UPDATE: For the past two days, thousands of workers have been gathering at the State Capitol in Madison, WI, to defend their rights in the workplace. From nurses to police officers, public sector workers and OFA volunteers have been protesting against proposed legislation to take away workers' rights to bargain collectively. With a vote on the legislation expected as early as today, volunteers are already gathering at the Capitol this morning. It's going to be a big day in Madison and you can follow updates throughout the day on the OFA Wisconsin Twitter feed.
Organizing for America is mobilizing on the ground in Wisconsin to defend the rights of public employees from an attempt by the governor to take away their right to organize.
Jessie Lidbury, regional field organizer, explains why this is so important:
We’ve got a fight on our hands and it’s personal. Over the past few days serious developments have surfaced of Governor Scott Walker presenting a “Budget Repair Bill” that will essentially gut collective bargaining for public employees here in our own backyard of Wisconsin.
Over the next couple days nurses, teachers, snowplow drivers, prison guards, and public servants will be standing together to let Governor Walker, know what is at stake: livelihoods, heath care, our children's education, and the rights of all workers.
With a vote scheduled to happen by Thursday, February 17th, just six days after this bill was introduced, we are asking our legislators and our governor to think before they act—to listen to how we will hurt.
Here are the facts, Wisconsin's public employees have gone without pay raises while taking unpaid furlough days. By making cuts with this “Budget Repair Bill”, the negotiating rights of nursing aids, teachers, correctional offices, and others will be taken away.
State employees already agreed to more than $100 million in concessions in a contract settlement that the governor scuttled before even taking office.
If this bill passes, most public employees, working for state and local governments as well as school districts, would no longer have the right to bargain collectively with their employer over any issue except pay, and even that would be capped. They would no longer be legally allowed to bargain collectively on issues such as the quality of their working environment or the funding teachers and other state employees need to do their jobs.
Our job as organizers is to take action, and what better way than to help out our friends in the labor community. The vote could happen as soon as tomorrow so we need to act now.
If you, your friends or family are in Wisconsin, find out how to get involved now.
Earlier this week, President Obama released his budget for 2012. It outlines his strategy to win the future by preparing our country to meet the challenges of tomorrow, while also trimming wasteful spending and cutting the deficit. But the budget can be complex and easily distorted by people interested in scoring cheap political points. With your help, that won’t happen.
OFA volunteers are helping to take up the President’s mantle and make the case for these priorities in communities across the country. But OFA needs your input to help inform that organizing.
Learn about the President’s priorities and weigh in on which is most important to you.
Your feedback is important. In many ways, each of us is not just an ambassador of the President’s message. We’re also OFA’s eyes and ears on the ground.
In President Obama’s State of the Union address, he promised that the United States would out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. He said:
None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do -- what America does better than anyone else -- is spark the creativity and imagination of our people.
The budget the President proposed this week takes another step forward in fulfilling that pledge – in part by bolstering innovation.
Today, we are competing with scientists and engineers around the world to create and manufacture clean, renewable energy technologies, discover the latest in biomedical research, implement cutting edge business models, and prepare our next generation to meet the challenges of the future. President Obama’s proposal strengthens America’s capacity to innovate and imagine the new industries of tomorrow.
Here are the highlights from President’s plan to encourage innovation.
Invest in Research and Development and Create Transformational Technologies. For years, the United States has led the world in research and development (R&D) spending and our ability to turn those findings into practical uses. The 2012 budget provides R&D investments to create “transformational technologies” that will power the businesses and industries of the future -- which means prioritizing clean energy technologies, advanced manufacturing technologies, and cyber security.
Bring the Best Minds Together to Advance Critical Energy Research. The 2012 budget develops programs that will recruit scientists, thinkers, and engineers from different disciplines to work together on the pressing issues of the day. The budget doubles the number of Energy Innovation Hubs to create a forum for collaboration related to critical materials, including rare earth elements; batteries and energy storage; and the development of new grid materials and systems to help SmartGrid technology and improve energy transmission efficiency.
Simplify, Expand, and Make Permanent the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit. A Research and Experimentation (R&E) tax credit offers incentives for private firms to make crucial investments that increase our pipeline to innovation.
Improve the Patent System and Protect Intellectual Property. The President’s planstrengthens the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s efforts to expedite and improve the quality of patent examinations – so that new technology and innovations can go to market.
