White House Week

20.12.14

This week saw the historic announcement that diplomatic relations would be reopened between the United States and Cuba. Read the President's statement below:

"Yesterday, after more than 50 years, we began to change America's relationship with the people of Cuba.

We are recognizing the struggle and sacrifice of the Cuban people, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, and ending an outdated approach that has failed to advance U.S. interests for decades. In doing so, we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.

I was born in 1961, just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just as the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with that country.

Our complicated relationship with this nation played out over the course of my lifetime -- against the backdrop of the Cold War, with our steadfast opposition to communism in the foreground. Year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between us.

That previous approach failed to promote change, and it's failed to empower or engage the Cuban people. It's time to cut loose the shackles of the past and reach for a new and better future with this country.

First, I have instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations that have been severed since 1961. Going forward, we will re-establish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will once again visit Cuba.

Second, I have also instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism -- a review guided by the facts and the law. At a time when we are focused on threats from ISIL and al Qaeda, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces terrorism should not face such a sanction.

Third, we'll take steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to -- and from -- Cuba. These steps will make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. They will make it easier for Americans to conduct authorized trade with Cuba, including exports of food, medicine, and medical products to Cuba. And they will facilitate increased telecommunications connections between our two countries: American businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.

These changes don't constitute a reward or a concession to Cuba. We are making them because it will spur change among the people of Cuba, and that is our main objective.

Change is hard -- especially so when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders.

Our country is cutting that burden loose to reach for a better future.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama."

The President and First Lady also celebrated Hanukkah.



This week, the Vice President and Dr Biden dedicated five trees at the Naval Observatory, recognising each branch of the US Armed Forces. Capturing their personal experiences, military families from all across the country handcrafted the ornaments that adorn the trees. Atop each tree is a gold star, embodying the spirit, bravery, and patriotism of those who serve.

Earlier this month, Dr. Biden hosted a holiday celebration in honor of our military, veterans, and their families at the Vice President’s Residence. "We owe thanks today, and everyday, to those who wear the uniform. And we owe a debt of gratitude to their families because, as all of you know, when you have a family who serves in the military, the whole family serves too," Dr. Biden said.

Dr. Biden places an ornament of the National Guard Memorial on a holiday tree in her office at the White House, in Washington, D.C., December 12, 2014. (Photo by SSG Michelle Gonzalez, National Guard Bureau)
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