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Obama delivers a dose of reality to students

September 8, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
When I first heard President Barack Obama was going to speak to America's schoolchildren, I was skeptical about what he might say. When I read that the lesson plans drafted by the Department of Education included questions such as "What does the President want me to do?" I was incensed.

But after hearing the speech today, I can see my responses were knee-jerk reactions spurred by political ire.

I can say now that every parent, every teacher, every student, every American should hear this 16-minute speech.

It was that good.

Why?

Basically because the overriding theme of the speech was personal responsibility. Amen and hallelujah! Our children need to know that while yes, parents, teachers and the government have responsibilities to them, "at the end of the day," it is up to each student to set goals and work hard to achieve them.

He mentioned hard work several times. Yes! It was so good to hear the president — whether you agree with his policies or not — talk about how hard life can be, how hard school can be, how you're not going to excel at every subject, how you're not going to ace a class without studying. Each kid has to pay attention in class, listen to parents and teachers, and most of all, "put in the hard work it takes to succeed."

I think our young people, and their parents, believe all the hard work was done in the past to make this nation great, and we can just bask in the glory of it. It's time to learn we reap what we sow, and we haven't been too busy in the fields lately.

Obama also called upon students not to give up, no matter how difficult their lives may be. He told them not to let their circumstances or their failures define them. Again, he made it clear it is their responsibility to do what they have to do to succeed.

"Where you are right now doesn't have to be where you end up," he said. He encouraged students to find an adult they trust to help them reach their goals.

The speech was meant to encourage, to instill hope, to reach students who might not listen to their parents or teachers but who might take the president seriously.

My only disappointment is that parents pressured schools and the schools caved in and made "other arrangements" for students whose parents did not want them to hear the speech. Rather than bringing kids together for a common goal — namely, the noble goal of success in school — this separation of students will end up breeding more hatred, misunderstanding and, ultimately, failure.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

If you were a parent who excused your child from the speech, I ask you to listen to it and reconsider.

 
 

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