Thursday, April 25, 2013

TEXT of President Obama's Remarks at the Dedication of the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum

April 25, 2013

10:42 A.M. CDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Please be seated. To President Bush and Mrs. Bush; to President Clinton and now-former Secretary Clinton; to President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Bush; to President and Mrs. Carter; to current and former world leaders and all the distinguished guests here today -- Michelle and I are honored to be with you to mark this historic occasion.

This is a Texas-sized party. And that’s worthy of what we’re here to do today: honor the life and legacy of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush.

When all the living former Presidents are together, it’s also a special day for our democracy. We’ve been called “the world’s most exclusive club” -- and we do have a pretty nice clubhouse. But the truth is, our club is more like a support group. The last time we all got together was just before I took office. And I needed that. Because as each of these leaders will tell you, no matter how much you may think you’re ready to assume the office of the presidency, it’s impossible to truly understand the nature of the job until it’s yours, until you’re sitting at that desk.

And that’s why every President gains a greater appreciation for all those who served before him; for the leaders from both parties who have taken on the momentous challenges and felt the enormous weight of a nation on their shoulders. And for me, that appreciation very much extends to President Bush.

The first thing I found in that desk the day I took office was a letter from George, and one that demonstrated his compassion and generosity. For he knew that I would come to learn what he had learned -- that being President, above all, is a humbling job. There are moments where you make mistakes. There are times where you wish you could turn back the clock. And what I know is true about President Bush, and I hope my successor will say about me, is that we love this country and we do our best.

Now, in the past, President Bush has said it’s impossible to pass judgment on his presidency while he’s still alive. So maybe this is a little bit premature. But even now, there are certain things that we know for certain.

We know about the son who was raised by two strong, loving parents in Midland, famously inheriting, as he says, “my daddy’s eyes and my mother’s mouth.” (Laughter.) The young boy who once came home after a trip to a museum and proudly presented his horrified mother with a small dinosaur tailbone he had smuggled home in his pocket. (Laughter.) I’ll bet that went over great with Barbara.

We know about the young man who met the love of his life at a dinner party, ditching his plans to go to bed early and instead talking with the brilliant and charming Laura Welch late into the night.

We know about the father who raised two remarkable, caring, beautiful daughters, even after they tried to discourage him from running for President, saying, “Dad, you’re not as cool as you think you are.” (Laughter.) Mr. President, I can relate. (Laughter.) And now we see President Bush the grandfather, just beginning to spoil his -new granddaughter.

So we know President Bush the man. And what President Clinton said is absolutely true -- to know the man is to like the man, because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.

But we also know something about George Bush the leader. As we walk through this library, obviously we’re reminded of the incredible strength and resolve that came through that bullhorn as he stood amid the rubble and the ruins of Ground Zero, promising to deliver justice to those who had sought to destroy our way of life.

We remember the compassion that he showed by leading the global fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria, helping to save millions of lives and reminding people in some of the poorest corners of the globe that America cares and that we’re here to help.

We remember his commitment to reaching across the aisle to unlikely allies like Ted Kennedy, because he believed that we had to reform our schools in ways that help every child learn, not just some; that we have to repair a broken immigration system; and that this progress is only possible when we do it together.

Seven years ago, President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that this year, with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the senators and members of Congress who are here today, that we bring it home -- for our families, and our economy, and our security, and for this incredible country that we love. And if we do that, it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

And finally, a President bears no greater decision and no more solemn burden than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military that the world has ever known. As President Bush himself has said, “America must and will keep its word to the men and women who have given us so much." So even as we Americans may at times disagree on matters of foreign policy, we share a profound respect and reverence for the men and women of our military and their families. And we are united in our determination to comfort the families of the fallen and to care for those who wear the uniform of the United States. (Applause.)

On the flight back from Russia, after negotiating with Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy's secretary found a small slip of paper on which the President had written a favorite saying: "I know there is a God. And I see a storm coming. If he has a place for me, I believe I am ready."

