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President Obama Back-To-School Speech Transcript

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event

Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

The President: 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.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/MediaResources/PreparedSchoolRemarks/


Click to view image: 'President Obama'

Added: Sep-7-2009 
By: RicoShay
In:
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Tags: Obama, school, speech
Views: 8634 | Comments: 80 | Votes: 2 | Favorites: 1 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • Isn't it wonderful that after four days of mainstream Americans raising hell with the initial "Lesson plan" to go along with Obama's speech that they come out with the text of the speech. I wonder how late they were up re-writing the speech after they realized their indocrination wasn't going to fly. What a freaking joke. Obama's handlers will try to push their agenda to the hilt until they're backed into a corner and then they come out with something 180 degrees from where they start More..

    Posted Sep-8-2009 By 

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  • Liberalism is organic. It's a consequence of education. You don't have to brainwash people to support you if you are all about Democracy and Community. You just give them mental tools.

    The brainwashing occurs at 'Young Republican' after school clubs.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • Bitch, bitch, bitch. He is trying to inspire the students to succeed. And what is the problem with that? A lot of parents and teachers seem to have a problem doing just that. Seems as if we are being academically "blown away" by Asians and Indians since they are most of the Doctors we see.
    Seems as if the conservatives don't want the public schools to teach at all. Just keep lowering the standards. The dumber the populace, the easier you can spoon feed them your BS.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • I can't for the life of me understand why this is an issue. The president is going to give a speech to some school kids. That's it. It's barely newsworthy.

    Republicans, get in here and explain yourselves.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • gee where is the political agenda talk that conservative parents were so afraid would be pushed onto their children?

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • You mean the bs political agenda in his speech they were lied to about?

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • well i did see posts that he revised it when the news of this speech aired "rethinking the speech" i believe was the headline. But if you saw the overview for the day it clearly showed questions to ask students about how they could HELP the president. How they could help serve him I dont think so... he serves us.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • This is the re-edited version, thanks to conserative parents...

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • Well my last post failed to stick. So hopefully this one will.

      Ya I saw those posts to, but I question their credibility considering all the other lies that have been debunked since Obama took office. Obama is a Muslim, Obama was not born in the US, Obama is going to take your guns away, Obama is trying to create death panels etc....and now Obama is asking what students can do to help the president to stir up more fear. Considering the reputation of republicans the past 8 plus years I say bs. I More..

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    • Couldn't have said it better myself.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • Absolutely nothing wrong with the speech.
    NO indoctrination
    NO reason tokeep kids out of school except for fear and ignorance on behalf of the parents
    none of the things the right-wing nuts and FUX news said were true
    Another example of right -wing lies proven false, but they'll make up something new next week.
    They always do.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • work hard at school so you can get a job and work hard the rest of your life and just hope that you live past your retirement

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • All the hype, and that's the "indoctrination" speech? WTF? Reads like something from long ago, a kinda boring pep talk. The hysterical over-reaction to this perfectly Babbit-like evocation of self-determination and the "American Dream" would cast doubt on the intelligence, scruples, and motivation of those who have promoted this insane resistance; would, that is, if the followers had even a grain of sense or spark of intelligence. Alas, that is too much to hope for. What More..

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • If you move the words around and squint your eyes, it shows Satan.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • Come on, back off Obama a bit. All he is doing is trying to prepare these youngsters for the massive taxes they will be paying when they get jobs later in life.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • am I gonna have to write to him...again?

    "Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country."
    no, you give up on the WORLD too.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • So the White House staff removed the instructions and lesson plan for students to describe, in writing, how obama inspires them or how they believe they can help obama.

    Is it not THAT nuance which ignited this issue.

    After being busted, this morphed into a benign Presidential address to students. Now the left are full indignation with accusations of right wing hysteria.

    Meh, business as usual in "The Swamp".