Help Innovative Small Businesses Obtain Financing. The Small Business Administration will create a new program, the Innovation Fund, to help fill the capital gap between "angel investor" financing and later-stage financing. In each of the next five years, as much as $200 million will be available to investors interested in supporting businesses poised to grow their operations and create jobs.
Enhance Regional Economic Competitiveness. Competitive regional economies often become national engines of growth, but can benefit from best practices learned by other successful businesses. Through the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration and other federal agencies, the Administration will support efforts to foster collaboration for regional development, regional business strategies, and investments under the America COMPETES Act that promote innovation, regional competitiveness, and employment growth. The Obama administration also is investing in a Growth Zone to augment economic restoration in hard-hit areas of our country, delivering tax incentives for investment and hiring and greater access to government assistance.
Support Biomedical Research at the National Institutes of Health.The President’s budget boosts support for basic and applied biomedical research through the National Institutes of Health, and helps to forge new collaborations among government, academia, and industry -- which will help to develop cures and treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism spectrum disorders.
Expand Next-Generation, Wireless Broadband throughout the Country. This strategy expands access to advances wireless technology to expand business operations and economic growth by freeing underutilized spectrum through the Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative. This initiative will build a wireless broadband network for public safety, expand high-speed, wireless broadband to rural America, and establish a Wireless Innovation Fund to accelerate the research and development of cutting-edge wireless technologies.
Prepare 100,000 STEM Teachers over the Next Decade. To be competitive in the 21st Century, American students must master science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The President’s plan is an ambitious effort to prepare 100,000 teachers in these subject areas during the next 10 years, recruit 10,000 of these teachers over the next two years, and launches Education Department initiatives innovate, develop, implement, and test new teacher-training programs.
You can click here to learn more about the President’s priorities.
The publication of President Obama’s budget yesterday is only the start of the process for securing congressional approval and funding for important programs.
The President’s budget sets out how the government should spend its resources and how much revenue it collects, with the difference between the two marking the deficit or surplus.
Through the budget the President sets out his priorities for the coming year in all areas of government spending, e.g. defense, health, education, and agriculture. It includes recommendations for specific programs. For instance, rather than setting out a specific dollar amount for education spending, yesterday’s budget included a number of funding proposals for individual programs, from child care to teachers’ leadership programs.
These types of funding requests are known as discretionary spending, which President Obama's budget reduces to the lowest level since President Eisenhower.
After the President publishes his proposed budget it goes to Congress for consideration. The Budget Committees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate will hold hearings and hear testimony from administration officials. Following these hearings the committees will develop budget resolutions, that recommend spending for 19 broad categories, rather than specific programs, which are each sent to the full House and Senate for a vote.
Because the budget resolutions have been developed by two separate committees the House and the Senate will come together to resolve any differences between the two. The budget resolution that comes out of this process is binding, and it is one of the few pieces of legislation that cannot be filibustered in the Senate.
After the broad budget resolution is passed by both houses of Congress responsibility for allocating funding to specific programs falls to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and sub-committees. They too hold hearings, receive testimony, and develop resolutions—this time to fund specific programs. This spending is dependent on Congress passing further legislation, known as appropriations bills.
There’s no certainty that the specific funding the President recommended at the start of the process will be the funding that committees allocate at the end of the process. Sometimes, as happened last year, Congress does not pass a budget resolution at all. When that happens the previous years’ budget stays in effect, through a series of measures known as a continuing resolutions. This is a temporary renewal of the previous year’s budget, until agreement on the new budget can be reached.
President Obama and Democrats in Congress will be working hard to make sure that this year’s budget is passed. You can find out more about the 2012 budget here.
Education is at the heart of the budget the President announced today. Following his commitment at the State of the Union to ensure America “out-educates” the rest of the world, the budget President Obama unveiled today lays the foundation for reforming education in our country and works to ensure that every child graduates high school.
A child’s opportunities can be determined by factors early in their life, well before they start school. To this end the budget includes $8 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start programs, maintaining the investment made through the Recovery Act, alongside funds to support child-care subsidies and improve the quality of child care available.
