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Biden excoriates misinformation sources urges Americans get vaccinated

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President Joe Biden addresses Omicron and other coronavirus issues (Screenshot via C-SPAN)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden, in a televised mid-afternoon national address from the White House on Tuesday, urged Americans to get vaccinated, get a booster shot, and wear a mask plus take other precautions against being infected with the coronavirus as a new and much more rapidly infectious variant takes hold across the country.

First, how concerned should you be about Omicron, which is now the dominant variant in this country and it happened so quickly?
 
The answer is straightforward: If you are not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned.  You’re at a high risk of getting sick.  And if you get sick, you’re likely to spread it to others, including friends and family.  And the unvaccinated have a significantly higher risk of ending up in a hospital or even dying,” the president said.
 
Almost everyone who has died from COVID-19 in the past many months has been unvaccinated.  Unvaccinated.” he added.

The president emphasized that his urging action by Americans was not motivated by political considerations. Biden mentioned that even former President Trump had gotten his booster shot, and the president said it’s Americans’ “patriotic duty” to get vaccinated.

“It’s the only responsible thing to do,” the president said. “Omicron is serious and potentially deadly business for unvaccinated people.”

While urging Americans to get boosted or vaccinated the president took aim at the problem of vaccine resistance which he blamed on the mostly right wing media for promulgating organized opposition to vaccines and necessary measures recommended by health officials to protect lives.

Look, the unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices.  But those choices have been fueled by dangerous misinformation on cable TV and social media.”
 
You know, these companies and personalities are making money by peddling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters,” he said then angrily added; “It’s wrong, it’s immoral, and I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop it.  Stop it now.”

Addressing the need for greater testing capabilities the president outlined his administration’s plans to assist states with Federal assistance and to purchase 500 million at-home test kits.

We’re going to continue to add federal testing sites where needed so that if you want an immediate test, there will be a place where you can go get it. We also need to do better with at-home testing.  So, I’m announcing today: The federal government will purchase one half billion — that’s not million; billion with a “B” — additional at-home rapid tests, with deliveries starting in January,” Biden said. 
 
We’ll be getting these tests to Americans for free.  And we’ll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home. We have arranged for it to be easier for you to find a free COVID testing site near you on Google.  Just enter “COVID test near me” in the Google search bar and you can find a number of different locations nearby where you can get tested,” he added.

It marks a major policy shift for the president, who earlier had called for many Americans to purchase the hard-to-find tests on their own and then seek reimbursement from health insurance. For the first time, the U.S. government will send free COVID-19 tests directly to Americans, after more than a year of urging by public health experts.

I know you’re tired, and I know you’re frustrated. We all want this to be over. But we’re still in it,” Biden said. “We also have more tools than we had before. We’re ready, we’ll get through this.”

The president underscored that there would not be a return to a mass lockdown of schools or businesses.

He stressed; “We should all be concerned about Omicron but not panicked.  If you’re fully vaccinated, and especially if you got your booster shot, you are highly protected.  And if you’re unvaccinated, you’re at higher risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19, getting hospitalized, and even dying. So, the best thing to do is get fully vaccinated and get your booster shot.”

The president also outlined additional measures his administration was taking to combat the Omicron surge.

In addition, I have directed the Pentagon to mobilize an additional 1,000 troops to be deployed to help staff local hospitals and expand capacity.  That’s 1,000 military doctors, nurses, and medics.  We’ve already started moving — military — excuse me, medical teams.  They’ve already landed in Wisconsin and Indiana this week. And this is on top of 300 federal medical — medical personnel that are now on the ground, having deployed since we learned about Omicron,” Biden said.

Look, while we know staffing is the biggest need for our hospitals, some may need more beds as well.  We’re prepared.  I’ve directed FEMA to activate the National Response Center and begin deploying teams now to provide additional hospital beds.  We’ll begin to construct emergency capacity near hospitals, in parking garages, and nearby buildings to be ready if needed,” he noted.

