandela family and are seeking to see if there is time for them to meet. Unfortunately, we don’t know for certain because things are so fluid on the ground. But we would certainly like the opportunity for the President to pay his respects to Graça Machel and the broader Mandela family. Beyond that, we don’t expect any bilateral meetings of any sort. I presume that he will certainly see President Zuma, have a chance to speak to him, but not in any kind of formal way.
Q Is there any possibility the President might meet with the Iranian President while there? Apparently, they were trying to work out Rouhani’s visit.
MR. RHODES: I wouldn’t expect any -- first of all, any bilateral meetings. I’m not even so sure who’s going for the Iranians. But we’re not anticipating any meeting.
Q Can talk with us a little bit about whether what the U.S. delegation is for this part of the memorial service, and also whether there will be a formal U.S. delegation on the 15th, and who some of those people will be? Normally, there would be a bigger delegation on this flight; I know it’s size-limited.
MR. RHODES: Yes, well, look, we’ve really been driven in our decision-making by the wishes of the South African government. Obviously, there are enormous amounts of people in the United States who would like to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela. So again, at the same time, they have very strict space requirements. I think they are certainly accommodating to heads of state, former heads of state, which is what compromises principally our delegation. But I think their indication is that they wanted this to be an opportunity for the people of South Africa really to say goodbye to Nelson Mandela, and we’re very respectful of that.
So obviously, under different circumstances we could have brought any number of people as part of a delegation. That was not possible given the logistics of this particular event. However, I do expect that there will be representatives for the President in the delegation at the event in Qunu. We'll keep you updated as to who will compromise that delegation. There's also going to be an event in Washington at the National Cathedral that people will be able to participate in.
And then, in terms of this event, I believe there's also a congressional delegation that we've sought to coordinate with so we can provide them with support. So for us it's the President and the First Lady, the Attorney General, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, former President Bush and Laura Bush, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. I know President Carter is going with The Elders group that he is a part of that of course Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel have been affiliated with as well. And then there will be the members of Congress who are going as a part of their congressional delegation. And then we'll keep you updated about Qunu.
Q Did you guys have any thought about going to the Qunu ceremony, or was that just logistically not possible?
MR. RHODES: Yes, I think, first of all, our understanding from the South African government was many heads of state who are attending this event at the stadium. And, secondly, when we had looked at this, Qunu does present challenges. And, frankly, it’s always a balance; we don't want to be disruptive with the footprint that travels with the President. We want to be respectful of what will be a very profound laying to rest of Nelson Mandela. So this certainly was the right event for the President to attend, to speak at, and to pay his respects to Nelson Mandela.
Q Are there any concerns about security at this event?
MR. RHODES: We have not heard any concerns. I'd say, number one, the South Africans hosted the World Cup, so they have experience hosting significant crowds and managing events like this. Although, this is obviously a very unique event really in world history, given the number of leaders coming to pay their respects, as well as the people of South Africa.
But we’re in good touch with the South African government at a logistical level, and we’re confident in their ability to make sure that this is an appropriate sendoff for one of the truly extraordinary statesmen of the last century or of any time.
Q In general, what’s the President going to say, and how long will he speak?
MR. RHODES: I’d anticipate -- I don’t put an exact time on it, but in the 10-15 minute range. And I think, for the President, he’ll reflect on what Nelson Mandela meant to the people of South Africa, to him personally as well.
You’ve heard him speak in the past about Nelson Mandela and the impact he had on the President. I think also, though, remembering the various different roles that Nelson Mandela played over the years. He obviously is cemented in our memory as an icon, but he was an extraordinary political leader, an extraordinary leader of a movement to bring about change. Under very difficult circumstances he was an extraordinary example to the world when he was in prison. And then, of course, even in his post-presidency he was a figure of reconciliation not just in South Africa, but around the world.
I think remembering him as a truly multifaceted figure with a wide array of different skills and abilities reminds us that his success wasn’t preordained -- it had to be earned over a lifetime. Sometimes when you look back, when the story has a happy ending, it all seems as if it was meant to be. I think one of the points the President will make is that it took decades of persistence and talent and a wide range of very unique skills to make Nelson Mandela the figure that he was and make him capable of bringing about that change.
Q But had he been working on this speech before? I mean, this is kind of something we knew was coming. Or is this something he’s put together just in the past couple of days?
