Trying to shore up support for his economic agenda, including his $3.6 trillion budget, President Barack Obama told the American people tonight that there are glimmers of hope that the economy is starting to recover, but he called for continued patience from a recession-weary nation.
"We'll recover from this recession, but it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that, when we all work together, when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interest to the wider set of obligations we have towards each other, that's when we succeed, that's when we prosper, and that's what is needed right now," the president said in a prime-time news conference, the second of his young administration.
In remarks from the East Room of the White House, Obama pointed to "signs of progress" that are starting to show from the economic strategy his team has put in place and continued to tout his budget proposals as critical to the nation's economic recovery.
"It's important to remember that this crisis didn't happen overnight and it didn't result from any one action or decision," the president said. "There are no quick fixes, and there are no silver bullets."
Taking questions from 13 reporters in a press conference that lasted just under an hour, Obama defended his administration's call for greater regulatory authority over failing financial institutions by pointing out that it was because of a lack of authority by the federal government that the AIG financial crisis happened.
"We should have obtained it much earlier so that any institution that poses a systemic risk that could bring down the financial system we can handle and we can do it in an orderly fashion that quarantines it from other institutions," he said.
Obama appeared to dial back some of the anger he has recently expressed at AIG for its handling of the executive bonus program and at other executives on Wall Street, but he did admonish them for the excess risk and reward.
"Bankers and executives on Wall Street need to realize that enriching themselves on the taxpayers' dime is inexcusable, that the days of outsized rewards and reckless speculation that puts us all at risk have to be over," he said.
Obama urged the American people to temper their own outrage.
"At the same time, the rest of us can't afford to demonize every investor or entrepreneur who seeks to make a profit," he said. "That drive is what has always fueled our prosperity, and it is what will ultimately get these banks lending and our economy moving once more."
Asked why it took him several days to publicly express his outrage against AIG, Obama exhibited what has become a trademark note of caution.
"It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak," he said.
The president continued to make the case that his budget is the best way to reduce the deficit and expand economic growth "by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest."
He cited the four key pillars contained in his budget proposal -- health care, energy reform, education and deficit reduction -- as critical to an economic recovery.