'GMA' Transcript: President Obama on Financial Reform, Elizabeth Warren and Shirley Sherrod

OBAMA: Well, we had a -- we had a very nice conversation. I -- I think she's -- she's a fine woman who has a remarkable life story and who really took her work seriously at the USDA in trying to -- out in rural Georgia -- make sure that that agency was functioning on behalf of everybody and not just some.

And there's a history there. The USDA, I think, has admitted -- and the record clearly shows -- that in its past, there has been discrimination. And I think she wanted to make sure that she was curing that.

Now, what happened to her was, as Secretary Vilsack said, very unfortunate. He takes full responsibility for it. He spoke to her. And what I emphasized in my conversation with Miss. -- Mrs. Sherrod was that I think Secretary Vilsack is very sincere. He has been working to make sure that some of the past wrongs were righted at this agency.

He jumped the gun, partly because we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles. And I've told my team and I told my agencies that we have to make sure that we're focusing on doing the right thing instead of what looks to be politically necessary at that very moment. We have to take our time and -- and think these issues through.

But with respect to race, one of the things I shared with Ms. Sherrod was the fact that the stories that she was telling about her own biases and overcoming them, those are actually good lessons for all of us to learn, because we all have biases. I -- I've written about these in my book. And I come from about as multicultural a background as anybody could. But I've talked about the fact that as I was growing up, there were times when I had stereotypes, both about blacks and whites, that you had to work through and admit to yourself. And the more you were willing to bring those things up to the surface, the more you could identify them as being wrong and move beyond them.

And so if there's a lesson to be drawn from this episode, it's that rather than us jumping to conclusions and pointing fingers at each other, we should all look inward and try to examine what's in our own hearts and, as a consequence, I think we will continue to make progress. I emphasize to -- to everybody I talk to about these issues that -- that we should acknowledge the enormous progress that we've made since the time that Shirley Sherrod was a child and of the Jim Crow South. That's real progress. I'm sitting here as a testament to that as president of the United States.

That doesn't then mean that we should be lazy about the problems that still exist, the misunderstandings, the biases, the discrimination that's still out there. And we've got to continue to work together as a country to move us further forward.

LEAMY: Can I ask him one last thing, John?


LEAMY: I just want to ask about -- it just seems so significant that you passed health care reform.


LEAMY: You've passed financial regulatory reform, this historic legislation.

OBAMA: Right.

LEAMY: And yet the latest poll shows your job approval rating hitting a new low of 44 percent.

OBAMA: Right.

LEAMY: And many people say this apparent paradox is because of the economy.

So what I'm wondering is, has the economy gone from being something that you inherited to becoming your own problem?

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