New York, New York
7:24 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello. It is wonderful to see all of you. Let me thank Jane and Ralph for the extraordinary hospitality, the host committee who helped put this together, and all of you for being here.
We have had an interesting day. (Laughter.) And I think this is going to be an extraordinary fall. And the reason is, is because at this point, there are enormous stakes, and we’re in a battle for the hearts and minds of America. You know, over the last two and a half years, obviously, we’ve gone through extraordinary times. And a lot of people in this room have seen directly the damage that’s been done as a consequence of this recession.
And over those last two and a half years, we’ve had to make a bunch of tough choices. And I could not be prouder of the choices we made, because as a consequence of those choices, we were able to pull this economy out of a Great Depression, we’ve been able to stabilize the financial system, we’ve been able to make sure that 30 million people get health care and that we provide millions of kids the opportunity to go to college that otherwise wouldn’t have had it.
But what’s also been clear is that during this entire time, ordinary folks have been hurting very badly. And although we stabilized the economy, we’ve stabilized it at a level that’s just too high, in terms of unemployment and in terms of hardship all across America.
And my hope has been for the last two and a half years that in the midst of a crisis like this, that we could pull America together to move forcefully on behalf of the American Dream and on behalf of all those who aspire for something better for their kids. And what has been clear over the last two and a half years is that we have not had a willing partner.
Now, we’ve been able to get some stuff done despite that, and despite a filibuster in the Senate. But at least over the last nine months what we’ve seen is some irreconcilable differences, let’s put it that way; a fundamentally different vision about where America needs to go. And the speech that I gave at the joint session described a vision that is fundamentally different from the one that’s offered by the other side, and that was then amplified today by our discussion about how we’re going to lower our deficit even as we’re creating growth and creating jobs all across the economy.
This is going to be a tough fight over the next 16 months. But we don’t have 16 months or 14 months to wait. People need action now. Everywhere I travel, folks are hurting now. And so we are going to keep pushing as hard as we can this week, next week and all the weeks that follow to try to get as much done as we can now -- to put people back to work, to put teachers back to work, to put construction workers on the job rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our schools, to make sure that small businesses can thrive, to make sure that we’re paying for it in a balanced and responsible way.
And you’re already hearing the moans and groans from the other side about how we are engaging in class warfare and we’re being too populist and this and that and the other -- all the usual scripts. I mean, it’s predictable, the news releases that come out from the other side. But the truth of the matter is, is that if we don’t succeed, then I think that this country is going to go down a very perilous path. And it’s not going to be good for those of us who have done incredibly well in this society and it’s certainly not going to be good for the single mom who’s working two shifts right now trying to support her family. It’s not going to be good for anybody.
So the bottom line is this: As proud as I am of what we’ve accomplished over the last two and a half years, a lot of work remains undone. And back in 2008, when I got elected, I was very clear on that very beautiful November night in Grant Park in Chicago, and then very clear on that cold January day in D.C. that this was going to be a long-term project. This was not going to be easy and there were going to be a lot of bumps along the way.
But what I am absolutely confident about is that if we stay on it and if we understand that our core job, our core mission is to make sure that we have a strong, thriving middle class in this country and that we’ve got opportunity for everybody and not just some, and that those ladders of opportunity are for every child regardless of where they live and where they come from, if we have a big, generous vision of what America has been and can be, then I’m confident the American people will follow us. That’s where they want to be. That’s what they believe in.
They’ve felt some doubts. They’ve been discouraged, because a lot of these problems pre-date the financial crisis. And they’ve now been going through 15 years in which they’ve seen hardship.
But I remain confident that despite all the naysaying, that’s still where they want to go. And we’re going to have to fight for that vision over the next several months and over the next year.
I can’t do it alone. I can only do it with the help of all of you. And so the fact that you are present here tonight is something that is hugely encouraging to me, and I want to make sure that we spend most of our time in a conversation as opposed to a speech, because I’ve already given a long speech today. (Laughter.)
So with that, I think we’re going to clear out the crew. Enjoy New York, guys. (Laughter.) Although -- but don’t try to take a cab anywhere during UNGA.
7:31 P.M. EDT