Like Past Presidents, Obama Says He Must Handle the Juggling Act

By Lindsey Ellerson

Mar 10, 2009 10:35am

ABC News’ Yunji de Nies and Sunlen Miller report:

At the top of his speech on education reform President Obama addressed the mounting criticism that his administration is taking on too much at once while the economy is still suffering.

As reported on Nightline last night, some are questioning if the new administration – reaching day 50 today – may have bitten off more than it can chew, calling for reform in education, stem cells, heath care, torture and foreign policy amid a dire economic situation that is not improving.

Obama summoned up examples of presidents past that have had to juggle multiple problems at the same time, to defend the allocation of his administration’s time and attention.

“I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time,” Obama started. “They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.”

Obama – in laying out his broad plans for reforming education today before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce legislative conference – said that the topic of the day is an important investment that will lead to future economic growth.

“America will not remain true to its highest ideals – and America’s place as a global economic leader will be put at risk – unless we not only bring down the crushing cost of health care and transform the way we use energy, but also do a far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters; unless we give them the knowledge and skills they need in this new and changing world,” Obama said.

- Yunji de Nies and Sunlen Miller

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