Stressing hope and determination, President Barack Obama's first speech to the nation and Congress on Tuesday night appears to have rung the right bell.
Mr. Obama looked closely at the sick patient, the American economy, and offered what he proposes as the right treatment. He declared his faith that not only would the patient recover, but also that the nation would resume its traditional upward course in history.
"The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation," he said. "The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach."
He dealt the country some tough cards -- for instance, who among the affluent could like the prospect of higher taxes? -- but at the same time he demonstrated an understanding of Americans' frightened state of mind and indicated no sign of discouragement in the face of the nation's problems.
Mr. Obama projected a hopeful image. It helps to see a young president -- energetic, articulate and even eloquent in his formulation of the problems and proposed solutions -- in action. At the same time, polls show Americans generally reassured by their choice in the November elections. By contrast, the Republican response to Mr. Obama's talk, offered by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, was more of his party's tax-cuts-as-a-remedy-to-everything approach.
A strong point in Mr. Obama's presentation was the comprehensiveness of his program. While he acknowledged that government could not "solve every problem or address every issue," he still urged Congress to pass a market-based cap on carbon pollution and renewed his support for the effort to provide health insurance to all Americans.
He tried to build confidence in the nation's banks by telling Americans that their deposits were safe, but warned that, "If we do not restart lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins." If there was a weakness in his pitch, it was that he left vague what he intends to do about banks that take taxpayer money and spend it on corporate excess or banks that have the gall not to reveal what they are doing with public dollars.
The next move for the president is to keep pressing forward with his systematic focus on the economic puzzle. The full-court press he laid out Tuesday night was the right talk for a worried nation.