UPDATED 03/04/11 8:47 a.m.

WHEATON, Ill. (CBS) – Mayor Richard M. Daley said Thursday that the United States has become a nation of “whiners,” and said it’s time to snap out of it.

In a wide-ranging speech Thursday night at the J. Dennis Hastert for Economics, Government and Public Policy at Wheaton College, Daley was responding to a question about restoring the nation.

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“I think we have to have confidence. We have become a country of whiners,” Daley said in a remark that received applause.

Daley said for decades, Americans have feared that another nation would sweep away its economic power.

“We started whining about the Japanese – ‘The Japanese are going to take us over! We thought we defeated them in the Second World War, rebuilt it – they’re taking us over in the 1970s. What’s going to happen to America? They’re going to own our country! That’s it! We’re all out of jobs!’” Daley said. “Then we start whining about the Mexicans. ‘We’re losing all the manufacturing to Mexico! Look what’s taking place! We cannot compete, we can’t do this! We can’t do this!’ Now we forgot about the Mexicans. Now we’re whining about the Chinese and the Indians. We’re a country of whiners. That’s what we are.”

He said this was the wrong attitude.

“We should have enough confidence that we can compete with people if we all sacrifice a little bit for the common good,” Daley said.

In the wide-ranging speech, Daley also took issue with the city’s teachers’ union, and said the city has to change policies for teachers in the Chicago Public Schools.

He told the packed auditorium he was sad that when he tried to extend the Chicago Public school day by 15 minute, the Chicago Teachers Union refused unless their pay increased.

“Unions understand that you have a responsibility. It’s not just a paycheck. It’s a responsibility to the students. You have to solve everything, but that time clock doesn’t work when younger people maybe don’t have all the wherewithal.”

He also criticized what he said are short workdays for the teachers themselves.

“Our teachers work 6 hours a day — 6 hours a day — now think of that — 30 hours a week!” Daley said.

The head of the Chicago Teachers Union blasted Daley’s assertion that teachers work short hours, saying that most educators spend extra hours at home grading papers and preparing lesson plans.

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“After controlling the Chicago Public Schools for 15 years, I would have thought Mayor Daley had a much better understanding of what 30,000 teachers do every day,” said union president Karen Lewis. She called the comments a political parting shot, intended to influence public opinion as the teacher’s contract expires this year.

Daley also pointed to education when asked about his legacy.

“I hope that education is the foundation and the cornerstone of this city in the future,” he said.

The mayor also said he will soon be heading China again, to promote business opportunities in Chicago and the suburbs.

He will be speaking at more colleges in the coming weeks, as he prepares to hand over the mayor’s office to Rahm Emanuel in May.

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