Presidential Back-to-School Address Sounds Traditional Themes

President Barack Obama’s annual back-to-school speech, delivered in Philadelphia and made available for showing in schools nationwide, must have disappointed anyone who expected a partisan approach. The president exhorted students to “dream big,” “work hard,” and “stay focused on your education.” Do those things, he said, and “your future is in your hands.”
As in last year’s speech, Obama’s emphasis was on students’ own responsibility to take advantage of educational opportunity. But he also sounded another classic American theme, citing a letter from an 11-year-old Georgia girl, Tamerria Robinson, in which she described her exertions in school and in community service. She wrote: “I try to achieve my dreams and help others do the same. That is how the world should work.”

Obama responded: “I agree with Tamerria. That is how the world should work. Yes, we need to work hard. Yes, we need to take responsibility for our own education. Yes, we need to take responsibility for our own lives. But what makes us who we are is that here, in this country, we not only reach for our own dreams, we help others do the same. This is a country that gives all its daughters and all its sons a fair chance. A chance to make the most of their lives. A chance to fulfill their God-given potential.”

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