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中国时间: 09:37 2016年12月06日星期二

奥巴马总统在国会联席会议上演讲


美国总统奥巴马在国会联席会议上的演讲

国会议长女士,副总统先生,国会议员们,第一夫人:

今天晚上我在这里不仅是向这座宏伟大厅里的各位尊敬的议员、也是向选举我们到这里来的所有美国人,坦率、直接地发表演讲。

我知道, 对于很多正在观看的美国人来说,他们对我们经济状况的关切,超过所有其它关切。他们完全有理由这样做。如果你本人还没有受到目前经济衰退的影响,你很可能认识什么人受到了影响--朋友、邻居、或家庭成员。你不需要听到另外一连串的统计数字才能了解我们的经济正处于危机之中,因为你每天就生活在其中。你醒来要面对这种担忧,夜晚因为这种担忧而无法入睡。你原以为会干到退休的工作,现在失去了;你构筑梦想的企业,现在岌岌可危;你孩子收到的大学入学通知书,不得不收了起来。这场经济衰退的影响是真实的,无处不在。

尽管我们的经济可能削弱了,我们的信心动摇了;尽管我们正在经历困难和莫测的时期,但是今天晚上,我希望每个美国人知道:

我们将重建,我们将复苏,美利坚合众国未来将比过去更加强大。

这次危机的严重程度不会决定这个国家的命运,解决我们问题的答案并非我们所不能及。答案就在我们的实验室, 在我们的大学,在我们的田间,在我们的工厂,在我们企业家的想像力中,在地球上最勤劳人民的自豪中。我们仍然拥有那些使美国成为人类历史上最伟大的进步与繁荣的力量的品质。现在需要的是这个国家同心协力,勇敢应对我们面临的挑战,再次为我们的未来承担责任。

如果我们坦诚对待自己,我们就得承认,长久以来,作为一个政府,作为一个民族,我们并非总是履行这些责任。我这样讲,并不要指责谁,或向过去看,而是因为只有明白了我们是如何走到目前这一步的,我们才能把自己从这个困境中解脱出来。

事实上,我们的经济并非一夜之间陷入衰退,我们所有的问题也不是由于房市崩溃或股市崩盘才开始出现的。几十年来,我们一直都知道,我们的生存取决于寻找新的能源来源,然而,我们今天进口的石油却比以往任何时候都多。医疗保健费用每年吞噬我们越来越多的储蓄,然而,我们却一再推迟改革。我们的孩子将在全球经济中去竞争工作机会,然而,我们很多学校却没有让他们做好准备。尽管所有这些挑战都没有得到解决,我们个人,并通过我们的政府,却增加了更多的开支,积累了更多的债务。

换言之,我们经历了这样一个时代,短期利益往往被看得比长期繁荣更重要,我们的眼光未能超越下个账单,下个季度,或下次选举。财政盈余成为向富人转移财富的借口,而不是投资未来的机遇。为了迅速盈利而破坏规章制度,不惜以一个健康的市场发展为代价。人们向银行和借贷人贷款,购买他们明知自己买不起的房屋,银行和借贷人却大力推销那些不良贷款。重要的辩论和困难的决定却一直在日复一日地拖延。

算总账的这个日子来到了。现在是我们掌握自己未来的时候了。

现在是采取大胆、睿智行动的时候,不仅要恢复美国的经济,而且要为持久繁荣建立一个新的基础。现在是启动创造就业机会、重新开始信贷、投资于促进经济发展的能源、医保、教育等领域的时机,即使是在我们为降低赤字而做出艰难抉择之际。这就是我的经济计划的目的,这就是今晚我要向你们讲述的内容。

这个计划从工作机会开始。

我进入白宫后,立即要求国会在二月十六日总统生日假日之前提交一项恢复计划,使人们重返工作,把钱放进他们的口袋。这并不是因为我相信大政府,我不相信。这并不是因为我忘记了我们继承的庞大债务,我没忘记。我要求采取行动,因为如果不这样做,会失去更多的工作,导致更多的困苦。事实上,如果不采取行动,经济肯定会多年增长缓慢,从而使我们长期的赤字更加恶化。这就是我推动迅速采取行动的原因。今天晚上,我感激本届国会采取了行动,我欣慰地说,美国复苏和再投资法已经成为法律。