No one can be completely ready for this office. But America needs leaders who are willing to face the storm head on, even as they pray for God's strength and wisdom so that they can do what they believe is right. And that’s what the leaders with whom I share this stage have all done. That’s what President George W. Bush chose to do. That’s why I'm honored to be part of today's celebration.

Mr. President, for your service, for your courage, for your sense of humor, and, most of all, for your love of country, thank you very much. From all the citizens of the United States of America, God bless you. And God bless these United States. (Applause.)


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On FB, Atty-Gen Madigan Says Limiting Marriage to Man/Woman is Unconsitutional

AG Madigan post on Facebook
"A ban on same-sex marriage violates the state Constitution's equal protection clause. The law does not allow the state or federal government to create separate class of marriage based on a person's sexual orientation. There is no other way to describe this than to call it discrimination."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sen Bill Brady (R) Calls for Agressive Federal Prosecution of Firearm Offenses

April 12, 2013

Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) has filed SR 223, a resolution calling on United States Senators Dick Durban and Mark Kirk to seek a commitment from the new United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois to aggressively pursue federal prosecution of firearms offenses within the Northern District. Brady says that greater prosecution of violent gun crime will enhance safety and security in the Northern District, will result in significant savings for Illinois taxpayers, and reduce the overcrowding in already overwhelmed Illinois prisons that often leads to early release.

“In the City of Chicago in 2012 there were more than 500 homicides reported, the vast majority of which involved the use of firearms,” said Brady. “We know from recent media reports that those convicted of firearms offenses in Chicago and Cook County get minimal and often inconsistent punishment.”

“Greater federal prosecution of these crimes would not only act as a deterrent, making the streets safer, but prosecution by the federal government would also result in a significant savings for Illinois taxpayers as criminals prosecuted by the federal government would be housed in federal prisons,” said Brady. “In Illinois it costs $21,000 a year to house an inmate at state prisons.”
“In addition to the obvious cost savings, housing these convicted criminals in federal prisons would relieve overcrowding in Illinois’ already overburdened correctional facilities,” said Brady. “Federal prisons don’t have overcrowding problem that facilities in Illinois’ correctional system do. Just look at Thompson Prison, which was recently sold to the federal government. It’s sitting empty.”

Beyond the benefits of saving taxpayer money and reducing overcrowding, most federal prisons are further downstate which means that gang members convicted of gun-related crimes and incarcerated in federal prison would be housed far away from their gangs, making it more difficult for leaders to continue to run gangs from prison.

Chicago ranks lowest in prosecuting gun-related violence. In 2011 the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago prosecuted, according to some, just 25 gun-related murders.

“Chicago spends too much of it’s resources, and taxpayer money, locking people up for nonviolent crimes in hopes of stopping violent crime before it starts, but this strategy clearly isn’t working. We need to re-prioritize how these resources are allocated” said Brady. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was recently quoted saying it costs an average of $143 a day to keep a person in a cook county jail with an average stay of 57 days. That adds up to an average of $8,151 just to hold a non-violent offender in jail.

“Greater federal prosecution not only serves as a deterrent to criminals, but also frees up local resources so that local police can spend more time and energy working within communities to increase safety,” said Brady. “More federal prosecution is an effective means of combating violence in our communities.”
Brady’s resolution also calls for greater collaboration between local and federal law enforcement agencies and the referral of firearms offenses that qualify for federal prosecution to the federal government. According to Brady, other cities that have moved toward this style of collaborative zero-tolerance enforcement and education have proven that when local and federal law enforcement agencies work collaboratively to prosecute these violent crimes, crime rates drop.

“We all agree that we need to do something to curb gun violence and I believe that through more comprehensive prosecution of these cases we can ensure that our communities and state are safe from increasing gang violence and other violent crimes as well as saving the taxpayers some money along the way.”


Robin Kelly (D-2nd Dist of IL) is Sworn Into Office as a Member of Congress

Robin Kelly (D-2nd Dist of IL)

First words as a member of Congress, upon being sworn into office on April 12, 2013.

Thank you all very much.

