Open for Questions: State of the Union 2012

Uploaded by whitehouse on 24.01.2012

Macon Phillips: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the White House.
We just got done with the President's third State of
the Union Speech.
My name is Macon Phillips, I work on the team that manages
the digital strategy here at the White House and we're about to
kick off a really exciting event to answer your questions,
speak to your concerns, address any issues that you have with
the speech and the policies that the President just laid out just
down the road at the Capital.
Before we introduce everyone, I want to give you a quick
overview of what's coming up this week so you know.
You can find all of this information at
We've got over 30 Administration officials taking to various
online venues to answer your questions.
You can find out when and where, which topics, which communities,
at that page.
I'm also really excited to announce that the Vice President
is going to be holding an event on Thursday.
So stay tuned to @VP for more specific details about that.
And then at the end of this week, on Monday,
the President is going to be answering your questions in
a first-ever virtual town hall from the White House.
So it is an action-packed week.
And it's going to be an action-packed night.
I'm actually joined here by people from 22 states,
many of whom came via our twitter account @White House.
They're going to be asking questions,
they're going to be choosing questions from their followers.
We've got some other folks here that are
taking questions online.
Here is how you can participate: Tweet at the White House using
the #SOTU or just head over to our Facebook page or our Google
Plus page and post a question there.
We've got people checking that out and pulling in those
questions as well.
So before we introduce the folks here who are on the panel to
answer your question, let me hand it over to my partner,
Anne Filipic, with the Office of Public Engagement.
Introduce yourself and then toss it around the table.
Anne Filipic: Great. Thanks, Macon.
And thanks to all of you for joining tonight.
My job tonight is really to make sure that your voice is heard so
I'll be here with this laptop monitoring all the questions
that are coming in online via Facebook,
Twitter and Google Plus and incorporating them into the
conversation here.
So with that I think we're going to go ahead and get started,
Roberto, can you introduce yourself
Roberto Rodriguez: Sure. Hey, everyone.
Thanks for joining us.
My name is Roberto Rodriguez; I am Special Assistant to the
President for Education here at the White House.
Jennifer Palmieri: I'm Jennifer Palmieri and I'm the Deputy Director
of Communications.
Mark Zuckerman: And I'm Mark Zuckerman, I'm the Deputy Director of the Domestic
Policy Council that works on education issues, health care
issues, energy issues, urban, rural and immigration issues.
Brian Deese: I'm Brian Deese, and I work at the National Economic Council
here at the White House.
Ben Rhodes: I'm Ben Rhodes; I'm the Deputy National Security Advisor for
Strategic Communications here at the White House
and the National Security Council.
Anne Filipic: Great. Thanks, everyone, for being here.
We're going to go ahead and get started with our first question.
This one actually came in online during the President's speech.
And I wanted to start with it because I thought it really
encompasses a lot of the frustration and fear that
a lot of Americans feel.
This came in on Google Plus from Ken Riddell.
And it says: What will it take to get people working again and
what is it going to take to get companies to pay these employees
a fair wage?
Wages have been stagnant for so long that it is getting harder
and harder to actually earn a decent living.
American workers deserve better.
Anne Filipic: Brian Deese.
Brian Deese: Well, I'm happy to take a first shot at that.
You know, it's a good question to start off with because,
really, it goes to the core of the center of the President's
State of the Union Address today.
What you heard the President talk about was how can we build
an American economy that in the President's words
is built to last.
And a lot of the specific policies that the President
was talking about tonight really were about this basic question
of how do we restore an economy where we have good middle class
jobs, where we see wages increasing,
and we have enough security for families to send a child
to college, retire with dignity.
The basic components of the American dream.
And so you heard the President talk about a lot of specifics.
I think we'll have a chance to get into them.
But, really, that key question is at the heart of what the
President talked about.
And I think the urgency that you heard the President talk with
and the actions that he took tonight, in fact,
to say that he was going to act where Congress won't,
underscore the fact that we really are at a crucial moment
for the middle class.
And the decisions that we make here in Washington and that
families make across the country are going to determine the
question of whether or not we have those good jobs.
So rather than getting into all the details I think maybe,
you know, it's a good frame to start off this conversation,
but it's exactly the right question.
Anne Filipic: Absolutely. Great.
Macon Phillips: Okay. Great, so I've got actually one so if you've got a question,
stick up your arm, I'll come find you.
Let me you kick it off with one that we got in through the site
as well.
This one comes from Murali Krishnan Elangovan,
it's on immigration, and the question is: While a lot of
time is spent discussing the illegal immigrant problems,
what efforts are being done to improve the immigration process
for legal immigrants?
While there is a broad acceptance for the need
of an immigration overhaul, when can we expect some
action in this space?
Mark, can you speak to that a little bit?
Mark Zuckerman: Well, let me just say a few things just that the
President talked about.
First, he acknowledged and he has been saying this,
that the immigration system is broken and it needs to be fixed
and he supports comprehensive immigration reform.
The second thing he talked about is keeping the border secure.
And under his leadership we have doubled the number of individual
patrols that are on the border right now.
We have more people on the border protecting that border
than we have ever had in the history of our country.
But the third point that he made there is that we have to
acknowledge that young people who came here when they were
very young who are contributing, playing by the rules in this
country, should be able to stay here and continue to make those
contributions, to work and to help make our economy better.
And for those young people who come here on visas who want to
stay here and contribute to the economy and playing by the
rules, should be able to stay and contribute.
And those three principles he will fight for and continue to
call Congress out to take decisive action on behalf of the
economy and behalf of fairness.
Macon Phillips: Great. Okay, let's take one from the audience and
I'll kick it back to you, Anne.
Anne Filipic: Great.
Macon Phillips: Why don't you go ahead, sir?
Mike Russell: I'm Mike Russell from San Diego.
In England right now Ed Miliband is talking about
wage inequalities and wage inequities rather than wealth
inequality and suggesting that the disparity between the top
earners in industries and the bottom earners in industries is
one of the key issues, at least for them.
The United States has the highest disparate relationship
of the top wage earners in an industry and those
at the bottom.
That's also resulted in a stalling of upward mobility.
There is less chance for people to move out of the income
bracket into which they were born now than ever before.
So I'm wondering how the policies the President
enumerated tonight might be enhanced by looking at wage
inequality as a tax issue rather than wealth inequality which
gets the bad press about so-called class warfare.
Brian Deese: Look, I think it's a very important question and you
raise the specific issue of the differentiation between
wage and wealth inequality, but I think that, frankly,
the disparity in both and the growing inequality gap overall
is an issue that we really are going to have to take
on as a country.
And this is not something that has happened overnight.
And, in fact, we have seen these trends for some time now.
But they are coming to a head, and particularly as we grow out
of this most recent financial crisis which has in many ways
exacerbated those trends, both on the wealth side,
because we saw for many, you know,
typical homeowners their largest asset was devastated,
but also on the wage side, because wages aren't growing
at the rate that we need to for most middle class families.
