State of the Union: Obama Makes Jobs Top Priority for 2010

Obama focuses on economy, vows to continue fight on health-care overhaul.

ByABC News
January 27, 2010, 3:29 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2010 — -- In his first State of the Union address, President Obama said job creation will be his administration's top priority this year and he vowed to continue pushing for health-care reform legislation despite recent political setbacks.

"Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010," the president said. His call for a new jobs bill drew bipartisan support from the Members of Congress seated before him in the House chamber.

Obama dedicated about two-thirds of his address to the economy and domestic policy issues as he tried to reassure an increasingly skeptical U.S. public that his agenda is the right solution to fix the nation's economic woes.

The president acknowledged mistakes made in his first year, but he was resolute that he could keep the promises he made to the American people when he ran for office.

"I campaigned on the promise of change -- 'change we can believe in,' the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren't sure if they still believe we can change -- or at least, that I can deliver it," Obama said. "But remember this -- I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone."

It is because of the American people's "resilience in the face of adversity" that the president said he has "never been more hopeful" about the nation's future than he is tonight.

"Despite our hardships, our union is strong," he said.

Obama's message seemed aimed at rallying the American people and reassuring them that his administration and the politicians in Washington understand their concerns and are working for them.

"We do not give up. We do not quit. We don't allow fear or division to break our spirit," the president said. "In this new decade, it's time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength."

Despite recent election setbacks for Democrats, Obama told Congress and the American people that he "will not walk away" from his controversial drive for health insurance reform, and urged Congress to stay with him.

"Here's what I ask of Congress, though: Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close," he said. "Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.

"By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year," he said. "I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber."

Obama acknowledged that there is uncertainty and confusion out there about what the legislation will do and he took some of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people.

He urged Americans to take another look at his administration's proposal.

"There's a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo," he said. "But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know."

Noting the partisan rancor that has marked Washington this year, Obama said that there is one thing that both Democrats and Republicans have agreed on -- "we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal."

He defended the fees he recently proposed on the big Wall Street banks to recoup the money they owe the government.