Obama: 'We will recover'

President outlines economic agenda and tells Americans to 'take responsibility for our future' in speech to joint session of Congress.

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When will the economy begin to turn around?
  • Later this year
  • Early next year
  • Late in 2010
  • In 2011 or after

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, President Obama outlined an ambitious agenda to revive the economy, saying it's time to act boldly "to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity."

Obama focused on the three priorities of the budget he will present to Congress later this week: energy, health care and education.

The president said he sees his budget as a "vision for America -- as a blueprint for our future," but not something that will solve every problem or address every issue.

Obama said his administration already has identified $2 trillion in government spending cuts that can be made over the next decade.

Obama said he would cut spending considered wasteful, and invest in programs that will help the economy recover.

The president touted the $787 billion stimulus plan he signed into law last week, saying it will invest in areas critical to the country's economic recovery.

The United States has "fallen behind" other countries when it comes to producing clean energy, he said, but thanks to the stimulus, he said the United States will double its supply of renewable energy in the next three years.

Obama asked Congress to send him legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.

He said to support that innovation, the country will invest $15 billion a year to develop new technologies.

Saying the United States can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold, Obama said his budget proposal will include a "historic commitment" to it.

Obama said he will be assembling representatives of business, labor, doctors and health care providers next week to begin discussing the reforms.

Obama also called for all Americans to commit to at least one year of higher education or career training.

"This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship," he said.

"But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma."

He pointed to the billions for education -- from early childhood education expansion to college-loan programs -- in his recently approved economic stimulus package and set a goal of having the highest college graduation rate in the world by 2020.

Obama opened his speech by telling the nation "we will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before."

Obama urged Americans to "confront boldly the challenges we face," saying that the answers to the country's problems "don't lie beyond our reach."

"They exist in our laboratories and our universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth," he said.

Obama described the nation's financial woes as a "reckoning" for poor decisions made by both government and individuals.

"A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future," Obama said.

"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."

"Now is the time to act boldly and wisely to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity," Obama said.

Obama also sought to assure people that their money is safe in the banks.

"Your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern," he said.

Instead, the source of concern is that "if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins," he said.

Making sure the nation's lending industry is strong is crucial to jump-starting its economy, Obama said, even as he acknowledged anger over the government banking bailout Congress approved last year.

"I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you -- I get it," Obama said.

"But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment."

He said he plans a new lending fund to provide college, auto and small-business loans and a housing plan that will help struggling families refinance and pay smaller mortgages. He said he wants to continue propping up the nation's largest banks when they're in danger, but will hold them accountable for how the money is spent.

"This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet," Obama said. "Those days are over." While the economy was the focus of the speech, Obama also touched on foreign policy.

The president said he'll soon be laying out specifics on how to win the war in Afghanistan and end the one in Iraq.

"We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war," he said.

Meanwhile, he said, both Afghanistan and its border with Pakistan will remain a key focus. He said his budget will pay for more soldiers and Marines, increase their pay and improve veterans' benefits.

Because Obama's presidency is a month old, the speech is not technically considered a State of the Union address. The annual State of the Union speech is delivered in the House of Representatives before members of both the House and the Senate as well as the justices of the Supreme Court, the president's Cabinet and international dignitaries.

A president's first speech before a joint session of Congress is often referred to as an "annual message" or a message on a particular topic, such as an "economic message."

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered the Republican response to Obama's speech. Jindal said Republicans are ready to work with Obama for the good of the country.

"So where we agree, Republicans must be the president's strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward," he said.

Jindal criticized the stimulus legislation, saying Democrats passed a bill that is "irresponsible" and "no way to strengthen our economy."

-- CNN's Terry Frieden, Ed Henry, Ed Hornick, Kristi Keck, Paul Steinhauser and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report. To top of page

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