MR. RHODES: No, we actually have not. We had not done any work on this particular speech before the passing of Nelson Mandela. At the same time, he has reflected on him many times. He wrote a forward for his book, "Conversations with Myself." On our last trip to South Africa, he obviously spoke frequently about Mandela over the course of that trip. He was able to go to Robben Island, which was a very powerful experience for him to stand in that cell again.
But in terms of this particular set of remarks, we waited until we had an indication from the South African government that he may speak, and then he has been working on it over the weekend. And I'm sure he'll continue to work on it on the plane.
Q Ben, can you detail the most recent contacts between the Presidents -- between Mandela and President Obama -- and how substantive they were?
MR. RHODES: I'd have to check on the absolutely most recent one. I recall him speaking to Nelson Mandela after the death of his grandson, around the time of the World Cup. But I'll have to check if there were any calls since then.
I think that, generally, when they did speak, since the President took office, they didn't delve deeply into substantive -- more dealt with how each of them were doing, asking after Nelson Mandela's health and family. And I'd also note that the President was grateful that the First Lady and his daughters were able to see Nelson Mandela, even very late in his life. So I'll check the most recent contact, but I think in addition to the occasional phone call, I know that visit was meaningful for the First Lady and the Obama family.
Q What was his most recent contact with anybody from the Mandela family? Can you describe that?
MR. RHODES: Yes, he spoke to Graça Machel, Nelson Mandela's wife, the other day -- I believe the day after Nelson Mandela passed -- and just said that his prayers were with her, that he hoped to see her at this event or any time she is in Washington. And, frankly, she is an extraordinary figure in her own right, and so he thanked her for all that she did to make the last years of Nelson Mandela's life a time of comfort.
On our last trip here to South Africa, the President was able to meet with a broader number of members of the family, including some of the daughters and grandchildren of Nelson Mandela at the Foundation. So I would anticipate similarly, if he has time with the family on this trip, he'd want to see both Graça Machel and of course some of the other members of the family.
Q Can either of you guys give us any kind of color or kind of paint a picture about what's going on back there with the former President and former First Lady, the former Secretary of State?
MR. RHODES: I'll just say that I know that the President has been able already to spend time with the Bushes. The President and the First Lady have been able to spend time with the Bushes and with Secretary Clinton. And so I think it's a unique experience obviously. And I think they all are remembering their different interactions with Nelson Mandela and his family, because again, he is a leader that intersected with so many different American political leaders of both parties over the years, and so each of them has their own experience with Mandela.
MR. CARNEY: I would just add that that in the conference room, which I think most of you have seen, the Secretary, President and Mrs. Bush, the First Lady, and President Obama, as he comes and goes -- because he’s also in this office doing some work -- there have been very good conversations in that room. Attorney General Holder as well, Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice.
Q So they’re all in the conference room?
MR. CARNEY: That’s not where they’re all sitting for the flight, but people have kind of congregated there. And I think it's just -- it's a very I think enjoyable experience certainly for the President and First Lady. And they're both grateful to be able to have former President and First Lady, former Secretary of State on board.
Q Ben, can I ask you a quick question on another subject? Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments to that same conference where President Obama spoke, talking about the need to press forward with new sanctions on Iran -- were you disappointed in those remarks? And do you feel that if those remarks are directed at the U.S. Congress, that that’s him trying to inject himself into the American political system?
MR. RHODES: Well, first of all, as a general matter, I thought Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated that the U.S. and Israel could work through the differences we’ve had on the Iranian nuclear negotiations as friends, and focus on the final agreement and what we are seeking to achieve in that agreement. So I thought there were certainly constructive elements of his remarks that sought to reinforce that there’s far more that unites the United States and Israel on this and other issues than whatever tactical differences we may have had.
With respect to sanctions, we have repeatedly said that we would move to sanctions if the Iranians violate the terms of the agreement or if we’re not able to reach a comprehensive resolution. At the same time, sanctions during the course of the negotiations would be seriously counterproductive. It could unravel the unity of the P5-plus-1 partners that is so necessary to trying to achieve the deal that we want. It could complicate Iran’s participation in those negotiations by reinforcing some of the more hardline elements of their system. And frankly, it could ultimately undermine the sanctions regime itself, because the purpose of sanctions was to reinforce a negotiation. We’re in that negotiation now. We have an opportunity to resolve this issue peacefully.
