President Barack Obama defended his economic policies and said the United States must create a strong foundation on which to rebuild the economy in a speech Tuesday afternoon at Georgetown University.
Though he extensively outlined a plan for recovery, Obama did not introduce any new policies, instead employing sweeping rhetoric to convey his vision. He cited a parable from the Sermon on the Mount about two houses, one built on sand and one on rock, to outline his domestic agenda to revitalize the economy.
“We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand. We must build our house upon a rock,” Obama said. “We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity, a foundation that will move us from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest, where we consume less at home and send more exports abroad.”
Obama also discussed several of his goals for higher education, saying that students must be prepared for the “21st century economy.”
“I have asked every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training and we have provided tax credits to make a college education more affordable for every American, even those who attend Georgetown,” Obama said.
The career path students take will also be integral to rebuilding, Obama said, signifying that the financial crisis will redirect the career paths of students formerly headed for the financial sector.
“One of the changes I’d like to see is seeing our best and brightest committing themselves to making things – engineers, scientists, innovators,” he said. “For so long, we have placed at the top of our pinnacle folks who can manipulate numbers and engage in complex financial calculations. And that’s good. We need some of that. But you know what we can really use is some more scientists and some more engineers who are building and making things that we can export to other countries.”
Though there had been hints of a significant protest against Obama’s speech at Georgetown, there was little resistance. A small group of anti-abortion protesters waved graphic posters in response to Obama near the University’s entrance. About 10 Georgetown students rallied in a counterprotest to the anti-abortion group.
As he nears the end of his first 100 days in office, Obama defended some of his more controversial economic measures, such as the auto industry bailout and the $787 billion stimulus bill, saying that both were necessary to restart the economy.
He introduced five “pillars” needed to kickstart the economy: Wall Street reform, an investment in education, an investment in renewable energy and technology, health care reform and a new federal budget.
Though he was somber at times, Obama remained optimistic throughout the majority of his speech.
“There is no doubt that times are still tough. By no means are we out of the woods just yet,” Obama said. “But from where we stand, for the very first time, we’re beginning to see glimmers of hope. And beyond that, way off in the distance, we can see a vision of America’s future that is far different than our troubled economic past.”