So the key question is what are we going to do about it?
And I think one of the things that you heard the President
talk about tonight is an idea that he has talked about before
but he talked about it with a bit more specificity,
which is this basic concept that he has called the Buffet Rule
which is that people who make over a million dollars,
the wealthiest Americans, folks like Warren Buffet,
should not pay lower taxes than their secretaries or typical
wage earners who work and earn their living through wages.
And the way that he would go about implementing that is to
say that if you make over a million dollars,
you should pay a minimum tax of at least 30% of your income.
Now, that would go a long way towards addressing actually both
of the issues that you're talking about because it would
ensure that those higher income Americans are not able to get
away from paying their fair share but it would also address
the wealth inequality as well because for a lot of the highest
income Americans the reason why they're able to pay very low tax
rates is because of the preferential rates on
investment income that we have in this country.
That would be an important step.
And I think what you heard the President say,
and it goes to the last part of your question,
which is really important, is this is not an issue
of class warfare.
And to him it really isn't.
It's a basic -- it's an issue of choices and
priorities and common sense.
We have a serious fiscal challenge in this country.
Our debt and our deficit is too high and we're going to have to
make real choices.
And you have to stare down these choices and ask are we going to
continue to have a tax system where the wealthiest Americans
can pay these very low tax rates or are we going to go where
students are forced to pay higher interest rates on their
student loans.
Or where seniors have to go without prescription
drugs that they need.
Those are the choices.
And that's not class warfare; that's the kind of tough
governing questions that we have to face.
So the President laid out his specific ideas and he's going
to really push hard on that because those are some big
and fundamental choices that our country is going to have to make
over the coming months and years.
Anne Filipic: Great. Thanks, Brian.
We had a question just come in online from a
high school student.
Roberto, I think this one might go towards you.
But this is from Kevin See in Santa Monica, California.
And he writes: As a high school student,
why should I continue my education when there are
high-paying jobs that require little education and when I
cannot afford my secondary education?
Roberto Rodriguez: Well, thank you for the question, Kevin.
You know, education has been a real priority,
something that you heard a lot from the President about this
evening, and I think if we're going to have an America that's
built to last, we have to make sure that we have a world class
education system that really provides a pathway to college
and career for every single one of our individuals.
Every single one of our students.
You picked up on one of the challenges around college costs.
And we know that, for instance, tuition and fees at our colleges
across the country over the past 20 years have grown by 136%.
So the cost of college is just far outpacing capacity
in American families.
It's still important.
And we know that today more than ever a college degree
is the best ticket to success in this new global economy.
It's the best ticket to really fulfill the American dream.
And so the President is working very hard to make
sure that college is more affordable for Americans.
That's why we've invested so heavily in student aid
and really the most dramatic re-organization of our student
aid system.
We have shifted over $60 billion that used to go to financial aid
institutions, to middlemen and banks and move that into our
student aid programs.
But the President tonight also talked about the shared
responsibility that America's colleges have to make sure that
they're addressing college cost issues,
that they're lowering tuition and seeking efficiencies and
productivities to make sure they can pass along those
savings to students.
And states have a responsibility here, too.
It's important that states continue to invest in that.
But I'd urge Kevin to continue his studies.
We know that the best ticket to success in our economy today is
some post secondary education, whether it's at a community
college, whether it's at a four-year institution,
and we need that to be able to move our country ahead.
Anne Filipic: Thanks, Roberto.
Macon Phillips: All right.
Let's take another one here from the audience.
Jackie Taylor: Thank you. Hi, I'm Jackie Taylor with the National
Coalition for Literacy.
The President said early on in his speech that he wants us to
restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot
and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by
the same set of rules.
So how does the President plan to help adults who are not
college or job ready to get a fair shot?
Thirty million American adults don't have the literacy skills
to read or complete job applications.
Many of them have undiagnosed learning disabilities.
So how will we help them get the skills they need to be
productive contributors to the economy?
Roberto Rodriguez: Well, Jackie, I think that's a really good question and it's a
really important point.
This is why the President has continued to invest in adult
education programs here at the federal level to make sure that
those provide a robust network of support for our adults that
are going to seek adult basic literacy as well
as continuing training.
You heard the President tonight also talk about a challenge to
really train 2 million more Americans through our community
college system and through partnerships between community
colleges and American businesses.
Our community colleges, our institutions across the country
serving over 11 million students around the country,
that are really lifelines to be able to provide continuing
education and support.
We need to be able to grow more programs at our community
colleges and really grow more pathways for our adults to be
able to continue to get education and training,
begin to build those basic skills,
and then transfer those basic literacy skills into really
job-relevant skills that can help them land a job
on the tail end there.
And so the demand for our community colleges
is higher than ever.
And the President proposed efforts in the past on this.
We have invested over $2 billion in our Trade Adjustment
Assistance Program to grow community college pathways.
The President has proposed buckling down on that as
well tonight.
Anne Filipic: I want to make sure everyone on the Panel has a chance to speak
so I think this one is a foreign policy question for Ben,
came in via Google Plus from Miguel Serra.
And he asks: What's the President's opinion on a
military strategy that strengthens Western alliances
in order to further reduce America's spending on its
huge military apparatus?
And what's his take on the feasibility of a global military
alliance to reduce the world's expenditure on local defense
in order to increase global investments in
other important areas?
Ben Rhodes: Well, that's a great question, Miguel, and it's a very relevant
question to a number of the things the President
spoke about tonight.
You know, for several years now we've had rapidly increasing
defense spending in this country both in large part because of
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and also just because of the
natural growth in some of our defense programs.
So the President just last month announced a new defense strategy
for the United States that over the next decade will cut nearly
$500 billion from our defense budget.
And this redirects, I think, American national security
policy in a fundamental way.
And it does two things: In the first instance,
it makes it clear that part of the way in which we bring down
our deficit has to be bringing down our defense spending and
so, therefore, this is a responsible effort again
to cut half a trillion dollars from our defense budget over the
next ten years.
Now, part of those savings will be gained from ending the wars.
And we've already ended the war in Iraq completely.
We've begun the process of winding down the war
in Afghanistan.
But it also means making some hard choices about our defense
priorities going forward.
It means getting rid of the type of weapon systems that we don't
need any more, that are outdated,
that were designed for a different time.
And it means focusing on the capabilities and the priorities
that we have to focus on to keep America safe
in the 21st century.
The President outlined a couple of those,
a number of those in his defense budget strategy.
That includes continuing our counter terrorism efforts which
again have grown more targeted.
No more are we having a situation where we deploy
large masses of U.S. military force overseas in places like
Iraq and Afghanistan.
We can continue to degrade Al Qaeda even as we bring
our troops home.
It also means reorienting our focus to the Asia-Pacific region.
This is a rapidly-growing region in the world.
America has a lot of friends and allies and partners in that part
of the world.