It is truly an honor to be standing here and humbling to have been chosen to represent the families of the 2nd Congressional District. I thank the entire Illinois delegation for their support and advice.

I would also like to thank my family, friends and staff who are here in the gallery.

As I look around this hallowed chamber, I know this is a place where so much history has been made. But today, I stand before you to talk about our present. I ran for Congress so that I could work to bring about a safer, less violent and more prosperous future, one in which our children can grow up without the fear of gun violence. Today is an important day in that fight. I look forward to working with you to protect our children from criminals and protect our 2nd Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens. Because we should – and can – do both.

I also look forward to working on the many other issues we face, such as creating jobs, passing immigration reform and continuing the hard work in improving our healthcare system.

But today is about a new beginning for the people of 2nd Congressional District, who I am so proud and honored to represent. I look forward to being their advocate and their champion and to working with you to create a brighter future for all of our constituents.

Thank you, and God Bless.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Obama Administration to Combat Human Trafficking

Today, the White House will hold a Forum to Combat Human Trafficking to highlight the significant progress this Administration has made to combat human trafficking, including developments since President Obama delivered his seminal speech on the fight to end trafficking in persons at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in September 2012. During that speech, President Obama announced a number of new Administration commitments to combat trafficking at home and abroad. The four elements of this strategy include:

1) Preventing trafficking by raising awareness among vulnerable populations, leading by example, and educating the public and first responders;

2) Prosecuting traffickers through strengthened investigations and enforcement tools;

3) Protecting survivors through comprehensive social services, family reintegration, and immigration services; and

4) Partnering with civil society, state and local government, the private sector, and faith-based organizations to maximize resources and outcomes.

This White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking brings together advocates, service providers, researchers and academics, business leaders, faith leaders, leaders in the technology community, law enforcement, and local, state and federal government leaders to discuss strategies for countering trafficking in persons.

This Forum will highlight key efforts since the President’s September speech.

• Using Technology to Fight Trafficking. Today, the Administration will present new public-private partnerships that will provide cutting edge technology tools to aid law enforcement’s efforts to bring traffickers to justice, as well as new online applications to help link victims with much needed services. Stemming from a convening held by the White House Office of Science and Technology and the Council on Women and Girls, leading technology companies have partnered with advocates and survivors to develop new online applications to reach trafficking victims online and on their phones and link them with services in their community. The Administration will also present new private sector partnerships in support of law enforcement efforts to combat child sex trafficking in three major jurisdictions, as well research and tools to help law enforcement better identify children sold online.

• Strategic Action Plan for Victims Services. Today, the Administration will release for public comment the first-ever federal strategic action plan to coordinate and strengthen services for trafficking victims in the United States. This comprehensive, 5-year plan is action-oriented and time-specific and embraces a collaborative approach that promises to improve services for victims of trafficking throughout the federal government.

• Presidential Award. Today, the Department of State will award the inaugural “Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons.”

• Partnering with Faith-based and Neighborhood Organizations. The President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is working on recommendations in which the federal government can best partner with faith-based and secular organizations to combat human trafficking.

• Pro Bono Legal Services Network for Trafficking Victims. Today, the Department of State will announce a public-private partnership with New Perimeter, LLC, a non-profit organization established by the law firm DLA Piper designed to increase the availability of pro bono legal services to combat human trafficking. The partnership will use the “3P” framework of prosecuting traffickers, protecting survivors, and preventing victimization, which is reflected in the UN’s Palermo Protocol and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

• Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking Activities in the Federal Supply Chain. In September 2012, President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13627, which strengthens protections against federal contractors and subcontractors engaging in human trafficking-related activities. The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FAR Council), which is developing implementing regulations, held a public meeting on March 5, 2012. The FAR Council also has received written comments from the public on the implementation of EO 13627, as well as on the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act, which was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.

• Better Data and Better Allocation of Resources with Domestic Human Trafficking Assessment. The Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center, an interagency clearinghouse for information related to human smuggling and trafficking, continues to collect data from more than a dozen federal agencies to develop a domestic human trafficking assessment. This first-ever, interagency human trafficking assessment will help the Federal Government allocate law enforcement and other resources by identifying existing and emerging hotspots for trafficking activity across the United States and revealing trends and patterns in victim recruitment and exploitation.

• Reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. In February, the President signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 (TVPRA), which was passed by Congress as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Thanks to the leadership of key Members of Congress, the TVPRA will offer increased support to the State Department’s diplomatic engagement, bolster protections for vulnerable children and domestic workers, and enable effective partnerships to bring services to survivors and prosecute traffickers.

• “T” Visa Regulations. The Department of Homeland Security announced that it will publish an interim final rule to amend the “T” nonimmigrant visa regulations, which allow victims to remain in the United States and aid the prosecution of their traffickers. The amendments will streamline the application process and reflect statutory amendments made by the reauthorizations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

• Counter-Trafficking in Persons Field Guide for Strengthened Programming. USAID released a Counter-Trafficking in Persons Field Guide to provide practical guidance to develop, administer and evaluate investments that implement the Agency’s 2012 C-TIP Policy. The Guide will also help educate USAID Mission personnel and partners about trafficking more broadly and includes recommendations for integrating counter-trafficking activities into larger development programs, tools for designing stand-alone counter-trafficking activities, and evaluation techniques. It also provides USAID personnel with instruction on how to report suspected trafficking violations committed by employees, contractors, and grant recipients to the Agency's Office of the Inspector General for investigation and action.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Union Pacific Donates $500,000 to Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

Company’s $500,000 donation to library foundation celebrates Lincoln’s role in creating the railroad

SPRINGFIELD – Union Pacific Corporation, the railroad created by Abraham Lincoln, is helping celebrate his legacy with a $500,000 gift to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.

The foundation will use the donation to support the work of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the state-run institution dedicated to studying Lincoln’s life and telling his story to the world.

"It is an honor to support an outstanding organization which is intensely focused on preserving the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln," said Bob Turner, senior vice president – Corporate Relations Union Pacific Corporation. "We are committed to meeting the challenge given to Union Pacific more than 150 years ago by President Lincoln himself – to connect and support the transportation needs of the United States."

Lincoln established the original Union Pacific by signing the Pacific Railway Act of July 1, 1862. The transcontinental railroad opened the west to commerce and development, and more than 150 years later Union Pacific provides the nation with environmentally responsible, safe and efficient freight transportation.

“This recent generous gift from Union Pacific further underscores the longstanding partnership between our two institutions. Union Pacific has supported our Museum, Library and Foundation since our campus founding, and we couldn’t be more proud of and grateful for that partnership,” said Wayne Whalen, board chairman for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.

Carla Knorowski, the Foundation’s chief executive officer, said: “For more than 150 years, Union Pacific and Abraham Lincoln have been inextricably linked. Both have served America and its people, and this gift is yet another shining example of the strong and historic ties between the two. We are grateful for our strong, long-time partnership.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gov Quinn Leads Trade Mission to Mexico This Week

From the Governor's Office:

Trip to Focus on Job Creation and Economic Growth Through Agriculture, Water Tech, Manufacturing and Tourism

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn will lead a trade mission to Mexico April 3 - 6 to spur economic opportunities and tourism between Illinois and Mexico. With Illinois already leading the Midwest in exports, the mission will build on the success of Governor Quinn’s agenda to aggressively pursue international trade and create jobs in Illinois. He will be Illinois’ first governor to visit Mexico in 13 years and only the fourth U.S. governor to visit Mexico since 2005.

“This mission will strengthen the long-standing bridges between Illinois and Mexico - especially in agriculture, water technology, manufacturing and tourism - to help fuel our state’s economic growth,” Governor Quinn said. “Mexico’s unique and storied culture has had a major impact on our state. Illinois is home to many small businesses of Mexican heritage and many employers that will benefit from increased trade with Mexico. This trade mission will help us capitalize on available economic opportunities that will drive our economy forward.”

