Washington, Feb.25 (ANI): Barack Obama once again created history on Tuesday by becoming the first African American President to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress, and he used the opportunity to call on all Americans to act boldy in dealing with the current economic crisis.
Pushing forward his broad agenda for economic recovery, Obama said that for a recession-scarred American people, the "day of reckoning has arrived."
He said that the country must now act "boldly and wisely" to take charge of its future.
In a speech that included dire economic rhetoric but also assurances that America will get back on its feet, Obama vowed that the country will be stronger once the current crisis ends.
"The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere. But 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 of America will emerge stronger than before," CBS quoted Obama, as saying.
"Now is the time to jump start 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," the president said.
He stressed on the importance of investments that will position the United States to compete on the world stage in the long run.
Addressing a gallery that included US First Lady Michelle Obama, Supreme Court justices, Cabinet members and everyday Americans - in addition to nearly every member of Congress - the president spoke for about 50 minutes.
He defended his administration's move to bail out U.S. banks, saying he understands the frustration of taxpayers who saw bailout money spent irresponsibly.
"I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer," he said.
"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. Those days are over."
Still, he noted, his plan "will require significant resources from the federal government - and yes, probably more than we've already set aside."
The president also suggested that both the previous administration and irresponsible homeowners were to blame for the current crisis.
Americans have lived through an era, he said, in which "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," he 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."
Obama, who focused largely on domestic issues, not foreign policy, said that because of the massive deficit and tough economic landscape, his proposed budget would not include every project some might have hoped for.
"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," Obama told members of Congress, and added that everyone in the room - Republicans, Democrats and the president himself - "will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars."
Noting his pledge to halve the budget by the end of his first term, the president stressed that his administration is reviewing the federal budget "line by line" to find unnecessary programs that can be cut.
Already, he said, the administration has identified two trillion dollars in potential savings over the next ten years.
The president also said he would make health care a priority.
"Healthcare reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year," he said.
Obama told assembled lawmakers that he and his ideological opponents can still find common ground on the basis of their shared love of country and their desire to see it succeed, drawing a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.
He went on to laud Americans who are working to put the country back on track, saying he had 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."
Following the speech, Louisiana's Indian-born Governor Bobby Jindal, a leading 2012 presidential contender, will give a Republican response in which he will call the 787 billion dollar stimulus package pushed through by Obama and the Democrat-lead Congress "irresponsible." (ANI)