Hello everyone - how's everybody doing today? I'm here with
students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia.
And we've got students tuning in from all across America,
kindergarten through twelfth grade. I'm glad you all could
join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of
school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting
middle or high school, it's your first day in a new school,
so it's understandable if you're a little nervous. I imagine
there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good
right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what
grade you're in, some of you are probably wishing it were
still summer, and you could've stayed in bed just a little
longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in
Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn't have the
money to send me where all the American kids went to school.
So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday
through Friday - at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn't too happy about getting up that early. A lot of
times, I'd fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But
whenever I'd complain, my mother would just give me one of
those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either,
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back
at school. But I'm here today because I have something
important to discuss with you. I'm here because I want to
talk with you about your education and what's expected of
all of you in this new school year.
Now I've given a lot of speeches about education. And
I've talked a lot about responsibility.
I've talked about your teachers' responsibility for
inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I've talked about your parents' responsibility for making
sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and
don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with
I've talked a lot about your government's responsibility for
setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals,
and turning around schools that aren't working where
students aren't getting the opportunities they deserve.
But 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.
And that's what I want to focus on today: the
responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to
start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you're good at. 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.
Maybe you could be a good writer - maybe even good enough
to write a book or articles in a newspaper - but you might
not know it until you write a paper for your English class.
Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor - maybe even
good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new
medicine or vaccine - but you might not know it until you do
a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor
or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not
know that until you join student government or the debate