This article was updated at 2:52 p.m. on Feb. 7.
Here's the full text of President Obama's speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday, as delivered:
Thank you very much. Please, have a seat. Thank you very much, Tom, for the gracious introduction. I want to make a few other acknowledgments. To Tom Bell, the Chamber Board President, thank you for helping to organize this. There are some members of my administration I want to make sure are introduced. My Chief of Staff, Bill Daley, is here. (Applause.) Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, who is interfacing with many of you and has gotten terrific advice from many of you, is here as well. Secretary Ray LaHood, our Transportation Secretary. Ambassador Ron Kirk, who is working hard to get trade deals around the world. Our Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills. My director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling, is here. And I also want to make mention, Fred Hochberg, our Export-Import Bank Chairman; Elizabeth Littlefield, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation President. And I also want to acknowledge a good friend, Paul Volcker, the outgoing chair of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Thank you all for being here. (Applause.)
Now, Tom, it is good to be here today at the Chamber of Commerce. I’m here in the interest of being more neighborly. (Laughter.) I strolled over from across the street, and look, maybe if we had brought over a fruitcake when I first moved in, we would have gotten off to a better start. (Laughter.) But I’m going to make up for it.
The truth is, this isn’t the first time I’ve been to the Chamber, or the first time that we’ve exchanged ideas. Over the last two years, I’ve sought advice from many of you as we were grappling with the worst recession most of us have ever known. It’s a recession that led to some very difficult decisions. For many of you, that meant restructuring and branch closings and layoffs that I know were very painful to make. For my administration, it meant a series of emergency measures that I would not have undertaken under normal circumstances, but that were necessary to stop our economy from falling off a cliff.
Now, on some issues, like the Recovery Act, we’ve found common cause. On other issues, we’ve had some pretty strong disagreements. But I’m here today because I am convinced, as Tom mentioned in his introduction, that we can and we must work together. Whatever differences we may have, I know that all of us share a deep, abiding belief in this country, a belief in our people, a belief in the principles that have made America’s economy the envy of the world.
America’s success didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen by accident. It happened because [of] the freedom that has allowed good ideas to flourish, that has allowed capitalism to thrive; it happened because of the conviction that in this country hard work should be rewarded and that opportunity should be there for anybody who’s willing to reach for it. And because it happened at every juncture in our history -- not just once, not just twice, but over and over again -- we came together to remake ourselves; we came together as one nation and did what was necessary to win the future. That is why I am so confident that we will win the future again.
That’s the challenge that we face today. We still have, by far, the world’s largest and most vibrant economy. We have the most productive workers, the finest universities and the freest markets. The men and women in this room are living testimony that American industry is still the source of the most dynamic companies, and the most ingenious entrepreneurs.
But we also know that with the march of technology over the last few decades, the competition for jobs and businesses has grown fierce. The globalization of our economy means that businesses can now open up a shop, employ workers and produce their goods wherever an Internet connection exists. Tasks that were once done by 1,000 workers can now be done by 100 or in some cases even 10. And the truth is, as countries like China and India and Brazil grow and develop larger middle classes, it’s profitable for global companies to aggressively pursue these markets and, at times, to set up facilities in these countries.
These forces are as unstoppable as they are powerful. But combined with a brutal and devastating recession, these forces have also shaken the faith of the American people -- in the institutions of business and government. They see a widening chasm of wealth and opportunity in this country, and they wonder if the American Dream is slipping away.
They wonder if the middle class, rather than expanding as it has through our lifetimes, is in the midst of an inexorable contraction. And we can’t ignore these concerns. We have to renew people’s faith in the promise of this country –- that this is a place where you can make it if you try. And we have to do this together: business and government; workers and CEOs; Democrats and Republicans.
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