Let Us Talk

September 8, 2009

President Obama To American Students: “I expect great things from each of you.”

“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.”

 “You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.”

Minutes ago President Barack Obama addressed students from kindergarten to 12th grade all across America.  His speech had the right tenure and was uplifting and inspiring.  I was inspired and I am many, many years removed from college.  I know many people who are 20, 30 and 40 year old that needed to hear this speech. 🙂

I have to say that people who decided against having their children listen to this moving and encouraging speech are simply stupid – I am being polite.

How can a parent not want their child(ren) to be inspired?  You never know what’s going to inspire a young person and as a responsible parent you have to expose them to all possible positive influences. But some of these same parents allow their children to listen to Pitbull, Miley Cyrus, New Boyz, etc who offer nothing remotely encouraging in their lyrics.

Education is important and this was a great and motivating way for students to start the school year.

What Sarah thought about President Obama’s speech:

Below is our President’s prepared speech which was delivered beautifully:

The President: 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, buster.”

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 that Xbox. 

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 team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future. 

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy. 

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country. 

Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in. 

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse. 

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.

Some of you might not have those advantages. 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. 

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. 

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America. 

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall. 

And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same. 

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it. 

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things. 

But the truth is, 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.

That’s OK.  Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” 

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying. 

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals. 

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your 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?  

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

May 13, 2009

President Obama: Commencement Speaker At Arizona State University

Arizona State University

In response to President Barack Obama’s challenge for the United States to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020, Arizona State University (“ASU”) is increasing its student accessibility by expanding its financial aid program to more Arizona families. ASU will honor President Obama by renaming its scholarship program at its commencement ceremony today, May 13.  The program will be now be known as the President Barack Obama Scholars Program.  Some of the new Barack Obama Scholars will be introduced at graduation.

ASU has expanded qualifying family income level for scholars program to $60,000, increasing the number of students receiving funding for tuition, fees, books, and room and board from 500 to more than 1,600 students!

President Obama is ASU’s commencement speaker and will address his largest crowd in the U.S. since his inauguration.  About 71,000 people are expected to brave long lines in 99-degree heat to attend the open-air ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium.

Alice Cooper  Crews spent the past few days building the stage and setting up signs for the big event.  There will be mariachi music, Native American performances and marching bands. Rock icon Alice Cooper will be the opening act.

But for graduates Obama’s speech remains the major draw. Arizona native Alex Linden, 22, an English major, said she’s looking forward to hearing a message of hope.

“President Barack Obama giving my commencement speech seems like the perfect cap to my ASU experience,” Linden said. “I expect his speech, in typical Obama style, to be riveting and full of the ability to spark excitement and a sense of accomplishment.”

Having a sitting president speak at commencement posed significant logistical hurdles for ASU. The frenzy for tickets began as soon as the college announced its speaker in March. Ads for graduation tickets have even appeared on Craigslist and eBay.

March 21, 2009

Elena Kagan – Supreme Court Justice In Training?

elena-kagan  On Friday Elena Kagan, 48, was sworn-in by Chief Justice John Roberts and became the nation’s first female Solicitor General, a position informally regarded as the tenth Supreme Court justice.

Kagan is a former University of Chicago Law School teaching colleague of President Obama and is regarded as a noteworthy contender for any opening on the high court that he would fill. Justices John Paul Stevens, 88, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76, and David Souter, 69, are considered the most likely to retire during Obama’s presidency.

Kagan’s role as solicitor general is to represent the United States – including defending acts of Congress — at the Supreme Court and also deciding when to appeal lower court decisions. Her personal views on key issues are less important than they would be if she were nominated to be a judge.

Next month the Supreme Court will debate about the continuing viability of a key provision of the federal law that enforces the voting rights of minorities and this will be Kagan’s first opportunity to argue a Supreme Court case.  This will be akin to an audition for the big show – to be a member of the big 9.

The case is about the landmark Voting Rights Act and its requirement that all or parts of 16 states with a history of discrimination get approval before instituting any changes that affect voting. It has not been announced who will argue the case, but the Solicitor General, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, typically handles the biggest cases.

Kagan clerked for the late-Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and in her role as Dean of Harvard Law School.  She has also hosted several justices at events at Harvard. Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Souter and Roberts are all Harvard alumni. Justice Ginsburg began her legal studies at Harvard, but received her degree from Columbia University.

Kagan’s efforts to bridge the gap between conservatives and liberals on Harvard’s complex and multifarious faculty won her praise and she was endorsed by several predecessors – Republicans and Democrats alike – to be Solicitor General.

