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THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Earlier this week, I flew to Florida, to meet with people who had lost their jobs because of the September 11th attacks. Then I took part in a town hall meeting in Orlando. I listened to people's concerns and answered their questions.
I heard Americans are proud of our Armed Forces, and Americans are grateful for their sacrifices. Our country is on alert and we are not intimidated. And as we wage war against terror, Americans made it clear they are also worried about the challenges we are facing here at home.
Americans want action that will strengthen the economy and create jobs. They want greater energy independence and they want reforms in our public schools. As I listened to the concerns of these Americans, I hope Congress was listening, too, because it became clear the American people want action on an agenda of economic growth, energy and dependence, patients' rights, education, faith-based legislation, all of which are important issues that are stuck in Congress.
I heard hardworking people say they're worried about losing their jobs or seeing their hours cut. They know the terrorist attacks of September the 11th hurt our economy. That's why in the weeks just after the attacks I proposed help for those who need it most, immediate help in the form of extended unemployment benefits and cash grants for workers who have been laid off.
I also proposed the most important help for American workers: a long-term strategy to accelerate economic growth to create more opportunities and more jobs. It's now early December. The House acted quickly on my proposals to aid the unemployed and create jobs. The Senate has not.
Americans at the town hall meeting in Florida seemed to agree on the importance of America becoming less reliant on foreign oil. Last spring, I sent Congress a comprehensive energy plan that encourages conservation and greater energy independence. The House has acted. The Senate has not.
At this season of the year we're especially reminded of the importance of compassion. I sent Congress a bill to encourage charitable giving and to support the good work done by people of faith without entangling government and religion. The House has acted. The Senate has not.
I know that the Senate is closely divided among Republicans and Democrats, but the American people expect the Senate and its leaders to find a way to work together and bridge their differences. Now is not the time for partisan politics. Now is the time for leadership. It's time to act.
Congress has other important business to finish before it goes home for the holidays. Education is vital to our country's future. We need a new emphasis on reading, higher standards, more flexibility and greater local control. Congress has made great progress toward the most comprehensive education reform in a generation, so no child is left behind.
But this important education reform is stuck in a conference committee. And the patients' bill of rights passed by both Houses of Congress also remains unfinished. These are important measures. They have bipartisan support. They should be law. I am ready to sign them.
I hope you'll let Congress hear from you. Let them know you want action not just on national security or homeland security, you want action to protect America's economic security as well.
I thank you for listening. And during this holiday season, I wish Americans of Jewish faith a happy Hanukkah.
END 10:09 A.M. EST
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