Calling Kansas City

(music playing) Mr. Earnest: So the President's going to go to Kansas City to do something he's been doing in communities all across the country. The President loves getting 10 letters a night that he reads every night where he can hear from every day Americans about how they're affected by the policies that he's fighting to implement here in Washington, D.C. So the President's been traveling across the country meeting with these individual people who have written him letters. He's going to do the same thing in Kansas City. As somebody who was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, it is a thrill to pick up the phone and invite people who have written a letter to the President of the United States and let them know that when the President's coming to Kansas City, they get to have dinner with him. (phone ringing) Female Speaker: Hello? Mr.

Earnest: Hello, is this Becky? Female Speaker: Yes, it is. Mr. Earnest: Hey, Becky. This is Josh Earnest calling from the White House. Female Speaker: Hi, Josh Earnest. Mr. Earnest: How are you? Hey, Mark. It's Josh Earnest calling from the White House. Hey, Victor. It's Josh Earnest calling from the White House. Hi, Valerie. This is Josh Earnest calling from the White House. Well, so you know that I'm the Press Secretary at the White House. Female Speaker: Yes, I do. Mr. Earnest: And I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. Female Speaker: That's what I hear. Mr. Earnest: Yeah. So I am really excited that the President of the United States is coming to my home town. I'm calling to see if you have time on Tuesday night to meet the President for dinner and talk about your letter. Male Speaker: Oh, wow.

Okay. Mr. Earnest: After reading your letter, the President said "You know what? I want to meet this woman. I want to go have dinner with her when I get into Kansas City on Tuesday." So — Female Speaker: Are you serious? Mr. Earnest: Yeah. How — Female Speaker: Oh, my God. Mr. Earnest: How would you feel about that? Female Speaker: Oh, my God. I would love it. Are you — oh. Mr. Earnest: We've been reading your letter at the White House. Female Speaker: Why? Mr. Earnest: And — well, it's such a good letter. In fact, I'm not the only person who thought your letter was really good. Barack Obama, the President of the United States, thought your letter was really good and he wants to meet you. So would you be willing to have dinner with the President on Tuesday night? Female Speaker: Oh, yes. Yes. Mr. Earnest: Does that sound like fun? Female Speaker: That sounds like a blast. Mr.

Earnest: (laughs) No place is more like Kansas City in embodying the kind of spirit in which people recognize that we're all in this together. That if our community can be pulling in the same direction, that despite our differences, we can all succeed. It sounds like you're doing amazing things in the community and we are so impressed by what you've done and, like I said, it's not just me who feels that way. The President wants to meet you firsthand and to express his gratitude firsthand, too. Male Speaker: This is one of those times that, you know, for a guy like me — thank yous don't come around very much. (laughter) Mr. Earnest: You have earned this kind of recognition because of what you're doing in your community. So we're really proud of you and you certainly make me proud to be a Kansas City native and I'll tell you that.

Female Speaker: I am just amazed that little bitty old me is going to get this chance. Male Speaker: I've see so many people that were affected by not having healthcare coverage and having to make a choice between eating or, you know, that lifesaving treatment. And at that point, I was like "Man, I gotta — I gotta say something." Female Speaker: I wrote it in the middle of the night. Mr. Earnest: Yeah? Female Speaker: I just — I've — I'm really trying. I mean, I could talk for an hour about all the stuff that I'm trying to do because I can't work any harder. I have to work smarter. Jsoh Earnest: Well, look. I think the experience that you've had is not different than a lot of other people. They just want to be heard. Female Speaker: Yeah. Mr. Earnest: And they just want to know that somebody out there is trying to look out for them and somebody out there is fighting for them. And when the President goes to bed at night, or I guess more appropriately, the President wakes up in the morning and he walks over into the Oval Office, it's people like you who've written letters just like this.

Those are the people that the President has in mind. Those are the people that the President's fighting for. Female Speaker: I am so happy. I am so blessed. Mr. Earnest: Oh, well that's — I know the President is really excited to meet you. So I — he can't wait for Tuesday night. Female Speaker: You bet. And thank you so much. Mr. Earnest: Okay. All right. Thanks, Becky. Have a good day. Female Speaker: You, too. Bye-bye. Mr. Earnest: Okay. Talk to you later..

Climate Change & Wildfires Explained in Less Than Three Minutes

John Holdren: While no single wildfire can be said to have been caused by climate change, climate change has been making the fire season in the United States longer, and, on average, more intense. I'm John Holdren, President Obama's Science Adviser, here to talk about climate change and wildfires, a topic that's on the mind of many who are grappling with tragic losses from the recent spate of uncontrolled fires in the northwestern United States and Canada. The influence of climate change on the wildfire regime comes not just from the higher summer temperatures and reduced summer soil moisture that go with global warming. Climate change is also bringing us more dead trees — kindling, in effect, killed by a combination of heat stress, water stress, and attacks by pests and pathogens that multiply faster in a warmer world. The National Climate Assessment, released in May, tells us — consistent with earlier studies — that longer, hotter, drier summers are projected to continue to increase the frequency and the intensity of large wildfires in the United States. In the western United States, the average annual area burned by large wildfires has increased severalfold in recent decades.

The evidence is strong that climate change is responsible at least in part for this increase. And the west is not the only U.S. region affected by wildfire. Today, the southeastern United States leads the nation in number of wildfires, averaging 45,000 fires per year, and this number continues to increase. And nationwide, the eight worst years on record in terms of area burned have all occurred since the year 2000. Wildfires, of course, are dangerous to human life and health, costly in terms of property loss, and generally harmful to ecosystems. They destroy valued timber and wildlife, as well as homes and other built infrastructure. They promote soil erosion. They increase the risk from floods and landslides, and the damage can extend far beyond the location of the fire itself, through the impact of the smoke plume on air quality far downwind, and the destruction of downstream fisheries choked with silt eroded from slopes denuded by fire.

In short, wildfires accentuated by climate change are putting communities, lives, health, jobs, and valuable natural resources at risk. I encourage you to learn more about the science of this issue by visiting

The decline of American democracy in one graph

There's this graph that I saw recently. It's the most unsettling graph I've seen in American politics in a very, very, very long time. And yet it's really boring to look at. It's just a nearly straight horizontal line. The line doesn't do anything interesting at all. But what the graph shows is something that's somewhat terrifying. What that line shows is the relationship between what the average voter wants, and what they actually get. In a huge study, looking at over 2000 surveys of people's policy opinions, whether people were on the left side of the line which meant they opposed something happening, or on the right side, which meant they all wanted it to happen, it didn't matter. Once you controlled for the opinions of affluent Americans and interest groups and other lobbying organizations — average people, their voice was not heard at all.

Or at the very least their voice didn't appear to matter at all. Average folks only get what they want if economic elites or interest groups also want it. And all this data comes from a time when these groups were arguably less powerful in American politics. America never sold itself as a democracy. It sold itself as a representative democracy. There's accountability from voters onto politicians, but politicians, they get time in office. To step away from the passions of the electorate for at least a little while. And do things that are right for the country, and then voters will judge them on whether they did a good job. So maybe its the case that affluent Americans and interest groups and politicians just — they're always right. And average voters. You can just safely ignore them. But it doesn't look like America's been run so well. We had a massive financial crisis because we didn't do enough to regulate Wall Street, we got into a disastrous war in Iraq. We have median wages that haven't substantially grown in many, many years.

It doesn't seem that we are so incredibly good at running this country. Maybe we need a little more democracy in our representation..