Obama praised the private sector but also leveled criticism: Too often organizations act only within the confines of their narrow interests. His appeal for conciliation will likely be tested by employers bracing for pro-union legislation and health care reform.
As an example of sacrifice, Obama mentioned employees, such as those in local governments and at certain newspapers, who have accepted pay cuts and unpaid mandatory vacation time as a way to forestall the layoffs of others.
Obama said it is “the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.”
In his 21-minute address, Obama lauded the country’s entrepreneurial spirit. He said America’s greatness came from the willingness of individuals and businesses to reward achievement gained through effort, ingenuity and risk.
“Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less,” Obama said. “It has not been the path for the faint-hearted—for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things—some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor—who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.”
Obama said the economic challenges facing our country come in large part from “our collective failure to make hard choices.” It is a failure, Obama said, that has led to lost jobs, bankrupt businesses and costly health care.
Later, he repeated his campaign promise to end partisanship and appealed to citizens and businesses to lead the charge.
“Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions—that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.”
Toward that goal, the Obama transition team last week unveiled a new Web site, usaservice.org, to make it easier for people and organizations to volunteer.