President Obama Pays a Surprise Visit to Troops in Afghanistan

The President: Hello, Bagram! (Applause.) Well, I know it’s
a little late, but I was in the neighborhood
and thought I’d stop by. (Applause.) First of all, I want everybody
to give a huge round of applause to your commander,
General Joe Dunford. Please give him an outstanding,
rousing acknowledgement. (Applause.) I am grateful to
him for his leadership of our coalition here in Afghanistan,
and for his lifetime of distinguished service — to
the Marine Corps and to America. And can everybody please
give it up to Brad Paisley? (Applause.) Now, I want to say
this about Brad. First of all, he’s a great
supporter of our troops, a great supporter
of your families. Two years ago we had him at
the White House to perform for troops and military
families during the Fourth of July celebration. Him coming here
today was not easy. He had just started a tour and
he had to juggle a lot of stuff and had to try to figure out how
to explain it to people without explaining it to people, and
his wife and two young sons, and promoters and agents — and
without going into details, this was a big
sacrifice for him. And he did it because he
cares so deeply about you. So I’m so grateful to him. I want to make clear, though,
I will not be singing so — Audience Members: Awwww — The President: Oh, you
really want me to sing? (Applause.) No, but I do want to
just say to Brad, thank you so much
for doing this. I want to acknowledge our
outstanding Ambassador, Jim Cunningham, who’s
here, with his lovely wife. And Jim leads an incredible team
of civilians — at our embassy and across this country. They are also making sacrifices,
also away from their families, oftentimes themselves
at risk as they serve. I know those of you in
uniform couldn’t do your jobs without these Americans
as your partners. So we salute the dedicated
service of all the civilians who are here, led
by Jim Cunningham. Give them a big
round of applause. (Applause.) Now, I guess I also should
mention that we’ve got a few folks here as part of
the 10th Mountain Division — (applause) — “Climb To Glory.” (Applause.) We got the 455th
Airwing in the house. Task Force Muleskinner — (applause) Task Force Thunder — (applause) Task Force Rugged — (applause.) To all of you, I’m here
on a single mission, and that is to thank you for
your extraordinary service. (Applause.) I thank you as your
Commander-in-Chief because you inspire me. Your willingness to serve, to
step forward at a time of war, and say “send me,” is the
reason the United States stays strong and free. Of all the honors that I
have serving as President, nothing matches serving as
your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.) But I’m also here
representing 300 million Americans who want to
say thank you as well. (Applause.) I know sometimes when
you’re over here, away from home,
away from family, you may not truly absorb how
much the folks back home are thinking about you. So I just want you to know when
it comes to supporting you and your families, the American
people stand united. We support you. We are proud of you. We stand in awe of your service. And you can see it in American
actions every single day. You see it in the kids across
America who send you all those care packages — and all
those Girl Scout cookies. (Applause.) Those are pretty
popular, huh? You like those cookies, huh? (Applause.) All right. I’ll bet you’ll
get some more now. (Applause.) You see it in the neighbors
and the coworkers who volunteer to help your moms and
dads, and wives and husbands, and sons and daughters at school
and on their sports teams. You see it at the airport when
you return stateside — all the folks standing up, applauding,
lining up to shake your hand and welcoming you home. We see it when entire stadiums
get to their feet to salute our troops and our veterans. Just the other day, I welcomed the Super Bowl champion
Seattle Seahawks — (Applause and boos.) Listen, I’m a Bears’
fan, but I — (applause and boos) — but the one thing I saw
and I’ve seen in every sports team that comes to
the White House is the work that they do, visiting
Walter Reed, Bethesda, doing work with
military families. In fact, to help announce
their draft picks this month, the Seattle Seahawks
selected Jeff Baker, who’s a Seahawks fan but also a
veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and a proud sergeant
in the U.S. Army, to make that draft pick. (Applause.) Because they wanted to
send a signal that we love our sports and we love our
football — that’s fun and games, but this is the
competition that counts and these are the real heroes. (Applause.) You see America’s gratitude
every time I present a veteran of Afghanistan with
our nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. We bestow that medal
on an individual. But every time — every time
that we bestow that medal, whoever is the recipient says
he accepts it on behalf of the whole team and everybody
who wears the uniform of the American Armed Forces. And when those
citations are read, Americans all across the country
stop and they listen — and they’re stirred by the
sacrifices you render for each other, and for all of us. So I’m here to say thank
you and I’m here to say how proud I am of you. (Applause.) And I’m here to say how
proud I am of your families — (applause) — because in some ways,
in ways large and small, they’re sacrificing
just like you are. But I’m also here because after