今后两年里,这个计划将拯救或者创造350万个工作,其中90%以上的工作将来自私营行业,包括重建我们的道路和桥梁,建造风力涡轮发电机和太阳能板,铺设宽频,扩建公共交通。

由于这项计划,一些教师能保住工作,去教育我们的孩子。医务工作者能继续照顾我们的病人。今天晚上,57名警察仍然在明尼阿波利斯的街头执勤,因为这项计划使他们所属的部门免于裁员。

由于这项计划,美国95%的工薪家庭将享受减税,你们在4月1日开始领到的工资单里就可以看到扣除的税款少了。

由于这项计划,苦于支付孩子学费的家庭将得到四年大学每年可多达2500美元的抵税额。在这次经济衰退中失去工作的美国人,将能够得到延长了的失业福利,继续享受医疗保险,帮助他们度过难关。

我知道,在座的一些人和在家里看电视的一些人对这项计划能否奏效表示怀疑。我理解他们的怀疑态度。在华盛顿,我们都曾目睹过良好的意愿多么快就变成失信的诺言和浪费的支出。这项计划如此庞大,随之而来的是重大的责任,以确使计划奏效。

正因为如此,我请乔·拜登副总统主持一项强硬的、前所未有的监管工作,因为没有人敢跟乔捣乱。我告诉我的每一位阁员、全国所有的市长和州长,他们花的每一元钱都要对我负责,对美国人民负责。我任命了一位已经证明是强硬的总检察长,清查任何和所有的浪费和欺诈。我们建立了一个新网站,网址是recovery .gov,这样每个美国人都能知道他们的钱是如何花的,花在什么地方了。

因此,我们通过的复苏计划是使我们的经济重新开始发展的第一步。但这仅仅是第一步。因为,即使我们把这个计划管理得完美无瑕,不首先清理严重削弱我们金融系统的信贷危机,真正的复苏将无从谈起。

今天晚上,我想就此问题坦率直言,因为每个美国人都知道,这直接影响你和你家庭的福祉。你们也应当知道,你们在全国各地银行里的存款是安全的,你们的保险是安全的,你们能依靠我们继续运转的金融系统。这不是忧虑的原因。

值得担忧的是,如果我们不重新启动信贷,我们的复苏甚至在开始之前就会受到抑制。

大家知道,信贷流动是我们经济的命脉。得到贷款的能力关系到你如何为购物融资,从买房,买车,支付大学教育,商店给货架上货,农场购买设备,到企业支付工资。

但是信贷已经停止按照其应有的方式流动了。房市危机造成太多不良贷款,直接影响了很多银行的收支状况。这些银行债务过多,没有了信心,不再敢向美国家庭、企业或相互间提供更多资金。借不到贷款,家庭买不起房屋或汽车。因此,企业被迫裁员。我们的经济遭受的打击更重,信贷进一步枯竭。

这也是本届政府为什么要采取迅速和果断的行动,打破这种破坏性的循环,恢复信心,重新启动信贷。

我们将以几种方式来实现这些目标。第一,我们正在成立一个新的借贷基金,这是历史上最庞大的一次努力,协助为维持经济运转的消费者和企业家们提供汽车贷款、大学学费贷款、以及小企业贷款。

第二,我们已经开始了一项住房计划,将帮助面临丧失房屋抵押赎回权的负责任家庭降低每月付款金额,协助他们重新贷款。这个计划不帮助投机者,或是你们街上那位明知付不起、却还是买了房子的邻居,但将会帮助数以百万计的因房价下跌而面临困境的美国人,他们可以得到这项计划带来的较低利率。事实上,现在获得新的房屋抵押贷款的一般家庭,一年可以省下将近2000美元。

第三,联邦政府将全力以赴,确保美国人依赖的主要银行,即使在更困难的时期,也有足够的自信和足够的资金来提供贷款。一旦我们发现某家主要银行出现严重问题,我们将追究责任人,强迫进行必要的整顿,支持他们清理财务报表,确保一个坚强和有活力的体系,能服务我们的人民和我们的经济。

