Prepared text of Obama's speech to school studentsPosted by AL ALLEN on 9/8/2009 9:34:00 AM
The prepared text of President Barack Obama's back-to-school address scheduled for Tuesdays, as released in advance by the White House:
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 12th 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. J.K. 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.
I love donutsPosted by AL ALLEN on 1/30/2009 12:51:00 PM
Five birds sit on a telephone wire. Two decide to fly south. How many are left?
Five. Deciding to fly and actually flying are two different things. The life lesson is you’ll never get where you want to go until you point yourself in the right direction, jump off the wire, and flap your wings.
To justify my unseemly size, I often tell people I’d like to be thin – especially when I’m not hungry. The problem is, when I’m hungry or tempted by a donut, I make excuses or rationalize by drinking a Diet Coke to offset the indulgence.
Every day I have to point myself in the direction I want to go and jump off that wire. In the end, it’s not my goals that determine the quality of my life; it’s my actions. When there’s a conflict between what I want now and what I want for the future, now is always more attractive than later. But it’s not a good life strategy.
I love donuts, but I’ve never had one so good that the gratification lasted more than a few moments.
The key to a happy and healthy life is to resist urges and impulses for momentary pleasures that may sabotage long-term goals. Lots of things that feel good aren’t good for us, and lots of things that are fun won’t make us happy.
Giving up the good now for a better later shouldn’t be seen as a sacrifice; it’s an investment.
What I’ve LearnedPosted by AL ALLEN on 1/9/2009 8:48:00 AM
It’s traditional to start the New Year with resolutions designed to help us live healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives. But it’s also useful to reflect on some of the things we’ve learned over the years, things that make us not only smarter, but wiser.
For instance, I’ve learned that trying to be a good person is a lifelong commitment and that it often requires me to do the right thing even when it costs more than I want to pay.
I’ve learned that kindness is more important than cleverness and that carrying grudges is foolish and self-defeating.
I’ve learned that my dad was right when he told me, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and that tenacity is more important to success than talent.
I’ve learned that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional and that I have a lot to say about my own happiness.
I’ve learned that a life focused on fun and pleasure rarely leads to happiness or fulfillment.
I’ve learned that in my personal relationships and in the workplace I’ve got to set limits because whatever I allow, I encourage.
I’ve learned that the things I like to do least are often the things that need to be done most.
I’ve learned that it’s easy to fall into self-righteousness and that neither the intensity of my feelings nor the certainty of my convictions is any assurance that I’m right.
I’ve learned that unless I translate my thoughts into actions, my great ideas and good intentions are like unlit candles.
I’ve learned that I cannot lie myself out of a problem and that the problems I ignore don’t go away, they just grow bigger.
Making Sports BetterPosted by AL ALLEN on 1/7/2009 8:01:00 AM
Suppose your daughter is away at college and you learn she’s dating a running back for the school’s nationally ranked football team. You know nothing more about the fellow. Does his athletic credentials make you worry more or less?
I’m a huge sports fan, but the sad fact is that I’d worry more – a lot more.
Despite the great character-building potential of sports, far too many modern-day athletes develop a “can’t touch me” entitlement attitude about life that is more likely to stunt than stimulate the development of virtues like self-restraint, unselfishness, and fidelity.
We are doing horrible things to our fine young athletes. As early as elementary school, exceptional youngsters are pegged and then preened for their role as stars. The expectations and demands on their lives outside of sports become lower and lower. Parents, coaches, and boosters often make excuses for them, get them out of trouble, and otherwise run interference for their journey through life.
So we can’t really be surprised when an uncomfortably high percentage of them become self-indulgent and egocentric. What’s amazing is how many quality youngsters emerge from this process at all.
We promote overconfidence and the delusion that wealth and fame are inevitable. Consequently, many young athletes shortchange their education and ignore the development of other critical life skills.
And when injuries or the sheer crush of competition eliminate all but a select few from the race, most of them have to rebuild their self-concept without athletics and fight the fear that their futures are behind them.
We owe youngsters much more than that. That’s why Pursuing Victory With Honor is so important. It emphasizes that coaches are first and foremost teachers and demands that responsible sports programs go beyond teaching athletic techniques and competitive strategies.
Youth sports should, above all, foster the development of character and enhance the mental, social, and moral development of student-athletes to help them become personally successful and socially responsible.
You're Lowering My Grade?Posted by AL ALLEN on 11/13/2008 5:20:00 PM
A student said I erred in grading his exam by giving him too many points. He was right. After thanking him for his honesty, I changed the grade. His beaming face turned to shock. "You're lowering my grade?" he sputtered. "I never would've come in if..."
He didn't finish the sentence, but it was obvious his display of integrity was counterfeit. He thought he'd get it all -- praise and the higher grade.
Several colleagues thought I should have let the higher grade stand because all I'd accomplished was to discourage him from being honest in the future. But I couldn't see how I could justify compounding my mistake by undermining the veracity of all my grades by failing to correct the error. The higher score would be a dishonest reflection of his knowledge and would have been unfair to the other students. How could I responsibly give him a gift of an unearned grade?
I know voluntarily reporting an error in one's favor is unusual, but like returning too much change, it's the right thing to do. People of character hate to give up benefits as much as anyone. The difference is, for them a good conscience and reputation is reward enough to justify the cost of doing the right thing.
Perhaps lowering the student's grade did discourage him from being truthful in the future, but bribing him to be honest so he only does the right thing when it's cost-free would have corrupted him even more.
The duty to be honest is about right and wrong, not risks and rewards.