*****

The City of Los Angeles NotifyLA System after the president’s remarks sent out the following:

LA City: COVID-19 rates are increasing. If you were exposed to someone with COVID or are experiencing symptoms, get tested before holiday gatherings. Take precautions, such as masking and distancing. Get vaccinated. If you’ve already been vaccinated, booster shots are effective against Omicron. There are hundreds of locations that provide free testing and vaccines across LA County: 

Find testing sites at: Coronavirus.LACity.org/Testing

Find vaccination locations at: Coronavirus.LACity.org/GetVaccinated

Learn more about reducing your risk at: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/ncorona2019/reducingrisk/

=====================================

Ciudad de LA: Los casos de COVID-19 están aumentando. Si estuvo expuesto a alguien con COVID o está experimentando síntomas, hágase la prueba antes de las fiestas navideñas. Tome precauciones con usar máscara y mantenga una sana distancia. Vacúnese. Si ya se vacunó, los refuerzos son efectivos contra el Omicron. Hay cientos de sitios que brindan pruebas y vacunas gratuitas en todo el Condado de Los Ángeles:

Para encontrar sitios de prueba: Coronavirus.LACity.org/Testing

Para encontrar sitios de vacunación: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/ncorona2019/vaccine/hcwsignup/Spanish.htm
Obtenga más información sobre cómo reducir su riesgo en: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/ncorona2019/reducingriskSpanish/

Biden Delivers Remarks on Covid Response Efforts | NBC News

Full Text of remarks by President Biden on the Fight Against COVID-19

Good afternoon.  I promised when I got elected that I’d always give it to you straight from the shoulder — the good, the bad, the truth.

So, as we head into Christmas weekend, I want to answer your questions about the rising number of COVID cases — COVID-19 cases.

And I want to start by acknowledging how tired, worried, and frustrated I know you are.  I know how you’re feeling.

For many of you, this will be the first or even the second Christmas where you look — across the table will be an empty kitchen chair there.

Tens of millions have gotten sick, and we’ve all experienced an upheaval in our lives.

But while COVID has been a tough adversary, we’ve shown that we’re tougher — tougher because we have the power of science and vaccines that prevent illness and save lives, and tougher because of our resolve.

So, that — let me answer some questions that lay out the steps the Vice President and I are taking to prepare for the rising number of cases experts tell us we could expect in the weeks ahead.

First, how concerned should you be about Omicron, which is now the dominant variant in this country and it happened so quickly?

The answer is straightforward: If you are not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned.  You’re at a high risk of getting sick.  And if you get sick, you’re likely to spread it to others, including friends and family.  And the unvaccinated have a significantly higher risk of ending up in a hospital or even dying. 

Almost everyone who has died from COVID-19 in the past many months has been unvaccinated.  Unvaccinated.

But if you’re among the majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated, and especially if you’ve gotten the booster shot — that third shot — you’re much — you have much, much less reason to worry.  You have a high degree of protection against severe illness. 

And because Omicron spreads so easily, we’ll see some fully vaccinated people get COVID, potentially in large numbers.  There will be positive cases in every office, even here in the White House, among the unv- — among the vaccinated — among the vaccinated — from Omicron.

But these cases are highly unlikely to lead to serious illness.

Vaccinated people who get COVID may get ill, but they’re protected from severe illness and death.  That’s why you should still remain vigilant.

According to our doctors, even if you’re fully vaccinated, you should wear a mask when indoors in public settings.

Wearing a mask provides extra protection for you and those around you.  And I know some Americans are wondering if you can safely celebrate the holidays with your family and friends. 

The answer is yes, you can, if you and those you celebrate with are vaccinated, particularly if you’ve gotten your booster shot.

If you are vaccinated and follow the precautions that we all know well, you should feel comfortable celebrating Christmas and the holidays as you planned it.

You know, you’ve done the right thing.  You could enjoy the holiday season.