Reforming our schools is about more than just increasing funding, it’s about investing in programs that have been proven to work. In the President’s proposal, states will be encouraged to adopt higher educational standards and will be rewarded for helping all students graduate from high school and be ready for the world of work. Existing programs that are delivering results will benefit:
- $300 million for Investing in Innovation, a program that builds on best practices in student learning;
- $372 million for innovative and autonomous public schools, like charter schools, that achieve results;
- $300 million for College and Career Ready Students, which rewards schools that show the most progress in improving the achievement of at risk-students.
For many children, what happens outside the classroom can be just as important as what happens in it. The $150 million for Promise Neighborhoods would support children in lower-income communities from before they are born to when the leave for college. It combines effective academic programs with strong health and social services to combat the effects of poverty and improve education and access to opportunities.
Delivering a high-quality education to all our students is a key to winning the future. With today’s budget announcement, President Obama has set out the building blocks for making sure that all students graduate high school.
At a middle school in Baltimore this morning, President Obama spoke about his 2012 budget he proposed today. Stressing the importance of fiscal responsibility, the President pledged to reduce discretionary domestic spending to its lowest level since President Eisenhower, while maintaining investment in the areas that will have the biggest impact on our future—innovation, education, and infrastructure.I’m also convinced that the only way we can make these investments in our future is if our government starts living within its means, if we start taking responsibility for our deficits. That’s why, when I was sworn in as President, I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term. The budget I’m proposing today meets that pledge—and puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade. We do this in part by eliminating waste and cutting whatever spending we can do without.
The President also set out where some of these savings would be found:Now, some of the savings will come through less waste and more efficiency. To take just one example, by getting rid of 14,000 office buildings, lots and government-owned properties we no longer need, we can save taxpayers billions of dollars. And when it comes to programs we do need, we’re making them work better by demanding accountability. Instead of spending first, and asking questions later, we’re rewarding folks inside and outside government who deliver results. And to make sure that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, I’ve pledged to veto any bill that contains earmarks.
The savings needed can’t come through minimizing waste and increasing efficiency alone. The President acknowledged that some of the programs he cares most about, such as community action programs in low-income neighborhoods, will have to be cut. He also highlighted other areas of spending where savings could be found, supported by the conclusions of the bipartisan fiscal commission:We’ve begun to [cut excessive spending] with $78 billion in cuts in the Defense Department’s budget plan, by ending tax breaks for oil and gas companies, and through billions of dollars in savings from wasteful health spending—savings we’ll use to make sure doctors don’t see their reimbursements slashed and that they stay in the system seeing patients.
The President called on Democrats and Republicans to work together to find long-term solutions to reducing the deficit and pledged to make sure that in reducing our deficit we don’t “sacrifice our future:”
Education is an investment that we need to win the future—just like innovation is an investment that we need to win the future; just like infrastructure is an investment that we need to win the future. And to make sure that we can afford these investments, we’re going to have to get serious about cutting back on those things that would be nice to have but we can do without.
That’s what families across the country do every day—they live within their means and they invest in their family’s futures. And it’s time we did the same thing as a country. That’s how we’re going to get our fiscal house in order. That’s how we’ll grow our economy and attract new jobs to our shores. And that’s how America will win the future in the 21st century.
Today, President Obama submitted to Congress his 2012 budget, a plan to help America out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. This plan responsibly trims wasteful government spending while still fueling the incubators of growth: education, innovation, clean energy, and infrastructure. It’s a strategy to create jobs right now, grow the economy for the long run, and ensure government works for all Americans.
A budget is more than just a list of numbers – it represents the President’s priorities for the future. President Obama’s budget is a responsible approach that makes tough choices on things we simply can’t afford, just like so many American families do every day.
Here are highlights from President Obama’s plan to win the future.
Education: The President is committed to improving America’s schools and providing the opportunity of higher education to any student who wants it. His plan:
- Continues the maximum Pell Grant award that will help 9 million students afford college.
- Reforms funding for K-12 schools by raising standards, encouraging innovative teaching techniques, and rewarding success.
- Draws on the Race to the Top concept, encouraging competition for success in early-childhood education, school districts, university funding, and education-job training.
- Trains 100,000 new science, technology, engineering, and math teachers.
Innovation: President Obama aims to strengthen the heartbeat of American industry. The plan:
- Invests $146 billion in research and development and biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health – and more than doubles energy efficiency research and development.