A lot of economic interests in that part of the world.
Then we can have strong security relationships
that again underpin the stability of the Asia-Pacific
region going forward.
So we've identified the Asia-Pacific as a priority.
But also we're doing something that Miguel
highlights in his question.
Which is we are investing in alliances.
Because alliances are force multipliers.
We saw in Libya, for instance, the United States did not put
a single soldier on the ground but our allies were
able to carry their share of the burden and implement
a very successful operation.
So working with our NATO allies we can make sure that different
allies in NATO have different capabilities that again add up
to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Similarly in the Asia-Pacific, we're going to have alliances
and partnerships again where our allies help us with things like
disaster response in the aftermath of a tsunami,
counter terrorism operations in places like the Philippines and
Indonesia where there have been Al Qaeda affiliates take
root in the past.
So that again America is not bearing all of this burden
on our own but we're working with alliances and partnerships
around the globe to also shoulder the costs of these
defense priorities.
So we're confident that we can, as we have demonstrated over the
last three years, dramatically bring down the cost of our
defense budget, wind down the wars that we have been engaged
in, while making sure America remains safe,
secure and the strongest leader in the world going forward.
Macon Phillips: Great. Okay, thanks, Ben.
Now, I've got a lot of questions.
We're going to go right here and I'll get around
as much as I can.
But I just want to remind folks who are joining us now
we had over 2 million streams for the speech,
which is really exciting for us.
Many of them are hanging around so I'm sure we've got a lot of
questions coming in right now.
We'll filter through those.
But let's take one from the audience here.
William Killibrew: Thanks. My name is William Killibrew with the National
Coalition on Black Civic Participation
and Black Youth Vote.
I just actually got a message from the Mayor of Springlake and
I wanted to just say what he was tweeting me.
Wanted to know how a small town like Springlake who is next to
Fort Bragg can get involved in green initiatives to spur their
economy -- growth in their economy.
With the President talking about energy innovation and
new incentives and the Department of Defense,
the world's largest consumer of energy,
will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in
history, how can a small town like this get involved and get
engaged to spur economic growth and protect the environment?
Anne Filipic: Mark, do you want to take that?
Mark Zuckerman: Sure. One of the things, just to reiterate the things that the
President talked about besides the investment in the Department
of Defense that I think they'll be opportunities for businesses
and local governments all across the country to take advantage of
that because that will be a rather substantial purchase
that the Department of Defense will be engaged in,
but the President also made several other points that I
think will help reduce the cost for everyone.
One, to make a substantial investment in natural gas.
To have all of the above strategy in terms of clean
energy alternatives.
He also noted that in terms of the investments that we're
making right now in oil and for natural gas that we are making a
lot of progress in the fight to have these alternatives whether
it's wind or whether it's other alternatives,
that that's the way for our better economic growth.
And that's a priority.
He is also making clear that there should be incentives for
businesses and local communities which this mayor could take
advantage of, incentives to retrofit, to save money.
And he's calculating that a hundred billion dollars over
the next several years could be saved by those retrofits.
And that's a fundamental investment that our country
needs to make for both the public sector and
the private sector.
Ben Rhodes: I would just add one thing because Fort Bragg is a
community that the President and the First Lady have both
spent a lot of time in.
And in addition to the Energy Efficiency Initiative that the
President alluded to tonight which the Department of Defense
will take this leadership role in terms of fostering clean
energy efficiency, we're doing a number of things to help our
base communities as folks come home.
Because what we have is huge military communities that have
served in Iraq and Afghanistan coming home as the war has come
to an end, but we want to make sure that those who choose to
leave the military have job opportunities on the other side.
Because, again, you're going to have folks like in the Army
coming back to Fort Bragg who are leaving the military and
we want to make sure that they have the opportunities
that they've earned.
And I'll highlight three quick ways in which we're doing that:
Number 1, we're continuing to implement the 21st Century Post
9/11 GI Bill where we will help pay for college tuition for
members of our military and their families so they get
the education and skills they need to find a job.
Number 2, part of the Jobs Act that the President proposed last
year, one that passed was the Veterans Tax Credit again which
helps companies have an incentive to hire American
veterans as they come out of the service and enter the workforce.
Number 3, the First Lady through the "Joining Forces Initiative"
has teamed with the private sector to get commitments
from the private sector to hire a hundred thousand veterans
across the country.
And these will be businesses that again help work with the
military and the VA to match up veterans with employment
opportunities in communities like those around Fort Bragg.
So what we want to make sure is that as our veterans come home
from serving abroad that we enlist them in the work of
building our nation at home.
Part of that's going to be through energy efficiency
opportunities and job creation like the President spoke about
tonight, but there are also a host of opportunities that we're
going to pursue again by giving people the opportunity and the
education they've earned, by giving companies incentives to
hire veterans, and by matching up businesses with veterans who
are leaving the service so that they can get the jobs
that they deserve.
Macon Phillips: Great. Let me just jump in here, Anne, because some of you may
have seen this but Arne Duncan just tweeted that he's heading
over here, and he'll be here in a minute,
so I would encourage you if you have education questions to just
sit on them for a minute, you can ask them to him.
I've got you over there.
But if we can take one more, there are definitely some
questions out here.
Sir, how about you?
Cedric Ricks: Hi. It's good to be here.
My name is Cedric Ricks, and I'm with the National
Fair Housing Alliance.
And first of all, I'd like -- we'd like -- we appreciate the
President's appointment of Richard Cordray to the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau, a lot of us have worked hard to
see that happen.
And my question -- a little background first.
Since 2007, the height of the credit crisis,
more than 8.9 million homes have been lost to foreclosure.
America's housing crisis has disproportionately affected
African-American and Latino homeowners who have been the
targets of subprime lending and other toxic loan products.
They are 75% more likely to experience foreclosure than
white residents.
This is setting families of color back generations in terms
of wealth-building and their ability to create a bright
future for their children.
Given the changing demographics of the country,
this affects the future prosperity of our nation.
None of the solutions to the foreclosure crisis offered to
date are currently under discussion like the AG
settlement which I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with
has effectively addressed this issue.
What is the President planning to do to help these families who
were unfairly targeted and the first victims of the crisis?
Brian Deese: Well, let me tell you two concrete things that the
President talked about tonight that he is going
to move forward on to help those families get the justice that
they deserve and help turn our housing market around.
First, the President asked his Attorney General to convene a
special unit of leading State Attorneys General as well as
federal law enforcement officials in relevant
agencies from the SEC to the IRS to the Department of Justice
to come together to investigate mortgage
origination and securitization abuses.
Those two words are complex words for saying what went wrong
in the lending and the packaging of mortgages that we now know is
at the heart of our economic crisis.
We announced tonight that Attorney General Eric
Schneiderman from New York will be a co-chair of this effort,
and will work with leading attorney generals across the
country to make sure that we are fully investigating those issues
and bringing the appropriate actions where necessary.
