Obama Addresses Students

President Obama delivered a speech to students aimed at encouraging students to succeed. The speech was delivered at Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA and broadcasted throughout the country on C-Span and internet feeds. The President’s message is meant to be a direct influence on students to stay in school and to be a pep talk informing students of the high standards they should meet.

“We can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.” said Obama in the noontime address.

Area schools including Waterbury and Southington carried the address. The text of the speech can be viewed here, on the White House website.

Early criticism prompted the White House to revise suggested lesson plans which were attached to letters to superintendants last week about classroom projects to work on with students after the speech.

This is the first time that a President has specifically addressed students at the beginning of the school year to encourage them in this way. He talked about failure in life and how persevearing through failure- sometimes multiple failures – often lead to succcess. Obama related how asking for help is something he does every day. The message is one that many students don’t get to hear very often in a world of deadlines and expectations. Many students feel that they face only punishments when they do fail a test or report. Detentions and failure often seems to be the face in students. But overall, Obama was hopeful.

“If you quit on your school – your not only quitting on yourself, but you’re quitting on your country.” He continued relating that its not easy to pursue serious academic studies while distractions at home and troubled neighborhoods may pull students to engage in unproductive behavior. Or that friends or other circumstances may intervene. “But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying. Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.”

The speech was inspiring and absent any political overtures. Over the past few months Obama has been trying to get a health care reform package passed as Congressmen have come under heated criticism in face-to-face town hall meetings nationwide. The President kept the tone personal referring to students as to what they can do as individuals. He encouraged good study habits and gave examples of people students can relate to, including JK Rowlings, who’s Harry Potter book was rejected 12 times before being published and Michael Jordan, who was cut from his High School basketball team before getting into the NBA. These examples are sometimes used for adult motivation as well, and can be repeated even more.

“No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in. ”

“Most of all don’t let yourself down. Make all of us proud.” he concluded. (he concluded here rather than the remarks noted on the website.)


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