Obama urges students to embrace diversity

September 14, 2010 (BARRINGTON, Ill.)

Obama gave his back-to-school message to students across the country, saying he was a "goof-off" in high school, until he started taking his education seriously.

He was speaking hundreds of miles away in Philadelphia, but for the 4th graders at the Grove Avenue school who were watching him on the Internet, it was almost as if the president were in their classroom.

"Nobody gets to write your destiny but you. Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing, absolutely nothing, is beyond your reach," said Obama.

That's a message that resonates with Colin Kim, who wants to be a doctor.

"If you don't follow your dreams, then you won't be successful in life because if you're doing what you don't want to do, you won't be happy," said Colin.

The children listened attentively as the president stressed the value of education and hard work.

"Education is about more than getting into a good college, it's about more than getting a good job. But it's about giving each and every one of us to fulfill our promise and to be the best version of ourselves we can be," said Obama.

"I thought it was inspiring because there are a lot of kids who don't really feel like they should keep trying, they just give up," said Jenica Baron.

Last year there was some controversy over the president's planned speech to school students. Some accused him of attempting to push politics in the classroom. Not so much this year.

"Ultimately, no matter what your political beliefs were, that message was a powerful one for all children to hear. And an important one that all parents could support," said Cindy Kalogeropoulos, principal.

After mentioning violence among students in Chicago, his message settled on this key point.

"I want all of you, if you take away one thing from my speech, I want you to take away the notion that life is precious and part of what makes it so wonderful is its diversity," said Obama.

Stephanie Miller says that means being kind to others.

"I want to be friends with people, help people," said Stephanie.

The president told the students that they shouldn't just reach for their own dreams but should help others to do the same.

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