"Middle out" rather than "top down" was the theme of President Obama's speech on the economy at Illinois's Knox College on Wednesday afternoon.

Obama pointed out (to audience laughter) that the political gridlock has gotten worse, preventing improvements for the middle class. 

"Unfortunately, opportunities for upward mobility in America have gotten harder to find over the past 30 years. That’s a betrayal of the American idea," he said. "This growing inequality isn’t just morally wrong; it’s bad economics."

The President's speech laid out five cornerstones to create "a better shot" for middle-class Americans and small business owners, including an increase in healthcare, a stronger--and less expensive--education system, a better housing finance system and retirement security were all mentioned throughout the talk.

One key aspect to his plan is an increase in domestic manufacturing. For the time since the 1990s, American manufacturing jobs have increased, according to Obama. To continue this trend, it's necessary to employ more Americans to fill job openings and to invest into the country's infrastructure, increasing the availability of cutting-edge technology to draw businesses. 

"Technology and global competition aren’t going away. So we can either throw up our hands and resign ourselves to diminished living standards, or we can do what America has always done: adapt, pull together, fight back and win," Obama said.

The president named the wealth disparity as Washington's highest priority. And with a challenge to CEOs and businesses to improve benefits and employee satisfaction, he insisted the American dream would again become achievable.