Second, the President talked about how we can offer every
responsible American family the opportunity to refinance into a
lower interest rate loan.
This is a very basic idea.
I think probably many of you are homeowners;
I just recently became a homeowner.
It doesn't make any sense when you have interest rates as low
as they are today, four percent or lower, that people,
millions of families are stuck in six, seven percent mortgages.
There was a woman who joined the First Lady in the box tonight,
Joan Milligan from Florida.
Because of the actions that have already been taken,
she was able to refinance and save a couple hundred
dollars a month.
If you're able to lower your interest rate by a percent or
two percent, that's what you can save.
That's real money, as the President said tonight.
On average people save about $3,000 a year when they do this.
So the President, again, in terms of concrete action,
he is going to be presenting a plan to Congress in the coming
days that would allow every responsible American the
opportunity to refinance into a lower interest rate loan.
That will make a huge difference for a lot of families.
That's something that we want to see action on.
Those are two concrete things, two things the President talked
about tonight.
And I think that we're going to be talking more about housing in
the coming days and weeks because,
as the President said tonight, that the problem is big enough
and complex enough that government alone can't solve
this, but it is absolutely not the case that government has no
role to play and that there is nothing that we can do to help
families and to help right our housing market.
Anne Filipic: Thanks, Brian.
Jenn, we heard the President talk tonight about some of the
cynicism that Americans feel about Congress and their ability
to get things done, and one of the questions that just came in
on Facebook sort of sums that up.
This comes from E. Kosoves Rivas,
who writes, Mr. President, how do you foresee all of
these bills, acts, and proposals being passed by the Republicans
and fellow Democrats?
What do we say, say to that?
Jennifer Palmieri: Well, I would say -- I would say two things.
One is that there's sort of -- and we've spent a lot of today,
at least in my world, in briefings with the press ahead
of the speech, and as you can imagine,
this is a question that we get a lot, which is that, you know,
the House Republican Caucus met this week and Speaker Boehner
indicated that a big priority of theirs would be figuring out
ways to attack the President's agenda as opposed to acting on
the President's agenda.
And it's an election year, obviously,
so there's a sense that you can't -- that Congress is not
going to want to work with the President.
And, you know, our experience -- I've been here for a whole month
so I can speak with a lot of authority -- but I certainly
watched the process before I got here.
And the experience I think from 2011 was the spring and summer
was very difficult relations, relationship with the
Republicans in Congress and then, you know,
and the very difficult fight over the debt limit,
but then once you got to the fall you saw the Republicans in
the House and the Senate willing to work with the Democrats and
with the President to pass, you know, two trade bills,
to pass a bill that I think Brian referred to that would
help get veterans job benefits for -- tax credits for people
who help get veterans jobs, as well as, you know,
an extension on the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance,
albeit for two months, but we're confident that we'll eventually
get that for the full year.
And, you know, you never saw a real threat of a shutdown again,
and felt that there was a sense among the Republicans in
Congress that it was in their interest to work with the
Democrats and with the President to get these things done.
We think that that opportunity still exists.
I worked for President Clinton in 1996 in another reelection
year, and at that time the Republicans controlled both
Houses of Congress, and there was a lot that the -- that was
actually a lot of legislation that was passed that year
because a calculation was made, I think rightfully so by the
Republicans, that the voters expected them to do something.
And so we think that the situation with the Republicans
on the Hill is actually a little more dynamic than others may
observe, and that the President can do a couple of things.
He can continue to push them to act,
he can continue to put things on the table like he did tonight
which are very common sense proposals that are going to do
the things that everybody says they want to do,
have more manufacturing, create more jobs,
deal with the housing problems, and so he'll continue to keep
that door open and push to do that and continue to build
support for that within the public and keep that
pressure on.
And then if -- you know, but as President of the United States
he does a lot of things.
He works with world leaders, he has a lot of authority to do
things through executive action, and part of what he does is work
with Congress.
And if we're not able to get some of these things done with
Congress, we're going to do what we can through executive action,
and the President took a few actions tonight,
some of which Brian outlined in the area of housing with this
task force that's going to help with investigation,
there are some things that Mark referred to with natural gas and
other executive actions the President took, you know,
tonight, that are going to make a change.
So he's going to continue to push Congress,
but -- and we think that there's going to be reasons for why
they're going to want to work with us, but at the same -- but,
you know, he's not going to wait,
he'll continue to take steps through executive
action as well.
Macon Phillips: Great, okay, I'm going to take one from the
middle of the row here so let me a -- excuse me.
Frankie Mastrangelo: Hi, I'm Frankie Mastrangelo from the American Association
of People with Disabilities.
And a consistent concern we hear from our followers and
our members is employment.
Just 33% of people with disabilities are employed
compared to 73% of the general population that
does not have a disability.
This fosters, obviously, dependence on government
funding, and this is because of definitions of disability
and other factors.
What is the Administration doing to promote employment
opportunities for people with disabilities to reduce this
government dependence?
Thank you.
Anne Filipic: Who wants to take that one?
Mark Zuckerman: Well, let me, I want to bring it back for a second to the State
of the Union because one of the things in there I think
will help not just people with disabilities but everyone.
The President said the current job training programs which is
the gateway training and -- job search programs which is the
gateway for many Americans to get a job is a maze that is very
hard for Americans to understand.
And what he said tonight was we are going to
streamline this process.
You can go to one website, you can go to one location,
you have one program that you can understand to get a job to
find out what kind of training or education that you need so
you don't have to call ten places or 15 places or 30
places to figure out how to get a job in this country.
We have over 3,000 one-stop centers that serve people with
disadvantaged backgrounds, with very little job skills,
who are returning to the workforce after they've been
laid off or they're dislocated workers, disabled individuals.
All of those can go to a one-stop,
but it's the best kept secret in America that we have these all
over the country, in every community,
that people don't know about.
And so the President will be talking more about this in the
coming weeks, about the things that he wants to do to expand
job opportunities for everybody.
And that's, you know, one thing that he can take decisive
action, both executive actions and help from Congress.
Brian Deese: One other point I'd just make very quickly.
I think that -- and this is connected to what Mark said.
I think that we, we have a problem in our -- in the,
a lot of the benefit programs for people with disabilities
that they are designed actually to discourage work rather than
to encourage work.
So they force these terrible choices where if you --
if you decide to work, you lose your benefits or you lose access
to the technologies that you need to access your benefits.
And it, it has the impact of exacerbating those statistics
rather than ameliorating them, and people with disabilities
face unique challenges.
The last thing they need is an actual disincentive to go
out into the workplace.
So we've got, we have, we have a ways to go to solve that problem
as well, because that is intimately linked up to what
Mark's talking about, because if you're going to take that step
to go out and get training or go out and to get a job,
our system of support should encourage those steps,
not discourage those.
Ben Rhodes: I'd just say two very quick things.
