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Today marks 100 days since I took the oath of office to be your President. (Applause.) One hundred days. It's a good thing. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
Now, back in November, some folks were surprised that we showed up in Springfield at the end of our campaign. But then again, some folks were surprised that we even started our campaign in the first place. (Laughter.) They didn't give us much of a chance. They didn't think we could do things differently. They didn't know if this country was ready to move in a new direction.
But here's the thing -- my campaign wasn't born in Washington. My campaign was rooted in neighborhoods just like this one, in towns and cities all across America; rooted in folks who work hard and look after their families and seek a brighter children -- future for their children and for their communities and for their country.
He spoke at length of progress he believed he had made in this short time, from the Recovery Act to the Budget Resolution, but quickly added: "I want to warn you, there will be setbacks. It will take time. But I promise you I will always tell you the truth about the challenges that we face and the steps that we are taking to meet them."
The questions covered a wide range of topics. On the auto industry, and Chrysler in particular, he made clear that he strongly believes America should have a vibrant auto industry:
We don't know yet whether the deal is going to get done. I will tell you that the workers at Chrysler have made enormous sacrifices -- enormous sacrifices -- to try to keep the company going. One of the key questions now is, are the bond holders, the lenders, the money people, are they willing to make sacrifices, as well? We don't know yet, so there's still a series of negotiations that are taking place.
Asked about the challenges facing America’s educational system, he noted how impressive the Teacher of the Year
he spoke with last night was, and discussed how he believed we could make sure more teachers are like him:
The deal I've got to strike with teachers, though -- I may not get as much applause on this -- (laughter) -- is I would like to work with teachers and the teachers unions, because I'm a union guy, but I do believe -- (applause) -- but I do believe that it's important for the unions to work flexibly with school districts in a consensual fashion to find ways so that if you've got a really excellent teacher, after 15, 20 years, they can get paid a little bit more -- right? -- if they're doing a really good job. (Applause.) And now the flip side -- I'm telling you, I'm getting to the point where I'm not going to get applause. (Laughter.) If you've got a bad teacher who can't -- after given all the support and the training that they need is just not performing up to snuff, we've got to find that person a new job. (Applause.)
Asked about the future of Social Security, he reiterated his long-standing support for raising the cap on the payroll tax for wealthy Americans and saying that Social Security is actually the easy fix compared to health care costs:
What we face long term, the biggest problem we have is that Medicare and Medicaid -- health care costs are sky-rocketing, and at the same time as the population is getting older, which means we're using more health care -- you combine those two things, and if we aren’t careful, health care will consume so much of our budget that ultimately we won't be able to do anything else. We won't be able to provide financial assistance to students; we won't be able to help build green energy; we won't be able to help industries that get into trouble; we won't have a national park system; we won't be able to do what we're supposed to do on our veterans. Everything else will be pushed aside because of Medicare and Medicaid. That's the problem that we really confront.
That's why I've said we've got to have health reform this year -- (applause) -- to drive down costs and make health care affordable for American families, businesses and for our government. (Applause.)
So, you know, when you see -- those of you who are watching certain news channels that -- on which I'm not very popular -- (laughter) -- and you see folks waving tea bags around -- (laughter) -- let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we're going to stabilize Social Security. Claire and I are working diligently to do basically a thorough audit of federal spending. But let's not play games and pretend that the reason is because of the Recovery Act, because that's just a fraction of the overall problem that we've got.
Having taken questions directly from the public this morning, the President returns to the White House tonight for a prime time press conference. Watch it streamed at 8:00 at WhiteHouse.gov/live
UPDATE: The President met with several people who submitted their stories of service
through our site after the town hall.
(President Barack Obama poses for a photo with service volunteers Wednesday, April 29, 2009, at Fox High School in St. Louis, Mo. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)