And thanks to the progress on vaccinations this fall, we’ve gone from nearly 90 million adults in July who had not even started their vaccination process to fewer than 40 million today.  Still too many, but down from 90 to 40.

All these people who have not been vaccinated, you have an obligation to yourselves, to your family, and, quite frankly — I know I’ll get criticized for this — to your country.

Get vaccinated now.  It’s free.  It’s convenient.  I promise you, it saves lives.  And I, honest to God, believe it’s your patriotic duty.

Another question folks are asking is: What can you do to make yourself and your family feel safer and be safer?  The answer is simple: Get your booster shot.  Wear a mask.

Our doctors have made it clear: Booster shots provide the strongest of protections.  Unfortunately, we still have tens of millions of people who are eligible for the booster shot who have not yet gotten it.  They’ve gotten the first two shots, but they’ve not gotten the booster.

Folks, the booster shots are free and widely available.  Over 60 million Americans, including 62 percent of eligible seniors, our most vulnerable group, have gotten their booster shots.

I got my booster shot as soon as they were available.  And just the other day, former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot.  It may be one of the few things he and I agree on.

People with booster shots are highly protected.  Join them.  Join us.  It’s been six months or more since my second shot.  If it’s been six months or more for your second shot — when I got my booster — you can get yours today if you’ve been six months or more since your second shot. 

Another question that folks are asking is: Are we going back to March 2020 — not this last March 2021, but March 2020 — when the pandemic first hit?  That’s what I keep getting asked.

The answer is absolutely no.  No. 

Here are three big differences between then and now: One — number one — the first one — more than 200 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.  In March of 2020, no one was fully vaccinated.  What that means is, today, as cases — a case of COVID-19 for a fully vaccinated and boosted person will most likely mean no symptoms or mild ones similar to the common respiratory viruses.

Over 200 million Americans should have the peace of mind that they did not have in March of 2020: They’re protected from hospitalization, and they’re protected from death.

Second point: We’re prepared today for what’s coming.  In March of 2020, we were not ready.  Today, we’ve spocktiled [sic] enough — we’ve stockpiled enough gowns, masks, and ventilators to deal with the surge of hospitalizations among the unvaccinated. 

Today, we’re ready.

And as I’ll explain in a few minutes, we’re going to be reinforcing our hospitals, helping them.

Number three, we know a lot more today than we did back in March of 2020.  For example, last year, we thought the only way to keep your children safe was to close your — close our schools. 

Today, we know more and we have more resources to keep those schools open.  We can — you can get 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated — a tool we didn’t have until last month.

Today, we don’t have to shut down schools because of a case of COVID-19.  Now, if a student tests positive, other students can take the test and stay in the classroom if they’re not infected rather than closing the whole school or having to quarantine.

We can keep our K-through-12 schools open, and that’s exactly what we should be doing.

So, folks, let me summarize: We should all be concerned about Omicron but not panicked.  If you’re fully vaccinated, and especially if you got your booster shot, you are highly protected.  And if you’re unvaccinated, you’re at higher risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19, getting hospitalized, and even dying.

So, the best thing to do is get fully vaccinated and get your booster shot.

And, no, this is not March of 2020.  Two hundred million people are fully vaccinated.  We’re prepared.  We know more.  We just have to stay focused.  So that’s where we stand.

Now, let me tell you about the additional steps I’m ordering today to take on what is coming.  I know you’ve heard a lot of this in the news already this morning.

Three weeks ago, I laid out a COVID-19 Action Plan for this winter that prepared us for this moment.  Today, we’re making the plan even stronger.

First, we’re setting up our vaccination and booster efforts — we’re stepping it up significantly.  In the past two weeks, we’ve seen the highest vaccination rates since last spring.  And we aren’t as vaccinated, as a country, as we should be, though.  That’s why we have added 10,000 new vaccination sites on top of the 80,000 sites that are already we had — we already had in place, and even more will open in January. 

