In his weekly radio and Internet address, the president said opportunity is "the idea at the heart of this country -- that no matter who you are or how you started out, with hard work and responsibility, you can get ahead."
He said although the U.S. economy is growing, people at the top of the income scale are "doing better than ever" while average wages "have barely budged."
"Too many Americans are working harder than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead -- and that's been true since long before the recession hit," Obama said.
"We've got to reverse those trends," the president said. "We've got to build an economy that works for everyone, not just a fortunate few. And the opportunity agenda I laid out last week [in the State of the Union address] will help us do that."
As he has done in several recent speeches, Obama said the agenda is designed to increase employment and training, childhood education and "making sure that hard work pays off, with wages you can live on, savings you can retire on, and health insurance that's there when you need it."
"I want to work with Congress on this agenda where I can," he said. "But in this year of action, whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, I will."
The president listed steps he has taken in recent weeks to reform job training programs, establish a new retirement account for workers, enlist the help of tech companies in a program to bring high-speed Internet service to schools.
"And at the White House, I brought together business leaders who've committed to helping more unemployed Americans find work, no matter how long they've been looking," he said.
"So when you hear me talk about using my pen and my phone to make a difference for middle class Americans and those working to get into the middle class, that's what I mean," Obama said. "And I'm going to keep asking students and parents and business leaders to help -- because there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, ready to move this country forward, and determined to restore the founding vision of opportunity for all."
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