Remarks by the President at DNC Dinner -- Miami, FL
6:40 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, let me thank Stephen and Sabina. And they have just been such great friends for such a long time through thick and thin. And I just want to say how much I appreciate everything that they’ve done -- not just for me, but for the Democratic Party. (Inaudible) -- so we're proud of her and her mom -- there’s nothing more important than teaching.
And I want to thank all of you. I see a lot of friends, folks like the Adlers who have supported me and Joe and been there. And I would not have the great privilege and the great honor of serving this country had it not been for some of the folks in this room.
I’m going to be very brief on the front end because I want to spend as much time as possible in a conversation, answer questions or take comments, ideas. Let me just say that we’re at a fascinating time in the country’s history. Since I took office we’ve pulled ourselves out of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And by almost every economic measure, by every economic measure, we are better off and, in some cases, significantly better off than when I came into office.
Not just the stock market, or corporate profits, but unemployment going from 10 percent to 5.4 percent; cutting the deficit by two-thirds; expanding Pell grants; providing 16 million people health care that didn't have it, so we got the lowest uninsured rate since they started keeping track; making sure that more children have access to early childhood education; improvements in reading scores; improvements in high school graduation rates; improvements in college attendance rates; doubling of clean energy. By almost every measure, this country has come bouncing back in ways that a lot of folks in 2009 might not have anticipated.
But what’s also true is, is that there is so much work that's left undone, so many things we could be doing to make sure that more people have access to the ladders of opportunity that have been the hallmark of this country. If we pass immigration reform, that would not only improve our economy, drive down our deficit, but it would make sure that America continued to be a land -- a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants where we're attracting incredible talent and vitality from every corner of the globe.
If we were serious about rebuilding our infrastructure, we could put people back to work right now, and half a percentage, maybe a full percentage point of GDP growth, and lay the foundation for continued expansion and economic competitiveness for decades to come. If we have a budget that continues to put our money into research so that we are at the cutting-edge of innovation, then who knows what new inventions and new industries will be created right here in the United States, putting Americans back to work.
If we continue to make investments in job training and early childhood education, making college more affordable, then our young people will be prepared for a 21st century global economy.
On all these fronts, we’ve done great work, but we have so much more that we could be doing. And the reason it’s not getting done is not because we don't know what to do; it’s because we're stuck in Congress on so many of these issues.
And as I made very clear my determination -- talked to my staff about several years ago, after it became apparent there were some things that Congress was having trouble getting done, we're not waiting for Congress. We're moving forward on everything from precision medicine to rationalizing where we can our immigration system.
But ultimately, the great genius of this democracy is that the most important office is the office of citizen. We’ve got to get people involved so that Congress ultimately responds to an electorate that is expressing our highest and best values around issues like climate change, and issues like education, and issues like opportunity and poverty.
And I am confident that we're going to be able to do that, but I can't do it without folks like you. Michelle is very pleased that I cannot run. (Laughter.) And it is a liberating feeling in the sense that the amount of time I have left it concentrates the mind, and I think a lot of folks have been surprised at the degree to which we are moving and pushing and trying whatever we can to advance the goals of making sure that every American in this country and every child in this country, if they're willing to work hard, can get ahead, and that opportunity and prosperity is broad-based.
But ultimately, an eight-year span in the life of a country is pretty short. We can get a lot done, but part of what we're also doing is laying the foundation so that we then pass that baton to the next administration and we institutionalize some of the progress that we’ve been making.
And ultimately, how much staying power these things have depends on a Congress that is thinking about our future. And that's why your presence here is so important. This is not something I’m doing for me, this is something we are doing together. Because it’s going to be just the blink of an eye before I am, like you, a citizen, who has returned from office but still occupies the most important position in a democracy. And together I want us to make sure that we are doing everything we can to pass on the kind of America that gave us such incredible opportunity and allowed us to be here today.
6:48 P.M. EDT