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 -- none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school. That's no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. There is no excuse for not trying.
Great message - for kids in trouble. There are more than a few, no doubt:
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.
Know what, Mr. President? It might have been a better plan to target your speech to kids in those circumstances. On the other hand, did kids who are failing in school and at risk of gang activity and dropout even stay awake through the speech? Wouldn't they be more likely to be daydreaming about other things?
I know that sometimes you get that 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. Chances are you're not going to be any of those things.
Sure sounds better than doing what the vast majority of American school kids are already doing:
That's why today I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education -- and 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 some 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 young people 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, by the way, I hope all of you are washing your hands a lot, and that you stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Here's a thought: if the first person to tell a child to do these things is President Obama, that's really far too little, far too late. Fortunately, most kids have parents who actually have bothered to instill these values in them.
Of course, there are rotten little buggers in almost every school, even if gangs and poverty and crime and drugs aren't lapping at the schoolhouse door. President Obama's speech could be part of the disciplinary process for them: get sent to the Principal's office and you get strapped to a chair with the full-on Clockwork Orange cranial fixator and eyelid clamps, and then have the privilege of watching the President of the United States tell you to take responsibility. I bet after two sessions, three tops, the little miscreant would straighten up and fly right, if only to avoid having to sit through Obama's presentation ever again.