- Works to put one million electric cars on the road by 2015, double the current share of clean-energy electricity by 2035, and reduce the costs of powering buildings.
- Eliminates 12 tax breaks to oil, gas, and coal companies.
- Simplifies, expands, and makes permanent the research and development tax credit.
- Creates 20 new Economic Growth Zones, which provide tax incentives to economically depressed areas to help jump-start investment and employment.
Infrastructure: President Obama’s budget details his commitment to helping rebuild America – to improving roads, bridges, trains, buildings, high-speech Internet access, and the other cornerstones of economic growth. His plan:
- Creates jobs in the short term with a $50 billion investment to establish a National Infrastructure Bank, supporting important building projects and bringing high-speed rail to 80 percent of Americans within 25 years.
- Builds a wireless broadband network to bring high-speed Internet to 98 percent of Americans, and establishes a network for public safety.
Fiscal responsibility: Having inherited a massive budget deficit, President Obama is dedicated to ensuring government lives within its means. The President’s budget:
- Freezes non-security discretionary spending for five years to reduce the deficit by over $400 billion and bring spending to its lowest level since President Eisenhower.
- Cuts government infrastructure programs with an uncertain record of success and those programs the government simply can no longer afford.
- Reduces Pentagon spending over the next five years, bringing defense spending down to zero real growth – including spending related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Patches the Alternative Minimum Tax for three years so that middle-class families aren’t hit with a crippling tax increase.
- Works with Congress to simplify the tax system, eliminate special-interest loopholes, level the playing field, and reduce corporate taxes for the first time in 25 years – all without adding to the deficit.
Government reform: It’s critical to make sure that all Americans are well served, and that their tax dollars are never wasted. That’s why President Obama’s budget:
- Cuts nearly $2 billion in administrative overhead costs such as printing, travel, and supplies.
- Uses the Race to the Top model and creates competitive grant programs in early childhood education and college, transportation, workforce training, and energy efficiency.
Click here to learn more.
President Obama discusses the upcoming release of his budget, explaining that it will help the government live within its means while making the necessary investments to help Americans win the future.
Following news reports that Hosni Mubarak resigned as the Egyptian president, President Obama delivered the following remarks:
There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place. This is one of those moments. This is one of those times. The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.
By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change. But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition. It’s a beginning. I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks. For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.
The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state, and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people. That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free. Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table. For the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.
The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary -- and asked for -- to pursue a credible transition to a democracy. I’m also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity -- jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight. And I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.
Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years. But over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights.
We saw mothers and fathers carrying their children on their shoulders to show them what true freedom might look like.
We saw a young Egyptian say, “For the first time in my life, I really count. My voice is heard. Even though I’m only one person, this is the way real democracy works.”
We saw protesters chant “Selmiyya, selmiyya” -- “We are peaceful” -- again and again.
We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect.
And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for those who were wounded, volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed.
We saw people of faith praying together and chanting – “Muslims, Christians, We are one.” And though we know that the strains between faiths still divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes remind us that we need not be defined by our differences. We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.
And above all, we saw a new generation emerge -- a generation that uses their own creativity and talent and technology to call for a government that represented their hopes and not their fears; a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations. One Egyptian put it simply: Most people have discovered in the last few days…that they are worth something, and this cannot be taken away from them anymore, ever.
This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence -- not terrorism, not mindless killing -- but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.
And while the sights and sounds that we heard were entirely Egyptian, we can’t help but hear the echoes of history -- echoes from Germans tearing down a wall, Indonesian students taking to the streets, Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice.
As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.” Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note.
Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in.
The word Tahrir means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people -- of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world.
Ellen, an OFA Community Organizer from Pewaukee, Milwaukee, WI, received an invitation to a very special Super Bowl party last Sunday at the White House. Ellen started volunteering on the 2008 campaign, and now mentors several community organizers in Milwaukee, who each coordiante their own volunteer teams. A strong supporter of President Obama, she is committed to organizing as a way to unite a neighborhood, a city, a state, and our country.
I was one of a lucky few to receive an email from President and Mrs. Obama, inviting me and a guest to the White House for a Super Bowl party.
