"It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope," he said. "The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere."
In an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson earlier today, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said the speech tonight was going to give the president an opportunity to speak beyond the audience in front of him in the House chamber.
"[F]undamentally, this is a chance to speak to the American people, to be direct and open and blunt about where we are and where we need to go," Axelrod said. "And I think he wants to take advantage of that opportunity."
In the Republican response to tonight's presidential address Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took aim at the Democratic Party for the $787 billion stimulus legislation, which he has strongly opposed.
Jindal, often mentioned as a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, charged that the stimulus legislation will not help the economy grow but will increase the size of government and "saddle future generations with debt."
"It's irresponsible. And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children." Jindal said in Baton Rouge, La. "To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in the hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you -- the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything."
First lady Michelle Obama was joined in her box at tonight's address by more than two dozen people representing a range of backgrounds, states and political views.
Mrs. Obama sat with two governors, Republican Jim Douglas of Vermont, who supported the president on the stimulus bill, and Democrat Ted Strickland of Ohio, a 2008 battleground state.
Several Washington-area students also attended the address as guests of the first lady, part of Obama's pledge to reach out to their new community.
Other guests reflect accomplishments of the month-old Obama administration. Blake Jones, the co-founder and president of Namaste Solar, met with President Obama last week for a tour of his company's solar installation in Denver and spoke about how he will benefit from the stimulus plan.
Lilly Ledbetter is the namesake for the first piece of legislation the president signed in office -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which makes it an act of discrimination to pay workers unfairly.