Tuesday, September 8, 2009

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” – John Dewey

Now with Labor Day behind us, most kids are back in school, and probably wishing they didn’t have to get up so early (at least that’s what I’d be thinking). Today, President Obama addressed students across the nation to motivate them to believe in themselves and to work hard in school. The only other president to make such an address to students across the country was President George H.W. Bush. At different times in his talk with students, Obama invoked American history as evidence of what we can all achieve if we work hard and value the educational opportunities afforded us. One of the first things he touched on was the idea of shaping our own destiny through hard work. Specifically, he talked about his own beginnings and those of his wife to say that if a person is willing to work hard, then the sky is the limit:

Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up. No one's written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

He elaborated on that message by linking some of the greatest challenges Americans have had to face in our history with the education needed to address them effectively. Obama reiterated that education is the greatest tool available to all of us to maintain and improve our country:

The story of America isn't about people who quit when things got tough. It's about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best. It's the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

So today, I want to ask you, what's your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

In many ways, these questions recall President Kennedy’s infamous challenge to Americans of all ages: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country?

So with these thoughts in mind, I want to wish all the students out there a safe and healthy new school year! Also, if you can, take a minute out of your day to thank a teacher. If you think that’s unnecessary, just remember that you wouldn’t be able to read this post if not for a teacher or parent who cared about you enough to teach you to read. Happy Learning!

[Image via Utah Dept. of Health]

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