I struggled with the question of what to wear. In the end, though, there was only one choice—coming from Wisconsin, it had to be my Packers jersey.
After arriving at the White House on Super Bowl Sunday, my husband Pat and I went through the receiving line and were greeted by President and Mrs. Obama. It was such a thrill.
But that was just the beginning. Besides eating wonderful, tasty food and keeping an eye on the score of the football game, the President greeted everyone at each table.
It was an excellent opportunity for me to meet elected officials and others that have the President and First Lady’s ears. I spoke with several mayors from our state, heard their concerns and their priorities for the coming weeks, and talked about how local OFA teams and volunteers can support them.
I also proudly introduced myself to other guests as a volunteer community organizer with Organizing for America, putting in 30 to 40 hours a week with my volunteer teams. In keeping with the spirit of our organization, I made sure to share my passion and my story for why I continue to stay involved and volunteer.
As for the rest of the trip, the Super Bowl win by the Packers was icing on the cake.
The visit to the White House was a priceless moment in my life that I will never forget.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama committed to help rebuild America – to renew the physical and operational structure that allows our country to function. To reach this goal, the President aims to improve roads, bridges, trains, buildings, high-speech Internet access, and crucial types of infrastructure that enable growth. These investments will create jobs in the short term and prime our country for future growth in the long run.
Throughout history, America’s infrastructure has always been our foundation of growth. As we connected the country through a transcontinental railroad, new cities and communities emerged – and with them, businesses sprouted with the cheap and efficient transport of goods and services. FDR’s Rural Electrification Administration gave power to millions across the country, ushering in a new standard of living. The Internet launched an economic revolution and gave the power of information to anyone with access – and the sky-high potential it affords.
The promise of similar transformation still rings true today.
Earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood traveled to Philadelphia to announce a plan to connect 80 percent of households with high-speed rail over the next 25 years. To meet that goal, the administration dedicated $53 billion over six years to building a high-speech and intercity passenger rail network across the country.
A long time Amtrak rider and rail advocate, Vice President Biden said:
I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality, skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced. This plan will help us to do that, while also increasing access to convenient high speed rail for more Americans.
The modernization of freight railroads and subway systems create construction jobs for local workers and open industry gateways between cities and towns throughout America. These improvements in freight allow ranchers and farmers to ship livestock and produce to new markets. Upgrades to the subway system like the one in New York City mean faster commutes to work and improved productivity and quality of life. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner writes:
More subway capacity means less congested streets, less time spent stuck in traffic, faster deliveries of goods to city stores, and less smog in the air. However, the decision to increase capacity in New York also means that the far-away Kawasaki plant in Lincoln, Nebraska that manufactures the subway cars will increase production, putting Nebraskans to work.
And yesterday in Marquette, Michigan, President Obama announced a National Wireless Initiative to extend high-speed Internet access to 98 percent of Americans over the next five years. This commitment will give businesses and entrepreneurs access to cutting edge information by making better use of government broadband spectrum, investing in more research and development in wireless technologies and applications, and working with private-companies to meet these goals. Plus, it will devote nearly $10 billion of spectrum revenue to reducing the budget deficit.
As President Obama said:
[W]e have always believed that we have a responsibility to guarantee all our people every tool necessary for them to meet their full potential. And in a 21st century economy, that has never been more important. Every American deserves access to the world’s information. Every American deserves access to the global economy. We have promised this for fifteen years. It is time we delivered on that promise.
President Obama’s commitment to infrastructure investment is part of his vision to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” These initiatives will help to fulfill the promise of that vision.
The success of small businesses is the key to our economic recovery. In the coming days, Organizing for America volunteers around the country will be heading to Main Street, to get the word out about new tax credits and benefits that can help small businesses thrive.
Volunteers will be talking to business owners and managers in their communities about the measures that President Obama and Democrats in Congress have put in place to help their businesses grow—such as the Startup America program, new loan opportunities, and the Affordable Care Act.
These are the measures that will give small business the tools they need to continue growing the economy and creating new jobs. OFA volunteers are going to be doing everything they can to encourage business owners to take up these tools and bring jobs and opportunities back to their communities.
You can find out more about talking to small businesses where you live here.
As we celebrate February as National African American History Month, staffers at Organizing for America have been sharing stories of African Americans who have had an influence on their lives and guided them to careers in grassroots organizing.
