President Obama took a short walk from the White House across Lafayette Park to address the US Chamber of Commerce, but his remarks were meant to go a long way toward mending strained relations between his administration and the business community.
This was the first time the president has addressed the members of the Chamber of Commerce. The speech comes as the White House makes concerted efforts to reach out to the business community at a time when both say that their primary focus is on job creation and economic growth.
Obama's tone was cooperative, noting that the government and business can and must work together.
"I understand the challenges you face. I understand you are under incredible pressure to cut costs and keep your margins up," he said. "I understand the significance of your obligations to your shareholders, and the pressures that are created by quarterly reports. I get it."
Obama implored American businesses to "get in the game" and invest some of the $2 trillion on their balance sheets to kick-start job creation.
"So if I've got one message, my message is: Now is the time to invest in America," he said. "I know that many of you have told me that you're waiting for demand to rise before you get off the sidelines and expand, and that with millions of Americans out of work, demand's risen more slowly than any of us would like. We're in this together."
As a sign of his commitment to that effort, the president pledged to "go anywhere, any time, to be a booster for American businesses, American workers and American products."
"And I don't charge a commission," he said to laughter from the otherwise subdued audience.
The idea of Obama delivering a speech to the Chamber seemed unthinkable just a few months ago, given the heated rhetoric between the two sides.
Obama and the Chamber butted heads throughout the fall campaign season over the use of foreign money in American elections. Chamber President Tom Donohue did not shy away from attacking the White House over the health care law and financial reform for the first two years of Obama's term.
But in the lead up to the speech, both the White House and the Chamber emphasized the areas where they agree and their shared understanding of the need to focus on job creation.
Tita Freeman, vice president of communications and strategy for the Chamber, said that because the Chamber never considered itself to be "fueding" with the White House last fall, this speech is not about mending relationships.
"We've supported the president on some things and we've disagreed with him on others. That will continue to be the case," Freeman said, "But we have always invited an open dialogue and we're pleased that the president has accepted our invitation to speak to us."
Freeman outlined several key items that the Chamber wants to hear the president address in his remarks today: finalizing trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Columbia; commitment to regulatory restraint and reform; commitment to rebuilding America's infrastructure; forging a serious discussion on comprehensive tax reform.
Obama hit most of those points and touted steps his administration has taken on regulatory reform.