more than a decade of war, we’re at a pivotal moment. Last year marked a major
milestone — for the first time, Afghan forces took the lead
to secure their own country. And today, you’re in a support
role — helping to train and assist Afghan forces. For many of you, this will be
your last tour in Afghanistan. (Applause.) And by the end
of this year, the transition will be
complete and Afghans will take full responsibility
for their security, and our combat
mission will be over. America’s war in Afghanistan
will come to a responsible end. (Applause.) Now, that progress is
because of you and the more than half a million Americans —
military and civilian — who’ve served here in Afghanistan. And I don’t want you to ever
forget why you are here or how vital your mission is
to our national security. Some of you may know, recently,
I was in New York City, and we were there to dedicate
the new 9/11 Museum. I had time to spend
with the survivors, and with families
who lost loved ones, and with the first responders
who had rushed to the scene — and had a chance to ponder the
portraits and the biographies of the thousands who
were killed that day, and to think about those who
were killed in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. And once again, we resolved to
never forget what happened on that September day — and to
do everything in our power to prevent something like that
from ever happening again. That’s why you’re here. That’s why you’re here. And I notice — some of you
don’t remember — because as I was getting a briefing
while Brad was singing, I saw a picture of the Twin
Towers in the Operation Room nearby, so I know
you don’t forget. And four years ago, on my first
visit to Bagram as President, I laid out our mission. And General Dunford and
Ambassador Cunningham just gave me a briefing
on your progress. And today, every
single one of you, everybody who has served here,
and all the members of our coalition can be proud because
you are completing our mission. You’re completing the mission. We said that we were going
to deny al Qaeda safe haven. And since then, we have
decimated the al Qaeda leadership in the
tribal regions, and our troops here at Bagram
played a central role in supporting our counterterrorism
operations — including the one that delivered justice
to Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) So, along with our
intelligence personnel, you’ve helped prevent attacks
and save American lives back home. Al Qaeda is on its heels
in this part of the world, and that’s because of you. We said that we were going to
reverse the Taliban’s momentum. And so you went
on the offensive, driving the Taliban
out of its strongholds. Look, everybody knows
Afghanistan is still a very dangerous place. Insurgents still launch
cowardly attacks against innocent civilians. But just look at the progress
that you’ve made possible — Afghans reclaiming
their communities, and more girls
returning to school, dramatic improvements in public
health and life expectancy and literacy. That’s your legacy. That’s what you did. Even with all the challenges,
more Afghans have hope for their future. And so much of that
is because of you. We said that we were going to
strengthen the capacity of Afghan forces so they could
take more responsibility for their own security. So you’ve been training
Afghan forces and building Afghan forces up. And we know they’ve still
got a long way to go. But for nearly a year, Afghans
have been in the lead, and they’re making
enormous sacrifices. You look at the casualties
they’re taking on. They are willing to fight. Afghan forces are
growing stronger. Afghans are proud to be
defending their own country — and, again, so much of
that is because of you. Think about last
month’s election. Despite all the threats
from the Taliban, the Afghan people
refused to be terrorized. They registered to vote. Afghan security forces secured
thousands of polling places. Then millions of Afghans lined
up to cast their ballot. And next month’s runoff will be
another step toward the first democratic transfer of power
in the history of this nation. That’s a tribute to the
courage and determination of the people of Afghanistan. But it is also a tribute to you
and the sacrifices of so many Americans and our coalition
partners — everything that you’ve done over the years. We know that this progress
has come at a heavy price. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. At bases here in Afghanistan
and towns across America, we will pause and we’ll pay
tribute to all those who’ve laid down their lives
for our freedom. And that includes nearly 2,200
American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice, that last,
full measure of devotion, right here in Afghanistan. I know you’ve stood in front
of those battle crosses. I know many of you carry the
memories of your fallen comrades in your heart today. We will honor every single one
of them — not just tomorrow, but forever. I want you to know our gratitude
is shared by the Afghan people. One of them — one of
Afghanistan’s leading women, a member of parliament —
recently wrote an open letter. I don’t know if many of
you had a chance to see it. She described all the changes
that have taken place here, including millions of
girls going to school and pursuing their dreams. And she wrote this — I want you
to listen to this — she wrote: “It’s been a difficult journey,
marked by blood and violence, but we have made significant
