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Excerpts: Obama Address to Joint Session of Congress

President Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress on February 24, 2009. (The Washington Post)

The White House has released advance excerpts from the speech President Obama will deliver at 9 p.m. before a joint session of Congress. (Update: The full remarks can be read here.):

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, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.

Now is the time to act boldly and wisely - to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that's what I'd like to talk to you about tonight.


The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we're taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America's economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren't preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.

In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America - as a blueprint for our future.

My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we've inherited - a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.

Given these realities, everyone in this chamber - Democrats and Republicans - will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.

But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we're starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them. 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. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.

I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn't tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ''I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't feel right getting the money myself."

I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community - how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. "The tragedy was terrible," said one of the men who helped them rebuild. "But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity."

And I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina - a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 24, 2009; 7:39 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Primary Source  
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Next: Fact Checking Obama's Speech


Words and ideals of a founding father...Can you guess which one?

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

And finally, Thomas Jefferson said in1802:

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

Posted by: indep2 | February 25, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if all socialists in this country will begin getting together once a year to celebrate their victory over common sense and self-sufficiency ideals that built this nation.

Perhaps they can even incorporate sacrificial virgins again on their march towards mediocrity...

Our founding fathers must have rolled over in their graves last night after he spoke....

Posted by: indep2 | February 25, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse


he's going to give a freebee to the universities.

If education is a mandatory, a prerequisite to succeed in this country, then it should be free, instead we need to pay some price, either pay for it, or do community service, which is a subsidy to the colleges.

You know the university system is just as bad a monopoly as OPEC.

Posted by: recharged95 | February 24, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

personal (financial?) responsibility. now?. bad (spend to grow); then, good.
"we have known for decades...", the premises of our nations potential failures.
"regulations", good, bad? have great potential to significantly stifle u.s. business (esp. in 'global market" environment. global debt "inherited"?, u.s. debt expanding exponentially under O's programs. green jobs? yeah, o.k. good, "skeptics": don't worry, we will have "oversight" efforts, accountable to "o".,:"How and where" money is being spent". "no lending", "restart".("how").
"lower interest rates for those who did could not pay for what they bought"; and g.d. those ceo's (the market), help the people (but what about those "people" that had enough to actually have their savings in the "market".); change your holdings to "green" companies. yeah, build solar panels (cover the deserts and kill the desert creatures beneath, (EPA)?)and wind turbines (build off the (vision line?) of the Kennedy compound and we will know you are seroius, and dice the migaratory flocks), but are they economically feasible?; "f" chuckie schumer, pelosi, murtha, webb, rangel, and reid. people, we are now witness to the demise of our great nation. Small business: you will be buried by fed, state taxes, required insurance and govt. reg.'s; also: if you own a gun with a "removable ammunition device" (H.R. 45), i.e a "clip":, prepare to register it unto the feds.

Posted by: vic4 | February 24, 2009 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Classy guy. We are fortunate to have a President who finally tells it like it is. The reason we got in this mess in the first place is because people were paying attention more to TV shows and what's available on netflix rather than working together to solve our nation's problems.

Posted by: TMiles1 | February 24, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

omg... this guy is way in over his head.

Posted by: vic4 | February 24, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

preface: theme, thematic, broad..., i.e don't expect any specifics.

Posted by: vic4 | February 24, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

"What's on TV tonight, honey?"

"President 0bama, whining about gloom and doom if he doesn't get his way."

"Sweet baby Jesus, is this a re-run? Didn't was have to sit through this malarkey once already? Pop in a DVD already!"

Posted by: NeverLeft | February 24, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure it will be a great speech, but the nation needs more details at this point. Skimming over worthy goals is getting old...

Posted by: parkerfl1 | February 24, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

"Be a man of action not words.... "

The job calls for both and I think he done both.

Posted by: NeilSagan | February 24, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse


So basically its the same old thing to hear himself talk while watching his rabid liberal fascist fan-base drool over his coolness in the MSM for days on end.... All the while providing vague references and veiled attempts to boost our moral.

Please let me give you a bit of advice Mr. Obama... Since I voted for you I think I deserve a voice... Spend more time listening and learning, rather than talking and preaching for a while; and keep the cameras off you to garner the publics respect. Be a man of action not words....

Start by growing a pair and standing up to Pelosi and Reid a little more...

Thank you for saving me from wasting my time watching tonight. Ill get to sleep on time.

Posted by: indep2 | February 24, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

People should demand that if a bank gets any money from the government under this stimulus package, there should be a stipulation that the bank should make at least 65% of it available for all consumer loans at interest rates no higher than 4.5% and putting those usury laws back into effect in all states. Banks would still make a profit and that would allow people to refinance at lower rates and to consolidate high interest rate credit cards to that 4.5% lower rate. Imagine how quickly people would rush to utilize this offer. This would have a positive and immediate effect on the economy because that would allow people to pay off debts faster and have more money to spend to stimulate the economy or save. This would cost the government nothing more that what they were already willing to spend and lending institutions would be pressured to operate more efficiently with less money for obscene salaries and bonuses. In addition, there should be a law forcing other lending institutions to cap their lending rate at 8% . For all of the lending institutions, late payment penalties (where predatory lenders really make their money) should not exceed more than 5% of the original loan amount.

Posted by: My2cents14 | February 24, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

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