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Obama to Nation’s Students: Take Ownership of Your Education

By Kevin Hart

If students want to be successful, they must take responsibility for getting the most out of their educations. That was the message delivered by President Barack Obama to millions of students across the nation in an inspirational address on Tuesday, September 8.

“No one’s written your destiny for you,” Obama said in a speech from Wakefield High School in Arlington, VA, that was webcast to classrooms throughout America and broadcast on C-SPAN. “Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.”

Obama talked candidly about his own challenges growing up, while he exhorted students not to let obstacles like poverty, gangs or even apathy keep them from realizing their potential. The president remembered how his mother would tutor him at 4:30 a.m. when he lived in Indonesia, and reflected on the difficulties he faced after his father left home when he was 2 years old. He told students there were times when he felt lonely or like he “didn’t fit in.”

“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,” Obama said. “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.”

Obama reminded students that success doesn’t happen overnight, and that they will need a good education in order to realize the bright futures they deserve. He peppered the speech with inspirational accounts of students who overcame difficult odds to become successful.

The president shared the stories of Jazmin Perez, an English language learner from Texas who received a scholarship to Brown University; Andoni Schultz, a California brain cancer survivor who is now college-bound; and Shantell Steve of Chicago, who has lived in several foster homes, but started a program to keep kids out of gangs and is on track to graduate high school.

It’s important that students continue to overcome obstacles, because America needs a well-educated population in order to compete in the global economy, Obama said.

“I expect great things from each of you,” he told America’s students. “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.”


  • anc_dyn_linksText of President Obama's Address to Students

"The address brought tears to my eyes! It's just what my 5th graders need to hear!"

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