News / USA

Obama State of the Union Speech Focuses on Economy

President Obama said change is not easy and he will continue to pursue it


Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Americans to overcome a deficit of trust in government and work together to solve a damaged economy and other problems.  The economy was high on the president's list of priorities in his annual State of the Union address Wednesday night. 

Mr. Obama acknowledged that many Americans are frustrated and angry, doubting whether he can deliver the change he promised in his 2008 campaign.  But he said change is not easy, and he will continue to pursue it.

"We do not quit.  I do not quit.  Let us seize this moment-to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more," he said.

In his hour-long speech before both houses of Congress, the president several times confronted the public anger that has caused his approval ratings to slide.

"We have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now.  We face a deficit of trust-deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years," he said.

Much of Americans' frustration concerns the nation's stubborn 10-percent unemployment rate.  Mr. Obama called for a number of initiatives to address the problem and urged the Senate to join the House of Representatives in passing a second jobs bill.

 "People are out of work.  They are hurting.  They need our help.  And, I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay," he said.

Among the president's economic goals are doubling U.S. exports in five years and freezing most domestic government spending for three years, starting in 2011.

Mr. Obama also urged Democratic lawmakers not to abandon the effort to reform the U.S. health care system, one of his administration's main priorities.

"Do not walk away from reform.  Not now.  Not when we are so close.  Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people," he said.

On foreign policy, President Obama again pledged to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of August. "But make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home," Mr. Obama said.

He also said he is confident the United States will succeed in the war in Afghanistan and that diplomatic efforts are helping isolate Iran and North Korea for their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The Republican Party's response to the president's speech came from the governor of the state of Virginia, Bob McDonnell.  He said Democrats are spending too much and causing an unsustainable level of debt.

"What government should not do is pile on more taxation, regulation and litigation that kill jobs and hurt the middle class," McDonnell said.

He also said Americans want affordable health care, but do not want the government to run it.

McDonnell is one of several Republicans who recently won elections in states the Democrats swept in 2008.

Related video by Carolyn Presutti

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