Number one, to speak about one particular population,
which is America's wounded warriors and returning veterans,
some of whom have very significant disabilities.
Loss of limbs, sometimes dealing with very traumatic brain
injuries, and a lot of our veterans' care and benefits
as well as job programs are designed to make sure that
these veterans, again, are not excluded from the workforce but
actually are given the opportunity to enter
into the workforce.
That's, again, providing them with world-class medical care,
but also, frankly, going out and advocating for them with
U.S. businesses.
Part of what the First Lady's done through Joining Forces with
these hundred thousand jobs is to make the case that these men
and women bring certain leadership skills that
transcend any disability that they might have.
They're leaders, they've had extraordinary experience,
they've had extraordinary skills that they've developed
in the military.
So we want to make sure that some of those people who are
welcomed home as heroes when they first get here, again,
aren't only not forgotten, but are enlisted and frankly given
a privileged role as we advocate with private sector around the
country to create jobs.
One other very quick thing is the United States under the
President's leadership came into the United Nations Convention on
Disabilities, essentially something that would take
the types of protections we have under the Americans with
Disabilities Act and make it global.
And frankly, advocating for that and extending that around the
globe will help make it possible for some people with
disabilities to take those types of jobs that involves travel
overseas and work overseas.
U.S. jobs, but jobs that somehow -- sometimes might necessitate
their travel.
Because frankly, we see the disabilities workforce globally
disadvantaged if other countries don't have the same types of
protections we have in the ADA.
Anne Filipic: Great. We had a question just come in through Google Plus.
I think, Brian, this one will be for you.
Comes from Peter McDermott.
And he asks, what is the President doing to help young
entrepreneurs that are otherwise under employed get their
business ideas off the ground?
Brian Deese: It's a great question, and one that we hear a lot about.
The -- so a couple, a couple of concrete things that the
President talked about tonight, and that frankly,
he's been pushing for a while.
One of the things that the President recognized when he
came into office was that small businesses and new businesses,
frankly, create most of the jobs in this country.
And that's common sense for a lot of people,
a lot of us who are out in our own communities and we
see it in real-time.
The small businesses and the newly created ones are the ones
where most of our colleagues and friends and family are actually
being employed at.
But because of the nature of the crisis that we went through,
it was not only a recession, but a financial crisis.
When credit dried up, when access to capital dried up,
it was the small businesses that were the last to be able to get
back in to the game.
And so right now, large companies,
big corporations are actually able to access
credit relatively well.
The corporate debt markets are open.
Small companies, particularly those who relied on their home
or other collateral to get a loan are still in
really tough shape.
So, you know, the question that the President has asked the team
often is, so what do we do about that?
How do we actually get access to credit for more
small businesses?
You know, one accomplishment -- and Jenn was talking about areas
where despite the gridlock we actually have made some progress
in this city -- the President was able to pass the Small
Business Jobs Act in 2010, which put in place a set of
tax benefits and credit access programs directly designed to
help those types of entrepreneurs.
And the President tonight in the State of the Union basically
said let's double down on that, and in particular let's
streamline some of the regulations that get in
the way of companies who are trying to access capital
for an idea.
So a couple things he's talked about.
One is an idea that is getting a lot of attention out there from
young social entrepreneurs and internet entrepreneurs called
"crowd funding," where you're able to use web-based funding
mechanisms, some of the nonprofit today like Kickstarter
and IndieGoGo, to raise funds in a very disaggregated way.
Small number -- small dollars from a large number of people
or from institutions.
Some of the regulations that we have in place keep young
entrepreneurs from using those types of mechanisms,
growing those types of mechanisms,
so we'd like to make that easier to do.
Likewise, we've seen a dramatic fall in IPOs in this country,
and so one of the things the President has talked about is
trying to expand what's called the mini IPO,
mini offering market, by allowing more small firms
to go out and raise capital without having to go through
the formal process of an IPO.
So there are a number of things that we can do, and frankly,
those are at the heart of some of the other questions that
we've talked about in terms of increasing job growth and wages.
Because at the end of the day, the way that we are going to
grow a sustainable economy is getting capital to those
entrepreneurs who have the ideas and getting out of their
way when they take an idea and are able to grow with it
and create jobs.
Macon Phillips: Great. Okay, well, we have Joanna, who's from my team,
has been patiently waiting against the
wall with another microphone.
So let's give her a chance to choose somebody with a question
who's here as well.
All right?
There you go.
Janae Ingram: Janae Ingram with National Action Network.
And I have a question out of Houston, Texas.
For those people who are over 55 and want to reenter the
employment sector, how are we going about that?
What initiatives are there to help people who have either
retired or have somehow become disengaged from the workforce
get back in there?
Mark Zuckerman: Well, a few things.
Roberto talked about the President wanting to create two
million additional jobs in areas that we know there's going to be
shortages and do it through the community colleges.
We have -- we have a $2 million commitment that the President
got in the Reconciliation Bill that we've already started these
community college partnerships with private businesses where
they team up.
And the idea that whether you're a dislocated worker or a second
career or new, the idea that you can go to a community college or
go to a training program and know that at the end of that
program you have an employer there that is ready to hire you,
well, that's priceless.
And that's what we're looking at.
Because frankly, we spend too much on training that doesn't
always lead to a good job.
And this President is insisting that when we put public dollars
up to help people get a job and get trained for a job,
that we're holding them accountable.
And whether you're a four-year college or whether you're a
proprietary school or whether you're a community college,
it doesn't matter.
We want; the President wants you to get good value.
He wants the price of that to be reasonable,
and he's willing to say that just like large companies
leverage their purchasing to get a better deal,
that he's willing to use the aid that we give to the colleges to
say you have to be responsible and provide good value to the
students that are going there.
And in return for doing that, you're going to hold your prices
down and we'll continue to give the aid.
But it's a quid pro quo.
We want to see more responsibility for
these programs.
But the President identified today that the community
colleges, obviously in partnership with four-year
colleges and other educational opportunities,
are the key to filling those health care jobs,
filling those information technology jobs.
Roberto Rodriguez: Just to add to that, I'd say much of our education work is
framed by the President's goal that he set for us back in 2009
to say that by the end of this decade,
we are going to lead the world with the highest proportion of
college graduates.
That means we have to move from about 40% to over 60%
in terms of our share of college graduates as a nation.
And right now that means that we're going to have to produce
eleven million additional college grads.
We won't be able to get there if we're not opening pathways to
college careers for adults.
And so some of the reforms that Mark mentioned here really build
on a lot of what the President's already done to really increase
access and affordability for adults to be able to
go back to college.
That includes looking at expanding the Pell Grant,
and doing that by over $819 over the past three years so that
that's a more reliable source of aid not only for continuing
education at a four-year institution or a two-year
institution, but also for continuing training.
It's also why the President called tonight to make permanent
the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
That's worth $10,000 over four years to be
able to go to college.
