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On 100th Day In Office, Obama Fields Questions At Town Hall Meeting in St. Louis

April 29, 2009 at 6:30 PM EST
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President Obama fielded questions from a group in St. Louis at a town hall meeting Wednesday, which marked his 100th day in office.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Obama recounted a bleak landscape of job loss, frozen credit, and foundering growth. But he said his administration laid the groundwork for recovery with the stimulus plan and budget proposals.

BARACK OBAMA: I’ve got to say that, that some of the people in Washington have been surprised. They said, “Boy, he’s so ambitious. He’s been trying to do so much.”

Now, maybe they’re not accustomed to this, but there’s no mystery to what we’ve done. The priorities that we’ve acted upon were the things that we said we’d do during the campaign.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president then opened the floor to questions. First up, a retired autoworker, worried about his pension and health care and with a larger concern about fairness.

AUTO WORKER: We’re also considered middle class, and it seems like they keep constantly wanting to take it away from the autoworker and prosecuting us, instead of the corporate that brought us to this.

Obama answers workers' questions

JUDY WOODRUFF: In response, the president urged Chrysler's bondholders -- mostly banks and private equity firms -- to make sacrifices to help save the company. And he promised to address workers' concerns, no matter what happens.

BARACK OBAMA: We want to provide certain protections to retirees for their health care and their pensions. That will also be expensive for taxpayers. But my attitude is that we got here not because our workers didn't do a great job trying to build a great product; it was because management decisions betrayed workers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Questions followed about everything from education to acupuncture, including this from the junior class president at Fox High School, where the event was held.

STUDENT: I was just curious what policies you're going to put into place in order to protect Social Security for the upcoming generations.

Social security concerns

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president answered that Social Security would need some modifications, but he said the problems were not nearly as daunting as those confronting two other government entitlements.

BARACK OBAMA: What we face long term, the biggest problem we have, is that Medicare and Medicaid, health care costs are skyrocketing, 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.

Emphasizing health care reform

JUDY WOODRUFF: With that in mind, Mr. Obama pitched his health care reform plan as one of the initiatives that awaits his second 100 days and beyond. He also made an impassioned case for foreign aid and engagement.

BARACK OBAMA: A lot of the threats that we're going to be facing -- whether it's international terrorism, cyberterrorism, nuclear proliferation, pandemic, climate change -- a lot of these issues, they cross borders. So it's not like we can just draw a moat around America and say, "I'm sorry, you know, don't bother us. Keep your problems outside."

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president returned to Washington this afternoon to prepare for more questions this evening from the White House press corps at a primetime news conference.