President to students:’Make us proud’Published 9:22am Tuesday, September 8, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Though school may have started for some already, Tuesday morning marks a return to the classroom for all students and teachers across the country.
And with the excitement of new classrooms, old friends, empty lockers and bustling hallways, comes a very special message this year for those who will bid the summer goodbye and say hello, once again, to homework.
Amid a wealth of controversy that began circulating as early as last week, President Barack Obama prepared remarks on the subject of education to be delivered today, at Wakefield High School in Arlington Va. The speech is scheduled to be available online and broadcast over CSPAN and a copy of the speech was released by the White House 24 hours in advance.
Many parents and school officials across the country have criticized the president for the speech, saying they felt it inappropriate to address students and claiming a political objective.
The speech, save for a mention at the very end of Obama’s efforts to improve classrooms, is absent of politics and rather an urge to students to stay in school and work hard to achieve success and make a difference in the world.
“I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you,” the president is planning to say. “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.”
Like many speeches Obama has given since his days as a presidential candidate his words to students, to be given at the high school to students of all ages across the country, such as those who will embark on their first day of school at Niles, Brandywine or Buchanan public schools – from kindergardeners to the seniors who will no doubt, have a new perspective on old routines as their high school experience reaches its final chapter, touch on personal experience as well as an authoritative tone about the personal responsibility of America’s young people to succeed.
“Every single one of you has something you’re good at,” he said. “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.”
Courses and class projects could open the door, the president added, to the limitless futures of the nation’s students from endeavors in science and the arts to math, government or public service.
“And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it,” the president continued. “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.”
As the nation continues to suffer through the effects of the latest recession and devastating job losses of the past year, many officials and analysts have not discounted the need for a highly educated job pool that they say will only attract new businesses or investors.
For many, the new school year will mean a return to the classroom in an effort to gain new skills as they search for jobs.
The president may have chosen a high school as the platform for his speech Tuesday, but his words seemed intended on resonating with students of all ages.
“We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems,” Obama said. “If you don’t do that – if you quit on school -you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.”
About success, the president said to achieve it is not as easy as it might look on television but rather a result of hard work and perseverance, determination and focus.
“I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them,” he said.
There was no talk of any school reform or legislation. But politics do not escape all schools even on this first day. In the state of Michigan schools wait anxiously to find out just how tight their financial belts will have to be pulled this year.
Encouraging students to ask questions and assuring them that he as well as their parents and teachers “are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions,” the president left his remarks on the opening day of a new school year on a note of expectation and support.
“I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn,” Obama said. “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.”