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Text by Lorena GALLIOT

Latest update : 2010-02-01

US President Barack Obama made fighting unemployment the top priority of his first State of the Union speech. He reiterated his commitment to the controversial health care reform bill, and addressed such issues as transparency in government spending.


US President Barack Obama made job creation his government’s top priority for 2010 in his first State of the Union Address. His keynote speech before Congress also aimed to recapture momentum and rekindle public confidence in the presidential agenda at a time of political vulnerability.
Although Obama acknowledged some mistakes and admitted the “great difficulties” faced by his fellow citizens at a time of economic hardship, his tone remained upbeat, and at times defiant, as he defended his government’s record and reeled off a raft of plans for his next years in office.
"Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010," Obama said, and promised to redirect 30 billion dollars from a Wall Street bailout fund to help small businesses get credit and create new positions.
Tough talk
His message to Congress was unequivocal. He called on lawmakers to pass a jobs bill and to send it back to his desk "without delay". He also added a further warning: If lawmakers tried to water down bid to crack down on Wall Street he would veto the bill.
“I will send back any bill that is not serious on financial reform. We have got to get this right”, he said.  
There was praise for Obama from some quarters.
“Obama deserves credit for focusing on the economy, reminding people that he has cut taxes, and making concrete proposals to create jobs”, Darell West, director of Governance studies at the (left leaning)Brookings Institution told FRANCE
“The President’s biggest problem during his first year was that he failed to create a narrative that knits together his various initiatives into a coherent whole.” West added.
Obama defiantly vowed that he would not "walk away" from his stalled effort to pass comprehensive health care reform.
"By the time I'm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. I will not walk away from these Americans. And neither should the people in this chamber," he told Congress.
The “I do not quit” theme
Obama’s maiden address was also peppered with optimism and resolve.
“I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight.” declared a determined Obama. His opening “We do not give up” echoed the steely “I do not quit” at the end of his address, in a thinly veiled challenge to his Washington opponents.
West at the Brookings Institution, feels Obama gave a good account of himself.
“I giv e Obama’s speech a B+ for putting facts on the table, rebutting false criticisms, and explaining what he thinks the country needs to do”, he said.
His speech will calm Democratic nerves, give Republicans some pause in opposing everything he proposes, and get Independents to take another look at his ideas”, West added. 
Indeed, Obama delivered a candid assessment of his own performance.
“I campaigned on a promise of change […] and “change has not come fast enough”, he stated bluntly, saying he understood the feeling of disappointment some Americans are feeling.


Date created : 2010-01-28

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