gains and achievements, which would not have been
possible without the generous support of the
international community, especially the American people.” Especially the American people. She’s talking about all of you. She’s talking about
your families. She’s talking about
those who we’ve lost. That’s the difference — and
the legacy — that you can be proud of. Now, even as our combat
mission ends later this year, I want everybody to know, in
this country and across the region, America’s commitment to
the people of Afghanistan will endure. With our strategic partnership,
we’ll continue to stand with Afghans as they strengthen
their institutions, as they build their economy,
as they improve their lives — men and women, and
boys and girls. I’ve made it clear that we’re
prepared to continue cooperating with our Afghan partners on two
security missions — training and equipping Afghan forces and
targeting — counterterrorism targets against al Qaeda. And once Afghanistan has
sworn in its new president, I’m hopeful we’ll sign a
bilateral security agreement that lets us move forward. And with that bilateral
security agreement, assuming it is signed, we can
plan for a limited military presence in Afghanistan
beyond 2014. Because after all the
sacrifices we’ve made, we want to preserve the gains
that you have helped to win. And we’re going to make sure
that Afghanistan can never again, ever, be used again
to launch an attack against our country. So our combat mission
here will come to an end. But our obligations to you
and your families have only just begun. The al Qaeda leadership
may be on the ropes, but in other regions of the
world al Qaeda affiliates are evolving and pose
a serious threat. We’re going to have to stay
strong and we’re going to have to stay vigilant. And fortunately, we’ve got
the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped military
in human history. (Applause.) And as Commander-in Chief, I’m going to keep it that way. (Applause.) We’re going to stay strong
by taking care of your families back home. First Lady Michelle and
Vice President Joe Biden’s wife Jill have made
this their mission — because your
families serve, too. They’re heroes on
the home front. And so we’re going to keep
Joining Forces to make sure more Americans are stepping up
to support and honor those extraordinary families. We’re going to stay strong by
taking care of our wounded warriors and our veterans. (Applause.) Because helping our wounded
warriors and veterans heal isn’t just a promise,
it’s a sacred obligation. As you come home, some of you
will return to civilian life, and we want to make sure you can
enjoy the American Dream that you helped to defend. So with the transition
assistance to help you begin the next chapter of your
life — that’s going to keep America strong. The credentials and licenses to
help you find a job worthy of your incredible skills — that
will keep America strong. Making sure the Post-9/11 GI
Bill is in place and delivering for you the kind of education
that you have earned — that will keep America strong. And I keep on saying to every
company back home — if you want somebody who knows how
to get the job done, hire a vet. (Applause.) Hire a vet. Hire a vet. (Applause.) Because like
generations before you, we need you to help us write
the next great chapter in the American story, and I
know you’ll do that because I’ve seen the character of
your service, and I know the strength of our country. Going back to New York and
thinking about that tragedy 12 years ago, in those awful
moments after the Twin Towers fell, as the wreckage
was still burning, those at the scene were
desperately looking for survivors — one of those
searching was a detective with the NYPD. And as he climbed
through the debris, he spotted something in the
rubble — it was a flag. It was torn up. Parts of it were burned,
but it was still intact. And today, that flag
is at the 9/11 Museum. It’s dusty. And it’s torn, and you can see
the burn marks from the fires. That flag has been
through a lot. But the thing you notice is its
broad stripes and bright stars still shine. (Applause.) Its red, white and
blue still inspire. After all it’s been through,
after all America has been through, our flag
is still there. (Applause.) And our flag is still
there because when our nation was attacked, a
generation — this generation, the 9/11 Generation — stepped
up and said “send me.” Our flag is still there because
you’ve served with honor in dusty villages and city
streets, and in rugged bases and remote outposts, in
Helmand and Kandahar, and Khost and Kunar and
Paktika and Nuristan. Our flag is still there because
through this long war you never wavered in your belief that
people deserve to live free from fear — over here and back home. Our flag will always be there,
because the freedom and liberty it represents to the world
will always be defended by patriots like you. (Applause.) So I’m here to
say thank you. I’m here to say
I’m proud of you. The American people
are proud of you. God bless you. God bless the United
States Armed Forces. And God Bless our United
States of America. (Applause.) Thank you very
much, everybody. (Applause.) (music playing) The President: Thank
you everybody. Now I’m going to shake
every hand in here. (Applause.) The President: Although I may not be able to take a selfie with everybody. (Laughter and applause.) The President: But I’ll
shake every hand. All right? It may take a little
time so be patient.

