AUSTIN -- President Barack Obama could hardly have asked for a friendlier audience.
Urged on by an enthusiastic crowd numbering in the hundreds, the president said the economy is the best it's been since he took office at the beginning of one of the worst recessions in the nation's history.
"Today our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 52 months," said the president. "Our housing is rebounding, our auto industry is booming, manufacturing is adding more jobs than any time since the 1990s, our unemployment rate is the lowest point it's been since September of 2008."
The president was introduced by University of Texas student Kinsey Button, who wrote a letter to the president over the Christmas holiday. With both parents unemployed after successful careers, Button said the burden of paying for college was tough.
"That's why I wrote President Obama a letter expressing my struggle and the need for Washington to come together, compromise and extend the unemployment benefits for Americans looking every day for work," Button said Thursday.
"I'm here today because of Kinsey," said Obama. "And I'm here today because of every American who's working their tail off and does everything right who believes in the American dream and that just wants a chance to build a decent life for themselves and their families."
In his roughly 40 minute speech, the president said America has come through the recession with a growing economy -- but there's work left to do.
"We're fighting for an opportunity agenda that makes sure your hard work pays off with higher wages and equal pay for equal work and workplace flexibility and overtime pay that you've earned," said Obama. "We're fighting for opportunity for all, and the idea that no matter who you are and what you look like and where you come from and who you love, if you work hard in America, if you work hard in Austin, if you work hard in Texas, you can make it here."
The president blamed Republicans for not cooperating and forcing him to rely on the limited abilities of the executive office to act alone.
"Congress won't act to make sure a woman gets equal pay for equal work, so I made more women have the protections they need to fight for fair pay in the workplace, because I think when women succeed America succeeds," said the president. "So we went ahead and did that."
Leaning over the podium, Obama launched into a scathing ridicule of House Republicans who have threatened a lawsuit over executive actions.
"You hear some of them, you know like, 'Sue him. Impeach him.' Really? Really? For what? You're going to sue me for doing my job? Okay," said Obama, who then quoted a line from the movie "The Departed."
"Sometimes I feel like saying to these guys, 'I'm the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy,'" said the president.
The president was briefly interrupted by two people shouting, but it was unclear what they were shouting about. The president told them to sit down, telling them, "I'm on your side." Obama then asked security to allow them to stay and promised to meet with them afterward.
The president defended executive actions saying he's passed fewer than President Bush, and challenged Republicans to work with the administration.
"Ronald Reagan passed immigration reform and you love Ronald Reagan," said Obama. "Let's go ahead and do it."
The president's biggest challenge was to his audience -- to avoid becoming disillusioned with democracy.
"Cynicism is a choice," said Obama. "Hope is a better choice. Hope is what gave young soldiers the courage to storm a beach. Hope is what gave young people the strength to march for women's rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigration rights."