WASHINGTON: With the economy back on track, the US is leading the world today in confronting new threats including climate change, President Barack Obama has said, but acknowledged that his administration has not been able to pass key immigration and other reforms.
"On foreign policy, our influence was waning when we came in; standing diminished. Today, America leads the world in confronting new threats -- making sure Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon, making sure that we have smarter, stronger trade rules for the 21st century," Obama said in his address to an Organizing for America event.
"America is leading the world towards dealing with climate change in a serious way. One of the reasons the State Department decided the Keystone pipeline would not serve the national interest," he said amidst applause from the audience.
Approving that project would have undercut America’s global leadership, he added.
"We've got to lead by example. Because ultimately, if we’re going to prevent large parts of the Earth from becoming not only inhospitable, but uninhabitable, then we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them," he said.
"We're going to have to reduce the amount of dangerous pollution released in the skies. We're going to have to make sure that we develop the clean energy alternatives that are sustainable," Obama said.
"As long as I’m President, and as long as you're out there organizing, America is going to hold ourselves to the same high standards with which we want to hold the rest of the world," said the US President.
Reflecting on the nearly seven years of his presidency, Obama said when he took office the US was losing 800,000 jobs a month. The unemployment rate was going up to 10 per cent.
Over the last five years, five and a half years, our businesses have created more than 13.5 million new jobs, and the unemployment rate is down to 5 per cent, he said.
"We were told we couldn't put new rules on Wall Street, or more protections for consumers, or ask the wealthiest of
Americans to pay their fair share of taxes without crushing job growth. But we did it. And the stock market doubled. And we’ve seen the longest streak of private sector job creation on record," he said.
"When I took office, more than 15 per cent of Americans went without the security of health insurance. For the first time, because of you, more than 90 per cent of Americans are now covered; more than 17 million people are able to get health insurance," he said.
Insurance companies can't discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, or charge women more just for being women, he added.
"We were told that if we did get health insurance passed, we’d be adding to the deficit, it would explode. Well, you know what, we’ve covered 17.6 million Americans so far. And in the process, the deficit has been cut by two-thirds," he said.