The Right to Equal Pay for Equal Work

President Kennedy:
I must say I am
a strong believer in equal pay for equal work, and I think that we ought to
do better than we’re doing. Tina Tchen:
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy
signed the Equal Pay Act, a milestone piece of legislation that made it the law of
the land that men and women receive equal pay
for equal work. However, 50 years later, the
average full-time working woman is still earning 77 cents to
every dollar earned by a man, and the gap is significantly
more for women of color. This means even though
women make up nearly half the workforce and increasingly
are the primary breadwinners, they are, on average, bringing
home 23 percent less than men. So we still have work to do. Jacqueline Berrien:
Almost half of the workforce today are women,
and we know that what happens for nearly half of the workforce has a profound effect
not only on the workforce, but on the lives of women
and children and families across the entire nation. Patricia Shiu:
Being able to get a good job and being paid fairly
is a really important right for both men and for women. That money is necessary
to raise a family, and it makes a huge difference in terms of how
that family is raised, what kind of food
you put on the table, what kind of colleges their
kids may be able to go to, if they go to college at all. It’s a huge difference. The President:
Signing this bill today is to send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure
it works for everybody, that there are no second-class
citizens in our workplaces, and that it’s not
just unfair and illegal; it’s bad for business
to pay somebody less because of their gender
or their age or their race or their ethnicity,
religion, or disability. We’re going to crack down on
violations of equal pay laws so that women get equal pay
for an equal day’s work. Tina Tchen:
From signing the
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to establishing
the Equal Pay Task Force, from day one President Obama
has been committed to making sure
he does his part. As part of that Task Force, we launched the
Equal Pay App Challenge to find innovative ways
to bridge the gap. This challenge
inspired innovators to build notable applications, including Close the Wage Gap,
Acquitas, and Narrow the Gap. Another app, OES Data Explorer, is fueled by open government
data from across the country. These apps will help women
get better information to compare their wages and
negotiate fair salaries. In the words of President Obama,
if we stay focused, we can close the pay gap and ensure that our daughters
have the same rights, the same chances, and the same
freedom to pursue their dreams as our sons.

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President Obama takes the Oath of Office

Chief Justice John Roberts:
Please raise your right
hand and repeat after me. I, Barack Hussein Obama,
do solemnly swear — The President:
I, Barack Hussein Obama,
do solemnly swear — Chief Justice John Roberts:
— that I will
faithfully execute — The President:
— that I will
faithfully execute — Chief Justice John Roberts:
— the Office of President
of the United States — The President:
— the office of President
of the United States — Chief Justice John Roberts:
— and will, to the
best of my ability — The President:
— and will, to the
best of my ability — Chief Justice John Roberts:
— preserve, protect
and defend — The President:
— preserve, protect
and defend — Chief Justice John Roberts:
— the Constitution
of the United States. The President:
— the Constitution
of the United States. Chief Justice John Roberts:
So help you God? The President:
So help me God. Chief Justice John Roberts:
Congratulations, Mr. President. The President:
Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. Thank you so much. Mrs. Obama:
Congratulations. The President:
Thank you, sweetie. (applause) The President:
Hey! Thank you. Malia Obama:
I’m so happy; yay! Sasha Obama:
Good job, Daddy. The President:
I did it. Sasha:
You didn’t mess up. (laughter) The President:
All right? Thank you, everybody. Come on.