Valerie Jarrett: Obama's SOTU A Call To Action

Host Michel Martin speaks with White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett about President Obama's State of the Union speech. Jarrett discusses job loss and growth, and says America is moving in the right direction when it comes to combating unemployment.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We want to turn now to White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, and she is with us from the White House. Thank you so much for joining us.

VALERIE JARRETT: My pleasure. Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: We've been talking about the main focus of the president's speech, which is the economy. I just want to play another short clip from the address, for people who did not have a chance to hear it. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The state of our union is getting stronger, and we've come too far to turn back now. As long as I'm president, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: There are two things in that sentence that we want to talk about. So let's start with the first thing, the substance of it. The unemployment rate is now 8.5 percent. That's a little better than when we spoke last September, but it's almost double where the country was five years ago. Can the president really make the case that things are getting better?

JARRETT: Oh, absolutely, Michel. And he began last night by highlighting that in the last six months of the prior administration, we lost 4 million jobs. In the first six months of the Obama administration, before any of his policies could take hold, we lost another 4 million jobs.

Now, over the last 22 months, we've had private-sector job growth each and every month. We've created 3.2 million jobs, so we're clearly on the right path. But as you pointed out, the unemployment rate is still far too high, and we have a long way to go. But we are certainly moving in the right direction.

MARTIN: We need to take a short break, but when we come back, we will have more with White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. We're talking about the president's State of the Union address. Please stay with us. I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

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