[House Document 111-1]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]





111th Congress, 1st Session - - - - - - - - - - - - - House Document 111-1


 
         PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS

                               __________

                                MESSAGE

                                  from

                     THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

                              transmitting

THE PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS BEFORE A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS ON THE STATE 
                              OF THE UNION




  February 25, 2009.--Message and accompanying papers referred to the 
 Committee on the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to 
                               be printed
To the Congress of the United States:
    I've come here tonight not only to address the 
distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak 
frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here.
    I know that for many Americans watching right now, the 
state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. 
And rightly so. If you haven't been personally affected by this 
recession, you probably know someone who has--a friend; a 
neighbor; a member of your family. You don't need to hear 
another list of statistics to know that our economy is in 
crisis, because you live it every day. It's the worry you wake 
up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you 
thought you'd retire from but now have lost; the business you 
built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread; the 
college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the 
envelope. The impact of this recession is real, and it is 
everywhere.
    But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence 
shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain 
times, tonight I want every American to know this:
    We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of 
America will emerge stronger than before.
    The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of 
this Nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our 
reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our 
fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our 
entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on 
Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest 
force of progress and prosperity in human history we still 
possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this 
country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we 
face, and take responsibility for our future once more. Now, if 
we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that for too long, we 
have not always met these responsibilities--as a Government or 
as a people. I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but 
because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this 
moment that we'll be able to lift ourselves out of this 
predicament.
    The fact is, our economy did not fall into decline 
overnight. Nor did all of our problems begin when the housing 
market collapsed or the stock market sank. We have known for 
decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of 
energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before. The cost 
of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, 
yet we keep delaying reform. Our children will compete for jobs 
in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare 
them for. And though all these challenges went unsolved, we 
still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both 
as individuals and through our Government, than ever before.
    In other words, we have lived through an era where too 
often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; 
where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next 
quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to 
transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to 
invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a 
quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought 
homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who 
pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical 
debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other 
time on some other day.
    Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to 
take charge of our future is here.
    Now is the time to act boldly and wisely--to not only 
revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting 
prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start 
lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and 
education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard 
choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic 
agenda is designed to do, and that's what I'd like to talk to 
you about tonight.
    It's an agenda that begins with jobs.
    As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me 
a recovery plan by President's Day that would put people back 
to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe 
in bigger Government--I don't. Not because I'm not mindful of 
the massive debt we've inherited--I am. I called for action 
because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and 
caused more hardships. In fact, a failure to act would have 
worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth 
for years. That's why I pushed for quick action. And tonight, I 
am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say 
that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law.
    Over the next 2 years, this plan will save or create 3.5 
million jobs. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the 
private sector--jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; 
constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband 
and expanding mass transit.
    Because of this plan, there are teachers who can now keep 
their jobs and educate our kids. Health care professionals can 
continue caring for our sick. There are 57 police officers who 
are still on the streets of Minneapolis tonight because this 
plan prevented the layoffs their department was about to make.
    Because of this plan, 95 percent of the working households 
in America will receive a tax cut--a tax cut that you will see 
in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.
    Because of this plan, families who are struggling to pay 
tuition costs will receive a $2,500 tax credit for all four 
years of college. And Americans who have lost their jobs in 
this recession will be able to receive extended unemployment 
benefits and continued health care coverage to help them 
weather this storm.
    I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home 
who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand 
that skepticism. Here in Washington, we've all seen how quickly 
good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful 
spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous 
responsibility to get it right.
    That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a 
tough, unprecedented oversight effort--because nobody messes 
with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as 
mayors and governors across the country that they will be held 
accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they 
spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector 
General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And 
we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every 
American can find out how and where their money is being spent.
    So the recovery plan we passed is the first step in getting 
our economy back on track. But it is just the first step. 
Because even if we manage this plan flawlessly, there will be 
no real recovery unless we clean up the credit crisis that has 
severely weakened our financial system.
    I want to speak plainly and candidly about this issue 
tonight, because every American should know that it directly 
affects you and your family's well-being. You should also know 
that the money you've deposited in banks across the country is 
safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the 
continued operation of our financial system. That is not the 
source of concern.
    The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this 
country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins.
    You see, the flow of credit is the lifeblood of our 
economy. The ability to get a loan is how you finance the 
purchase of everything from a home to a car to a college 
education; how stores stock their shelves, farms buy equipment, 
and businesses make payroll.
    But credit has stopped flowing the way it should. Too many 
bad loans from the housing crisis have made their way onto the 
