Tuesday, September 15, 2009

President Obama's Speech to Students

Last week, President Obama delivered a speech in some high school in Virginia that was distributed all over the country so that students would be able to listen to him speak about what most everybody thought of as uncontroversial values. Students in Guymon, OK were not able to listen to the President due to the vociferous protest of a few parents who insisted on reviewing the contents of the President’s speech. Truly a shame because the Guymon school district has become significantly infiltrated by minority students over the past 10 years, underprivileged kids who stood to benefit most from President Obama’s inspiring words. I sent this opinion to the Guymon Daily Herald.

Too bad our kids weren’t made to watch President Obama’s address to students last week. In 13 minutes, he described his origins, a black kid from a broken home who was able to become the President of the United States despite many mistakes, amid many temptations.

He reminded all of us that all the gains being made in upgrading our educational system will be wasted if a sense of personal responsibility was not ingrained upon each of our students. The raw material is out there, the pathway to developing our various talents and gifts is ready to accommodate us, we only need to appreciate the abundant advantages we have here in our very own Guymon, OK.

Our educational facilities are world-class and our teachers are dedicated professionals who view teaching as a vocation and not simply a job. We just need to be there.

Woody Allen famously said, “80% of success is showing up”. Despite much higher tuition fees, and enormous living expenses, students from all over the world descend upon our schools because they and their families are convinced that all the sacrifices necessary to acquire a superior product is completely worthwhile. Education equips us with the requisite skills necessary to compete in a world that is becoming more competitive daily.

Our children deserve all the inspiration they can get. If we don’t have to vet beforehand the contents of a Disney or a Nickelodeon television program, why deprive our children from listening to positive role models who were able to rise above circumstances that characteristically hold down the vast majority of less fortunate children. While we may personally differ with the politics of President Obama, there shouldn’t be any dispute toward the value of staying in school and working hard to exploit the academic advantages we enjoy but sometimes fail to appreciate: “At the end of the day, 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. 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.”