OUR CORNER: All can take president’s words to heart

A big cheer to teachers, administrators and parents who shared President Barack Obama’s pep talk about staying in school and doing your best with their students.

The flap over President Obama’s speech to school children was mind-boggling.

Thank you to the local teachers, and parents, who shared the experience with their students and provided stimulating dialogue afterward.

Raising kids isn’t easy. Getting them to go to school and enjoy it has been a challenge since the beginning of time. To have the president of the United States, whoever he or she may be at the time, tell them they are the future of the nation and to get the most out of the education they are being given, sounds inspirational to me, not insane.

Enumclaw and White River school districts didn’t make it mandatory for their teachers to share the video, but many showed it to their students. Superintendents left it to the discretion of the building leaders and classroom teachers as they saw fit to connect it to their classroom learning communities. The option to not watch was available.

Both districts reported several classrooms elected to view the speech.

Both Superintendent Tom Lockyer and Mike Nelson reported receiving calls on both sides of the fence – those who wanted to pull their children from viewing and those who wanted their kids to see it.

An Associated Press story told of a mom in Georgia, who was quoted as saying she didn’t think there was going to be anything Obama would touch on that would be important.

How about this nugget? “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,” President Obama said, speaking to students. “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 a cheer to the dad in Idaho, who in the same AP story said it’s parents’ duty to teach children responsibility. Yes, but in reality that’s not always the case. Have you been to the playground lately? Do you run in social circles outside those of family and close friends? There are parents out there who see responsibility in other ways. In all fairness, there are also parents out there who are trying their best under the circumstances God has given them, but it’s a day-in and day-out struggle. If their kids can glean a few positive and inspirational phrases from an outside source like the president of the United States, who can argue?

“Some of you might not have those advantages,” Obama said. “Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

“But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.”

He talked about setting simple goals like finishing a homework assignment. He talked about getting involved in extra-curricular activities or community service projects after school. He talked about stepping up to protect a classmate from bullies.

He said being successful is hard.

“You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.”

He said that’s OK, but added, don’t let failure define you.

It’s a pep talk a lot of us could use with advice we can all take to heart.