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President Barack Obama President Barack Obama smiles before speaking to students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, Tuesday, September 8, 2009. The speech was also shown on television. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images)

President Obama to Kids: What's Your Goal?

In back-to-school speech, President challenges American students to work hard for success in school and beyond

By Zach Jones | null null , null

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama delivered a special back-to-school address to classrooms all over America. A crowd of excited students filled Wakefield High School's gym in Arlington, Virginia, where the President spoke. His message was the same for all students, from kindergarteners to high school seniors: Work hard in school, take responsibility for your education, and set clear goals for the new school year.

"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," the President told students.

"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," he said. "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."

Setting Goals

The President challenged students to set goals for themselves and to do everything possible 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," the President said. "Maybe you'll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community."

Don't be afraid to ask questions or seek advice from trusted adults, the President advised. They can help make sure that goal is within reach, and help track progress.

Strong Students, Strong Country

The President believes that students' success in school will benefit the country. "This isn't just important for your own life and your own future," he explained. "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."

Don't Give Up

President Obama knows it's not easy to be a star student, but he also doesn't believe in giving up on yourself or your education. He talked about his own hardships at school. His father left the family when Barack was only 2 years old, and his mother worked hard just to pay the bills.

These challenges made it more difficult for him to focus on his schoolwork. But, the President said, challenges are not  "an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school…. There is no excuse for not trying.

"I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you," the President concluded. "Make us all proud."


blog it What goals do you want to set for yourself for the new school year? Use this chart activity to help organize your ideas to improve your schoolwork or get more involved in your school or community.

Download it here!

Didn’t get a chance to watch the speech? Click here to watch a video of the President’s speech and read a copy of his remarks.


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