U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States will emerge from uncertain
economic times stronger than before. In his first speech to a joint session of
Congress, the president made the case for his economic
It was a night of pure political theatre on Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers crammed around the aisles of the House chamber as President Obama
slowly made his way to the podium to address Congress and the nation.
"I've come here tonight not only to address the
distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and
directly to the men and women who sent us here," he said.
Mr. Obama tried
to strike a delicate balance - talking about the economic problems facing the
United States in stark terms, while reassuring a recession-weary American public
that better days lie ahead.
He said after a decade of economic
recklessness, America's day of reckoning has arrived.
"We have lived
through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term
prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter
and the next election," he added.
But he said the United States can and
will rebound, saying the economic crisis, though severe, must not determine the
"While our economy may be weakened and our confidence
shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I
want every American to know this: we will rebuild, we will recover, and the
United States will emerge stronger than before," he said.
said the stimulus plan he signed last week is a first step. But he said it is
not enough - citing the need for further action in the areas of health care,
energy and education.
He acknowledged money is tight, and tough decisions
lie ahead, but he stressed key priorities can be funded, if ineffective programs
To that end, Mr. Obama said his administration has already
identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade - from
agriculture to defense.
"We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have
wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying
for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use," he explained.
president said his new budget will make an increased investment in military
manpower - increasing the number of soldiers and Marines. And while the primary
thrust of his speech was the economy, he paused briefly to speak about
overcoming a deficit of trust abroad.
He reaffirmed his determination
to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said the United
States does not torture.
"In words and deeds, we are showing the world
that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the
threat to this country alone, but the world cannot meet them without America,"
Although the event had all the trappings of a State of the
Nation Address, Mr. Obama chose to forgo the detailed status report on policies
and programs. Like many new presidents, his first speech before Congress had a
more narrow focus and was simply called a speech to the nation.
Republican response was delivered by Bobby Jindal, the popular young governor of
the state of Louisiana. He talked of bipartisanship, but signaled Republicans
will only go so far.
"Where we agree, Republicans must be the
president's strongest partners," he said. "And where we disagree, Republicans
have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path
Jindal is considered a rising star in his party and a potential
presidential nominee in 2012. He is the son of immigrants from India, and like
the president, he is part of a new generation that is literally changing the
face of American politics.