I know there are some parts of this country where people are very eager to get their booster, where it’s harder to get an appointment.  Excuse me.  (Coughs.)

So starting this week, I’ll be deploying hundreds more vaccinators and more sites to help get the booster shots in people’s arms. 

I’ve ordered FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency –- to stand up new pop-up vaccination clinics all across the country where you can get that booster shot.

We’ve opened — (coughs) — excuse me — we’ve opened FEMA vaccination sites in Washington State and New Mexico recently as cases have increased.  And today, I’m directing FEMA to stand up new sites in areas where there is high demand.

These steps are going to help us add more — more and more booster appointments in over — just over the next few weeks. 

I also want to say a word to parents: If your children are not vaccinated, please get them vaccinated.  If you’re a parent -– understandably — who waited to see how the first shots went with other kids before getting your own kid vaccinated, you can stop waiting.  Six million children in our country ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated.  Get your children protected today — now.

And for those parents out there who have a child that’s too young to be vaccinated — that is under the age of five — I know this can still be a scary time.  But one thing — one thing you can and must do while we await vaccines for children under five: Get yourself fully vaccinated and boosted, as well as those around you — your children, your caregivers, your siblings.

It’s critical to mask up in public indoor places.

We know that our youngest children have only rarely been impacted by serious COVID cases — COVID-19 cases, but they can be further protected if they’re surrounded by vaccinated people.

And again, to folks who are not vaccinated: You may think you’re putting only yourself at risk, but it’s your choice.  Your choice is not just a choice about you; it affects other people.  You’re putting other people at risk — your loved ones, your friends, neighbors, strangers you run into.  And your choice can be the difference between life or death.

The longer the virus is around, the more likely variants form that may be deadlier than the ones that have come before.

Let me say again and again and again and again: Please get vaccinated.  It’s the only responsible thing to do.  And those who are not vaccinated are causing hospitals to overrun — become overrun again.

I just spoke to the governor of New York.  Every COVID-19 hospital [hospitalization] means someone with a heart attack, cancer, or other serious illness may not get that bed and that lifesaving care they need in the hospital.

Look, let me give it to you straight again: Omicron is serious, potentially deadly business for unvaccinated people.

Let me be clear: Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America is one of the first countries to get the vaccine.  And thanks to my administration and the hard work of Americans, we led a rollout that made America
among the world leaders in getting shots in arms. 

But uptake slowed this summer as vaccine resistance among some hardened.  Look, the unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices.  But those choices have been fueled by dangerous misinformation on cable TV and social media.

You know, these companies and personalities are making money by peddling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters.

It’s wrong, it’s immoral, and I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop it.  Stop it now.

One of the other things that we know that has to be done is more testing.  Because Omicron spreads easily, especially among the unvaccinated, it’s critically important that we know who’s infected.  That means we need more testing.

And on that score, we are now [not] where we should be.

Yes, we have over 20,000 free testing sites.  Yes, we’ve used the Defense Production Act and spent $3 billion to greatly expand the number of at-home tests available for purchase online and at your local pharmacy.  And, yes, we’ve made sure insurance covers the PCR tests you get in a hospital or at your doctor’s office. 

But, starting next month, private insurance will all cover — also cover at-home testing so you can order a test online and get reimbursed.  We’re providing access to free at-home tests for those who may have insurance as well — may not have insurance, I should say, as well. 

But it’s not enough.  We have to do more.  We have to do better, and we will.

Starting this week, the federal government will set up emergency testing sites in areas that need additional testing capacity.  Before Christmas, the first several of these federal testing sites will be up and running in New York City with many more to come. 

This free testing is going to help reduce the waiting lines — the time you have to stand there and — and sometimes it’s an hour or more.

We’re going to continue to add federal testing sites where needed so that if you want an immediate test, there will be a place where you can go get it.

We also need to do better with at-home testing.  So, I’m announcing today: The federal government will purchase one half billion — that’s not million; billion with a “B” — additional at-home rapid tests, with deliveries starting in January. 