Steve Walker, OFA's southern regional director, told the life story of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Despite his major contributions to the civil rights movement for both African Americans and LGBT Americans, Rustin isn't a household name. As an openly gay African American man, his life's work inspired Walker, who writes:
"Rustin lived as a proud, openly gay African American in a time where neither was deemed acceptable. A natural and dedicated community organizer, Bayard Rustin championed many causes, including school integration and unions. In the early 1980s, he also spoke out in support of people living with AIDS.
"After traveling through India, Rustin advised Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the core principles and tactics of nonviolent resistance—like those practiced by Mahatma Gandhi. The 1963 March on Washington was Rustin's doing—he planned the march, guided the organization, selected and advised speakers—but he did all this work from behind the scenes with very little recognition.
"I am not alone in being inspired by the actions of Bayard Rustin. I owe much of my ability to work, live, and love as an openly gay African American man to his groundbreaking presence. It's an honor and privilege to work for the same Democratic Party that Rustin supported some 50 years ago."
Shauntá Floyd, OFA's regional operations director, found inspiration in Shirley Chisholm, a political powerhouse who fought for racial and economic inequalities and on behalf of women's rights in the House of Representatives and on the presidential campaign trail.
"Shirley Chisholm stood at the forefront and gave African American women a voice in the political arena. Her fight for the low-income community of Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York ignited her passion and fueled her career.
"Chisholm was the first black woman and second woman ever to serve as a member of the U.S House of Representatives Rules Committee. Chisholm also was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 and the Congressional Women's Caucus in 1977. Additionally, in 1972 Chisholm became the first African American to run for president of the United States.
"When she launched her presidential campaign, Chisholm said: ‘I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States. I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women's movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or special interests. I am the candidate of the people.’
"Chisholm's legacy taught me that there are no limits for me as an African American woman in this day and age. I can be the change I seek and leave a path for other generations of Americans to follow."
You can read more stories of Organizing for America's African American heroes here..
Throughout the country, Organizing for America supporters have been coming together to share their stories of how the Affordable Care Act is helping them, their friends, and families.
Mark Dodson, from OFA Washington, spoke to Don, a small business owner in Vancouver, WA, who said health reform is “the best thing government has done for me in 30 years.”
Matthew Elias, OFA Illinos new media director, heard from Carla whose whole family has benefited from reform—he cost of her mom’s prescription medication has fallen, her daughter can now stay on Carla’s insurance until she is 26, and Carla is free from worry that she will be denied coverage because of her pre-existing condition.
Ron, an OFA supporter and small business owner in Nevada, explained how the Affordable Care Act has helped him:
“I own and operate a small garage door installation company with five employees. As a business owner, I’ve always done the right thing: providing my employees with health insurance. The cost of the insurance is crushing my business.
“I support our efforts to reform our health insurance system with the Affordable Care Act. The status quo is not fair to small businesses. We all know that small businesses are the heart of the American economy. The truth is that small businesses are dying a slow death thanks to the exorbitant cost of health insurance. That’s why we need the Affordable Care Act to save the economic engine that drives growth and innovation in our country.”
Kris, from Las Cruces, NM, talked to Tia Upchurch-Freelove, OFA New Mexico regional field director, about why she supports health reform:“My husband and I are looking forward to participating in the health care exchanges to find new, more affordable care and get out from underneath the $14,000 we are paying each year for our current coverage. We can't bear to have the Affordable Care Act repealed.”
These are just a few of the millions of Americans who are already benefiting from health reform. Share your story of how health reform helps you, and spread the word that health reform is working.
It’s been just two weeks since the President delivered his State of the Union address, setting out his vision for winning the future by out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world.
Since then, the President has announced a range of initiatives to help deliver on the commitments he made—such as Startup America, which will support entrepreneurs to make their dreams a reality, and the continuation of Race To The Top, which will help deliver high quality education in all our schools.
President Obama has also been traveling the country, meeting and talking to hardworking Americans who are setting a great example of how to win the future.
