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Determined Obama vows to renew US



Here are the key excerpts from US President Barack Obama's first address to both houses of Congress on 24 February, 2009.

Obama addresses Congress in Washington, 24 Feb
Mr Obama said the US economy would emerge "stronger than before."

'DAY OF RECKONING'

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.

ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN

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 recovery plan we passed… 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.

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS

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.

WAR POLICIES

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.

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.

DIPLOMACY

We cannot shun the negotiating table, nor ignore the foes or forces that could do us harm.

To seek progress toward a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbours, 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.

GUANTANAMO BAY

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 centre 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.

ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years.

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 $15bn 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.

HEALTH CARE

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.

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.

EDUCATION

The third challenge we must address is the urgent need to expand the promise of education in America.

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.

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.

2009 BUDGET

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.

CUTTING DEFICITS

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 defence budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use.

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent of Americans.

CONCLUSION

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.

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