Paul D. Ryan, five weeks into his tenure as House speaker, started an effort to carve the Republican Party in his own image Thursday by pledging in an address to use the House over the coming year to “put together a complete alternative to the left’s agenda” — one heavy on his favorite issues of tax reform, welfare reform and free trade.

“We want America to be confident again,” he told a group of roughly 200 gathered in the Library of Congress’s Great Hall. “We want to see progress, and we want to have pride. We want people to believe in the future again. We want a country where no one is stuck, where no one settles, where everyone can rise.”

But at the same time, Ryan (R-Wis.) telegraphed that he is not at all confident that he can make the changes he believes are necessary without a Republican president.

Most of the policies that Ryan pledged to pursue would garner little Democratic support and would ultimately be met with President Obama’s veto. But Ryan said it was Republicans’ responsibility to “put out specific proposals and give the people a real choice.”

“And I don’t mean just undo what the president has done — as if we could time-travel back to 2009,” he said. “I mean, show what we would do, what our ideal policy would be — looking forward to 2017 and beyond. We owe it to the country to offer a bold, pro-growth agenda. And that is what we are going to do.”

He later added: “We need a new president. It’s just that simple. But even if we can’t move mountains, we can make moves in the right direction.”

Thursday’s speech, billed by aides as Ryan’s first “major address,” came at the end of a generally fruitful first month for Ryan, culminating in the passage this week of crucial education and transportation bills. But in the near term, he must lead House Republicans as they negotiate with Democrats over a massive spending bill ahead of a Dec. 11 shutdown deadline.

While conservatives appear to be giving Ryan a wider berth than they did his predecessor, John A. Boehner, the spending bill is likely to provoke more internal divides over how sharply to confront Obama and test Ryan’s pledge to respect the will of the majority of House Republicans.

The address included several overt nods to a younger generation of conservatives — starting with his introduction from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was elected in the 2010 tea party wave and remains a standard-bearer for activists concerned about a expanding federal government. Lee called Ryan “uniquely capable” of translating conservative think-tank ideas into policy.

In the speech, Ryan adopted the rhetoric of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: “Don’t outsource to the bureaucracy — crowdsource,” he said at one point. And, remarkably for a veteran Republican lawmaker, he took dead aim at the cornerstone of the GOP coalition for more than a century — big business — opting instead for the language favored by a new generation of grass-roots activists.

“Big government and big business don’t fight each other so much as feed each other,” he said. “This is how it works: Smart, talented people go into government thinking the only way to fix complicated problems is with complicated laws — laws that only people like themselves can understand. They make new bureaucracies. They put up red tape. And then? And then they go into the private sector and help businesses navigate the very maze they created. … That’s how today’s experts become tomorrow’s cronies. And that’s why we don’t think government should bulk up the bureaucracy. We think it should break up problems so people can solve them themselves.”

Ryan laid out his intentions on a handful of other issues. He called for another round of welfare reform to follow up on the changes made in the mid-1990s by a Republican Congress in concert with President Bill Clinton: “That was just one program. We have to fix all the others now. I’d combine a lot of them and send that money back to the states for better poverty-fighting solutions.” He pledged to put together a plan not just to repeal the health-care law known as Obamacare — which has been the subject of repeated GOP-led votes in the past five years — but to replace it with a system that would maintain federal tax credits to help Americans purchase health care but would eliminate the “individual mandate” requiring them to buy it.

On tax reform, perhaps the issue closest to Ryan’s own heart, he pledged to pursue changes that would relentlessly eliminate loopholes and lower rates — and not to be intimidated by the big businesses and special interests who originally wrote them into law.

“The only way to fix our tax code is to simplify, simplify, simplify,” he said. “Look, I know people like many of these loopholes, and they have their reasons. But there are so many of them that now the tax code is like a to-do list — Washington’s to-do list. … I also know many of these loopholes will be fiercely defended. All I can say is we will not be cowed. We are not here to smooth things over. We are here to shake things up.”

And Ryan also waded into another issue that has been internally divisive for Republicans: free trade, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal expected to come up for a ratification vote next year. Conservatives wary of Obama’s negotiations and members from states with parochial concerns about the deal have balked at its terms and have threatened to vote against it; with most Democrats opposed, Ryan will need to keep his conference mostly unified in support if the deal is to be approved.

Ryan on Thursday gave a full-throated defense of trade deals — including the TPP — in a passage that might have been ripped from one of Obama’s speeches on the subject.

“Before we sign up for any agreement, we have to make sure it is a fair deal,” he said. “I’m thinking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in particular. But we have to engage. Only an active, forward-leaning America can tear down barriers to American exports. And this is more than a negotiating strategy. It goes to the core of our philosophy. We believe in free enterprise. … China is out there every day pushing for crony capitalism. So it all comes down to this question: Are we going to write the rules of the global economy — or is China?”