Following criticism of President Obama's plan to speak about education to schoolchildren, the White House released the text of the speech yesterday. Last week, one parent in Texas, apparently concerned that his school district hadn't approved the speech, told the NY Times, "I don’t want our schools turned over to some socialist movement." Fortunately, the "socialist movement" seems limited to "If you quit on school - you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country" and "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."
The speech emphasizes hard work and responsibility, with Obama referring to his and First Lady Michelle Obama's own childhood challenges: "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"; "Neither of [Michelle's] 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". In the "if at first you don't succeed" vein, the president mentions how JK Rowling was initially rejected by many book publishers. Obama also gives examples of American students who overcame obstacles—language barriers, brain cancer, bouncing between foster homes—and are now succeeding.
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.
...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.