books of too many banks. With so much debt and so little 
confidence, these banks are now fearful of lending out any more 
money to households, to businesses, or to each other. When 
there is no lending, families can't afford to buy homes or 
cars. So businesses are forced to make layoffs. Our economy 
suffers even more, and credit dries up even further.
    That is why this Administration is moving swiftly and 
aggressively to break this destructive cycle, restore 
confidence, and re-start lending.
    We will do so in several ways. First, we are creating a new 
lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help 
provide auto loans, college loans, and small business loans to 
the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running.
    Second, we have launched a housing plan that will help 
responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower 
their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages. It's a 
plan that won't help speculators or that neighbor down the 
street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it 
will help millions of Americans who are struggling with 
declining home values--Americans who will now be able to take 
advantage of the lower interest rates that this plan has 
already helped bring about. In fact, the average family who 
refinances today can save nearly $2,000 per year on their 
mortgage.
    Third, we will act with the full force of the Federal 
Government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend 
on have enough confidence and enough money to lend even in more 
difficult times. And when we learn that a major bank has 
serious problems, we will hold accountable those responsible, 
force the necessary adjustments, provide the support to clean 
up their balance sheets, and assure the continuity of a strong, 
viable institution that can serve our people and our economy.
    I understand that on any given day, Wall Street may be more 
comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no 
strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their 
reckless decisions. But such an approach won't solve the 
problem. And our goal is to quicken the day when we re-start 
lending to the American people and American business and end 
this crisis once and for all.
    I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the 
assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to 
clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending 
for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won't be able to use 
taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or 
disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.
    Still, this plan will require significant resources from 
the Federal Government--and yes, probably more than we've 
already set aside. But while the cost of action will be great, 
I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater, 
for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not 
months or years, but perhaps a decade. That would be worse for 
our deficit, worse for business, worse for you, and worse for 
the next generation. And I refuse to let that happen.
    I understand that when the last Administration asked this 
Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats 
and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and 
results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was 
I.
    So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks 
right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from 
their bad decisions. I promise you--I get it.
    But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford 
to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. 
My job--our job--is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern 
with a sense of responsibility. I will not spend a single penny 
for the purpose of rewarding a single Wall Street executive, 
but I will do whatever it takes to help the small business that 
can't pay its workers or the family that has saved and still 
can't get a mortgage.
    That's what this is about. It's not about helping banks--
it's about helping people. Because when credit is available 
again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then 
some company will hire workers to build it. And then those 
workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan 
too, maybe they'll finally buy that car, or open their own 
business. Investors will return to the market, and American 
families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, 
but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will 
recover.
    So I ask this Congress to join me in doing whatever proves 
necessary. Because we cannot consign our Nation to an open-
ended recession. And to ensure that a crisis of this magnitude 
never happens again, I ask the Congress to move quickly on 
legislation that will finally reform our outdated regulatory 
system. It is time to put in place tough, new common-sense 
rules of the road so that our financial market rewards drive 
and innovation, and punishes short-cuts and abuse.
    The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the 
immediate steps we're taking to revive our economy in the 
short-term. But the only way to fully restore America's 
economic strength is to make the long-term investments that 
will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to 
compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century 
will be another American century is if we confront at last the 
price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health 
care; the schools that aren't preparing our children and the 
mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our 
responsibility.
    In the next few days, I will submit a budget to the 
Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as 
simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see 
this document differently. I see it as a vision for America--as 
a blueprint for our future.
    My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or 
address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what 
we've inherited--a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, 
and a costly recession.
    Given these realities, everyone in this chamber--Democrats 
and Republicans--will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities 
for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.
    But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-
term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will 
simply take care of themselves; that says Government has no 
role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity.
    For history tells a different story. History reminds us 
that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, 
this Nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In 
the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast 
to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil 
of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high 
schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake 
of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college 
and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight 
struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American 
on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes 
our world.
    In each case, Government didn't supplant private 
enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the 
conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to 
adapt and to thrive.
    We are a Nation that has seen promise amid peril, and 
claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation 
again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we 
don't need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas 
that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, 
health care, and education.
    It begins with energy.
    We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, 
renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is 
China that has launched the largest effort in history to make 
their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, 
but we've fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in 
producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, 
but they will run on batteries made in Korea.
    Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries 
of tomorrow take root beyond our borders--and I know you don't 
either. It is time for America to lead again.
    Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this Nation's 
supply of renewable energy in the next 3 years. We have also 
made the largest investment in basic research funding in 
American history--an investment that will spur not only new 
discoveries in energy, but breakthroughs in medicine, science, 
