Only hard work pays: Obama to students

Mileena listened to Obama’s plea to study hard and stay in school on Tuesday, watching along with several of her classmates at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School and students across the country.

For all the hubbub among adults over the back-to-school speech, many youngsters took the president’s message to heart. “He said that we are the future, and he is right,” said Mileena, who wants to be a forensic scientist. “That is a president telling you, ‘I care about you getting your education.’ Just imagine what kids like us can do if we actually listen.”

Schoolchildren from coast to coast watched on classroom TVs and computer screens. Others did not hear the message at all, either because their parents pulled them from class or their schools refused to carry the speech over complaints from conservatives and others that it smacked of political indoctrination.

In his speech, which aired on C-SPAN and the White House Web site, Obama used examples from his own life to urge students to study hard. He told them to stop chasing dreams of being athletes or reality TV stars. “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,” Obama said.

Other presidents, including Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush, delivered similar speeches to students, but some conservatives accused Obama of trying to promote his policies, and they urged schools and parents to boycott the address. Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer initially called the speech an attempt to “spread President Obama’s socialist ideology”.

The Department of Education was also criticised for proposed lesson plans distributed to accompany the speech, including a section that asked students to write about how they could help the president.

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