我知道,无论何时,华尔街可能会乐于看到给银行提供救助资金却不附带任何条件,并且不追究鲁莽决策者的责任。但这种做法解决不了问题。我们的目标是让重新借贷给美国人民与美国企业的那一天尽快到来,永远结束这场危机。

我打算让这些银行为它们所接受到的救助而负完全责任,这一次,它们必须清楚地展示,纳税人的钱如何使美国纳税人得到更多贷款。这一次,企业首席执行长们不再可以用纳税人的钱来填充他们的工资单,或购买昂贵的窗帘,或乘坐私人飞机远走高飞。这种日子一去不复返了。

不过,这个计划还是需要运用联邦政府庞大的资源,是的,可能比我们已经准备好的还要多。但纵使行动成本将很庞大,但我可以向你们保证,不行动的代价将更大。因为不行动,经济低迷将不只持续几个月、几年,可能会长达10年。这将对我们的预算赤字、对我们的企业、对你们,以及对下一代都雪上加霜。我拒绝让这种事情发生。

我知道,当上一任政府要求国会对陷于困境的银行提供援助时,民主党人和共和党人都对资金的管理不善及其引起后果感到愤慨。美国纳税人也很愤慨,我也同样。

因此我知道,帮助银行如今看起来是多么的不受欢迎,尤其是当每个人都或多或少因为银行的错误决定而遭受痛苦的时候。我向你们保证,我了解。

但我同时也知道,身处危机时刻,我们不能意气用事,或是屈服于眼前的政治。我的工作 ─ 我们的工作,是解决问题。我们的工作是负责任地执政。我不会花一分钱去奖励任何一个华尔街总裁,但我将尽我所能去帮助付不出员工薪资的小企业,或虽有存款但还是申请不到房屋贷款的家庭。

这才是这项计划的真正目的。不是为了帮助银行,而是为了帮助人民。只有信贷恢复正常,年轻家庭才可以购买新房子,然后才会有公司雇工人盖房子。这些工人才会有钱消费,如果他们也能拿到贷款的话,他们或许终于可以买辆车,或者开办自己的生意。投资者才会回到市场,美国家庭的退休基金才会重新有保障。虽然缓慢,但信心肯定会恢复,经济也将复苏。

所以我请求国会与我携手合作,采取一切必要的行动。因为我们无法放任国家陷入没有尽头的经济衰退。为确保如此大规模的危机不再发生,我请求国会尽速立法,更新过时的管理体系。我们必需实施严格的、崭新的、合乎常理的规则,让金融市场奖励勤奋与创新,惩罚投机与流弊。

经济复苏计划和金融稳定计划是短期内振兴经济的及时步骤,但要完全恢复美国的经济实力,唯一的办法是通过长期投资,创造新就业、新产业,以及与世界其他国家竞争的新能力。唯一能让本世纪再次成为美国世纪的方法,就是要去面对和解决我们依赖石油所付出的代价,解决医疗保健的昂贵成本;解决教育无方的学校体制,以及孩子们要继承的堆积如山的债务。这是我们的责任。

在今后几天内,我将向国会提出预算案。我们往往将这些文件简单地看做是一堆数字,或是漫长的项目列表。我对这份文件有不同看法。我将它视为美国的愿景,未来的蓝图。

我的预算案并不试图解决每一个问题,并不涉及每一个方面。它反映的是我们继承的严酷现实:一万亿美元的赤字、金融危机,和代价高昂的经济衰退。

迫于现实,国会当中的每一个人,无论是民主党人还是共和党人,都必须牺牲某些值得需要优先处理的项目,因为经费不足。这也包括我本人在内。

但这并不是说我们可以忽略长期挑战。我不赞成那种认为问题会船到桥头自然直、认为政府不用为我们的共同繁荣奠定基础的说法。

历史证明,恰恰相反。历史提醒我们,在经济动荡与转变的每一个时刻,这个国家都以大胆的行动与远大的构想予以回应。内战期间,我们在东西两岸间铺设铁轨,带动了商业与工业的发展。工业革命的动荡,推动了我们建立公立高中体系,让公民为新时代做好准备。战争与经济萧条过后,美国军人权利法案将整整一代人送进大学,创造了历史上最大的中产阶级。在求取自由的漫长奋斗中,我们又铺设了高速公路,把美国人送上月球,并且带动了一场科技爆炸,至今依旧在塑造着这个世界。

