BIRMINGHAM, AL - President Obama told America that in spite of double-digit unemployment and recent political setbacks, his confidence in the country "has never been stronger."
Saying he heard the message of anger and anxiety coming from voters in the last several weeks, President Obama admitted in his speech Wednesday night that he had made mistakes in his first year, but said many of the plans he is pushing in Congress will help the economy recover and help create jobs.
"What the American people hope, what they deserve is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing weight of our politics," Obama said.
Democratic Representative Artur Davis chose not to attend the speech in person, remaining in Birmingham to focus on his gubernatorial campaign.
He said a return to focus on jobs and the economy is long overdue.
"Able-bodied people who want to work, do not have jobs," Davis said. "And that's the fundamental precondition to survival in this society, it's the fundamental thing you have to have to take care of your family, and I think there's a very real sense that Washington's lost its focus. The focus needs to be shoring up jobs in this country."
The President also focused heavily on his plans to reduce the $1.3 trillion budget deficit, asking for a freeze on most non-defense or homeland security programs and projects for the next 3 years.
"It's pretty much a drop in the bucket, but it signals something to the credit markets, and I think that's mostly what this move is about," said UAB economist Dr. Andreas Rauterkaus. "Because we rely on the credit markets, the Treasury needs to borrow money, and we're showing the markets we are serious about reducing the deficit."
Obama pledged to try and work with Republicans on issues like cutting the deficit, and one of Alabama's leading GOP lawmakers says his party is open to cooperation.
"The test is whether the President and Democrats in Congress really want to work with Republicans and Independents to make major cuts in spending now," said Rep. Spencer Bachus (R)-Vestavia Hills. "They need to be big cuts and they need to be now."