She and Roberts, both former Supreme Court law clerks, also share an odd history. Roberts was nominated for a seat on the federal appeals court in Washington in 1992, but not confirmed by a Democratic-controlled Senate. Kagan was nominated to the same court in 1999, but the Republicans who controlled the Senate then did not act on the nomination.

When George W. Bush became president in 2001, he nominated Roberts to the same seat Kagan had been chosen to fill.

February 2, 2009

Economic Stimulus Plan – President Obama Needs ‘YOUR’ Help Today

Later this week, the Senate will vote on President Obama’s economic stimulus plan which includes historic investments in green jobs, health care, and education to get our economy back on track.

But right now, the stimulus doesn’t have the votes to pass. Republicans and conservative Democrats are teaming up to strip out items that will help the average American — college loan assistance, health research, tax cuts for poor folks — in favor of more tax cuts for corporations. These republicans and conservative democrats promise to block the plan if they don’t get their way.  

President Obama’s plan isn’t perfect but it will:

  • Create millions of green jobs to double our clean energy production in three years which will in turn create more jobs
  • Create affordable health care for the unemployed which will take make you and I stop paying for very, very expensive emergency  room visits
  • Creates the biggest investment in education since World War II.  This will help prevent hundreds of thousands of teachers from being laid off and stop thousands of schools from closing.  If teachers are laid off and schools close where will your children go to get an education?  What will you do with them during the day?

“But what we can’t do is let very modest differences get in the way of the overall package moving forward swiftly,” he said, adding that he hopes a bill can be passed “in the next couple of weeks so we can put America back to work and start digging ourselves out of this deep hole that we’re in.” President Obama 2/2/ 09

This is OUR government and President Obama needs our help today or tomorrow at the latest. 

We need to make sure our Senators and Congresspersons know that we want this plan passed sooner not later.  We have to make them know that they are standing in the way of America becoming economically healthy and we need to let them know that we not going to take their foolishness – we will vote them out in 2010!!!

Please call your senators and ask them to support President Obama’s economic stimulus plan because it will save or create 3 million jobs. Make sure you know the name of your two Senators then call the Capitol Operator at (202) 224-3121and ask to be transferred to your Senators.

You can also select your state and both your Senators office number will pop up and you can call you Senator directly in his/her office by going to:

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Desperate times call for desperate solutions.  Please call your Senator today. 

Please pass this on and thanks for all you do for our country!

October 4, 2008

Proud Americans – Let’s Rebuild America For The Middle Class And For All

 

No longer can we assume that a high-school education is enough to compete for a job that could easily go to a college-educated student in Bangalore or Beijing. No more can we count on employers to provide health care and pensions and job training when their bottom-lines know no borders. Never again can we expect the oceans that surround America to keep us safe from attacks on our own soil.

The world has changed. And as a result, we’ve seen families work harder for less and our jobs go overseas. We’ve seen the cost of health care and child care and gasoline skyrocket. We’ve seen our children leave for Iraq and terrorists threaten to finish the job they started on 9/11.

But while the world has changed around us, too often our government has stood still. Our faith has been shaken, but the people running Washington aren’t willing to make us believe again.

It’s the timidity – the smallness – of our politics that’s holding us back right now. The idea that some problems are just too big to handle, and if you just ignore them, sooner or later, they’ll go away.

That if you give a speech where you rattle off statistics about the stock market being up and orders for durable goods being on the rise, no one will notice the single mom whose two jobs won’t pay the bills or the student who can’t afford his college dreams.

That if you say the words “plan for victory” and point to the number of schools painted and roads paved and cell phones used in Iraq, no one will notice the nearly 2,500 flag-draped coffins that have arrived at Dover Air Force base.

Well it’s time we finally said we notice, and we care, and we’re not going to settle anymore.

You know, you probably never thought you’d hear this at a Take Back America conference, but Newt Gingrich made a great point a few weeks ago. He was talking about what an awful job his own party has done governing this country, and he said that with all the mistakes and misjudgments the Republicans have made over the last six years, the slogan for the Democrats should come down to just two words:

Had enough?

I don’t know about you, but I think old Newt is onto something here. Because I think we’ve all had enough. Enough of the broken promises. Enough of the failed leadership. Enough of the can’t-do, won’t-do, won’t-even-try style of governance.

I’ve had enough of the closed-door deals that give billions to the HMOs when we’re told that we can’t do a thing for the 45 million uninsured or the millions more who can’t pay their medical bills.

I’ve had enough of being told that we can’t afford body armor for our troops and health care for our veterans and benefits for the wounded heroes who’ve risked their lives for this country. I’ve had enough of that.

