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In Georgetown Speech, Obama Offers Cautious Optimism

President Obama said in a major speech on the economy Tuesday that the United States faced a long slog in finding its way out of the economic and financial tumult battering the country but repeated that he is seeing signs of hope. Video by AP

"It does not mean that hard times are over," he said. This year "will continue to be a difficult year for America's economy. The severity of this recession will cause more job loss, more foreclosures and more pain before it ends. The market will continue to rise and fall. Credit is still not flowing nearly as easily as it should."

With "much more work to be done," the president pledged "an unrelenting, unyielding, day-by-day effort from this administration to fight for economic recovery on all fronts."

Obama's appearance at Georgetown came as new indicators paint a mixed picture of the nation's economy. Retail sales fell by 1.1 percent in March, an unexpectedly sharp decline that was the steepest in three months and worse than analysts had predicted. But at the same time, the economy received new evidence that it has little to fear from inflation, as wholesale prices fell sharply last month.

In a separate speech being delivered this afternoon at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben. S. Bernanke reports "tentative signs that the sharp decline in economic activity may be slowing," according to the text of his remarks.

Bernanke adds: "A leveling out of economic activity is the first step toward recovery. To be sure, we will not have a sustainable recovery without a stabilization of our financial system and credit markets."

Obama emphasized "the progress we've made" in righting the economy after nearly three months in office but also cautioned Americans "about the pitfalls that may lie ahead."

He presented a vision of "a future where prosperity is fueled not by excessive debt, reckless speculation and fleeting profit, but is instead built by skilled, productive workers -- by sound investments that will spread opportunity at home and allow this nation to lead the world in the technologies, innovations and discoveries that will shape the 21st century."

Obama said a solid foundation for the U.S. economy must be built on five pillars: new rules for Wall Street, new investments in education, renewable energy and health care and new federal budget savings to reduce debt.

Reiterating the optimism he has expressed in recent days, Obama said: "There is no doubt that times are still tough. By no means are we out of the woods just yet. But from where we stand, for the very first time, we are beginning to see glimmers of hope."

He envisioned "way off in the distance" a transformed nation, one "teeming with new industry and commerce, humming with new energy and discoveries . . . a place where anyone from anywhere with a good idea or the will to work" can live the American dream.

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