We’ll be getting these tests to Americans for free.  And we’ll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home. 

We have arranged for it to be easier for you to find a free COVID testing site near you on Google.  Just enter “COVID test near me” in the Google search bar and you can find a number of different locations nearby where you can get tested.

And we’re going to continue to use the Defense Production Act as we did earlier this month to make sure we’re producing as many tests and as quickly as possible. 

The bottom line is it’s a lot better than it was, but we’re taking even more steps to make it easier to get tested and get tested for free. 

Next, we are preparing hospitals for what’s coming.  Those 40 [million] unvaccinated adults have a good chance of getting COVID-19, and some of you will get very sick.  That will mean hospitals are going to get extremely stressed — extremely stressed again, both in terms of equipment as well as personnel to care for those who get sick.

That’s why my administration has stockpiled and pre-positioned millions of gowns, gloves, masks, and ventilators.  We used to call it PPP [PPE].  We’re ready to send them immediately to any state that needs more.

In addition, I have directed the Pentagon to mobilize an additional 1,000 troops to be deployed to help staff local hospitals and expand capacity.  That’s 1,000 military doctors, nurses, and medics.  We’ve already started moving — military — excuse me, medical teams.  They’ve already landed in Wisconsin and Indiana this week.

And this is on top of 300 federal medical — medical personnel that are now on the ground, having deployed since we learned about Omicron. 

Look, while we know staffing is the biggest need for our hospitals, some may need more beds as well.  We’re prepared.  I’ve directed FEMA to activate the National Response Center and begin deploying teams now to provide additional hospital beds.  We’ll begin to construct emergency capacity near hospitals, in parking garages, and nearby buildings to be ready if needed.

And the fuderal [sic] — the federal government is paying for all of this — period — all of it. 

Further, FEMA will deploy hundreds of ambulances and EMS crews so that if one hospital fills up, we can transport patients to beds elsewhere. 

This week, we will send dozens of ambulances to New York and Maine, because of the — because the COVID is spreading very rapidly, to help transport patients. 

Our doctors, nurses, hospital staffs have gone above and beyond during this pandemic.  The strain and stress is real.  I really mean it.  It’s real.  And we’ll have their backs though.  We have to let them know we have their backs. 

Finally, we’re making sure that COVID-19 no longer closes businesses or schools.  Last week, the federal court reinstated my administration’s vaccination-or-test — the vaccination-or-test rule for businesses with more than 100 employees. 

The rule requires employers with 100 or more employees
to protect their workers who are on site and indoors with a requirement that they be vaccinated or tested each week or go home.

These rules are going to keep workers safe.  And keep workers safe will help keep businesses open.  If people are vaccinated or tested, they are much less likely to get sick and less likely to spread it to others.  Customers are more likely to come in and shop because they know it’s a safe environment.

I know vaccination requirements are unpopular for many.  They’re not even popular for those who are anxious to get them. 

But my administration has put them in place not to control your life, but to save your life and the lives of others.  Over 400,000 Americans died from COVID this calendar year — and almost all were unvaccinated, almost all were preventable.

The rule is legal and effective, and it’s going to save thousands of American lives. 

We must also keep our K-12 schools open.  Look, the science is clear and overwhelming.  We know how to keep our kids safe from COVID-19 in school.  K-through-12 schools should be open.  And that safety is increased if schools require all adults who work in the schools to get vaccinated and take the safety measures that CDC has recommended, including masking.

I got Congress to pass billions of dollars in school improvements, ventilation, and social distancing.  Schools should be safer than ever from COVID-19.

And just Friday, the CDC issued test-to-stay guidelines, so schools can stay open and kids can stay in class even if a classmate tests positive. 

COVID-19 is scary.  But the science is clear: Children are as safe as — are — as safe in school as they are anyplace, assuming the appropriate precautions have been taken, and they’ve already been funded.

