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.Can any speech be good for such wide range of ages? 2540 words should take at least 15 minutes to deliver. Who gives a 15 minute speech to kindergartners?
I’m glad you all could join us today.Students tuning in? Glad you could join us? It's not voluntary.
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."This is no picnic for me either, buster" is a long-time laugh line for Obama, but it's not exactly comprehensible to kids. Do kindergartners and first graders understand what a foreign country is? Do elementary school students recognize the word "Indonesia"? Will students understand why going to school with people other than Americans is so bad? (Isn't it prejudiced to think that? a bright child might wonder.)
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."
And what sort of mother wakes a kid up before dawn to teach him lessons? (Some parents say "I'll teach you a lesson" as a prelude to punishment.) Frankly, I don't even understand why the mother picked pre-dawn for lesson time. It seems a bit abusive. And I don't see what so funny when the abusers says "This hurts me too." Is a mother calling her child "buster" funny to little kids, or does it seem sad or scary?
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...It's not a discussion. He's on television.
Okay, I've got to stop. I'm not going to reprint the whole thing. It's way too long. I'll summarize. As it goes on, he develops the theme of students taking responsibility for their own education, including and especially when they don't have responsible adults in their life watching over them.
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.Now, that's very nice free market capitalism — not that Obama's policies reflect this spirit.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America....
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.So can you "write your own destiny" and "make your own future" or not? It's confusing.
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.But I thought we weren't supposed to think we could make it at basketball! That's downright perplexing. And why is rapping an inappropriate goal but being a fiction writer is admirable? Isn't rap a more easily reachable occupation?
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."
... [Y]ou’ve got to do your part... 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."I expect"... I have no idea if expressions of expectation motivate children. Personally, I don't react well to a political leader telling me he expects something from me, but I'm not a kid.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.He ends with a double "God." I guess it's okay when Obama invokes the deity in school, but some kids might wonder why God's blessing comes at the end. After all, they were just told to take personal responsibility for themselves. And as for "God bless America," why is it even relevant? This wasn't a patriotic speech. The message to kids in other countries — including Indonesia — would be the same. Maybe some older kids will get it that it's just the conventional ending for a presidential speech, but if you're not familiar with the convention, and you're just trying to understand this speech, it's comes from nowhere.