"The amount of sacrifice being born is immense and it's a terrible thing," he told ABC News. "I think it's our job to make sure that that sacrifice is worthwhile and that we do this once and that we do succeed."
Fritz said the company now has a chance to reinvent itself.
"We let people down," he said. "On the other hand, this gives us a chance to make it worthwhile and pay back."
Despite word of more job cuts and other concessions by GM's labor force, Mike Green, a third-generation GM auto worker and the president of UAW local 652 in Lansing, Mich., said he was reassured by the president's remarks.
He said he was pleased to hear that a larger share of GM cars would soon be made in the U.S. That, in combination with a recovery of the U.S. economy, he hopes, could help the company eventually bring back some laid-off workers.
"Hopefully we'll learn by our mistakes," he said. "We have a lot of good, quality products. We just have to do a better job of selling ourselves like other car companies do."
The Obama administration has agreed to provide GM an additional $30.1 billion in federal assistance to support the company's restructuring. The administration announced the funding on Sunday night, on the eve of a 60-day period that the Obama administration gave GM to come up with a successful viability plan.
The administration said yesterday that it had accepted GM's viability plan, which includes entering into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. GM is expected to emerge as a new company in 60 to 90 days.
According to its bankruptcy filing, the automaker currently has $172.8 billion in debts and nearly $82.3 billion in assets.
"The U.S. Treasury does not believe or anticipate that any additional assistance to GM will be required," a senior administration official said. "We intend for this to be a permanent resolution of the GM situation and an ability for the company to go forward and be profitable."
GM revealed more details today about its plans to become profitable. Much of the company's plans entail transforming GM into a considerably leaner organization: The automaker, which has already announced more than 20,000 in layoffs for hourly employees, will further slash its North American payrolls by cutting its salaried workforce from 35,100 to roughly 27,200 and will reduce benefits for both salaried and non-union hourly retirees. GM also named 14 plants and three parts distribution centers that will close or be idled by 2014, including seven plants in Michigan.
The job cuts and factory closures are part of GM's efforts to shrink operations to meet a car sales environment in which just 10 million cars are sold annually in the United States, down from a 15 to 17 million in early years.
The company will also discontinue four brands -- Saturn, Saab, Hummer and Pontiac -- and close approximately 2,600 dealerships.
But not all operations at GM are shrinking: The company also announced today that a "re-tooled" assembly plant staffed by UAW workers will produce a new, small GM car. The company said it has not yet decided which plant that will be.
"The economic crisis has caused enormous disruption in the auto industry, but with it has come the opportunity for us to reinvent our business," Henderson said. "We are going to do it once and do it right."