If the U.S. is seen as not pursuing that negotiation in concert with our partners, ultimately the participation that we need from other countries in the sanctions regime to continue reducing their purchases of Iranian oil and continue to work with us to apply this pressure could be put at risk. And I think it’s important to remember that it’s not just unilateral U.S. sanctions that have had the impact on the Iranians; it’s the ability of the entire world to come with us in imposing this pressure.
And I think it’s also -- the last point I’d make is we are going to continue enforcing sanctions throughout the course of the negotiation. So Iran will be denied far more revenue over the course of six months than they are going to achieve through the limited relief that we’re talking about. So we don’t think there’s a need to move to new sanctions now. We’ll pivot to new sanctions if the negotiations don’t succeed, but now is the time to test whether a peaceful diplomatic solution is possible.
Q And just to follow up, is your position the same with respect to triggered sanctions that either would kick in at a date certain or kick in if there was some abrogation of the six-month agreement?
MR. RHODES: Yes, we are confident in Congress’s ability to move quickly to pass a sanctions bill should the Iranians violate the terms of the agreement or should we not get an agreement at the end of the day. So therefore, I think we want to coordinate with them to move to sanctions at that point.
The other thing I’d say about that is we will have more leverage on the Iranians with the international community to move to sanctions if the Iranians violate the agreement or if they can’t get to yes at the end of six months. So at that point, not only could we work with Congress to get a new sanctions product passed, but we could do so in a way that’s coordinated with the international community, which would ultimately be more effective.
So tailoring that sanctions strategy around the negotiation both gives diplomacy a chance to succeed, or it could allow for a more effective application of sanctions.
And the last thing I’d say about this is, this is the venue for diplomacy. There’s not another alternative course of action at some point where we’re going to pursue a diplomatic resolution with the Iranians. This P5-plus-1 process is a negotiation. It’s more serious than it’s ever been, and we have to be I think serious about testing whether we can resolve this issue peacefully. And that’s what the sanctions have put us in a position to do, but at the same time we don’t want to do anything that would foreclose our opportunity to resolve this peacefully through diplomacy.
Q Ben, on that same conference, the President and John Kerry spoke about the security guarantees that Israel could expect under any final deal. The Palestinians today have said that the kind of things that are being talked about would be a dead end and could kill the process. How concerned are you that the stringent measures that Israel would expect would be impossible for the Palestinians to accept in any kind of meaningful state?
MR. RHODES: I think, first of all, we’ve always been very clear that any agreement is going to have to take into account Israel’s security concerns. And so that’s why General Allen worked in a very methodical way to lay out planning that could be associated with any agreement. I think as a general matter, ultimately an agreement is going to have to address the concerns of both sides, and both parties are going to have to agree amongst themselves. I think dealing with it comprehensively, however, if the Palestinians feel like they are having a legitimate state of their own with the type of territory and contiguity that they’re interested in, seeing security as part of that package is different than security independent of that package.
And so that’s why we want both parties to get to all the final status issues as part of a discussion of an agreement. But ultimately, there’s no agreement that is going to be successful and that is going to be reached unless Israel knows its security concerns are met, and that’s why we initiated the process with General Allen.
Q Jay, do you want to comment on the status of budget negotiations in Congress? Any thoughts about not repealing the sequester?
MR. CARNEY: Any thoughts on what?
Q Them not fully repealing the sequester, with what’s being leaked out over the weekend?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to get ahead of the negotiations or comment on reports about what that status is, except to say that it is certainly the President’s position that Republicans and Democrats ought to be able to come together through regular order to reach a budget agreement to make sure that we’re making the necessary investments to help our economy grow, that we’re dealing with some of the across-the-board cuts that have done harm to our economy and harm to the functioning of our government, and to avoid the kind of scenario that led to a shutdown of government in October and to the threat to default for the first time in history.
But we remain hopeful that these discussions, these negotiations will be productive and bear fruit.
Q Any thought of rescheduling the congressional and White House holiday balls, since the President won’t be there?
MR. CARNEY: No, my understanding is that in consultation with congressional leadership, the decision was for the congressional balls -- or congressional parties to go forward and as well as the other events, including some White House staff -- or at least one White House staff event without the President and First Lady. And so that’s going to happen.
