9:00 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, first of all, it is just good to be home. And it is good to be back with so many close friends.
Jim was in some ways being modest, because he talked about supporting me for my presidential race -- but, like so many of you here, like folks like John and Neil and other folks in this room -- actually the Crown family from the grandpas all the way to the grandkids, they supported me when I ran for State Senate; supported me when I lost a congressional race; supported me when I won my Senate race; and then supported me in my run for the presidency. These guys have been friends for a really long time. And Michelle and I love them to death, and to see how remarkable their children have turned out, watching them grow up, is a great thing to see. So please give the Crowns a big round of applause. (Applause.)
So I am not going to give a long speech. This really is family. You guys know me. You don't need to hear a lot of speechmaking. What I want to do is mostly answer questions and entertain ideas and comments from you. But what I do want to just say briefly is both what this campaign is going to be about and why it's going to be so important.
There are going to be a lot of issues involved because we have probably as sharp a contrast between two candidates as we've seen in a very long time -- substantively. I feel very strongly we've got to have comprehensive immigration reform.
We're a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. Governor Romney has a different view. I care very deeply about women's health issues. Governor Romney thinks differently about those issues.
I very much believe that the environment and making sure that we're protecting it for the next generation is consistent not just with Democratic traditions, but with traditions dating back to Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican. Mr. Romney disagrees with me.
So there are going to be a whole set of issues to debate. But the essence of this campaign is going to be about the economy. It's going to be about how do we create an economy that works for everybody, that is dynamic, that is competitive, that meets the challenges of the 21st century, and provides a platform where everybody who's willing to work hard can succeed. And I mean everybody -- whatever their background, race, gender, surname, faith -- that if you're willing to apply yourself and do everything it takes to follow your dream, that you can make it in this country.
And not everybody is going to make it like a Lester Crown or a Neil Blum, but you should be able to find a job that pays a living wage, and buy a home and send your kids to college and imagine that they're going to do better than you did, and have some sense of security after a lifetime of labor.
And the big challenge is not just since this financial crisis but for a decade before that people felt that that basic compact was slipping away, that basic security was being lost, that rewards weren’t matching up to effort and responsibility. And so that is going to be the essence of the debate: Who has got a vision for how we make sure that the next generation of Americans as well as this generation of Americans can succeed if they're responsible and they're working hard.
Now, obviously so much of that debate is going to be colored by the fact that we've had an unprecedented crisis, something we haven’t seen at least since the 1930s. And today's job report reminds us that for all the progress we've made, the world economy is integrated and it's still fragile. Too many people still out of work. Too many folks still have homes underwater. Too many people are still struggling to pay the bills. Too many people are still struggling with debt.
But the truth is, is that the steps we took back in 2009 and 2010 have helped to stabilize this economy. It is growing. We've created more than 4 million jobs, more than 800,000 in the last few months alone. And if as we work with other countries in Europe but also in Asia to try to restore a sense of stability in the world economy, then I have no doubt that we can continue on a path of growth. But that alone is not enough.
And so the debate is going to have to extend beyond just how do we solve immediate crises; it's going to be how do we make sure that every child is getting the kind of education they need in the 21st century. It's going to be how we continue to make progress on energy independence and clean energy that's important for our economy, but also for our environment. How we're going to make sure that we are reducing the costs of health care while improving the quality of health care -- because we are still spending 17 or 18 percent of our GDP on health care. Other countries spend 11 or 12 percent and they're still getting better outcomes. And I believe that the health care bill that we passed is pushing us in the right direction, but we're going to have more work to do on that front.
We're going to have to debate how to reduce our deficit in a way that still allows us to make the investments we need to grow, and make sure that everybody is paying their fair share, doing their part. We're going to have to talk about how we rebuild our infrastructure and our broadband lines and our wireless and all the things that we need that provide a platform for success -- and how we're investing in basic research and development.
And on each of these questions there's just a fundamentally different vision between myself and Governor Romney. I think he's a patriotic American. He's had great personal success, which we applaud, and he seems to have a wonderful family. But his recipe for how we grow an economy in a way that allows everybody to prosper, that's broad-based and lasting, is basically a retread of ideas that we tried before I came into office and didn’t work, and in fact haven’t worked for most of our history.
And so that's what the debate is going to be about. And there are going to be all kinds of distractions over the next five months, but I cannot wait to have that debate. And I want the American people to hear it, with great clarity, because if they understand the choices involved I'm absolutely convinced we're going to win. And as a consequence, I'm absolutely convinced that the 21st century is going to be the American Century just like the 20th.
So, thanks. Thank you. (Applause.)
9:09 P.M. CDT