Obama's Speech to Kids Urges Hard Work, Self-Responsibility

Innocuous address had some in uproar

Monday, Sep 7, 2009  |  Updated 12:03 PM CDT
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President Obama will urge schoolkids to work hard and set goals.

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The speech that caused an uproar before it was even delivered is out, and once you read it, you might wonder what all the fuss was about.

President Obama's planned 18-minute speech to the nation's schoolkids stressing self-responsibility, hard work and setting goals. It notes a couple of famous folks who overcame early failures to become names the nation's students will recognize: "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling and basketball great Michael Jordan.

"These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you," President Obama plans to tell kids in the speech, which will be televised in many if not most of the nation's schools.

Obama asks kids to cut down on TV watching and video games and, mindful of swine flu, to wash their hands a lot. He also tells students he and their teachers are working hard to give them the resources and instruction they need, but that ultimately, their success depends on their own attitudes and work ethic.

"So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down," Obama concludes. "Make us all proud. I know you can do it."

Obama's plans to speak to kids has angered some conservative parents and pundits, and the uproar led the White House to release the transcript. The White House also backed off plans to ask teachers to assign lessons that included writing a paper on how they could help the president.

On Sunday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that parents who are threatening to keep their children home Tuesday to avoid Obama's speech were being "silly." Duncan, however, noted Obama's speech is not unprecedented. President George H.W. Bush delivered a nationally televised speech to students from a Washington school in fall 1991, encouraging them to say no to drugs and work hard. In November 1988, President Reagan delivered more politically charged remarks that were made available to students nationwide. Among other things, Reagan called taxes "such a penalty on people that there's no incentive for them to prosper ... because they have to give so much to the government."

Get more: WhiteHouse.gov, CNN

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