Students react to hotly-debated Obama speech

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - President Barack Obama's remarks were aimed at inspiring students to stay in school, take responsibility, and develop their skills.

"So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school, but I'm here to tell you I have something important to discuss with you," he said.

The president's back-to-school speech was beamed from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, into classrooms at Pass High Tuesday morning. Most south Mississippi schools aired the president's live remarks. His message was more pep-talk than politics.

"Every single one of you has something to offer, and you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is.  That's the opportunity an education can provide," Obama said.

"It was really inspirational.  It relates to everyone, because everyone has something in their life that they need to work on," said Pass High Senior Allison Parker.

Mr. Obama named several young people who are facing challenges, yet they refused to give up. He says despite the circumstances in their lives, that should not be an excuse for them to cut class, drop out, and stop trying.

"Here in America, you write your own destiny.  You make our own future," he said.

"You have to try and apply yourself and if first you don't succeed, try again. I mean that's the whole point of the speech," said Pass High Senior Tim Bradley.

"I like to play basketball and I understood where he came from," said Pass High Junior Stanley Magee.  "Just keep trying and you're going to be better in anything you do:  In the classroom, sports, in life in general."

"Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who've had the most failures," the president told the students.

The speech made no reference to a controversial lesson plan that asked students to write about how they can help the president.  The Pass High students say they have heard the outcry over the speech and why some parents objected to it, but they still wanted to hear what the president had to say.

"The speech was totally different from what people were perceiving it to be," said Pass High Junior Andrew Figueroa.  "It was a pretty good speech, very inspirational."

The president also talked about his own childhood struggles, how he was raised by a single mother after his father left them.  He encouraged students to set their own goals and do their best to achieve them.

"We can take him as an example.  Work hard as possible and we might end up in the White House one day. Anything is possible," said Pass High Senior Charlie Goff.

The president ended his speech with these words: "Most of all, don't let yourself down.  Make us all proud."

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