Daily Video

September 9, 2009

Obama to Kids: “You Have No Excuse”

President Obama spoke at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., as part of an administration back-to-school event.

The speech, which was broadcast live to school districts across the country on whitehouse.gov, attracted controversy when some critics of the administration worried that the president’s message to young people might have a partisan agenda.

In the speech Obama stayed largely away from politics and told students to “at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities.”


“For us, we have always been open and talked about worldly events. And, you know, we were kind of surprised that it was to controversial that he was doing a speech. I mean, there’s been a lot of presidents that have done the exact same thing in schools. So, we were, I think, both a little surprised.” Jessica Luem, Parent

“It’s nice to have the most powerful man in the world, you know, reiterate what — what administrators have been saying to students.” Nardos King, Principal, Mount Vernon High School

“From my perspective, the themes that the president talked about this morning are really basic themes, ones that, no matter who you are or where you are from, ought to resonate, the importance of education, the need for young students to take control of their own education, their own lives.” Neal Wolin, Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary

Warm Up Questions

1. Why do kids drop out of school?

2. How is the economy putting added stress on students this year?

Discussion Questions

1. List the themes of President Obama’s speech, do you agree with these themes?

2. What surprised you in the president’s speech? Why?

3. If you could speak to all of the students in the United States, what would you say?

4. Why do you think that students are important to the president?

Additional Resources

Read the transcript


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