The three-day mission will include meetings with potential trade partners and Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, an Illinois Tourism event and the signing of a Sister Lakes pact. Governor Quinn will meet with two state governors, and the mayors of Mexico City and Patzcuáro. The trip will be launched with a briefing by U.S. Ambassador Earl “Tony” Wayne, who was named by President Obama in 2011 after serving in Argentina and Afghanistan.

One of the main objectives of the trade mission is to open the burgeoning Mexican water technology market to Illinois companies engaged in wastewater treatment and pumping technologies. Governor Quinn and the delegation will meet officials from Mexico’s National Water Commission (CONAGUA) to discuss the success of the Illinois Clean Water Initiative. Spearheaded by the governor, the initiative is a $1 billion project modernizing the state’s drinking water and waste treatment facilities while creating thousands of local jobs. Mexico City faces water infrastructure challenges similar to many Illinois cities, including aging pipelines, overuse, contaminants and sinkholes.

The trade mission also aims to increase Illinois’ exports to Mexico. Exports are a significant portion of Illinois’ economy and Mexico is Illinois' second-largest trade partner, as state exports to the country reached $6.4 billion in 2012. From 2009 through 2012, Illinois exports overall increased by $26.4 billion, or 63 percent - well above the national average of 47 percent. Illinois exports that have experienced significant growth during 2012 include machinery, up 12.7 percent; plastics and rubber products, an increase of 12.2 percent; transportation equipment, a 10.3 percent increase; and electrical equipment, appliances and components, up 5.6 percent. Illinois is the fifth largest exporting state in the nation.

Mexico is among the world’s leaders in corn, meat and poultry production, leading to high demand for the kinds of farm machinery made in Illinois. Agriculture and food production will be the focus of meetings with Mexico’s agriculture secretary and undersecretary of foreign trade. The governor will also meet executives of Bimbo Bakeries, which owns Illinois’ beloved Entenmann’s Bakery. Culinary tastes in Mexico and the United States are increasingly similar, so the mission will allow Illinois food brands to promote their products in the Mexican market.

The state of Illinois maintains an office in Mexico City shared by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Department of Agriculture. These state agencies promote Illinois business and agricultural products and services to Mexico, which is Illinois’ second largest export market. Illinois exports to Mexico in 2012 totaled $6.37 billion, and grew 34.1 percent in 2011 and 11.3 percent in 2012. Mexico is Illinois’ third largest international market for inbound travel, contributing $103 million annually to the state’s economy.

The governor will also pursue opportunities to expand Mexican tourism in Illinois. Mexico is Illinois’ third-largest international market for in-bound travel with 100,000 visitors from Mexico arriving by plane alone each year, a number projected to grow 17 percent in the next four years. However, many Mexicans travel to Illinois to visit family and often do not take advantage of Illinois’ diverse activities. The trade mission aims to increase Illinois’ share of Mexican tourists visiting the United States and boost the length of their stay in Illinois.

Governor Quinn - who recently proclaimed “Benito Juárez Day” in Illinois to celebrate Juárez’s birthday and ties to Abraham Lincoln - will participate in a solemn “Honor de Guardia” ceremony at Mexico City’s Juárez Monument, and will lay wreaths at statues honoring Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He will also promote the migratory Monarch butterflies, who symbolize the long-standing relationship between Michoacán and Illinois and are the official insect of the state of Illinois.

Illinois and Mexico also have deep social ties. There are now 1.6 million persons in Illinois of Mexican origin, about one in eight Illinoisans. Mexico and Illinois have had a Sister-State relationship since 1990. Illinois and Mexico Sister-Cities include Chicago and Mexico City since 1997; Springfield and San Pedro since 1996; Highland Park and Puerto Vallarta since 2002; and Naperville and Patzcuáro since 2010.

The Mexico trade mission is the latest by Governor Quinn as he seeks to promote Illinois to a global audience. Past missions include China and Japan in 2011, and Canada and Brazil in 2012. The governor will head a delegation comprised of Illinois business leaders from such world-renowned Illinois firms as Motorola Solutions, Grundfos, Navistar and Gino’s East. It also includes representatives of the Illinois Soybean Association and Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, two cabinet members and Illinois Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero).