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In Brief NOLA Stop, Obama Sells His Agenda

President Obama was only scheduled to be on the ground for about four hours in New Orleans today. But in his only town hall meeting there, he used a sizable portion of his remarks to talk not just about recovery efforts, but his administration's agenda as well.

"I know that, for a lot of you, the questions and concerns you have aren't limited to the Recovery Act and the efforts that are taking place here on the Gulf. You're also wondering about the recovery effort that's taking place throughout America," Obama told a very friendly audience at the University of New Orleans. "An economic storm hit about nine months ago, 10 months ago, caused this recession that is as bad as anything we've seen since the Great Depression. And obviously, it hasn't left behind the death and destruction that Katrina and Rita left behind. But it's caused incredible pain and hardship for communities all across this country."

Alluding to the promising signs on Wall Street, Obama said he's working for an economy "where our stock market's not only rising again, but our businesses are hiring again and people's incomes are going up again."

"If we want a recovery that lasts, if we want an economy that really grows again, we've got to rebuild stronger than before, just like you're doing here in New Orleans," he said. "We need to come together and meet the challenges that were with us before this recession hit."

He mentioned efforts toward renewable energy, improving education and, of course, health care as key projects.

"Let me say we're going to get it done," he said to applause. "Too many Americans -- too many Americans have waited too long for this to happen. We are going to pass health care reform by the end of this year."

The president then, as he has often at these forums, challenged critics, particularly those who say he has not done enough since taking office.

"You know, I listen to sometimes these reporters on the news and, 'Well, why haven't you solved world hunger yet?'" he said somewhat in jest. "I never said it was going to be easy. What did I say during the campaign? I said change is hard. And big change is harder."

To those who he said are "are trying to stand in the way of progress," he answered: "I'm just getting started."

Obama did send a strong signal that his administration was committed to helping the region recover, listing what it has done thus far and promising to do more.

"Even with all the action we've taken, all the progress we've made, we know how much work is left to be done," he said. "So I promise you this. Whether it's me coming down here or my Cabinet or other members of my administration, we will not forget about New Orleans. We are going to keep on working."

As a sign of how friendly the audience was, while Obama was greeted enthusiastically, the Louisiana's Republican Governor, Bobby Jindal, was booed when the president acknowledged him in the audience. Obama went out of his way to praise him, however, while making light of the negative response.

"If it makes you feel any better, I get that all the time," he told Jindal. "You know, even though we have our differences politically, one thing I will say is, is that this person's working hard on behalf of the state. And you got to give people credit for working hard."

Consider as well this closing question he took from a young boy in the audience: "Why do people hate you? ... They supposed to love you."

Obama said some of it is politics, but also talked about legitimate frustration on the part of many who are struggling in difficult times.

"When you're president of the United States, you've got to deal with all of that," he said. "You get some of the credit when things go good. And when things are going tough, then, you know, you're going to get some of the blame, and that's part of the job."