and technology.
    We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines 
that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this 
country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and 
buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of 
dollars on our energy bills.
    But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, 
and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need 
to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind 
of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that 
places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the 
production of more renewable energy in America. And to support 
that innovation, we will invest $15 billion a year to develop 
technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced 
biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks 
built right here in America.
    As for our auto industry, everyone recognizes that years of 
bad decision-making and a global recession have pushed our 
automakers to the brink. We should not, and will not, protect 
them from their own bad practices. But we are committed to the 
goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry that can compete 
and win. Millions of jobs depend on it. Scores of communities 
depend on it. And I believe the Nation that invented the 
automobile cannot walk away from it.
    None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. 
But this is America. We don't do what's easy. We do what is 
necessary to move this country forward.
    For that same reason, we must also address the crushing 
cost of health care.
    This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America 
every 30 seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 
million Americans to lose their homes. In the last 8 years, 
premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each 
of these years, one million more Americans have lost their 
health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small 
businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs 
overseas. And it's one of the largest and fastest-growing parts 
of our budget.
    Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health 
care reform on hold.
    Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health 
care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last 
decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to 
provide and protect health insurance for 11 million American 
children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will 
invest in electronic health records and new technology that 
will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save 
lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that 
has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure 
for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment 
ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways 
to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.
    This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an 
historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform--a 
down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, 
affordable health care for every American. It's a commitment 
that's paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are 
long overdue. And it's a step we must take if we hope to bring 
down our deficit in the years to come.
    Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about 
how to achieve reform, and that is why I'm bringing together 
businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, 
Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next 
week.
    I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It 
will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy 
Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care 
has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our Nation 
long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform 
cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another 
year.
    The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to 
expand the promise of education in America.
    In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can 
sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a 
pathway to opportunity--it is a prerequisite.
    Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing 
occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, 
just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We 
have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any 
industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin 
college never finish.
    This is a prescription for economic decline, because we 
know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us 
tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this 
Administration to ensure that every child has access to a 
complete and competitive education--from the day they are born 
to the day they begin a career.
    Already, we have made an historic investment in education 
through the economic recovery plan. We have dramatically 
expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve 
its quality, because we know that the most formative learning 
comes in those first years of life. We have made college 
affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have 
provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and 
teacher layoffs that would set back our children's progress.
    But we know that our schools don't just need more 
resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget 
creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for 
advancement, and rewards for success. We'll invest in 
innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high 
standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our 
commitment to charter schools.
    It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make 
this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen 
to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to 
commit to at least 1 year or more of higher education or career 
training. This can be community college or a four-year school; 
vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the 
training may be, every American will need to get more than a 
high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no 
longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's 
quitting on your country--and this country needs and values the 
talents of every American. That is why we will provide the 
support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new 
goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest 
proportion of college graduates in the world.
    I know that the price of tuition is higher than ever, which 
is why if you are willing to volunteer in your neighborhood or 
give back to your community or serve your country, we will make 
sure that you can afford a higher education. And to encourage a 
renewed spirit of national service for this and future 
generations, I ask this Congress to send me the bipartisan 
legislation that bears the name of Senator Orrin Hatch as well 
as an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for 
his country--Senator Edward Kennedy.
    These education policies will open the doors of opportunity 
for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they, walk 
through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that 
can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those 
parent/teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, 
or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their 
child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father 
when I say that responsibility for our children's education 
must begin at home.
    There is, of course, another responsibility we have to our 
children. And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do 
not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we 
inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term 
challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to 
ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to 
bring this deficit down.
    I'm proud that we passed the recovery plan free of 
earmarks, and I want to pass a budget next year that ensures 
that each dollar we spend reflects only our most important 
national priorities.
    Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut 
the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My 
Administration has also begun to go line by line through the 
Federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective 
programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take 
some time. But we're starting with the biggest lines. We have 
already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the 
next decade.
    In this budget, we will end education programs that don't 