And that's real money in the pockets of Americans to be
able to really fulfill their higher education opportunity.
Anne Filipic: Here's a question that I thought was pretty interesting.
Came from Google from Michael Habib.
And he asks how does the current Administration hope to balance
their verbal commitment to greater industrial efficiency,
which carries huge benefits, but also tends to carry an intrinsic
reduction in required human labor with the simultaneous
commitment to increase national rates of employment.
Mr. Deese.
Brian Deese: It's a great question, actually.
And one of the things that you can get me talking a
lot about is energy efficiency in buildings
and industrial facilities.
So I will try to keep it brief.
I actually think the question that Michael poses was posed as
perhaps there is a trade-off between if you make a factory --
to break it down, if you make a factory more energy efficient
does that by definition mean that there are going
to be fewer jobs?
And so maybe you save some energy,
but you've ended up with fewer jobs.
I think that what we've found -- and this is true both in the
industrial sector, so, you know, in factories,
but also in the commercial building sector, so, you know,
in office buildings and the like -- is that actually not only the
act of making those facilities more energy efficient but the
ongoing maintenance involved in energy efficiency technology is
a job creator.
So, you know, I'll just give you one very tangible example.
A few months ago the President went across the street just
around the block to a building where they,
they're upgrading the energy efficiency of a couple of floors
of a commercial building.
And you went in there and what you saw was this is a really
sophisticated high-tech construction site,
and these were workers who lost their jobs because we
had a massive housing crisis which hit commercial real
estate really hard.
And these were jobs going in and putting in really energy
efficient windows, putting in very high-technology boilers
in the top of the building where there were tens of thousands of
man-hours involved in putting in these machines.
And on an ongoing basis, to operate them there are good jobs
involved, engineering jobs and the like.
And what's exciting about it is that the owner of the building
was more than happy to make the investment, because even though,
you know, he was paying workers and to make these upgrades,
the reduction in costs associated with his energy
bill was going to pay off in three or four years.
And so you have one of these things that really is a unique
win-win in our economy where you're able to actually reduce
the energy intensity of our economy, save businesses money,
and create good jobs at the same time.
And so that's why the President talked about it.
He does, the President sometimes when we do events on these
issues, he jokes that energy efficiency isn't the sexiest
issue in the world, but it really is a job creator,
and particularly in an environment where we have
double-digit unemployment rates in our construction sector,
we have to do everything that we can to try to figure out how to
create good jobs in that area, and energy efficiency's
a real opportunity.
Macon Phillips: Great. So, okay, perfect, thanks.
So we have a lot of questions here,
but I've actually just got something in that I think you
guys will find interesting.
Let's see, how about I talk over here.
So just as a reminder to the folks watching,
you can ask questions by tweeting at the White House and
using the hashtag SOTU, heading over to our page on Facebook,
on Google Plus.
And then we have a whole week of engagement.
So if you didn't get your questions answered tonight,
head over to
You can get all the details about what's happening.
The Vice President's going to be doing a Twitter chat,
and of course the President's going to be doing a pretty great
event on Monday that we're all really excited about.
But if I can just bring up these slides here.
Let's see if this works.
Boom. Okay, great.
So our good friends at Twitter were actually paying attention
to the hashtag SOTU, and sent us just three quick stats that I
think are pretty interesting.
The first is just the total number of tweets that came in
during the event.
650,000 or so.
The next one, all right, is tweets per minute.
So we'll match this up with the speech,
but it's kind of interesting how the rates go up and down
throughout the speech.
And then the final one, which I think will be -- Sarah,
are we good?
Yes. This is a great way to introduce our next guest.
If you go to the next slide and you look at the topics of
messages, even though I think the President spent a large
amount of time talking about jobs,
he talked about energy policy, he talked about fairness,
the number one topic on Twitter was education,
and that is a great introduction for the Secretary of Education,
Arne Duncan.
Anne Filipic: So yes, we have joining us Secretary Arne Duncan
from the Department of Education, and Secretary,
you just came straight from the Capitol where you were in the
room when the President gave the State of the Union,
and we heard him talk a lot about education.
Tell us a little bit about the experience of being there and
some of your first impressions on the speech.
Secretary Arne Duncan: First of all, you always pinch yourself, it's a little surreal,
it's sort of mind boggling being there.
But it's inspiring.
And this is, you know, we're fighting for our country here.
And the President said repeatedly,
this is our national mission.
We have to educate our way to a better economy.
He laid out the vision from, you know,
attracting and retaining great, great teachers,
to making sure the college dream is part of the middle class
promise, that it's not just for wealthy folks.
Retraining folks who have been working for years,
maybe got laid off, come back to community colleges.
We always talk about cradle to career continuum.
So we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us.
But it's an amazing, amazing opportunity,
and just -- to be part of that, I can't tell you how much it
means to me personally.
Anne Filipic: Well, Macon, do we want to get a question from the audience?
Secretary Arne Duncan: Do we have one or two?
Macon Phillips: Do you think?
Yeah, audience good?
Education question?
Okay. Now, I owe him a question, as well.
So I'll come back to you, actually.
Because he had his hand up before the speech even ended.
You guys all know that, you saw it.
So let's hand it over to you and then we'll get back around to
the audience here.
Larry Burns: My question is for Secretary Duncan.
By the way, Larry Burns, Chicago native.
I live in Atlanta now, and I teach high school history and
political science.
First thing I want to say is, I affectionately refer to my
students as scholars, and I promised them that they would
get priority with these questions.
So this was one of my scholars.
And she simply tweeted: Yay for education.
Teachers do matter.
I mean, it doesn't get any better than that.
That came from a student.
My question, real quick, is I was blown away when President
Obama -- I want to read exactly what he said -- and return,
grant schools flexibility to teach with creativity and
passion, to stop teaching to the test,
and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn.
I want to address that teaching to the test.
It is a bona fide problem.
I can tell you as a teacher, there's been more than once --
we call our tests that wrap up the semester in the State of
Georgia EOCTs.
They stand for End Of Course Tests.
Unfortunately, we get one semester to teach all of U.S.
history and one semester to teach all of world history.
And I can tell you from the front lines,
on more than one occasion I have had a tremendous idea for
something I wanted to do, and I simply had to say I do not have
three days to spend on this because I've got to get this
material covered, because an End Of Course Test,
which right now is 15% of their overall grade,
and it's about to jump to 20%, is looming.
The other thing, very quickly, is that I don't know any
teacher, myself included, I'm not going to walk across the
hallway and ask another teacher for a test on World War II.
I don't know how they presented that material.
I don't know how they emphasized.
So we're preparing a very, very heavily weighted test that we
had nothing to do with in preparation.
So at the very least, just a real quick suggestion,
maybe we could bring this -- just so I'm not the type of
person in bringing up a problem, not maybe a solution -- give us
the ability.
If you want to have an End Of Course Test,
we're trained professionals, we can write them on the
local level.
