Obama's Speech to School Children

From the president’s prepared remarks to school children, scheduled for tomorrow.

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. —Barack Obama, whitehouse.gov

Interesting that Obama mentions “articles in a newspaper,” rather than “articles for a news website” or “articles for a RSS feed” or “articles for cranially-implanted holographic simulation networks.”  But he does end with a reference to social networking.

Do you think the hand-washing reference is just a little bit… I don’t know… pandering?  Is the President going out of his way to make Republicans look silly for opposing some Oval Office happytalk? 

In my freshman writing class, it’s often a hard sell to get the students to take seriously the “individual learning plan” assignment, a series of essays in which students evaluate the results of a diagnostic pretest, and make a plan for how to use the various course resources in order to build on their strengths and develop new ones.

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.

Students who have made it all the way to college are, of course, a self-selected group. But since freshman writing is a regular part of my teaching load, I often encounter students who struggle to make the transition to a self-directed learning environment, where all the work is optional, but the bills that come at the end of a wasted semester are all too real.

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.


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.

Hmm… weren’t most of the leaders of the American war for independence actually educated overseas?  Looks like a good strategy — including, on the list of great achievements, the social networking tools that students know well.