work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't 
need them. We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have 
wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that 
we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use. 
We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare 
program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we 
will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by 
finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our 
jobs overseas.
    In order to save our children from a future of debt, we 
will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent of 
Americans. But let me be perfectly clear, because I know you'll 
hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks 
means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your 
family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your 
taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. 
In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut--that's right, a 
tax cut--for 95 percent of working families. And these checks 
are on the way.
    To preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also 
address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. 
Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen 
Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a 
conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while 
creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.
    Finally, because we're also suffering from a deficit of 
trust, I am committed to restoring a sense of honesty and 
accountability to our budget. That is why this budget looks 
ahead 10 years and accounts for spending that was left out 
under the old rules--and for the first time, that includes the 
full cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For 7 years, we 
have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.
    We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, 
and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq 
to its people and responsibility ends this war.
    And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and 
comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat 
al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow 
terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens 
half a world away.
    As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand 
watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every 
one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of 
their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we 
honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you 
have our unyielding support. To relieve the strain on our 
forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and 
Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we 
will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health 
care and benefits that they have earned.
    To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in 
upholding the values our troops defend--because there is no 
force in the world more powerful than the example of America. 
That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center 
at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for 
captured terrorists--because living our values doesn't make us 
weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is 
why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or 
equivocation that the United States of America does not 
torture.
    In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era 
of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet 
the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet 
them without America. We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor 
ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm. We are instead 
called to move forward with the sense of confidence and candor 
that serious times demand.
    To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between 
Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain 
our effort. To meet the challenges of the 21st century--from 
terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from pandemic disease to 
cyber threats to crushing poverty--we will strengthen old 
alliances, forge new ones, and use all elements of our national 
power.
    And to respond to an economic crisis that is global in 
scope, we are working with the nations of the G-20 to restore 
confidence in our financial system, avoid the possibility of 
escalating protectionism, and spur demand for American goods in 
markets across the globe. For the world depends on us to have a 
strong economy, just as our economy depends on the strength of 
the world's.
    As we stand at this crossroads of history, the eyes of all 
people in all nations are once again upon us--watching to see 
what we do, with this moment; waiting for us to lead.
    Those of us gathered here tonight have been called to 
govern in extraordinary times. It is a tremendous burden, but 
also a great privilege--one that has been entrusted to few 
generations of Americans. For in our hands lies the ability to 
shape our world for good or for ill.
    I know that it is easy to lose sight of this truth--to 
become cynical and doubtful; consumed with the petty and the 
trivial.
    But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in 
unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those 
with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and 
aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.
    I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami 
who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million 
bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, 
plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn't tell 
anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, 
``I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn't 
feel right getting the money myself.''
    I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was 
completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its 
residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an 
entire community--how it can bring jobs and businesses to a 
place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. ``The tragedy 
was terrible,'' said one of the men who helped them rebuild. 
``But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible 
opportunity.''
    And I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from 
that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina--a place where 
the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have 
to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by 
their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, 
but the other day after class she went to the public library 
and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She 
even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The 
letter asks us for help, and says, ``We are just students 
trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself 
and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the 
state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not 
quitters.''
    We are not quitters.
    These words and these stories tell us something about the 
spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even 
in the most trying times, amid the most difficult 
circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency, 
and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take 
responsibility for our future and for posterity.
    Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must 
be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we 
are equal to the task before us.
    I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far, and 
there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. 
But,I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight 
loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the 
starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, 
and where we return after those debates are done. That is the 
foundation on which the American people expect us to build 
common ground.
    And if we do--if we come together and lift this Nation from 
the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work 
and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront 
without fear the challenges of our time and summon that 
enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday 
years from now our children can tell their children that this 
was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved 
into this very chamber, ``something worthy to be remembered.'' 
Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States 
of America.

                                                      Barack Obama.
    The White House, February 24, 2009.