Secretary Arne Duncan: First of all, just thank you so much for your service.
And the President talks all the time about the importance of
great teachers, what it meant in his life,
what it meant in my life.
What he said today there in Congress that it's absolutely
true, every single one of us can point to those teachers who
pulled things out of us that we didn't know we had in us,
and we wouldn't be where we are without that.
So that's something he just deeply, deeply believes in.
But with Roberto and Mark and our partners at the Domestic
Policy Council, you know, we're trying to move away from the No
Child Left Behind, you know, focus just on reading and math,
and narrowing the curriculum which is a huge problem.
We're looking to provide waivers to states.
We hoped Congress would fix No Child Left Behind together in
a bipartisan way.
That didn't happen.
But literally this evening I was on the phone with a team
from Georgia working through Georgia's waiver application.
And they're working really, really hard.
And so we want to be a good partner and everywhere we go
talk about a well-rounded, world class education.
Yes, reading and math are really important.
But science and social studies and dance and drama and P.E.
and art and music, all of those things are important,
and we have to get back to that.
Under No Child Left Behind we focused on those couple subjects
we tested in, led to a narrowing of the curriculum.
That's the biggest complaint I hear as I travel the country.
Macon Phillips: Great. Anne, do you have one?
Anne Filipic: Macon, yeah, a question just came in on Twitter
from David Carter who writes: Supporting community colleges
sounds like a great idea but they're local.
Why should federal government do it instead of a state or city?
Secretary Arne Duncan: Well, states and cities should do it.
But I think we have to be partners here.
And the fact of the matter is is that everyone's stretched
for resources.
My -- probably my most inspiring visits to schools
around the country are to community colleges.
You have 18-year-olds and 58-year-olds and people from,
you know, countries all over the globe and all working together
to improve themselves.
And so we've partnered with the Department of Labor,
put out $2 billion, 500 million the year before years,
with their strong public/private partnerships with the training
you're receiving in community colleges leading to a real job
in green energy, health care, technology,
whatever it might be.
And we all have to invest.
We have many -- we have community colleges now that
are actually open 24 hours a day, they're going three,
four shifts, literally taking classes 24 hours a day.
There's tremendous demand.
We have to continue to increase quality but make sure they have
the capacity to help everybody going back to school.
And so I think we all have a role to play and that we can
help the great work in local communities.
We have to do that.
I feel really proud about our ability to step in there and
help increase capacity.
Macon Phillips: Great. So I know it's getting late in the hour,
and I know you've probably still got more work to do,
Mr. Secretary.
Secretary Arne Duncan: I'll take a couple more.
Macon Phillips: Okay, great.
So we'll take up more, take it back to the audience,
and then maybe we can get a few more from online.
Annie Rose Dresser: Hi, my name is Annie Rose Dresser.
I work with the Campaign for Community Change.
And we advocate for low income people of color specifically.
And the President tonight in his speech talked about encouraging
states to keep kids in school until graduation.
I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about
basically how you would ensure the effectiveness of that policy
and how it would have an impact on low income communities of
color specifically.
Secretary Arne Duncan: Well, I think where the President starts, is today,
if folks drop out of high school,
they are basically condemned to poverty and social failure.
There are no good jobs out there in the legal economy.
And that's changed.
I'm not that old.
But when I was in high school on the south side of Chicago,
about 30 years ago, my friends actually, it wasn't great,
but they could drop out of high school and they could get a good
paying job in the stockyards and steel mills and, you know,
buy a home and support a family.
And those jobs are a distant memory from a bygone era.
And we know in many of our minority communities,
dropout rates are closer to 40, 50%.
For the country right now, it's about 25%, 25 to 30,
and we're losing a million young people from our schools to our
streets each year.
And that is economically unsustainable and it's
morally unacceptable.
And so I think the President's challenging all of us to say
that that's just not a viable option.
There's just nothing out there for you.
And we all have to work together to keep young people in school.
Let me be really clear.
For me, graduating from high school is just a starting point.
That's not an ending point.
You need some form of higher education beyond that,
four-year universities, two-year community colleges, trade,
technical, vocational training.
But particularly children of color,
children from disadvantaged communities,
that has to be the aspiration, that has to be the norm,
rather than exception.
But it all starts with graduating from high school.
And if you don't have that, doors shut on you very,
very quickly.
Anne Filipic: Great. Here's a question that came in online about student
loans from Michael Calvillo, who writes on behalf of his brother.
And he says: My brother has recently finished his Master's
degree but his financial future is very much in doubt because of
the huge burden of student loans.
What can the President do to help alleviate such burdens on
our future leaders?
Secretary Arne Duncan: So there's three parts to this.
One thing we've done on the front end is we stopped
subsidizing banks, took all that money, put it into Pell grants,
an additional $40 billion over the next decade of Pell grants,
the biggest increase since the G.I. Bill.
And we have maximum rates of $5,550.
We've gone from 6 million people benefiting from Pell grants just
two or three years ago to 9 million to date, a 50% increase.
On the front end we've worked really, really hard.
On the back end, which is where they're talking about now,
we put in place something called income based repayment, IBR.
And again, simply by stopping subsidizing, you know,
folks not going to taxpayers for a nickel,
are reducing loan repayments going forward so that you pay
according to how much you earn.
If you earn a lot more money, if you're in a lucrative
profession, you pay more.
If you're in public sector, if you are teaching, you pay less.
You pay 10% of your earnings and that can help the average person
put another couple hundred dollars back into their pocket
each month and help, you know, pay the rent, you know,
buy groceries, pay the gas bill or whatever it might be.
So working really hard on the front end.
On the back end, we heard from the President tonight in the
State of the Union, is him challenging colleges and
universities in tough economic times to keep
down their tuition.
And if we increase Pell grants but they just increase tuition,
the students don't benefit there.
So we've worked really hard on the front end,
feel great about that, lots of movement on the back end,
but we have to get colleges and universities to step up and be
full and equal partners.
That's tough to do in tough economic times.
But as he talked about tonight, lots of universities around the
country that right now are flatlining tuition,
are keeping it flat, even reducing it,
going to three year programs, going to no-frills universities,
using -- no-frills campuses, using technology in really
innovative ways.
And we want to continue to foster that and support that.
And where folks aren't doing that,
with tuition skyrocketing much higher than the rate
of inflation, we have to challenge the status quo.
Macon Phillips: Great, okay.
It's time for another Joanna round,
so everybody turn and look at her and put her on the spot.
Here we go.
Audience Member: Hi, this is for Secretary Duncan.
In the last two years, there have been several, say,
sort of especially taxes in Georgia,
they've taken content -- there's this question I've
got about content.
They've taken historical context out of place,
to say that slavery didn't exist or they've made missteps with
historical facts in this country.
