President Obama’s Address to School Children

by on September 7, 2009 · 12 comments

in Education, War and Peace


Read it yourself – you decide whether the speech is part of the “socialist” plot to indoctrinate kids or not.

by President Barack Obama – to be delivered Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.

I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, 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.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

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.

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.

And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

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.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

annagrace September 7, 2009 at 6:03 pm

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read about it here! Words so scary, so anti-American that adults have to cover all orifices (except their mouths) and their children must be led into under ground bunkers and have wax put into their ears for protection from the siren song of go to school, be responsible and get educated for yourself and your country.

What the hell is the world coming to already?


jettyboy September 7, 2009 at 6:14 pm

The Democrats not knowing how it feels to win an election, and letting the Republicans and their nut-job army continue to control the public discourse, need to just stand up and say straight up you people are fucking nuts! Shut up unless you have something positive to offer, and then we might, I repeat might, listen to you. America is sick of your lies and bullshit, just shut the fuck up. I have a feeling there would be cheering crowds in the streets. We might even be greeted as liberators;)


james mcmahon September 7, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Good job Mr. President. I oppose you on just about every front regarding your politics, but you echo my sentiments regarding our wishes for our children to take their education seriously. We are praying for you..Mr. President…Please help corporate America …We need jobs…We need growth…..Hard to pass health care when the country is losing 500,000 jobs a month.
Hope you succeed
James Mcmahon


bodysurferbob September 7, 2009 at 8:55 pm

thanks jettyboy – my feelings if not my words. anna – the righties are being helped by the corporate media to make it look like there’s lots of them. there aren’t – but they are still having an effect. i’ve heard that school districts are refusing to allow their pupils to hear the president’s message. and just a few republican leaders have come out, but of course the travesty is that more repubs are not coming out to condemn those who are stirring the shit pot on this school speech thing.

do not be discouraged. we who see must tell others.


annagrace September 7, 2009 at 10:30 pm

James, thanks for speaking out on this issue. Those of us who define ourselves as Left/Independent are certainly not unilaterally buying every policy or speech that the President has put forward. It is encouraging to know that people on the Right/Independent are not unilaterally discounting every policy or speech that the President has put forward. Hope to hear more from you.

Yes James- we need jobs. Good paying jobs with benefits- health care benefits.


Bill from Kansas City September 7, 2009 at 10:47 pm

I have objected to alot of things you have done since taking office Mr President. I cannot say anything negative about your speech this time. I agree with you on this particular speech 100%. I will pray for you. I will also pray that you get an epiphany and see some of the issues from my perspective. If someone is rich it does not mean he or she is evil. Making profits is not evil. Maybe I will put it another way. I never got a job offer from a poor person. Making it harder for business people to do business will cost jobs. Remember that please. People are losing jobs all over the country at extremely high numbers. Adding burdens to small businesses or even bigger businesses will only cost jobs as they look for ways to save money and make their employees do more for less. We all need to work hard to learn more and get a better education. You need to concentrate on real ways to get more jobs. Quit getting people fired. God Bless America.


doug porter September 8, 2009 at 8:07 am

i see (by reading our webstats this morning) the internet search gods (both google & bing) have chosen the obrag as a place to read the President’s sppeech. Welcome to all our new visitors.


r hoobler September 8, 2009 at 8:30 am

I am completely against President Obama talking to my kids at school because — holy shit — this would mean that I have kids.


lane tobias September 8, 2009 at 9:06 am

while I definitely appreciate the candor and honesty above, I still don’t understand how its the President’s fault we’re losing 500,000 jobs a month….have you ever considered that maybe its because every single business has to downsize in order to continue operation? That downsizing means that people inevitably lose jobs?

Not that it makes anything better, mind you. But maybe we are going to have to start adjusting to the fact that doing business in this country is going to have to be a little more difficult now. I can’t really see how Obama is responsible for this.


Shawn Conrad September 8, 2009 at 10:03 am

Today’s youth will in no way suffer by (finally) having a “get to work” boot shoved nicely up their asses.

I approve the President’s message.


Dallas September 8, 2009 at 11:50 am

You know what gets me about this. I grew up in the ’80s and there were plenty of Public Service Announcement throughout even or Saturday morning cartoons. One of which usually contained a message to stay in school. Since when is it bad for the president to tell kids to stay in school? That by doing so you’re helping yourself and supporting the economy.

Let’s face it, today’s generation, the 2012 generation have been programmed to fear everything and everyone. Since elementary school, they have learned that their voices don’t matter in the big scheme of thing. They’ve learned to fear an unseen enemy that they don’t understand. And they’ve learned to be afraid of the government who believe that if you’re not doing something for profit or personal gain, then it’s bad. They’ve also have been taught that if they think differently or against the norm, that they are hurting the country they live in (ie: helping the terrorists).

For those that say that educating the masses is helping the corporate control over our country. I beg to differ. We’ve heard it before in the PSAs of the 1980s. Knowledge is power. The powers in control today don’t want to relinquish that power. So the best way to keep the masses in check is by keeping them ignorant. It’s the most common form of social control. If this generation becomes truly independent through education, the firm grip of control that these corporations have over the country will soon loose grasp. The progressive minded youth will soon be the leaders of this nation and CEOs of these corporations.

And they call Obama a socialist…


PSD September 9, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Hard to find any fault in the words above. Nice to see some agreement from the other side of the political spectrum. Nicer still to see that even some of those folks could simply voice agreement rather than saying they agree BUT (random off-topic dig at progressives/liberals/lefties/pinko commie bastages)…


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