President Obama continued to strike a balance between optimism about the nation heading in the right direction and realism that the economic recovery is slow and will take time.
“We've made progress. But, let's face it, the progress hasn't been fast enough,” Obama said at a town-hall style event in a Columbus, Ohio, family’s backyard.
Obama reiterated that his administration is trying to create a cycle where Americans begin to feel better about the economy.
“We're not going to get all 8 million jobs that were lost back overnight. It's going to take some time,” he said. “And a lot of it's sort of like recovering from an illness. You get a little bit stronger each day and you take a few more steps each day. And that's where our economy's at right now.
Obama came to this middle-class, Democratic-leaning neighborhood in Columbus to talk about the economy and take questions. Ohio natives Rhonda and Joe Weithman welcomed the president into their home, sitting down at their kitchen table for a brief chat about their experiences in the economic downturn and their backyard for remarks and a question and answer session with their friends and neighbors.
Weithman and a business partner own a small architecture firm that saw a decline in business when the economic worsened. His wife Rhonda lost her job in 2009 but was able to keep her health insurance due to COBRA subsidies from the Recovery Act. The family said this was necessary because the family was under her insurance at that time and their 11-year-old son, Josh has a pre-existing condition.
The White House said that the Weithmans invited their friends and neighbors to participate in the town hall event and that they did no prior screening of the audience.
Obama also got in a few acknowledgments of the local rabid fan-base of The Ohio State University.
Obama asked one well-built, middle-aged man in the audience if he played football for the Buckeyes. The man politely told the president that he actually played on a national championship football team at Eastern Kentucky University.
“You look like you could — we could put you on the line right now,” the president said.
“Oh, that's what they all say,” the Ohio man said to laughter from the small crowd in the Weithman’s backyard.
After concluding his remarks, Obama said that the Weithman family made him the “O” in the spelling out of O-H-I-O, a tradition among die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes fans. He said this was caught on camera – not by the White House press corps, but the White House official photographer.
-Karen Travers and David Kerley