POTUS Weekly Column: Obama commemorates Veterans Day, meets with steel workers, parties with Valerie Jarrett


POTUS Column Photo LabeledNovember 18, 2013
Lauren Staehle
News Writer

It was an important week for the future of Obamacare, and therefore a tense one for the president. However, his packed schedule of Veterans Day events, fundraiser appearances and speeches was certainly enough to distract him, at least for a bit. The president’s week of events kicked off in sunny Miami, where he had been attending a series of fundraising events. Despite the slight difference in location, President Obama did not sacrifice his traditional weekend golf game. Late Saturday morning he traveled to the Grande Oaks Golf Club in Broward County where he met up with former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, Ambassador Ron Kirk and Cyrus Walker. The four golf partners played a nice long game, and departed just in time for the afternoon rain shower.

By Monday, the president was back in Washington, and commemorated Veterans Day with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown and then gave remarks in the nearby amphitheater. “Today, we gather once more to honor patriots who have rendered the highest service any American can offer this nation — those who fought for our freedom and stood sentry for our security,” said President Obama. “On this hillside of solemn remembrance and in veterans’ halls and in proud parades across America, we join as one people to honor a debt we can never fully repay.” Obama also honored the 107-year-old War World War II veteran, Richard Overton, who was present at the events at Pearl Harbor, Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

Later in the day, President Obama and Vice President Biden enjoyed lunch with five active duty service members. The U.S. Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Army were all represented at the luncheon, which took place at Molly Malone’s and Irish restaurant.

On Tuesday, Obama spoke in the State Dining Room to announce the nomination of Timothy Massad as chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Treasury Department. President Obama called Massad “a guy who doesn’t seek the spotlight, but he constantly delivers,” and praised him for his focus on financial reform. The president also couldn’t help but squeak in a comment about Massad’s mother, who went skydiving on her 80th birthday. That “is very cool,” he said. “She’s very proud of him right now.”

The day ended with the Combatant Commanders and Military Leadership Dinner. The president, First Lady and Vice President attended the event, along with Ambassador Susan Rice, Dr. Stephen Flanagan, Dr. Ron Clark, Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall and several members of the DOD.

President Obama attended the Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of the Interior’s headquarters on Wednesday. He applauded the fact that there were “more tribal leaders than we’ve ever had,” and over “300 tribal nations represented.” He then spoke about the goal he has had for the past five years, which is to “build a new relationship with [the tribal nations]based on trust and respect. Let’s keep our covenant strong by strengthening justice and tribal sovereignty,” he added.

On Thursday, he was off to Cleveland to visit and speak at the steel plant, ArcelorMittal. Mayor Frank Jackson and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald greeted the president when he arrived. Sporting a hard hat and goggles, President Obama took a tour of the steel plant and then made remarks on the economy.

“It is good to be back in Cleveland. The last time I was here was about a year ago, in the final days of the campaign. I know how much you miss hearing how I approve this message every night on your TV,” the president began with laughter from the audience. He then commented on the state of the economy a few years back, adding that the “demand for steel had dried up,” when the auto industry was near collapse. “But we rolled up our sleeves, we made some tough choices. We rescued and retooled the American auto industry; it saved more than a million jobs. We bet on American ingenuity and American workers,” Obama said. He discussed other topics such as advancement in technology and clean energy before wrapping up the speech. “I’m going to be waking up every single day thinking about how I can keep on helping folks like the ones who work in this plant.”

The president made a detour to Philadelphia before heading home in order to attend a DSCC fundraiser. Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter greeted him, and then they headed to the private residence of David Cohen for the event. Among his comments at the event, Obama praised the work of the Senate.

“We have been blessed with a Democratic Senate that cares about the issues that so many of you have been working on for so long,” he said. “We could not have brought the economy back from the brink had it not been for people like Bob and Michael being in a position to take some very tough votes…Particularly at a time when Washington is so polarized, if we do not have at minimum [of]a Democratic Senate, it is very hard to see how we can make some of the advances that we need to make on work that is still undone.”

On Friday, the president met with officials from the insurance industry as well as Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. The meeting was meant to be “a collaborative process” between the various healthcare representatives in order to arrive at some sort of solution to the current problems with the Affordable Care Act. “What we’re going to be doing is brainstorming on how do we make sure that everyone understands what their options are,” President Obama said about the meeting. “Because of choice and competition, a whole lot of Americans who have always seen health insurance out of reach are going to be in a position to purchase it and because of the law, we’re also going to be able to provide them help even if they are still having trouble purchasing that insurance. But they have to know what those options are in order to be successful.”

The president then took the rest of his Friday night off, and joined First Lady Michelle Obama, and close friend Valerie Jarrett at Restaurant Nora in Dupont Circle to celebrate Jarrett’s birthday. It was a delicious end to the week, and surely a treat for Jarrett, who has been a dear friend to the Obamas for many years.


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