10:27 A.M. EST
In a phone call today with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Vice President Biden expressed his deep concern about the situation in Ukraine and the growing potential for violence. The Vice President underscored the need to immediately de-escalate the situation and begin a dialogue with opposition leaders on developing a consensus way forward for Ukraine. He noted that violence has no place in a democratic society and is incompatible with our strategic relationship. The Vice President reaffirmed the strong support of the United States for Ukraine’s European aspirations and welcomed President Yanukovych’s commitment to maintaining this path. He underscored the close alignment of the United States and the European Union, and welcomed the upcoming visits of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and State Department Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland to Kyiv.
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:
Pursuant to section 233(e)(1) of the Social Security Act, as amended by the Social Security Amendments of 1977 (Public Law 95-216, 42 U.S.C. 433(e)(1)), I transmit herewith an Agreement on Social Security between the United States of America and the Swiss Confederation, signed at Bern on December 3, 2012, (the "U.S.-Swiss Agreement"). The Agreement consists of two instruments: a principal agreement and an administrative arrangement, and upon entry into force, will replace: the Agreement between the United States of America and the Swiss Confederation on Social Security with final protocol, signed July 18, 1979; the Administrative Agreement between the United States of America and the Swiss Confederation for the Implementation of the Agreement on Social Security of July 18, 1979, signed December 20, 1979; and the Supplementary Agreement between the two Contracting States, signed June 1, 1988.
The U.S.-Swiss Agreement is similar in objective to the social security agreements already in force with most of the European Union member states, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Norway, and the Republic of Korea. Such bilateral agreements provide for limited coordination between the United States and foreign social security systems to eliminate dual social security coverage and taxation and to help prevent the lost benefit protection that can occur when workers divide their careers between two countries. The principal updates encompassed in the Agreement include amendments to rules for entitlement to Swiss disability pensions paid to ensure equality of treatments between U.S. and Swiss nationals, updates to personal information confidentiality provisions, and modifications necessary to take into account changes in U.S. and Swiss laws since 1988.
The U.S.-Swiss Agreement contains all provisions mandated by section 233 of the Social Security Act and other provisions that I deem appropriate to carry out the purposes of section 233, pursuant to section 233(c)(4) of the Social Security Act.
I also transmit, for the information of the Congress, a report prepared by the Social Security Administration explaining the key points of the U.S.-Swiss Agreement, along with a paragraph-by-paragraph explanation of the provisions of the principal agreement and administrative arrangement. Annexed to this report is the report required by section 233(e)(1) of the Social Security Act on the number of individuals affected by the Agreement and the effect of the Agreement on the estimated income and expenditures of the U.S. Social Security program. The Department of State and the Social Security Administration have recommended the U.S.-Swiss Agreement and related documents to me.
I commend the U.S.-Swiss Agreement on Social Security and related documents.
5:20 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, good evening, everyone. On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. This is truly one of our favorite nights of the year, and not just because of everyone who visits the White House -- this group also usually wins “best dressed” award. (Laughter.) All of you look spectacular. I am a little disappointed that Carlos Santana wore one of his more conservative shirts this evening. (Laughter.) Back in the day, you could see those things from space. (Laughter.)
I want to start by thanking everyone who dedicates themselves to making the Kennedy Center such a wonderful place for the American people to experience the arts -- David Rubenstein, the Kennedy Center trustees, and of course, Michael Kaiser, who will conclude 13 years of tremendous service as the president of the Kennedy Center next year. (Applause.) So on behalf of Michelle and myself, we want to all thank Michael so much for the extraordinary work that he has done.
As always, this celebration wouldn’t be what it is without the enthusiasm of the co-chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, George Stevens. George. (Applause.) And his son, Michael. And together, for years they’ve put on this event to honor the artists whose brilliance has touched our lives.
President Kennedy once said of such creative genius that, “The highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.” Now, that’s easy to say when -- as they do for these artists -- the chips usually fall in your favor, whether at Woodstock or the Oscars or elite venues all over the world.
But the fact is that the diverse group of extraordinary individuals we honor today haven’t just proven themselves to be the best of the best. Despite all their success, all their fame, they’ve remained true to themselves -- and inspired the rest of us to do the same.
Growing up in Harlem, Martina Arroyo’s parents told her she could be and do anything. That was until she said that she wanted to be an opera singer. (Laughter.) Her father -- perhaps not fully appreciating the versatility required of an opera singer -- said he didn’t want his daughter to be like a can-can girl. (Laughter.) In her neighborhood back then, opera was not the obvious career path. And there weren’t a lot of opera singers who looked like her that she could look up to.
But Martina had a dream she couldn’t shake, so she auditioned relentlessly and jumped at any role she could get. Along the way, she earned money by teaching and working as a social worker in New York City. And when she got a call from the Metropolitan Opera asking her to fill in the lead for “Aida,” she was sure it was just a friend pulling her leg. It wasn’t until they called back that she realized the request was real, and she just about fell over in shock. But in that breakout role she won fans around the world, beloved for her tremendous voice and unparalleled grace.
Martina has sung the great roles: Mozart’s Donna Anna, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Verdi’s Lady Macbeth, and, of course, Aida. She’s played the world’s stages, from Cincinnati to Paris to Israel. She’s broken through barriers, broadening our notion of what magnificent artists look like and where they come from.
And along the way, she’s helped people of all ages, all over the world, discover the art form that she loves so deeply. For a lot of folks, it was Martina Arroyo who helped them see and hear and love the beauty and power of opera. And with her charitable foundation, she is nurturing the next generation of performers -- smart, talented, driven, and joyous, just like her. For moving us with the power of her voice and empowering others to share theirs too, we honor Martina Arroyo. (Applause.)
Herbie Hancock played his first concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when he was 11 years old. Two years later, he heard a classmate play jazz piano at a variety show and thought, “That’s my instrument, and he can do that? Why can’t I?” It turned out he could. (Laughter.)
By 23, Herbie was playing with Miles Davis in New York and on his way to becoming a jazz legend. And he didn’t stop there. In the seventies, he put his electrical engineering studies to work and helped create electronic music. In the eighties, his hit “Rockit” became an anthem for a fledging new genre called hip-hop. At one recent show, he played alongside an iMac and five iPads. (Laughter.) And a few years ago, he became the first jazz artist in 43 years to win a Grammy for best album.
But what makes Herbie so special isn’t just how he approaches music; it’s how he approaches life. He tours the world as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. He’s done so many benefit concerts that Joni Mitchell once gave him a watch inscribed with the words: “He played real good for free.” (Laughter.) And we know this because he’s played here for free a lot. (Laughter and applause.) We work Herbie, I’m telling you. (Laughter.)
But we just love the man. Michelle and I love this man, not just because he’s from Chicago. Not just because he and I had the same hairdo in the 1970s. (Laughter.) Not just because he’s got that spooky Dorian Gray doesn’t-get-older thing going on. (Laughter.) It is his spirit, it is his energy -- which is relentless and challenging, and he’s always pushing boundaries. Herbie once said of his outlook, “We’re going to see some unbelievable changes. And I would rather be on the side of pushing for that than waiting for somebody else to do it.”
Well, Herbie, we are glad that you didn’t wait for somebody else to do what you’ve done, because nobody else could. For always pushing us forward, we honor Herbie Hancock. (Applause.)
When a 22-year-old Carlos Santana took the stage at Woodstock, few people outside his hometown of San Francisco knew who he was. And the feeling was mutual. Carlos was in such a -- shall we say -- altered state of mind that he remembers almost nothing about the other performers. (Laughter and applause.) He thought the neck of his guitar was an electric snake. (Laughter.)
But that did not stop Carlos and his band from whipping the crowd into a such frenzy with a mind-blowing mix of blues, and jazz, and R&B, and Latin music. They’d never heard anything like it. And almost overnight, Carlos Santana became a star.
It was a pretty steep climb for a young man who grew up in Mexico, playing the violin for tourists, charging fifty cents a song. But as a teenager, Carlos fell in love with the guitar. He developed a distinctive sound that has drawn admirers from Bob Dylan to Herbie Hancock. And he gave voice to a Latino community that had too often been invisible to too many Americans. “You can cuss or you can pray with the guitar,” Carlos says. He found a way to do both. (Laughter.)
And today, with 10 Grammys under his belt, Carlos is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time. And he’s still attracting new fans. Back in 2000, his album “Supernatural” beat out Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys to get to the Number 1 on the charts. Kids were listening to Carlos who hadn’t even heard of Woodstock.
But despite all his success, Carlos says he still feels blessed to “be able to play a piece of wood with strings and touch people’s hearts.” So for blessing all of us with his music, we honor Carlos Santana. (Applause.)
Now, when you first become President, one of the questions that people ask you is, what’s really going on in Area 51? (Laughter.) When I wanted to know, I’d call Shirley MacLaine. (Laughter.) I think I just became the first President to ever publicly mention Area 51. How’s that, Shirley? (Laughter and applause.)
We love Shirley MacLaine. She’s unconventional, and that makes her incomparable -- with nearly 60 years of reign as one of the most celebrated stars in movie history to prove it. “There are some performers that are indelible,” said one fan about Shirley. “We fall early and we fall hard for them and we follow them for the rest of their lives.” Now, that fan just happens to be a legend in her own right, who we honored here two years ago -- Meryl Streep. But Meryl is not the only one who fell hard.
Shirley has been drawing fans, including me, since -- well, not since she first lit up the big screen -- because in 1955 she was in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Trouble with Harry,” but she’s still spitting fire with the same old spunk, most recently playing the American grandma in “Downton Abbey,” which Michelle I think got some early previews for. (Laughter.) Along the way, Shirley has racked up just about every Hollywood award that is out there. That’s why her nickname, “Powerhouse,” is so fitting. The truth is Shirley earned that nickname for hitting the most home runs on the boys’ baseball team when she was a kid. But I’d say that it still works pretty well to describe her today.
And that’s because Shirley MacLaine’s career isn’t defined by a list of film roles and musical performances. Through raucous comedies, and stirring dramas, and spirited musicals, Shirley has been fearless and she’s been honest, and she’s tackled complicated characters, and she’s revealed a grittier, deeper truth in each one of those characters -- giving every audience the experience of cinema at its best. It’s a motto she has lived by: “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where all the fruit is.” For her risk-taking, for her theatrical brilliance, for her limitless capacity for wonder, we honor this American powerhouse -- Shirley MacLaine. (Applause.)
And finally, in a world full of brilliant musicians, there’s only one Piano Man. The son of a Jewish father who left Germany for America to escape the Nazis, Billy Joel started piano lessons as a boy growing up on Long Island. His father was a classical pianist, so that was Billy’s training too -- until the night he and millions of Americans watched The Beatles play the Ed Sullivan Show. Most people thought, “I want to hear more music like that.” But Billy thought, “I want to make my own music like that.” And from then on, it was all rock and roll to him.
With lyrics that speak of love and class and failure and success, angry young men and the joy of becoming a father, he’s become one of the most successful musicians in history, selling more than 150 million records.
Above all, Billy Joel sings about America: About the workers living in Allentown after the factories closed down. About soldiers home from the war, forever changed, bidding “Goodnight Saigon.” Commercial fishermen struggling to make a living in the waters off of Long Island, sailing the Downeaster Alexa. The sights and sounds of that city like no other, which can put anyone in a “New York State of Mind.” And of course, the rag-tag bunch of regulars at the bar where he started out, shouting at him again and again to “sing us a song.”
Billy Joel probably would have been a songwriter no matter where he was born. But we are certainly lucky that he ended up here. And the hardworking folks he’s met and the music that he’s heard across our nation come through in every note and every lyric that he’s written. For an artist whose songs are sung around the world, but which are thoroughly, wonderfully American, we honor Billy Joel. (Applause.)
So, Martina Arroyo, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Shirley MacLaine, Billy Joel -- each of our brilliant honorees has given us something unique and enriched us beyond measure, as individuals and as a nation. Together they bring us closer to President Kennedy’s vision of the arts as a great humanizing and truth-telling experience.
Their triumphs have lifted our spirits and lifted our nation and left us a better and richer place. And for that we will always be grateful. So we thank you all.
God bless you, and please join me in saluting one more time our remarkable 2013 Kennedy Center Honorees. (Applause.)
5:36 P.M. EST
I am pleased to welcome the announcement from Bali, Indonesia, of the first fully multilateral trade agreement in the 20-year history of the World Trade Organization.
This new deal, and particularly the new trade facilitation agreement, will eliminate red tape and bureaucratic delay for goods shipped around the globe. Small businesses will be among the biggest winners, since they encounter the greatest difficulties in navigating the current system. By some estimates, the global economic value of the new WTO deal could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
The WTO’s Bali agreement also represents the rejuvenation of the multilateral trading system that supports millions of American jobs and offers a forum for the robust enforcement of America’s trade rights. As such, we are proud of the United States’ leadership role in reaching this accord and congratulate WTO Director-General Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo and our fellow WTO members on this achievement.