In Manitowoc, Wisconsin, President Obama visited Orion Energy Systems, a solar power company. He talked about the clean-energy companies, like Orion, that have been setting up shop locally, providing jobs for those who became unemployed when traditional manufacturing jobs moved overseas, and leading the way with new, clean-energy technologiesI think it’s important…that America, that our government has to invest in innovation. It’s important to remember that this plant, this company has also been supported over the years not just by the Department of Agriculture and the Small Business Administration, but by tax credits and awards we created to give a leg up to renewable energy companies.
Visiting Penn State University, the President set out how the administration will continue to support innovation in clean energy:So we’re telling scientists and we’re telling engineers all across the country that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on tackling the biggest obstacles to clean, abundant, and affordable energy, then we’re going to get behind their work. We as a country will invest in them. We’ll get them all in one place and we’ll support their research. And we call these places, energy innovation hubs.
The President also took the opportunity to announce the launch of the Better Buildings Initiative, to be funded by cutting subsidies to oil companies.[I]t’s a plan to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of America’s businesses over the next decade. …[B]y reaching this goal, we could save America’s businesses nearly $40 billion a year in their utility bills. Think about that—$40 billion. That's money that could be spent growing those businesses and hiring new workers
At the Chamber of Commerce, the President called on the public and private sectors to work together to make sure that all this investment in American innovation leads to American jobs.And if we as a nation are going to invest in innovation, that innovation should lead to new jobs and manufacturing on our shores. The end result of tax breaks and investments can’t simply be that new breakthroughs and technologies are discovered here in America, but then the manufacturing takes place overseas. That, too, breaks the social compact. It makes people feel as if the game is fixed and they’re not benefiting from the extraordinary discoveries that take place here."
Visiting Philadelphia yesterday, Vice President Biden announced a key investment in high-speed rail.The $8 billion investment in high-speed rail the President is proposing just for next year will help revitalize the domestic rail industry, as well as foster innovation and job creation by connecting major population centers. Strong “Buy American” requirements will create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs in construction, manufacturing, and rail operations.
These initiatives—Startup America, Race To The Top, the Better Building Initiative, energy innovation hubs, high-speed rail, and many more that will be announced in the weeks and months ahead—are key to America out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building the rest of the world. It’s through these that President Obama will deliver on the commitments he made in his State of the Union address, helping America to win the future.
Do you have a great idea you want to share with the President? Is there an initiative making a difference in your community that could help other folks around the country?
Now you have the chance to share these great ideas with President Obama and his staff. Starting this week, senior advisors from the White House will be asking for your thoughts and feedback on the big issues of the day.
David Plouffe kicks off the series in the video above, asking for your ideas on innovation and how the government can help deliver another great century of American innovation.
What's your idea? Submit it here.
One of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act allows young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance until they are 26, covering the time between finishing their education and finding their first job with benefits.
Chris Licata, new media director for OFA-NY, has collected the stories of young people and their parents who, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, now have health insurance.
Maureen, Yorktown Heights, New York:
I am so grateful for this legislation. I have one child who is 23, and one at 20. The COBRA payment would have sent me into foreclosure.
My 23 year old just graduated college and has a pre-existing pancreatic condition. So I am helped in two ways. She has health insurance now and is not discriminated against for a pre-existing condition. COBRA would have cost $680 per month.
My other child is disabled and is not able to work. He is 20 and would have no health insurance and is getting a lot of medical intervention right now. If I had to purchase insurance for these two kids I would lose my house. Not kidding.
D.J., Syracuse, New York:
I am the mother of three. In 2007 my two sons became ineligible for our family health insurance. One turned 21. He'd dropped out of college and was working two part-time jobs offering no health insurance. The other, in college and working part time, had no health insurance available to him once he turned 23. Over two years I paid more than $21,000 to cover the exorbitant cost of COBRA insurance fees for my sons.
This take-home pay could have been used to purchase a new-used car instead; because the system favored not middle class families but powerful insurancecompanies, insurance companies gobbled up the money.
Now, because of health care reform, my boys can be covered, once again, on our family policy. I get to keep more of my take-home pay, and I get to choose how I spend it, instead of having a big insurance company decide for me.
I don't get politicians who say they are in favor of a complete repeal of the health insurance reform bill. The fact of the matter is: health care reform lowered the cost of insurance and helped my family financially.
In New York State alone, 1,590,000 young adults aged 22 to 26 are now able to stay on their parents' health insurance plan.