在上述每段历史中,政府并没有取代私人企业,而是催化了私人企业。政府创造了让数以千计的企业家和新企业得以适应并且茁壮发展的条件。

我们是一个能够在困境中看到希望、在磨难中赢得机会的国家。现在,我们的国家必须还像以前那样。这就是为什么,在我提交的财政预算削减我们不需要的项目的同时,我们将在三个对我们未来经济发展绝对至关重要的三个领域投入资金,这就是:能源、医疗保健和教育。

首先是能源。

我们知道,一个能够掌握清洁、可再生能源技术的国家将引领21世纪。然而,是中国启动了历史上最庞大的努力,使他们的经济建立在有效利用能源的基础上。我们发明了太阳能技术,但是我们在使用太阳能方面却落后于德国和日本等国家。我们可以生产新型的油电混合动力型汽车,但是这些汽车使用的电池却是韩国生产的。

我无法接受明天的工业和就业机会在我们国界以外的地区生根发芽,我知道你们也不能接受这种未来。现在是美国再次引领世界的时候了。

由于我们有了这个经济复苏计划,我们要在未来三年内让我们国家可再生能源的产量翻一番。我们还为基础研究投入了美国历史上最庞大的一笔的资金。这些投资将不仅仅用于开发新能源,还要用于医药、科学和技术领域的突破。

我们很快将铺设数千英里的电缆,把新能源输送到全国各地的城镇中。我们要让美国人建造的住所和楼房更有效地利用能源,从而在能源方面节省几十亿美元。

但是,要真正改造我们的经济、保护我们的安全以及使我们的星球不受气候变化的破坏,我们最终要让清洁的可再生能源成为一种可以产生利益的能源。因此,我要求国会提交法案,利用市场为机制来限制碳排放,驱动美国的可再生能源生产。为支持这种创新,我们每年要投资150亿美元,开发风能和太阳能技术、先进的生物燃料、清洁煤炭,以及在美国生产的节能型汽车和卡车。

至于我们的汽车工业,所有人都认识到,多年来的错误决定和全球经济衰退把我们的汽车公司逼到了破产的边缘。我们不应该、也不会为他们的错误行为提供保护。但是,我们应致力于发展一个重新打造、重塑形象的汽车工业。它将具有竞争力,并在竞争中取胜。几百万个工作岗位依赖于这样一个汽车工业。我相信,一个发明了汽车的国家是不会将它抛弃的。

实现这些目标不可能没有代价,也不可能轻而易举。但这是美国。我们不做容易做的事。我们做能够使我们国家向前发展的事。

出于同样的原因,我们必须解决昂贵的医疗保健问题。

医药支出使美国每30秒就发生一起破产。到今年年底,医药支出可能会让150万美国人失去住房。过去八年,医保费用的上涨幅度比工资增长快四倍。在这八年里,丧失医疗保险的美国人每年增加100万。这就是为什么小企业关门,大企业把就业机会送到海外去的主要原因之一。这也是我们预算中最大也是增长最快的一部分。

基于这些事实,我们不能再拖延医疗保健的改革。

在过去的30天里,我们为推动医疗保健改革所做的努力已经超过了过去十年的总和。在刚开始的几天,国会通过法案,给父母都全职工作的1100万美国儿童提供和保护他们原有的医疗保险。复苏计划将为电子医疗记录和新技术提供资金,从而减少错误、降低成本、确保隐私和挽救生命。我们的复苏计划将启动一项新的努力,寻找医治癌症的方法,攻克这种几乎影响了每一个美国人的生活的疾病。复苏计划还给疾病预防提供了历史上最大规模的资金投入,因为这是保持人民身体健康、控制医疗成本的最佳办法之一。

