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Obama Hopeful About Recovery; Long Road Ahead

Obama 2009 Speech Photo

April 14, 2009 – Amid an historic high unemployment rate and continued credit concerns, President Barack Obama talked to a Georgetown audience on April 14 about what it will take to get the nation to economic recovery. 

He arrived to huge applause in Gaston Hall before talking about the poor decisions of Wall Street, Washington and “Main Street” that have contributed to the current economic crisis.

“In just under three months, we’ve responded to an extraordinary set of economic challenges with extraordinary action; action that’s been unprecedented both in terms of its scale and its speed,” Obama said.

Taking a page from Obama’s oft-used quote by Martin Luther King Jr. – “the fierce urgency of now,” Georgetown President John J. DeGioia said the economic crisis reaches beyond U.S. soil.

“That urgency has never been more present than in this moment when the framework that guides the economies of our world must be built anew,” he said before introducing the nation’s president.

The White House has received criticism for spending during these “urgent” times, but Obama said cutbacks do not support a flailing economy.

“If every family in America, every business in America cuts back all at once, no one is spending any money – which means there are no customers, which means there are more layoffs, which means the economy gets even worse,” he said.

Continuing to defend the largest recovery plan in the nation’s history, he said the goal is to save or create 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, put money in the pockets of 95 percent of working families and cushion the blow for laid-off workers by extending unemployment benefits and health care insurance.

Under the recovery plan, less focus is placed on the financial sector and more toward renewable energy, health care reform and new legal authority and regulations that would curb corporate loopholes on Wall Street.

The plan’s focus on college enrollment, early childhood education and vocational training attempts to make America more sustainable, Obama said. Aside from his desire to see Americans commit to at least one year of education or career development, the president wants the United States to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

“For decades, we led the world in educational attainment. And as a consequence we led the world in economic growth,” he said. “But in this new economy, we’ve come to trail the world’s leaders in graduation rates and educational achievement.

Reena Aggarwal, professor of finance in the McDonough School of Business, calls Obama’s goals ambitious, but agrees the steps are necessary.

“The trick is going to be making sure that those things all work simultaneously,” Aggarwal said.

She said the short-term fixes – the $8,000 tax credit for homebuyers and the tax cuts for the working class – have definitely helped increase housing and retail sales over the last couple of months, but those solutions must gain traction.

“There is no doubt that times are still tough,” Obama said. “But from where we stand, for the very first time, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope.”

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