Last week, Democrats in the Senate defeated a Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, protecting the benefits that millions of Americans, like D.J. And Maureen, are already experiencing.
Around the country, Organizing for America supporters are writing to their local papers to share their stories of health reform, making sure that everyone knows how important the Affordable Care Act is. You can send a letter to your local paper, telling your story of health reform, here.
Earlier today, President Obama addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – an organization that has frequently opposed the President’s policies – and spoke of forging a partnership between the public sector and business community. The President drew on our nation’s perseverance, competitiveness, and history of innovation, and spoke about the need to capitalize on those principles once again.
As part of his effort to achieve that partnership, President Obama has committed to making government more efficient and eliminating barriers that stand in the way of success. His administration is helping to invest in research and development, reform the U.S. patent system to expedite new innovations, and improve national infrastructure – such as roads, bridges, and even broadband Internet – to ensure American businesses can transport goods and information quickly and reliably.
But the President underscored that success bears mutual responsibility:
[W]inning the future is not just about what the government can do to help you succeed. It’s about what you can do to help America succeed.
And the business community will play an instrumental role in driving that economic resurgence, hiring new workers, pioneering new industries, and providing feedback to allow government to help boost the chance of success:
And if there is a reason you don’t share my confidence, if there is a reason you don’t believe that this is the time to get off the sidelines – to hire and invest – I want to know about it. I want to fix it. That’s why I’ve asked Jeff Immelt of GE to lead a new council of business leaders and outside experts so that we’re getting the best advice on what you’re facing out there – and we’ll be holding our first meeting two weeks from now, on the 24th. Together, I am confident that we can win the competition for new jobs and industries. And I know you share my enthusiasm; I know you love this country and want America to succeed just as badly as I do.
President Obama aimed to show he was realistic about this venture, but that moving forward with a shared sense of purpose is crucial for American businesses and workers:
Yes, we’ll have disagreements; yes we will see things differently at times. But we are all Americans. And that spirit of patriotism, that sense of mutual regard and common obligation has carried us through times far harder than these.
David Parker, chair of the North Carolina state party, is looking forward to welcoming supporters from all over the country to Charlotte in 2012 for the Democratic National Convention.
North Carolina is a great place to be and Charlotte is a young, vibrant city in a state that is absolutely critical to President Obama winning the White House in 2012.
There were four excellent cities that could have hosted the convention, any one of the four would have been great locations and I’m delighted that Charlotte was picked.
The work that the local volunteers did in 2008 to turn Mecklenburg County blue was tremendous. There’s a good working relationship between local Democratic Party officials and Organizing for America, and I look forward to that becoming only stronger in the months ahead.
There’s a real good feeling in Charlotte. We have a strong, diverse population, made up of good people doing good things. We have a fantastic mayor in Anthony Foxx. He’s young, only 38, and the first Democratic mayor in Charlotte since the 1980s. The city is thriving under his leadership.
We’ve weathered the financial crisis of the past few years, and now have a vibrant business community, one that is investing and innovating. It feels like the embodiment of what the President meant when he talked about winning the future in the State of the Union.
Right in the heart of downtown Charlotte, the Time Warner Cable Arena couldn’t be a better location. It seats upward of 20,000 people, yet the space feels much more intimate than that. For all those who come to the Convention, and I hope that many of you will, it is going to be a great experience.
Share your ideas for how everyone can be involved in the convention, no matter where they live here.
Weekly Address: “If Business and Government Fulfill Their Responsibilities, America Will Win the Future”
This week, the President talks about the role that innovation and new technologies—particularly those that help our homes and businesses to become more energy efficient—can have in creating more jobs and opportunities right here in America. He sets out the steps that the government is already taking to support business and job growth and calls on industry to play their part in ensuring America can win the future.Supporting businesses with this kind of 21st century infrastructure and cutting-edge innovation is our responsibility. But businesses have a responsibility, too. If we make America the best place to do business, businesses should make their mark in America. They should set up shop here, and hire our workers, and pay decent wages, and invest in the future of this nation. That’s their obligation. And that’s the message I’ll be bringing to American business leaders at the Chamber of Commerce on Monday – that government and businesses have mutual responsibilities; and that if we fulfill these obligations together, it benefits us all. Our workers will succeed. Our nation will prosper. And America will win the future in this century just like we did in the last.