这部预算建立在这些改革的基础上。它包括对全面医疗保健改革的历史性承诺─就好比是对本金的首期付款。而这笔本金就是让每个美国人获得良好的、可以支付得起的医疗保健。这个承诺部分是要实现我们的医疗系统早就应当具有的效率。我们如果希望能够在今后几年减少赤字,就必须迈出这一步。

现在,围绕如何去实现改革目标,有很多意见和想法。这就是我为什么从下个星期开始,把企业和员工、医生和医疗提供者、民主党人和共和党人召集在一起,讨论这个问题。

我不幻想这会是个轻松的过程。这将是艰难的。但是我清楚,在西奥多·罗斯福总统提出改革医疗体系几乎一个世纪以后,医疗费用加在我们经济和我们国家良知上的重负已经持续太久了。所以我们不应该再犹豫:医疗保健改革刻不容缓,不能又等一年。

我们必须面对的第三个挑战是急需扩大教育给美国带来的承诺。

在全球经济中,最有市场价值的技术就是知识。良好的教育已经不再仅仅是通往机会的路径,而是一个先决条件。

此时此刻,增长速度最快的职业中有四分之三需要高中以上的学历。然而,我国公民中达到高中教育水平的人只有一半多一点。我们高中生的辍学率在所有工业化国家中是最高者之一。另外,大学生中有一半未能完成学业。

这是经济衰落的一个药方,因为我们知道,今天在教育上超过我们的国家,明天就会在竞争中打败我们。这就是为什么本届政府的目标是保证每个孩子可以获得完整的高水平的教育─从他们出生的那一天开始,到他们进入工作岗位。

通过经济复苏计划我们已经为教育做出了历史性的投资。我们已经大幅度扩展了儿童早期教育,并将继续提高其质量,因为我们知道使儿童最能成型的学习是在他们出生后的最初几年。我们使将近700万学生能够上得起大学。我们提供了必要的资源,避免减少教育经费和解雇教师,以免对孩子的成长带来不利影响。

但是我们明白,学校需要的不仅仅是更多资源。他们需要更多改革。这就是为什么这项预算为提高教师的业绩提供新的奖励,提供进步的途径,奖励取得的成就。我们将投资于那些正在帮助学校达到高标准、缩小成绩差距的创新项目。我们还将增加对特许学校的帮助。

我们作为立法者和教育工作者的责任是让这个系统有效运转。但每个公民都有责任参与其中。所以,今天晚上,我要求每个美国人承诺去接受至少一年或更多的高等教育或职业培训,可以在社区大学和四年制大学;也可以是职业培训或做学徒。不管是什么样的培训,每个美国人都将需要获得高中以上的毕业文凭。从高中退学不再是一个选项。这不仅是你自己自我放弃,而是对国家的放弃。美国需要而且重视每个美国人的能力。这就是为什么我们要为你们读完大学、达到新的目标提供必要的帮助。到2020年,美国将再次成为世界上大学毕业生占人口比例最高的国家。

我知道学费比以往任何时候都高,这就是为什么如果你愿意在你的社区做义工,或对你的社区回馈、或者为国家服务,我们将确定你可以负担得起高等教育。为了激发我们这一代和我们的后代为国家奉献的精神,我要求本届国会提交给我一份两党都支持的、以参议员奥林·哈奇和一个从不停止要求为国家服务的美国人─参议员爱德华·肯尼迪名字命名的法案。

这些教育政策将给我们的孩子打开机会的大门。但是确保他们穿过这扇门,是我们的责任。最终,没有什么项目或政策可以代替父母的角色。他们将会参加家长/教师会议,晚饭后辅导孩子做功课,或者关上电视机,拿走电子游戏,给孩子读书。当我对你们说,对子女教育的责任必须从家里开始的时候,我不仅仅是作为总统,更是作为一个父亲说这番话的。

当然,我们对子孙后代还必须承担另一项责任,这就是确保我们不会给他们留下无法偿还的债务。基于我们接手的赤字、我们面临的这场危机所造成的代价、以及我们必须面对的长期挑战,保证我们在经济复苏时,尽一切努力降低赤字,这比以往任何时候都更加重要。

