OK, OK, so ...... maybe not the whole world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, I assume this has been about the most packed year of your life.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The most fulfilling?
OBAMA: Yes. And let me just sort of share with you some general reflections about this year. When I was sworn in, we didn't know if the financial system was going to collapse. We weren't sure how bad the job losses were going to be. They turned out to be much worse than anybody had anticipated. There were reports of a possible terrorist attack the day of the inauguration.
The amount of uncertainty was enormous. And walking through that door, you know, we immediately were confronted with just stacks of tough decisions that had to be made. During the course of this year we've had to make some decisions that were unpopular. We've made some mistakes. I've personally made some mistakes.
But what I can tell you is, a year later, I've never been more optimistic about the possibilities of America. I'm certainly a lot more optimistic than I was a year ago. And the reason is, is this country's shown its resilience. It took a body blow, and yet people are out there still starting businesses, they're still raising families, they're still coaching little league.
And, you know, I get letters, 10 a day from families. And a lot of them are heartbreaking stories. But a lot of them are just saying, you know with all the problems that we have and maybe I disagree with you on something, I'm still praying for you, I'm still optimistic, I still think that we can come together.
If we can get through 2009, as tough a year as it was, where a pandemic flu ranked about eighth on my To Do list and ended with a attempted terrorist attack and then a cataclysm in our neighborhood -- in Haiti. If we can come through 2009 and still not just be standing, but all kinds of good things happening out in the country, then I am very optimistic about where we can go.
What I haven't been able to do yet -- and this was what I was hired to do -- is to close the gap between the values of the American people and the values of Washington, and the values of Wall Street. The values of our big institutions.
These values -- the American people's values are sound. They're right. You know, people take responsibility for their lives, they work hard. They're doing right by their families. Our institutions aren't matching up to those values. And my job over the course of this year has been to see A, if we can just solve the immediate crisis. But now I've got to spend a lot more time just focused on how do we get those things to align.
And, you know, If there's one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here --
STEPHANOPOULOS: That people would get it.
OBAMA: That people will get it. And I think that, you know, what they've ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there's these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. Maybe some of them are good, maybe some aren't, but do they really get us and what we're going through? And I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we're in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago.
That also means, by the way, that we can spread out what we do so it's not so cram packed. It doesn't mean I back off the agenda of health care, or energy, or education, or financial regulatory reform, or dealing with our deficits. But it does mean that it doesn't have to be all on top of the other piled on. And we've got a lot more time to explain to people why we're doing what we're doing. We have a lot more time to answer critics who argue that we're not doing the right thing.
But the bottom line is this -- at the end of this year I can say honestly that not only has this been the busiest time of my life, but I also think that I've never been prouder of the country, and more optimistic about the direction that we can go in the future.