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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

At a low point in the opinion polls and diminished relations with Congress, President Bush found a warm welcome on Wall Street today. He gave an upbeat state of the economy speech at Federal Hall in downtown Manhattan and got a rock star's reception on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

SIEGEL: Some New Yorkers wanted to use the president's visit to raise another issue, the plight of first responders who have fallen ill since being on the scene when the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11. And back on Capitol Hill, Democrats out hearing is focusing on the struggles of the middle class.

We're going to spin through all three of these stories, beginning with the president and NPR's David Greene.

DAVID GREENE: When we got on Air Force One this morning, there was this glossy booklet sitting on every reporter's seat. It was called "State of the Economy" and it was full of positive numbers. More than seven million jobs created since the middle of 2003, an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, real wages growing, and when Mr. Bush got to New York, he was sounding just as positive as the book.

GEORGE W: Just today, we learned that America's economy grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006. That means our economy grew at 3.4 percent last year, which is up from 3.1 percent in 2005. Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our economy is strong.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

GREENE: Not all Americans believe that, though. Polls suggest many people are unsettled about the state of the economy. Mr. Bush responded to such concerns by saying the economy is going through a period of transition that could make some uncomfortable.

BUSH: For many Americans, change means having to find a new job, or to deal with a new boss after a merger, or to go back to school to learn new skills for a new career.

GREENE: Democrats say the problems are actually worse than that and that job recovery since the last recession has been the slowest on record. But the mood was exuberant here in the financial district as the president shook hands and high-fived with traders in a surprise stop on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, carried live on cable news. CNN anchor Kyra Philips was just talking about how Mr. Bush has been consumed by troubles in Iraq.

KYRA PHILIPS: You know, it's a tough time right now. Everything has been centered on Iraq and the Iraq strategy and what he's going to do, as he -

GREENE: Suddenly, the CNN reporter at the stock exchange cuts Philips off to say the president was there.

SUSAN: He's five feet away, Kyra.

PHILIPS: Okay. Go for it, Susan.

Unidentified Man: (Unintelligible).

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SUSAN: Mr. Bush, welcome to -

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BUSH: Good to be here, thanks.

SUSAN: What do you think of the reception here?

BUSH: I'm impressed and grateful.

GREENE: Grateful for a day of good news and a day out of Washington.

David Greene, NPR News, traveling with the president in New York.

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