令我感到骄傲的是,我们通过了这个没有特别指定拨款的复苏计划。我还希望明年通过一个预算案,确保我们花的每一块钱都反映对国家最重要的优先事项。

昨天,在我主持的一个财政峰会上,我承诺在我首届任期结束之前,把赤字减掉一半。我的政府已经开始仔细核查联邦预算,以消除浪费性和没有效率的项目。正如你们可以想见的,这个过程需要花费一些时间。但是我们已经开始从最大的支出方面下手。我们已经确定了在今后十年可以节省下的两万亿美元的支出项目。

在这个预算中,我们将终止成效不彰的教育计划,并且停止为不需要拨款的大型农业企业提供直接拨款。我们将取消在伊拉克浪费了数十亿美元的未经招标的合同;改革国防预算,停止支付我们不再使用的冷战时期的武器系统。我们将根除健保计划中并不会使我们的老年人更加健康的那些浪费、欺骗、和被滥用的花费。我们最终将停止给那些让工作机会流失到海外的大企业提供减税,恢复我们在税法上的公平和平衡。

为了使我们的子孙未来不受债务拖累,我们将停止为占美国人口2%的最富有的人提供减税。我知道你们会听到一个老的论调,说收回这些税赋减免意味着美国人的税率将会大幅度上涨。所以,我要明确一点,这就是,如果你的家庭年收入低于25万美元,你的税额不会增加一毛钱。我再重复一遍:不会增加一毛钱。事实上,这个复苏计划中提供了减税,没错,给95%的工薪家庭减税。这些支票已经开始兑现。

要保持财政长期健康,我们还必须应付不断上涨的健保和社保费用。全面医疗改革是强化未来健保计划的最佳途径。我们还需要开始商讨如何在社保方面采取同样的办法,为所有的美国人建立起免税普通储蓄帐户。

最后,由于我们还承受着信任危机,我承诺要恢复我们在预算方面的诚信和责任感。这也是为什么这个预算放眼未来十年,而且计入了旧规则中被忽略掉的支出 -- 第一次包括了在伊拉克和阿富汗战争所需要的全部费用。七年来,我们的国家处于战争状态。我们将不再隐瞒它的代价。

我们正在对这两场战争的政策进行仔细评估。我将很快宣布一个针对伊拉克的方案,把伊拉克留给伊拉克人民,并且负责任地结束这场战争。

我们将与朋友和盟国一起,为在阿富汗和巴基斯坦击败基地组织、打击极端主义制定一个新的综合战略。因为我不会允许恐怖分子在世界另一端的安全庇护场所图谋危害美国人民。

我们今晚在这里相聚的时候,我们的男女军人们坚守在海外,还有更多的人整装待发。对于他们每个人,还有默默承受着他们远离家园沉重负担的家人们,美国人民传递出同一个信息:我们珍视你们所做的奉献,你们做出的牺牲使我们得到启示,我们坚定不移地支持你们。为了减轻我们军队的负担,我的预算中增加了士兵和海军陆战队的数量。同时为了保持我们对军人神圣的信赖,我们将提高他们的薪酬,给我们的退伍军人提供更多他们应得的健康保险和福利。

为了克服极端主义,我们还必须坚守我们的军队所捍卫的价值,因为世界上没有任何力量比美国的榜样更加强有力。正因为如此,我才下令关闭关塔纳摩湾拘留中心,并且为被俘的恐怖分子寻求快捷和恰当的司法程序 -- 因为遵循我们的价值并不会让我们更软弱,而会让我们更加安全,更加强大。正因为如此,我今天晚上才能够站在这里,毫无例外、毫不含糊地说,美国不使用酷刑。

我们用语言和行动向世界展示,一个新的合作世代已经开始。我们知道,美国不能独自面对这个世纪的威胁,但是没有美国,世界也无法面对这些威胁。我们不能躲避谈判桌,也不能无视会危害我们的敌人或势力。相反,我们要行动起来,满怀自信,以严峻时期需要的坦诚态度向前迈进。

为了在以色列和她的邻国间寻求安全和持久和平,我们已经任命了一位特使来维持我们在这方面的努力。为了面对21世纪的挑战 -- 从恐怖主义到核扩散;从流行病、网络威胁,到极度贫困 -- 我们将强化旧的同盟,建立新的伙伴关系,并且利用我们国家实力中的所有要素。

