Monday, March 28, 2011

Obama's Remarks at Univision Town Hall

See the video here.
Remarks by the President at Univision Town Hall

Bell Multicultural High School
Washington, D.C.

10:37 A.M. EDT

MR. RAMOS: Mr. President, I have the first question. As a newscaster and as an anchor, I have to ask first. And I would like to ask something that everybody wants to know. I don't know if you can give us something about the speech you're going to give later on for us to listen to here at Univision. And we are going through a very difficult time. We're going through three different wars at the same time. I was looking at the education budget in the country and it amazes me that every dollar that is being spent on education we spend $10 for war and the Department of Defense. Do we need to change that? What would you do?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I just want to say, Jorge, it’s wonderful to be with Univision. It’s wonderful to be here at Bell Multicultural. (Applause.) You guys are doing outstanding work.

I also want to make a confession, and that is that although I took Spanish in high school, I'm receiving translation through this earpiece. (Laughter.) But for all the young people here, I want you guys to be studying hard because it is critical for all American students to have language skills. And I want everybody here to be working hard to make sure that you don't just speak one language, you speak a bunch of languages. That's a priority. (Applause.)

MR. RAMOS: Let’s talk about Libya.

THE PRESIDENT: Jorge, with respect to Libya, I am going to be addressing this issue tonight, and I’ve already discussed it on several occasions, including on your program.

Our involvement there is going to be limited both in time and in scope. But you’re absolutely right that we have a very large defense budget. Some of that is necessitated by the size of our country and the particular special role that we play around the globe. But what is true is that over the last 10 years, the defense budget was going up much more quickly than our education budget.

And we are only going to be as strong as we are here at home. If we are not strong here at home, if our economy is not growing, if our people are not getting jobs, if they are not succeeding, then we won’t be able to project military strength or any other kind of strength.

And that's why in my 2012 budget, even though we have all these obligations -- we’re still in Afghanistan; I have ended the war in Iraq, and we’ve pulled 100,000 troops out -- (applause) -- but we still have some commitments there -- despite all that, my proposed budget still increases education spending by 10 percent, including 4 percent for non-college-related expenses. But we also increased the Pell Grant program drastically so all these outstanding young people are going to have a better chance to go to college. (Applause.)

So the larger point you’re making I think is right that we have to constantly balance our security needs with understanding that if we’re not having a strong economy, a strong workforce and a well-educated workforce, then we’re not going to be successful over the long term.

MR. RAMOS: Okay. Mr. President, one of the main problems here in the United States is that -- with Hispanics especially -- is that only one out of three of Hispanic students actually graduates from high school. They drop out. And Iris Mendosa, a student from this school has the first question. Iris?

Q Hello, Mr. President. My name is Iris Mendosa, and I attend Washington, D.C. Bell Multicultural High School. And my question is: What can we do to reduce the amount of students that drop out of school before graduating? Read the rest