Posts tagged ‘Obama’

Obama signs law to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

U.S. President Barack Obama gives a 'thumbs-up' sign after signing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010, at the Interior Department in Washington. (AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a landmark law, reversing a longstanding policy that forced homosexuals serving in the American military to conceal their sexual orientation.

“Valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race, or by gender, or by religion or by creed,” Obama said in a speech to a capacity crowd gathered in a large auditorium at the Interior Department in Washington Wednesday.

“That’s why I believe it is the right thing to do for our military. That’s why I believe it is the right thing to do period,” he added.

While it will take some time for the repeal of the U.S. military’s infamous ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy to take effect, the signing nevertheless marks a political victory for the president who made the move one of his campaign pledges.

“No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance because they happen to be gay,” Obama said to rousing applause.

“No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country they love.”

The law tells American armed services to allow homosexuals to serve openly for the first time, but will only come into effect once implementation plans and guidelines covering everything from troop education to barracks arrangements have been finalized.

Lawmakers will also require assurances that the forces’ combat readiness will not be affected, as critics have charged.

In the meantime, the president can revel in achieving a goal he pledged during his 2008 campaign, and reiterated in this year’s State of the Union address.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Obama said at the time.

Since then, he’s come under fire for failing to move more quickly. But Obama has argued such a significant policy shift must be carefully planned.

After the Senate voted to approve the bill on Saturday, following earlier action by the House of Representatives, the four military service chiefs made it clear that the changes will still take time.

“The implementation and certification process will not happen immediately,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz wrote in an e-mail to airmen. “Meanwhile, the current law remains in effect. All Air Force members should conduct themselves accordingly.”

Once the new regulations are officially certified, implementation will begin 60 days later.

But in his speech Wednesday, Obama made it clear he believes little will change in the meantime for those service men and women who must keep their “secret” a while longer.

“As the first generation to serve openly in our armed forces you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after,” he said, noting the scores of closeted soldiers whose contribution has been historically unrecognized.

“I know you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honour, just as you have with every other mission with which you have been charged.”

The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy came into effect 17 years ago, as a compromise between the Pentagon and then-President Bill Clinton. Under those rules, any service member who openly declares he or she is gay risks formal discharge from the military.

At the time, it took just 40 days to train U.S. forces on the policy.

According to researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, at least 25 countries around the world — including Canada — allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military.

U.S. will sign U.N. declaration on rights of native people, Obama tells tribes

President Barrack Obama

By Krissah Thompson
Washington Post

President Obama said Thursday that the United States will sign a United Nations non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, a move that advocates called another step in improving Washington’s relationship with Native Americans.

Obama announced the decision during the second White House Tribal Conference, where he said he is “working hard to live up to” the name that was given to him by the Crow Nation: “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.”

The United States is the last major country to sign on to the U.N. declaration, which was endorsed by 145 countries in 2007. A handful of countries, including the United States, voted against it because of the parts of the provision that say indigenous peoples “have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used and acquired.”

That language does not override national law, and Canada and New Zealand, which also initially opposed the declaration, said in recent months that they would support it.

Obama has told Native American leaders that he wants to improve the “nation-to-nation” relationship between the United States and the tribes and repair broken promises. There are more than 560 Indian tribes in the United States. Many had representatives at the White House conference and applauded Obama’s announcement.

Native American leaders said this week that they have mixed assessments of the administration’s progress. Many praised the White House focus on Indian country, but others said some problems remain entrenched.

My Life in Retrospect, 2009

Well, here it is – my life in retrospect, 2009.  Happy New Year!

THE LOVE OF MY LIFE – It’s been a wonderful year with my partner, the Duchess of Thornhill, Deborah. She’s taken me in and we’ve built a beautiful life together so far. Everyday, I truly feel I’m the luckiest man in the world. I’m thankful to the Creator everyday for her. Her daughters are really great little people. They get along great with Katherine Faith, obviously… and the Boyz as well. We’re having our first mega-family holiday get-together on Friday. Fifteen people in all.

MY CHILDREN – They’re growing up to be wonderful people. My Boyz are so kind and generous. My Griffin is such a good-deed do-er. My Miigwans is as smart as a whip. My daughter is equally an wonderful young woman, whose grades are good. She just Loves spending time with her friends. And they are all so good to their Dad. But it’s hard being away from my kids so much.

CHANGE IN CAREER DIRECTION – 2009 marked quite a change in career direction for me. After 10 years with the Union of Ontario Indians, I’ve moved from the front-line of First Nations politics to the machinery of government. It’s quite a different pace moving from a 24/7 job in the Grand Chief’s office to a singular responsibility within government. But the objective is still the same and I’m working just as hard for our people.

JOHN BEAUCAGE CAMPAIGN – In 2009, I had the career highlight of my life. I had the pleasure of managing John Beaucage’s campaign to become National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Unfortunately, the best man doesn’t always win. Despite running a campaign on the best platform and the best values – the Chiefs chose to elect Shawn Atleo to succeed the great Phil Fontaine. They’ll be looking for something else next time around, I’m sure. John is an amazing man, and a great leader. Who knows what the future will bring him. He will be running the Olympic torch tomorrow in Parry Sound.