Let me close with this: I know you’re tired — I really mean this — and I know you’re frustrated.  We all want this to be over.  But we’re still in it, and this is a critical moment.  But we also have more tools than we’ve ever had before.

We’re ready.  We’ll get through this.

As we head into the holidays, I want us to all keep the faith.

I want to sincerely thank you for your perseverance, your courage, your countless acts of kindness, love, and sacrifice during these last two years. 

Throughout our history, we’ve been tested as a people and as a nation.  Through war and turmoil, we had to ask whether we’d be safe, whether we’d be okay, whether we’d be — get back to who we are.

We’ve always endured because we remember there is no challenge too big for America — I mean this from the bottom of my heart — no challenge.

We’ve come through better and stronger because we stay together as the United States of America.

That’s what we have to keep doing today.  We can do this together, I guarantee you.

May God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.  And happy holidays.  God love you all.  Thank you.

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The White House

The White House celebrates “A night when hope & history rhyme”

“On his final tour in Washington, Jill and I invited Elton to the White House to thank him on behalf of the American people”

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President Biden awards the National Humanities Medal to Elton John for his work on combating HIV/AIDS (Screenshot/C-SPAN)

WASHINGTON – After a performance from a repertoire of the best known hits from his songbook in a special musical concert at the White House Friday evening, Sir Elton John was called to the podium where, accompanied by the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, President Joe Biden surprised the iconic British singer-songwriter with an award.

The president presented John with the National Humanities Medal for his advocacy work in recognition of LGBTQ+ rights and tireless activism against the global HIV/AIDS crisis disease through his contributions in music and the arts.

The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened its citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects.

A stunned John was moved to tears. After the president had the citation read by a military aide and hung the medal around the singer’s neck, Biden told the audience gathered, “I think we surprised him” to which they cheered and applauded.

The medal’s citation read in part that it was honoring John “for moving our souls with his powerful voice and one of the defining song books of all time. An enduring icon and advocate with absolute courage, who found purpose to challenge convention, shatter stigma and advance the simple truth — that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Visibly moved, the iconic musician and performer said: “I just said to the First Lady, I’m never flabbergasted- but I’m flabbergasted and humbled and honoured by this incredible award from the United States of America. I will treasure this so much- I will make me double my efforts to make sure this disease goes away. Your kindness- America’s kindness to me as a musician is second to none, but in the war against AIDS and HIV it’s even bigger and I can’t thank you enough…. I’m really emotional about this- thank you.”

Texas Trans-teen activist Landon Richie (Middle) standing with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, (L) and his husband Chasten (R).
(Photo courtesy of Landon Richie)

The special gathering held under a vaulted glass and aluminum ‘tent’ on the South Lawn of the White House was attended by 2,000 guests including former first lady Laura Bush, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, his husband Chasten, as well as teachers, nurses, LGBTQ advocates and military families, who the White House had dubbed “everyday history-makers.”

During a pause in his performance earlier, the singer addressed former first lady Laura Bush, praising her husband, former President George W. Bush’s ongoing work on the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President Bush had initiated while in office and is credited with saving millions of lives across the African continent and helping to change the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS crisis globally.

“I want to say to the first lady, President Bush accelerated the whole thing with his PEPFAR bill. It was the most incredible thing,” he said to Mrs. Bush.

Sir Elton John performs at the White House, September 23, 2022
(Photo courtesy of Landon Richie)

President Biden Awards Elton John with National Humanities Medal:

Full Text of the President and the First Lady’s remarks:

THE FIRST LADY:  Hello!  Good evening.  Thank you, Athen.  It’s leaders like you, those helping the next generation live authentically and find their voice, who make me so hopeful for our future.

And thank you to Paul Buccieri and A&E for helping us put this event together.

Isn’t this incredible?    

First Lady Laura Bush is with us tonight.  And, Laura, it’s such an honor to welcome you and your family back to the White House. 