Who would you hire?Posted by AL ALLEN on 10/29/2008 8:45:00 AM
A company founder needed to choose his successor. He studied resumes and talked to references, but he asked only one question during the final interview: "How much is 2 + 2?"
Ann, the first candidate, worried that there was a trick but answered straightforwardly. "There’s only one correct answer: four."
Terry, who had an engineering background, was more creative. "Depending on whether you’re dealing with positive or negative numbers," he said, "the answer could be plus four, zero, or minus four."
Chuck, the last candidate, looked the questioner in the eye and whispered, "How much do you want it to be?"
While Ann and Terry took different approaches, they both provided an honest answer. Chuck, on the other hand, wanted the questioner to know he was willing to say or do whatever it took to succeed. Some employers may find this combination of creativity and moral flexibility highly attractive. I’d show him the door.
You see, Chuck is a manipulator and rationalizer, and they don’t make good employees. They search for excuses rather than solutions and are more concerned with looking good than doing things right.
People like Chuck who are adept at inventing justifications that sound good but aren’t true are simply clever liars. Eventually they will be found out. Remember, an employee who will lie for you will lie to you.
Without conscience, there is no credibility. Without credibility, there is no trust. And without trust, there is no future.
A different Kind of Drug ProblemPosted by AL ALLEN on 10/7/2008 2:38:00 PM
The other day, someone at a store in our town read that a methamphetamine lab had been found in an old farm house in the adjoining county and he asked me a rhetorical question, ”Why didn’t we have a drug problem when you and I were growing up?”
I replied: ”But I did have a drug problem when I wuz a kid growing up on the farm.” I had a drug problem when I was young: I was drug to church on Sunday morning. I was drug to church for weddings and funerals. I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather.
I was drug by my ears when I was disrespectful to adults. I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or the preacher. Or if I didn’t put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me. I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profane four letter word. I was drug out to pull weeds in mom’s garden and flower beds and cockleburs out of dad’s fields.
I was drug to the homes of family, friends, and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair the clothesline or chop some fire wood. And if my mother had ever known that I took a single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the wood shed.
Those drugs are still in my veins; and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, and think. They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin, and if today’s children had this kind of drug problem, America might be a better place today.
"Excuse me, but that’s my cart."Posted by AL ALLEN on 9/26/2008 6:49:00 AM
I was at our local Albertsons crowded as usual! with a shortage of shopping carts. A prosperous-looking fellow and his wife were pushing a cart when another man stopped them. "Excuse me," the second man said, "but that’s my cart."
The first guy looked annoyed and, instead of apologizing, protested, "But someone took my cart." His wife glared at him, and he reluctantly relinquished his ill-gotten gain.
He had ignored the age-old wisdom: "Two wrongs don’t make a right" in favor of a distorted version of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as others have done unto you."
Then there are the folks who change their mind about buying an item and put it on the nearest shelf, rationalizing that the store hires people to put misplaced things back. Schools employ custodians to clean the halls, but does that mean it’s okay for kids to throw their candy wrappers on the floor?
Finally, there are the express-line cheaters who enter the "10 items or less" line with 14 items because they’re in a hurry or they love having a competitive edge. They count on the fact that no one will call them on such a moral misdemeanor. And if someone does, they’re ready to play lawyer: "It depends on what you call an item. These melons are part of the fruit group so I count them as one."
Being considerate, playing by the rules, and setting a good example are important, even in the grocery store.
A LOST CRAFTPosted by AL ALLEN on 9/5/2008 6:33:00 PMYou hear people say that we--the American auto industry--can't engineer a good standard transmission anymore because the domestic carmakers don't have people with the needed skills any longer. They have to farm the work out. It's bad enough that we're losing these skills--even exporting them. What's worse is that we're no longer developing them.
I'll tell you what's really wrong with this country: Every good machinist seems to be over the age of 65. If you happened to come into my shop, you'd see that I'm the youngest guy in there, and I'm in my 40s. There was a time in this country that if you were a skilled craftsman--if you were good with your hands--it was a sign of talent or, in some cases, even genius, and people gave you a lot of respect. Along the way,How come the Japanese and Germans can come to
has lost something important. America , build factories here and fill them with American workers to build quality cars, but American companies can't use Americans to build really great American cars? I just don't understand it America
History of the OlympicsPosted by AL ALLEN on 8/29/2008 8:45:00 AM
Legends differ on the exact reason, but it’s pretty certain that the first Olympic Games were conducted in Greece in 776 B.C. Thereafter, they were held every four years (called an Olympiad) for nearly 12 centuries.
During the Games a temporary global truce was declared so athletes from warring countries could compete. Only male athletes participated, and they competed in the nude. Victors were crowned with wreaths from a sacred olive tree thought to have been planted by Hercules (Heracles) behind the temple of Zeus. They were also given substantial cash rewards.
The games were abolished in 393 A.D. by Emperor Theodosius I who thought they were remnants of pagan worship.
Fifteen hundred years later, in 1894, a Frenchman named Pierre de Coubertin organized the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to revive the tradition. The first modern Olympic Games opened in 1896 in Athens.
De Coubertin had more noble ambitions than his ancient predecessors. He embodied in the founding documents the notion of Olympism as a philosophy of life. His concept was built on core ideas including the Greek ideal of the well-rounded person with physical, moral, intellectual, and artistic qualities and the belief that international athletic competition can uplift and inspire the character of the world and generate cross-cultural friendships and understanding as a basis for world peace.
In 1908, he introduced the Olympic Creed that defines Olympic spirit. To this day, this statement is the guiding star for those who see and want to pursue the ennobling potential of sports: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”