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Text Of Barack Obama's Speech To Children For Sept. 8, 2009

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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.

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Linda Milazzo was a Managing Editor of Opednews until Fall 2014, and a Los Angeles based writer, educator and activist. Since 1974, she has divided her time between the entertainment industry, government organizations, community development (more...)
 

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