Obama: 'This Is Going to Be a Year of Action'

By Susan Jones | January 10, 2014 | 7:38 AM EST

President Barack Obama speaks about his Promise Zones Initiative, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Also on stage are representatives and community members from each of the five Zones. The Promise Zone Initiative is part of a plan to create a better bargain for the middle-class by partnering with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing and improve public safety. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

(CNSNews.com) - "We've got to make sure that this recovery -- which is real -- leaves nobody behind," President Obama said on Thursday. The former community organizer encouraged "everybody" to become a community activist:

"This is going to be a year of action," he promised. "That's what the American people expect, and they're ready and willing to pitch in and help. This is not just a job for government. This is a job for everybody."

The president stressed job creation, saying business owners are ready to "play their part" to hire more workers: "So this month, I'm going to host CEOs here at the White House, not once, but twice: First, to lay out specific steps we can take to help more workers earn the skills that they need for today's new jobs; second, they're going to announce commitments that we're making to put more of the long-term unemployed back to work."

The president also said he'll "take action to boost high-tech manufacturing" and "make sure that wages and benefits are such that families can rebuild with a little bit of security."

He made the comments are he announced the nation's first five "Promise Zones," where citizens, governments, businesses and non-profits will work together to "remake" communities so more children can grow up to be educated, productive adults. "[F]amily by family, block by black, we can make a difference," Obama said.

He described all five Promise Zones, as follows:

-- In the East Side neighborhood of San Antonio, nearly four in 10 adults don't have a high school diploma. The violent crime rate is 50 percent higher than the rest of the city. So schools and community members are focused on getting more kids into pre-k, boosting math and science in high school and they're putting more cops on foot patrol to make their neighborhood safer. It's a project worth investing in.

-- In a section of L.A. that stretches from Pico-Union to Hollywood, the population decreased by 13,000 people in just 10 years. So developers are working to build more affordable housing; technical schools and community colleges are helping more people get the training they need to get jobs. It's a project worth investing in.

--In Philly, nearly four out of every 10 kids lives below the poverty line, and a lot of them are on the west side of the city. So local universities helping connect middle and high school students with mentors to get them ready for college. You've got a supermarket that's being planned that will create jobs and provide healthy food where there's been too little of both. We're going to invest in them.

-- Senator Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky. There are communities that have been struggling for decades with shutdowns and layoffs. So they're taking steps, locally initiated, to attract new businesses and create new jobs in new industries. And you've got a local college that's stepping up to expand technical training and help more kids get a higher education.

-- In the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, where up to half of the residents in some areas live in poverty, community leaders are determined to change things. And they're making financing available to help women start their own businesses, they're investing in new water and sewer systems that will make the area more attractive for companies looking to locate there, and they're helping farmers and ranchers create more jobs, and more families thereby get access to healthy foods.

"So these are America's first five Promise Zones," Obama said. "And over the next three years, we're going to help launch 20 in all. And each of these communities is designing from the bottom up, not the top down, what it is they think they need, and we're working with them to make that happen. And each of these communities are prepared to do what it takes to change the odds for their kids.

"We will help them succeed, not with a handout but as partners with them every step of the way. And we're going to make sure it works. And we're going to hold them accountable to make sure it is making a difference in the lives of kids."