President Obama pledged in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address to work with Congress where possible in forging “an economy built to last.” But he warned his opponents he will “fight obstruction with action,” and promised to “oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.”
The speech was the president’s third such address and comes amid a tumultuous Republican battle to see who will challenge his bid for a second term. Against that backdrop, Obama reminded Americans of the economic mess he inherited and which he blames on past policies.
“No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profit,” he said. “Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.”
Claiming progress since he assumed office, Obama spoke directly to the members of Congress sitting before him. “As long as I’m president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum,” he said. But he added his warning to fight those who seek to obstruct him.
He also appealed to a national sense of fairness, asking listeners to “never forget” those who are hurting. “Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs,” he said. “An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.”
And that America, Obama maintained, is “within our reach.” He described it as “a country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.”
As he did last month in a speech in Kansas, he called it “the defining issue of our time.”
“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
And reaching back to the speech that propelled him on to the national stage, his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Obama added, “What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.”