And finally, I want to say what a joy it is to be here with the man who has inspired, supported, and loved Sir Elton John for so many years: his husband, David. 

Few things have the power to bring us together like music.  It can compel us to move as one on the dance floor, to sing along with strangers when we hear that familiar tune.  It’s a voice for the feelings we can’t always define. 

When the piano plays, the strings swell, the drums beat in time with our hearts, we find joy or a balm for our sorrows or the harmonies that tell us we aren’t alone. 

And in that spirit, as we celebrate Elton John’s music, we also celebrate you — everyday history-makers. 

Many of you are my colleagues — fellow teachers, like Leah Michael Dillard.  (Applause.)  Love the teachers!  So, Leah has taught 7th grade English for 20 years.  And, Leah, your students are better thinkers and more engaged citizens because of you. 

We also have first responders and healthcare heroes like — like Dr. Amber Pearson.  Amber was the first person in her family to go to college.  And it wasn’t easy.  She worked multiple jobs, took out loan, and when she finally reached her dream, she gave back to others, as an audiologist for veterans and their families, serving the women and men who serve us so well. 

And in this crowd are leaders of the beautiful, bold, and diverse future we are building together, like Javier Gomez, a student from Miami.  When his governor passed a law targeting the LGBTQ community, he didn’t sit back. 

Javier, you remind us of the power of one person who is willing to speak up for what is right, and that’s what this night is all about.  Coming together, using our voices, celebrating that, here in America, our differences are precious and our similarities infinite.

Elton once said, “Music has healing power.  It has the ability to take people out of themselves for just a few hours.”

We’re here tonight to once again lose ourselves and be brought together — perhaps even healed — by the power of music. 

And now, I get to introduce another huge fan, who also happens to be the President of the United States and my husband, Joe Biden. 

THE PRESIDENT:  You had to stand for Jill, but you can sit for me.  Please, all have a seat.  Please, have a seat.

Thank you, Jill.  Thank you all for being here on such a special evening.

And, Athen, leaders like you are helping the next generation live an authentic voice.  And I want to thank you very much for introducing me.

Look, I — as my colleagues — many of whom from the Senate are still here, came tonight — they always used to kid me because I — I was quoting Irish poets on the floor of the Senate.

The think I did it because I’m Irish.  That’s not the reason; I did it because they’re the best poets in the world. 

One who we lost not too long ago, Seamus Heaney, once wrote, and I quote, “Once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice rises up, and hope and history rhyme.”

Throughout this incre- — his incredible career, Sir Elton John has been that tidal wave — a tidal wave to help people rise up and make hope and history rhyme.  Three hundred million records sold.  Seventy-one billboard hits, nearly half in the top ten.  Six Grammy Awards.  Two Oscars.  One Tony, among the multiple, multiple nominations across the board.  Four thousand performances around the world.  A singer, songwriter of our time, for all time.

On his final tour in Washington, Jill and I invited Elton to the White House to thank him on behalf of the American people.

So, like so many Americans, our family loves his music.  His songs take us — take us back to a time, a place, a memory.  Songs that make every day exceptional, help us connect and come alive.  And songs that reflect the artist’s gift, that sixth sense to imagine what no one else can, and then sing and play and dream until he sets that feeling free.

As Jill just mentioned, we’re joined by so many people that it’s — he’s set free to be themselves, to be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. 

Families and advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS — a fight — a fight that he has led with sheer will, and fight for those lives lost and those lives that we can save.

Leaders standing up for equality of all people, no matter who you are or who you love.

Every day — every day Americans of every generation, of every background who know that life can be cruel and full of struggle, but it can also be full of joy and purpose.

And we’re joined tonight by the UK Ambassador to the United States, Karen Pierce, during a difficult time.  Karen, thank you.  Thank you for being here, Karen.

Jill and I travelled to London to pay our respects to the Royal Family on the Queen’s passing.

Our hopes tonight — our hope is that Sir Elton John’s music heals the sorrow, as it often has in the past.

