Obama: 'Day of Reckoning' for U.S. Economy

In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama told the American people that the "day of reckoning" has arrived for the nation's economy, which he pledged to not just fix but make stronger than it was before the current crisis.

"Now is the time to act boldly and wisely -- to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity," the president said in his televised prime-time address.

Obama was greeted with thunderous applause in the House chamber, as lawmakers reached out to try and get a handshake or, in some cases, a kiss as the president made his way down the narrow aisle to the podium.

Obama is enjoying a 68 percent approval rating after his first month in office, according to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, and his pledge to reverse the nation's economic woes earned him an early standing ovation from both Democrats and Republicans.

"While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," Obama said.

Obama laid out proposals in energy, health care and education policy that he said would help everyday Americans struggling with rising costs and would be long-term investments toward economic recovery.

Without mentioning his predecessor by name, Obama seemed to point the finger at the Bush administration when he spoke of a period when "short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity" and "critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day."

But the president said he was not there to "lay blame or look backwards," but explained that in order to fix the problems, it is necessary to consider how the country got to this point.

Long-term Investments and Budget Cuts

Tonight, Obama spoke about the stimulus plan and financial market stability plan as immediate, short-term actions taken by his administration to jump-start the economy. But in order to fully restore the economy, he called for long-term investments in energy independence, health care, and education in order to create new jobs, industries and renewed global competitiveness.

"The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren't preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility," the president said.

Obama did not devote much time to foreign policy, noting that he will soon announce a plan for ending the war in Iraq. He did note that the budget he will release this week would include the full costs of those wars, a shift from the Bush administration's practice of using supplemental appropriations bills to fund Iraq and Afghanistan and keep the costs outside of the official budget.

Obama called that first budget "a vision for America ... a blueprint for our future."

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