I’ve had enough of giving billions away to the oil companies when we’re told that we can’t invest in the renewable energy that will create jobs and lower gas prices and finally free us from our dependence on the oil wells of Saudi Arabia.

I’ve had enough of our kids going to schools where the rats outnumber the computers. I’ve had enough of Katrina survivors living out of their cars and begging FEMA for trailers. And I’ve had enough of being told that all we can do about this is sit and wait and hope that the good fortune of a few trickles on down to everyone else in this country.

You know, we all remember that George Bush said in 2000 campaign that he was against nation-building. We just didn’t know he was talking about this one.

Now, let me say this – I don’t think that George Bush is a bad man. I think he loves his country. I don’t think this administration is full of stupid people – I think there are a lot of smart folks in there. The problem isn’t that their philosophy isn’t working the way it’s supposed to – it’s that it is. It’s that it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.

The reason they don’t believe government has a role in solving national problems is because they think government is the problem. That we’re better off if we dismantle it – if we divvy it up into individual tax breaks, hand ’em out, and encourage everyone to go buy your own health care, your own retirement security, your own child care, their own schools, your own private security force, your own roads, their own levees…

It’s called the Ownership Society in Washington. But in our past there has been another term for it – Social Darwinism – every man or women for him or herself.

It allows us to say to those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford – life isn’t fair. It allows us to say to the child who didn’t have the foresight to choose the right parents or be born in the right suburb – pick yourself up by your bootstraps. It lets us say to the guy who worked twenty or thirty years in the factory and then watched his plant move out to Mexico or China – we’re sorry, but you’re on your own.

It’s a bracing idea. It’s a tempting idea. And it’s the easiest thing in the world.

But there’s just one problem. It doesn’t work. It ignores our history. Yes, our greatness as a nation has depended on individual initiative, on a belief in the free market. But it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, of mutual responsibility. The idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we’re all in it together and everybody’s got a shot at opportunity.

Americans know this. We know that government can’t solve all our problems – and we don’t want it to.

But we also know that there are some things we can’t do on our own. We know that there are some things we do better together.

We know that we’ve been called in churches and mosques, synagogues and Sunday schools to love our neighbors as ourselves; to be our brother’s keeper; to be our sister’s keeper. That we have individual responsibility, but we also have collective responsibility to each other.

That’s what America is.

And so I am eager to have this argument not just with the President, but the entire Republican Party over what this country is about.

Because I think that this is our moment to lead.

The time for our party’s identity crisis is over. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t know what we stand for and don’t doubt it yourselves. We know who we are. And in the end, we know that it isn’t enough to just say that you’ve had enough.

(more…)

September 20, 2008

Vice Presidential Debate Shenanigans – Thursday, October 2 at 9pm EST

 The McCain campaign has insisted that the Thursday, October 2 debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees. With this format there will be much less occasion for impromptu direct exchanges between Palin and Biden.

 McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive.

The bickering and power struggle was chiefly between the McCain-Palin camp and the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates which is sponsoring the forums.

Commission members wanted a relaxed format that included time for follow-up questioning and challenges between the vice-presidential candidates. Last week, the Commission rejected a proposal from advisers to Palin and McCain for few if any free flowing or flexible interactions. Advisers to Biden say they were comfortable with either format.

 A commission member said that the new agreement on the vice-presidential debate was reached late morning Saturday. It calls for shorter blocks of candidate statements and open discussion than at the presidential debates.

Both campaigns see the four debates as pivotal moments in a presidential race that is not only extraordinarily close but also drawing intense interest from voters; roughly 40 million viewers watched the major speeches at the two parties’ conventions.

 While the debates between presidential nominees are traditionally the main events in the fall election season, the public interest in Palin has proved extraordinary, and a large audience is expected for her debate debut.

The negotiations for the three 90-minute debates between Obama and McCain were largely free of any power struggle. The Obama and McCain campaigns have agreed to an unusual free-flowing format for the three televised presidential debates which begin this Friday, September 26. Teams Obama and McCain agreed to one substantive change to the format originally proposed by the debate commission, giving them two minutes apiece to make a statement at the beginning of each segment on a new topic.

Schedule of debates:

Friday, September 26, 2008: Presidential debate with foreign policy focus, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS

 Thursday, October 2, 2008: Vice Presidential debate, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

 Tuesday, October 7, 2008: Presidential debate in a town hall format, Belmont University, Nashville, TN

 Wednesday, October 15, 2008: Presidential debate with domestic policy focus, Hofstra University, Hempstead (L.I.), NY

 

 

 

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