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • What I find interesting is more often than not you wont find any other websites, blogs, articles that are not conservatively biased posting information on such atrocious behavior or action by the Obama administration. Yet, that tells those who believe all the bullshit nothing

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • I remember when the democrats kept their children home to prevent them from hearing Lincoln's speech.....remember that?

    Posted Sep-8-2009 By 

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  • The political agenda is establishing the precedent that the President of the United States has a place in the classroom at all.

    "I%u2019m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn."

    He's inserting himself and the federal government as an essential part of educating the nation's children.

    That's bullshit. That's him smiling and furthering his agenda of advancing the scope and control of the federal government.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • Don't let anyone ever tell you that your not creative.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • Don't let anyone tell you your'e not a useful idiot.

      The federal government has no Constitutional mandate to be involved in education...and yet the federal government increases it's reach into local classrooms via various federal funding programs and the strings attached to them.

      This little speech is just a way to further insert the presence of the federal government into the classroom.

      My kid, however, won't be subjected to it.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • Is that how you talk to someone who gives you a compliment?

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • That's just a stupid comment. Think that one over.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • --That's just a stupid comment.

      Not if you know the history of education in this country.

      The federal government had no involvement at all originally, but since the 1940's has increasingly increased its influence over the public educational system.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • Why was there some overwhelming need to speak to the school children of America? Was there not more pressing issues that need to be addressed than this? Does he have nothing better to do? Was this a diversion to get people to forget about the health care fiasco for a minute? Bigger question, does anyone remember a president being this controversial right out of the gate? Sounds like Barry is doing an excellent job of getting ordinary people to dislike him more and more every day.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • your comments amount to shit if you didn't even read the speech

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • Not so much of a comment as several questions one could ask themselves and ponder. Continue banging your head into that wall, retard.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • are you kidding......GW had to have the votes counted again in a state his brother was the governor of....it doesn't get too much more controversial right out of the gate than that........the only people that made this a "diversion" were the far right wingers who will take anything they can get and run with it as long as it attempts to portray their political rival in a bad light.....if it wasn't for them half the country wouldn't even know he's even giving a speech.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • "You%u2019ll 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."

    "And along those lines, I hope you%u2019ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don%u2019t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter."

    Scares about swine flu and globalwarming to grade schoolers?

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • I, I, I, me, me, me, I, I, I, me, me, me, I, I, I

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • The first three sentences bored me to sleep. Now that I'm awake, can anyone give me the cliff notes? :)

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • Foam

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • The fact that he initially allowed a 'lesson plan' to be included with it shows his true colors.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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  • Obama is the worst president in the history of the United States. His failed policies have ruined this country. He knows that we all hate his bogus guts so now he has to indoct the kids into his army of socialized prickness. I like how he tells yets another unverifiable story about his childhood. He got up at 430 am so he could LEARN MUSLIM~ thats why his loser mother got him up so early. Or maybe it was to smoke some crack or weed. What a douche bag this moron is.

    Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • worst president in history? im gonna have to call you on that one and recommend you read a few good history books.....read up on William Harrison (lasted 30 days) or John Tyler, a stalwart defender of slavery who abandoned his party's platform once he was president.

      How about Franklin Pierce who set the stage for the civil war.....maybe Andrew Johnson who survived impeachment after opposing Reconstruction initiatives including the 14th amendment....

      Then there's good old Warren G. Harding, he More..

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • Good point. So far he's only ON TRACK to be ONE OF THE WORST Presidents in American History.

      Let's see if he can sustain the momentum.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • He has yet to falsify intelligence and start a war on lies.

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • lol some funny presidential history there :)

      have you ever looked up "drunken history"? you should watch the one with william harrison, here ill find the link for ya..

      http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/b7155c20fe/drunk-history-4-featuring-paul-schneider-from-drunk-history-derekwaters-steve-agee-and-jeremykonner

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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    • but wow, you sound really intelligent............
      No early reading for you....huh??????????

      Posted Sep-7-2009 By 

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