The president is coming to Orlando, the site of the worst mass shooting in American history.
In a statement released last night, White House press secretary Josh Earnest wrote,
On Thursday, the president will travel to Orlando, Florida to pay his respects to victims' families, and to stand in solidarity with the community as they embark on their recovery.
During a press briefing, he also made an extended statement about the shooting by a terrorist that left 49 people dead at a gay nightclub in the city.
Our hearts go out to the families of those who have been killed. Our prayers go to those who have been wounded. This is a devastating attack on all Americans … The fact that it took place at a club frequented by the LGBT community I think is also relevant. We’re still looking at all the motivations of the killer. But it's a reminder that regardless of race, religion, faith or sexual orientation, we're all Americans, and we need to be looking after each other and protecting each other at all times in the face of this kind of terrible act.
President Obama will visit the city of Hiroshima this week during his weeklong visit to several Asian countries, but the White House says that he has no plans to apologize on behalf of the United States for dropping a nuclear bomb there during WWII. He will be the first president ever to visit the city.
According to White House officials, the president will focus his message while in the country on reconciliation, the importance of international partnerships and the tragic costs of war. In an interview with a Japanese public radio station, the president was asked directly about whether or not he would apologize:
No, because I think that it's important to recognize that in the midst of war, leaders make all kinds of decisions. It's a job of historians to ask questions and examine them, but I know as somebody who has now sat in this position for the last seven and a half years, that every leader makes very difficult decisions, particularly during war time.
The issue is still a politically sensitive one. A nuclear bomb dropped on the city during the summer of 1945 killed tens of thousands of civilians and leveled much of the area. Though the bombings are still debated, some historians credit them with helping to end WWII. Discuss
Hip-hop star and anti-addiction advocate Macklemore recently joined President Obama to discuss the dangers of a rising problem in America: addiction to prescription pain killers.
The reality of the problem is shocking. As the president notes, drug overdoses now kill more Americans every year than traffic accidents. And, in the last 16 years, the number of Americans who have died after overdosing on opioids has tripled. And, because the the pain killers are prescribed by doctors, more and more Americans are getting access to the medicines that could also become the source of deadly addictions.
Macklemore, who himself overcame addiction with the help of recovery resources and a 12-step program, has been vocal about the drugs’ danger. Along with advocating for new legislative measures—including training for doctors and additional resources to first-responders helping overdose victims—the duo announced that they are creating a new MTV special to help raise awareness about the issue. It will air later this summer. Discuss
This week, President Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, and used the opportunity to essentially preach a sermon on fear—and why the Bible calls us to reject it. While acknowledging global violence, economic hardships and environmental concerns, he said that “Jesus is a good cure for fear.”:
Lately I’ve been thinking and praying on verse from 2 Timothy, ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind’ … “Fear can feed our most selfish impulses and erode the bonds of community. It is a primal emotion–fear–one that we all experience, and it can be contagious, spreading through societies, and through nations, and if we let it consume us, the consequences of that fear can be worse than any outward threat.
For me, and I know for so many of you, faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear. God gives believers the power, the love, the sound mind required to conquer any fear, and what more important moment for that faith than right now? … What better time than these changing tumultuous times to have Jesus standing beside us, steadying our minds, cleansing our hearts, pointing us towards what matters. His love gives us the power to resist fear’s temptations.
He gives us the courage to reach out to others across that divide rather than push people away. He gives us the courage to go against the conventional wisdom and stand up for what’s right even when it’s not popular – to stand up not just to our enemies, but sometimes stand up to our friends.
He also discussed his recent visit to mosque, and the need for people of all faiths to reject fear and embrace peace. You can watch his entire address below. Discuss
Yesterday, President Obama spoke to law enforcement officials at the White House forum on criminal justice, and took some time to address and defend the Black Lives Matter movement. The phrase has become a rallying cry among activists calling for reforms in law enforcement and the criminal justice system after the several high-profile cases of unarmed black men and women being killed by police or while in police custody. President Obama directly addressed critics who have countered by insisting that “all lives matter." The president explained:
Black Lives Matter is a social media movement that tried to gel around Ferguson, the Eric Garner case and some other cases that came up. And very rapidly, it was posited as being in opposition to the police. And sometimes, like any of these loose organizations, some people pop-off and say dumb things. On the other hand though, it started being lifted as “These folks are opposed to police. They’re opposed to cops, and ‘All Lives Matter.’” So the notion was, somehow saying “Black Lives Matter” was reverse racism or suggesting that other people’s lives didn’t matter, or police officers’ lives didn’t matter. And whenever we get bogged down in that type of discussion, we know where that goes … I think everybody understands all lives matter.
I think the reason that the organizers used the phrase 'Black Lives Matter' was not because they were suggesting nobody else's lives matter. Rather, what they were suggesting was there is a specific problem that's happening in the African-American community that's not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we've got to address.