LIFE IN THE LODGE – I’ve written this year-end journal over the years, but I rarely include any references to my true life – as a Midewiwin man. This year was the first time I’ve had my Boyz in the Lodge with me as Midewiwins. They are still very young and have lots of time to discover what it means to be Mide. The Three Fires School looks great with the new addition. Lots of new space. It’s also great to see the young people from Shingwauk attending ceremonies each time. They are a great group.

MY BLOG – This year, I had more of a chance to write. It is something that I really enjoy. I’ve been able to write about human rights, First Nations issues even the environment and the economy. I hope I’ll be able to write more and more.

NUMBERS – It seems people are reading my stuff on my website too.

• I had more visitors to my website than any other time in the past 14 years.
• Although I won’t reach 1 million visitors before December 31, I’m pretty darn close: 969,414.
• From 1997 to 2007, I had only 304,351 visitors;
• Web traffic numbers went up substantially when I started marketing my website.
• 93,445 page views in 2007.
• 262,844 page views in 2008.
• This year I’ve had 308,774 page views so far.
• That number will go up by a few thousand once I post this new blog entry.

NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR – To great fanfare, Barrack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States took office in 2009. He inspired many of us. But for the red-neck majority in the US, his message was met with skepticism, boycotts and measures of racism. In his first year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize and dealt with health care reform – head on. Now can he address middle-east peace and terrorism?

CLIMATE-GATE – The biggest non-news story of the year was “climate-gate”. The Copenhagan climate summit that wasn’t. No commitments by the major governments of the world. No carbon reduction targets. Absolutely, no leadership from Canada whatsoever. In fact, it should be an embarrassment for all Canada. Canada – the fossil of the year! Lots of good will in the agreement but nothing binding. I seriously doubt that the agreement that was signed in Denmark will lead to any drastic changes needed to address climate change.

FILM – I Love the movies. In 2009 I seen 48 movies in the theatre. Definitely, the most ever. The best film of the year was Avatar. Another James Cameron epic blockbuster. This year there were a lot of similarities between the film world and indigenous peoples. It began with District 9, a film about an oppressed alien race forced onto “reservations” in South Africa. On the surface, District 9 may seem to have more ties to apartheid than indigenous people. But what most people don’t know is that apartheid was based on the Canadian Indian reserve system. It is another of Canada’s great contributions to world history. The message is clear in Avatar – protect the environment and the world’s indigenous peoples. This movie had the best ending of the year. Sometimes I wish we can turn back the clock and reality, climb aboard our dragons and march the oppressors, at machine gun-point, onto space ships bound for another world.

MY HEALTH – Well I’m apparently in a holding pattern. Spent the first half of the year in the gym and just gave it up. I thought my diabetes was under control, until I had to miss Christmas dinner on a fast to reduce my sugar-induced diabetic episode. I must avoid sugar, especially home-made ice cream, as well as eat in regular intervals. I don’t believe in new years resolutions – but I’ve got to take control of my own health. No one will do it for me.

VACATION 2009 – Went to The Bahamas in May and snorkelled with sharks on the continental shelf. Spent the summer in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg with Deb’s family. Lots of good memories. In October, we spent a long weekend in New York City. Ate at Nobu and seen The Lion King.

LONGEST DRIVE – 1,286 kilometres between Toronto and Cedar, Wisconsin for Fall Ceremonies.

LONGEST DRIVE – Laurentide Golf Course, Hole 6, about 290 yards.

GOLF GAMES – 4. The most in five years. I hope I get to play a lot more in 2010. My game is really, really rusty.

FEWEST NIGHTS IN A HOTEL – In 2009, I spent fewer nights in a hotel than the previous 5 years. I averaged about 100 nights in a hotel in 2007 and 2008. I may not reach Delta Privilege Platinum this year. I miss the Delta Chelsea and their cherry jello with the canned peaches in them.

POW-WOW TIME – This year, because of the campaign, career and family obligations – I wasn’t able to enjoy time on the pow-wow trail. It’s difficult to balance so many things in life and pow-wow has had to fall by the wayside. I want to thank the Taabik Singers for allowing me to sing with them for the past few years. I hope to catch up with them as often as I can, and perhaps MC a few pow-wows from time to time.

I CHEERED IN 2009 – …for Barrack Obama. In 2008, I actually cheered for Hillary Clinton.

I JEERED IN 2009 – … over the goofy paranoia and sensational media coverage of the H1N1 Flu pandemic which was a little stronger than the usual seasonal flu virus.

I LAUGHED WHEN – … we all make fun of Nicole, who seems to move like Eeyore to the bus-stop in the morning.

I CRIED WHEN – … I lost my uncle Henry.

MEMORABLE MEAL – Definitely, the Chef’s Choice at Nobu in New York City. I also really liked the spiducci at Joe and Fiona’s house.

MEMORABLE MOMENT – The Longest Date: March 27-29, 2009. Beginning at Peter Pan’s on Queen West and A Haunting in Connecticut. The long walk from Queen, up Bathurst, across Bloor and down Yonge Street. Late night sweets at Just Desserts. In the morning, up to John Street and into Thornhill to the Duchess’ residence. Another movie (I Love you, Man) then back downtown again.