Barack Obama photo

Interview with Andy Katz of ESPN

November 11, 2011

KATZ: Obviously, on 11/11/11, Mr. President, you felt it necessary to make this stop on your way across to Hawaii, Australia and Bali. Why?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, on Veterans' Day, obviously we want to say thank you to all of our veterans. The Carl Vinson, you've got 5,000 people who serve on this ship, doing outstanding work all around the world. And so for us to be able to let them unwind a little bit, but also celebrate their incredible accomplishments, it's a great treat.

KATZ: When history looks back at the Vinson, what do you think they'll say about this ship and its role that it had in the war on terror?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, they helped to launch, you know, from this deck a lot of the flights that struck into Iraq. They've supported Afghanistan. Probably most prominently, this is the last time that Osama bin Laden was on the face of the earth. And so there's a lot of history on this ship, but it all comes down to the men and women who serve on it. And they do a great job.

KATZ: Everyone knows, obviously, the significance of Memorial Day. What should be the significance of Veterans' Day?

THE PRESIDENT: Reminding people every single day that our veterans who have served us, we now need to serve them. So businesses, we're putting a challenge to them -- hire the veterans who are coming back home now that we're ending the war in Iraq; for communities, making sure that services are available for veterans who may need support and help, including military families who, you know, are serving alongside their loved ones.

So there are all kinds of ways that we can contribute to veterans, and it shouldn't just be on Veter-ans' Day or Memorial Day. It should be every day of the year.

KATZ: Obviously this is a huge sporting event tonight on 11/11/11. This week there was a story that certainly transcended sport at Penn State. And yesterday two senators from Pennsylvania, Senator Casey and Senator Toomey, rescinded their nomination of Joe Paterno, the former Penn State football coach, for his Presidential Medal of Freedom. What was your reaction?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously the whole situation is heartbreaking. And we think, first and foremost, of the victims of these alleged crimes. But I think it's a good time for us to do some soul searching -- every institution, not just Penn State -- about what our priorities are and making sure that we understand that our first priority is protecting our kids.

And, you know, we all have a responsibility. We can't leave it to a system. We can't leave it to somebody else. Each of us have to take upon ourselves to make sure that our kids have the love and support and protection that they deserve.

KATZ: All right. Well, on a lighter note, obviously, when I see you in March, are you going to pick the Tarheels?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'll tell you what, they're looking pretty good tonight. Henson's having an unbelievable game.

KATZ: All right. Well, I'll see you in March to pick the bracket.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Great to see you.

KATZ: Good to see you.

Barack Obama, Interview with Andy Katz of ESPN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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