为了应对全球范围的经济危机,我们正在与G-20成员国合作,以恢复对我们金融系统的信心,避免可能升级的保护主义,同时刺激全球市场对美国产品的需求。正如这个世界有赖于我们来维系强有力的经济,我们的经济也要依靠世界的力量。

我们站在历史的这个十字路口,此时此刻,世界所有国家所有人的目光再度落在我们身上 -- 看我们如何应对这个时刻,等待我们的引导。

今晚聚集在这里的人都肩负着非常时期的管理责任。这是个极大的重负,但也是一项巨大的荣幸 -- 它是几代美国人的重托。因为我们有使这个世界变好或变坏的能力。

我知道很容易丧失看清这个真相的眼光,变得玩世不恭,怀疑一切;沉缅于细琐的小事。

但是我在生活中也领悟到,可以在意想不到的地方得到希望;启示往往不是来自那些最有权势或最有名望的人,而是来自平凡美国人的梦想和期望。

我想到了雷奥纳德·阿贝斯,据报导,这位迈阿密的银行总裁变卖了自己的公司,拿出6千万美元奖金分发给为他工作的399个人,还有72个曾经为他做过事的人。他没有告诉任何人。一家当地报纸发现这件事后,他只是说,“我7岁的时候就已经认识其中的一些人了。我觉得独占这些钱是不对的。”

我想到了格林斯堡,这个堪萨斯的小城被龙卷风夷为平地。但是当地居民正在把它重建成为一个全球性样板,展示如何利用清洁能源为整个社区供电,如何给这个曾经堆满瓦砾的地方带来就业和商业机会。一位帮助他们重建的人说,“这是个可怕的悲剧,但是这里的人知道这也给他们带来了难得的机遇。”

我还想到了我在南卡罗来纳州迪伦的一所学校参观时遇到的一个名叫贝西娅的小姑娘。学校的天花板漏水,墙上的油漆脱落。他们每天课程都不得不中断六次,因为火车就从教室旁边疾驶而过。有人对她说,她的学校没希望了。但是一天放学后,她去了公共图书馆,给今天坐在这里的人写了一封信。甚至买邮票的钱都是她问校长要来的。她在信中向我们求助,她说,“我们只是一群学生,想要成为律师、医生、像你们那样的国会议员,甚至有朝一日成为总统,这样我们不仅可以改变南卡罗来纳州,还能改变世界。我们不是半途而废的人。”

我们不是半途而废的人。

这些话,还有这些故事向我们展示了选我们来这里的人民的精神。他们告诉我们,即便是在最艰难的时期,在最困难的环境中,仍然保持着慷慨、坚韧、正直和坚强,仍然有对我们的未来和繁荣肩负起责任的意愿。

他们的决心必然给我们以激励。他们的忧虑必然是我们的目标。我们必须让他们以及所有的人知道,我们能够胜任这些工作。

我知道我们迄今为止并不是在所有问题上都意见一致,而且未来肯定还会出现分歧。但是我也知道,今晚坐在这里的每个美国人都热爱这个国家,并希望它成功。这必须是我们今后任何一场辩论的起点和辩论结束后应当回归的地方。这是美国人民期望我们建起共同点的基础。

如果我们行动起来 -- 如果我们携手努力,把这个国家从危机的深渊中拉出来;如果我们让人民回到自己的工作岗位,重新发动繁荣的引擎;如果我们毫无惧色地面对我们时代的挑战,并且唤起永不言弃的美国精神,那么多年后的一天,我们的子孙会告诉他们的孩子,在这个时代,我们做了正如这间大厅的墙壁上刻的字所说的“一些值得铭记的事”。谢谢你们,上帝祝福你们,天佑美国。

Address to Joint Session of Congress

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and the First Lady 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 two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs. More than 90% 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% 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 re-finance 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 re-finances today can save nearly $2000 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 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 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 three 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 fifteen billion dollars 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 thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight 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 eleven 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 pre-requisite.

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 one 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% of Americans. But let me 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% 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 ten 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 seven 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 responsibly 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.

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