KAILUA, Hawaii, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama said Saturday the American public "made all the difference" in getting Congress to take steps to help the middle class in 2011.
In his final weekly radio and Internet address of the year, Obama wished Americans Happy New Year and said the United States made "great progress" during 2011, ending the war in Iraq and winding down the war in Afghanistan.
"We dealt a crippling blow to al-Qaida and made America more secure," he said. "We stood by our friends and allies around the world through natural disasters and revolutions. And we began to see signs of economic recovery here at home, even as too many Americans are still struggling to get ahead."
Citing congressional action before Christmas to extend the payroll tax cut and renew unemployment benefits, Obama said he expects Congress "to finish the job by extending these provisions through the end of 2012."
"It was good to see members of Congress do the right thing for millions of working Americans," the president said. "But it was only possible because you added your voices to the debate. Through e-mail and Twitter and over the phone, you let your representatives know what was at stake.
"You had the courage to believe that your voices could make a difference," he said. "And at the end of the day, they made all the difference."
Obama said the United States will have "some difficult debates and some tough fights to come."
"There's no doubt that 2012 will bring even more change," the president said. "And as we head into the New Year, I'm hopeful that we have what it takes to face that change and come out even stronger -- to grow our economy, create more jobs, and strengthen the middle class.
"And I'm confident that if we work together, and if you keep reminding folks in Washington what's at stake, then we will move this country forward and guarantee every American the opportunities they deserve," he said.