ARNOLD, Mo. — The marquee outside of the Fox School in Arnold, Missouri reads: “Character Trait of the month of April: A Positive Attitude.” It’s an appropriate welcome message for President Obama on his 100th day in office. And he seemed to take it to heart as he addressed the packed gymnasium in Arnold. He ticked off what he considers to be the accomplishments of his administration, everything from the economic stimulus package to the equal pay for women act.
"We have begun to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, and we’ve begun the work of remaking America," Obama said at a town hall event in Arnold. “I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made but I’m not satisfied.”
Obama defended his ambitious and costly agenda by noting that he inherited serious problems that required immediate action.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do because on our first day in office, we found challenges of unprecedented size and scope,” he said. “These challenges could not be met with half measures. They couldn’t be met with the same, old formulas. They couldn’t be confronted in isolation. They demanded action that was bold and sustained.”
And while he rebuffed critics who say he’s taken on too much, the president acknowledged his limitations. “And you know that progress comes from hard choices and hard work, not miracles. I’m not a miracle worker. We’ve got a lot of tough choices, and hard decisions, and hard work ahead of us."
Obama went through a list of campaign promises that his administration has taken action on, including steps to get the economy back on track, ending the war in Iraq and harsh interrogation techniques and closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
“The priorities that we’ve acted upon were the things that we said we’d do during the campaign,” he said. “The changes that we’ve made are the changes we promised."
Obama took just six questions that spanned a variety of issues –- the auto bailout, foreign policy, and education reform. He spoke about paying good teachers more and on the flip side: "If you’ve got a bad teacher who can’t, after given all the support and the training that they need, is just not performing up to snuff, we’ve got to find that person a new job."
But he spent a lot of time talking about health care, urging Congress to get a reform package on his desk by the end of the year.
“The Recovery Package put a huge amount in prevention. We are in our budget calling for significant increases in prevention. And my hope is, is that, working in a bipartisan fashion, we are going to be able to get a health care reform bill on my desk before the end of the year that will start seeing the kinds of investments that will make everybody healthier.”
In a lighter moment, one of the audience members who asked a question about alternative medicine told the president that she was an acupuncturist and massage therapist.
“I could use one right now,” Obama said. “My back’s stiff. I’ve been working hard.”
“I’ll be happy to help you,” Mary Wallis said.
Obama told the crowd of enthusiastic supporters in this suburb of St. Louis that his last visit to Missouri was two days before Election Day, one final push to try and flip the red state to blue.
“Some folks were surprised that we showed up in Springfield at the end of our campaign,” he said.
Missouri was the closest state in last year’s presidential election –- Obama lost to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., by just under 4000 votes.
“We were here in Missouri at the end of a long journey to the White House, and so now I want to come back and speak to you at the beginning of another long journey,” the president said.
One hundred days down — only 1,361 left to go.
– Rachel Martin and Karen Travers