Now my home state of Tennessee is joining the bandwagon of
taking out things that did happen in this country and I
think to piggyback on I guess the comments when you look at a
high disproportionate amount of young black males that do drop
out of college, I mean, out of high school because,
for example, I mean, if the content isn't properly given
and if they don't see that anything in this country in
the educational system relates to them,
then they don't feel there's a need to be bothered at all.
So is there any system in place to make sure there's a national
system of education?
I know, you know, we believe in the state's right,
believe we'll let the states handle it.
But if you have Texas, Georgia, Tennessee,
and then you have a slew of other states that, you know,
are in a sense changing history, then you have another case in
Georgia where, you know, you've got math teachers, you know,
asking if 57 slaves picked eight, you know, apples,
how many would you have.
I mean, when you have things like that,
I know teachers are given license or want to have license.
But when it affects a lot of students in a sense negatively,
then how does that happen?
What can be done to let there be some national blueprint that the
states can follow so you're not having 50 different
educational systems?
Arne Duncan: There are many, many things that were broken
with the No Child Left Behind law.
One of the things that I think was most insidious,
and I don't think this was intentional,
but what many states did is they actually dummied down standards
to conform with the law.
So they reduced standards, including the state I'm from,
from Illinois.
And what we've tried to do, rather than mandating something
or saying states have to do that,
we put some significant carrots out there for states to raise
standards, college and career ready standards.
And as the President talked about,
for a relatively small amount of money, huge movement, 45,
46 states have now adopted internationally benchmarked
college and career ready standards.
And literally for the first time in this country's history,
a child in Mississippi and a child in Massachusetts going
forward is going to be measured by the same yardstick.
This is a game changer.
And it's particularly a game changer for disadvantaged
communities, where those standards always get dummied
down the most.
So we're never going to dictate standards.
We've put some carrots out there and states have understood,
we have to race to the top, we can't, you know, reduce things.
But now we're going to have better assessments coming behind
that that are being developed and led by the state level and
then better curriculum will follow from that.
So higher standards, more thoughtful assessments,
much better curriculum.
So there's not something we can mandate or dictate, but this,
the country's moving at a much more rapid pace than --
Audience Member: (inaudible) -- Tennessee is talked about the Tea Party.
So when you have special interest groups --
Secretary Arne Duncan: So I don't know if we can get rid of the Tea Party.
I'm not quite sure that's our role.
I'm all for Democracy.
But I do think it's important for people's
voices to be heard.
I do think it's important to have high standards.
I think it's important that states understand the only way
they're going to keep good jobs in their states is if they have
an educated work force.
And a couple years ago, if you would have asked anybody,
would 46 states voluntarily adopt college and career ready
standards, they would have said you were crazy.
And this is bipartisan.
And this thing has happened, again,
because we've put significant carrots out there and the
President has shown tremendous leadership
and courage on this issue.
Macon Phillips: Okay, Anne, why don't you take one more from
online and then we'll wrap it up with one from the -- one from
here, but with a challenge.
I know a lot of you were here for the Tweet Up.
So if someone can pose a question that they're getting
through Twitter.
So hit up -- yeah, okay, we already have them.
So let's look for a question like that and let's get one from
you and then we'll wrap it up from the room.
Anne Filipic: Great.
I thought this was a great question that came in actually
during the President's speech from Tony Overby
in Brandon, Mississippi.
And he wrote: Our faulty public education system is a major
problem in the country today.
If we don't fix this educational crisis,
we are setting America up for failure.
But changes can be made to the public school system.
How far are we willing to go to make sure everyone,
not just those students headed for college,
are being educated properly.
What can we change for the 21st century public education system
and what can we do to make it the best in the world?
Arne Duncan: So this is a long answer and I'll try and shorten it.
It's not -- there isn't a simple answer, so let me start.
For me, it all begins with really high quality early
childhood education.
If we can get our 3- and 4-year-olds off to a great
start and have them enter kindergarten ready to read
and ready to learn, then we can really start to seriously close
achievement gaps.
And we're making major investments there in
partnership with HHS.
The President talked tonight about great teachers,
great principals.
I can't overstate how important that is.
As we lose about a million teachers, baby boomers retiring,
our ability to attract and retain great talent over the
next four or five, six years is going to shape public education
for the next 30.
It's truly a generational shift.
We have to challenge parents.
Parents have to take responsibility.
They have to turn off the Wii's, turn off the TVs,
spend time with their children, partner with teachers.
Every parent has to be part of that solution.
My wife and I have two young children at home and we try
and push ourselves to be real good partners with our
children's school.
Young people themselves, I always say,
this is their job is to get a good education.
You know, this is not just a lark or something they can do
when they feel like it.
Young people have to be absolutely committed to
getting a good education.
And then ultimately for me again,
the pre-K to 12 experience is simply preparing you for that
next step in the education journey, whatever it might be.
And the opportunity to go to college has to be affordable,
has to be accessible to the middle class.
And what the President worries about,
what the Vice President worries about,
what I worry about is that for too many middle class folks,
that dream of going to college has gotten harder and harder.
We have to look at this cradle to career continuum.
There is not one simple answer.
But we're pushing as hard as we can.
And just quickly, on the sense of urgency,
I talked about the dropout rate, which is staggering.
But one generation ago we led the world in college graduates
and today we're 16th.
So 15 other countries have passed us by.
They are out-educating us, they are out-innovating us,
and then we wonder why we struggle economically.
We have to break through and we have to look at this cradle
to career continuum.
Macon Phillips: Great. So we'll take the last question here.
Take it from you.
Tyler Sedonis: Hi, my name is Tyler Sedonis.
I am an undergraduate student at American University.
And one of the tweets that I got from a classmate of mine who
just graduated this past year, I'm going to read it to you,
secretary Duncan, and thank you for your time for coming here.
The question is, it says: I absolutely applaud changes for
current student loan rates, but would those also count towards
those who graduated?
Thank you.
Secretary Arne Duncan: What we're trying to do, again, is have those loan repayments
going forward, have those be reduced to 10% of income.
So, again, if you're making more money, you pay back more.
If you're making less money, you pay back less.
And what I didn't say is that if you go into the public service,
if you, you know, become a teacher,
if you're working in a nonprofit, a legal aid clinic,
a medical clinic, after ten years, that debt will be erased,
it will be forgiven.
We want to bring that great talent to the public sector.
So we're trying to work really hard there, as well.
Macon Phillips: Okay. So we're going to wrap things up for the evening.
I know it's late.
I want to thank everyone for being here.
Thank everyone online for tuning in.
Thanks, Secretary Duncan, and the rest of our panel
for participating.
A few reminders.
Don't know if you caught it earlier.
For those of you tuning in, first off,
the entire speech is about to start playing again.
So stay online.
Anyone here who wants to see it for the second time
is welcome to stay.
But that's going to start playing.
And then we have a week's worth of online engagement activities,
all the details at
Vice President Biden is going to participate and President Obama
is going to wrap it up next Monday.
Thanks again for tuning in and we'll see you tomorrow.