Throughout his career, Elton found his voice — not only his voice, but his voice to help others and help them find their voice.

With his hope, he made history rhyme for countless people in our nation.  That’s what tonight is all about.

Elton often talked about how American music changed his life and how the different genres and sounds influenced his own music and imagination.  It’s clear Elton John’s music has changed our lives.

To David and the boys, thank you for sharing your husband and dad with us tonight.  (Applause.)  And to Elton, on behalf of the American people, thank you — and I sincerely mean this — thank you for moving the soul of our nation. 

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The White House

Bisexual activists to meet with White House officials

Meeting to take place at HHS on Tuesday

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White House (Photo courtesy of Adam Schultz/White House)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday will hold a meeting with a group of more than a dozen bisexual activists.

The meeting, which coincides with Bisexual Awareness Week, will take place at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in D.C.

The Washington Blade has learned National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson, Robyn Ochs, Fiona Dawson, Heron Greenesmith, Drs. Mimi Hoang and Lauren Beach, Khafre Kujichagulia Abif, Diana Adams, Nicole Holmes, Blair Imani, Tania Israel, Ellyn Ruthstrom, Belle Haggett Silverman and Ezra Young will attend the meeting that BiPlus Organizing US has coordinated.

Meeting participants will highlight three specific points

            • Funding priorities for bisexual health

            • Public health messaging and communications

            • Intimate partner violence within bisexual communities

BiPlus Organizing US will ask the Biden administration to illuminate the White House in the bisexual Pride colors and to issue a proclamation that acknowledges Celebrate Bisexual Day, which is on Friday. The group will also seek a White House-sponsored bisexual event in D.C. and a virtual post-meeting brief.

“The Sept. 20, 2022, policy brief meeting is a small step forward since the previous administration,” said BiPlus Organizing US. “However, we wish to work with government on addressing our issues to ensure that Bisexual Awareness Week and Celebrate Bisexuality Day 2023 are given equal recognition to that of June’s annual White House Pride events, and policy, funding, communications, messaging, data collection and more are distinctly considered for the bi+ community.”

Meeting participants on Monday will attend a BiPlus Organizing US reception in D.C. Information about the meeting can be found here.

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The White House

Biden meets with Brittney Griner’s wife, agent

WNBA star last month sentenced to nine years in Russian penal colony

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Brittney Griner (Photo by Kathclick via Bigstock)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday met with Brittney Griner’s wife.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement said the meeting took place at the White House. A pool report noted Biden met with Cherelle Griner and Brittney Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas.

White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan also participated in the meeting.

Biden also sat down with Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, another American citizen who is serving a 16-year prison sentence after his conviction for spying.

A Russian court last month convicted Brittney Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist — of smuggling drugs into the country and sentenced her to nine years in a penal colony. 

Brittney Griner’s lawyers have appealed her sentence.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has publicly acknowledged the U.S. has offered Russia a deal to secure the release of Griner and Whelan. 

American officials have reportedly expressed a willingness to release Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S., as part of a prisoner swap. A spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed negotiations between the two countries over a potential prisoner swap have begun.

“President Biden met today with Elizabeth Whelan and Cherelle Griner, the loved ones of two American citizens who are wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances. Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, and Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, met separately with the president in the Oval Office,” said Jean-Pierre in her statement. “The president held the meetings to reiterate his continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely. He asked after the wellbeing of Elizabeth and Cherelle and their respective families during this painful time. The president appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Brittney and Paul from those who love them most, and acknowledged that every minute they are being held is a minute too long,” 
 
“Today’s meetings come after earlier meetings and conversations that the president, his national security team, and the State Department have held with the Whelan and Griner families to keep them updated on efforts to secure the release of their loved ones as quickly as possible,” added Jean-Pierre. “We all admire the courage of the Whelan and Griner families in the face of these unimaginable circumstances, and we remain committed to reuniting them with their loved ones.”

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