Area students had opportunity to hear president's speech
By Julia Green
When area schoolchildren reported to class after the Labor Day weekend holiday, they were presented with an uncommon opportunity.
Students at Andes and Margaretville central schools had the chance to hear back-to-school remarks by President Obama via C-SPAN when the president addressed the nation’s schoolchildren from a high school in Wakefield, Va., at noon on Tuesday. At Roxbury Central School, the president’s address is being taped for later viewing.
The entire faculty at Andes took students in kindergarten through 12th grade to listen to the president’s remarks in an assembly format Tuesday afternoon. ACS Superintendent Robert Chakar said that he had not received any feedback either way from parents prior to the speech.
“My take is that the President of the United States is looking to speak to the nation’s population and the children of the country,” he said Tuesday. “This is an opportunity to listen to the President, and maybe to inspire them to continue with their education and work hard.”
Teachers at Margaretville received memos encouraging them to use their judgment based on their content area as far as offering students the opportunity to watch the address, the availability of which would be specific to classrooms and not school wide.
“It’s something that we certainly want to make available out of respect for the Office of the President, but we certainly want to respect our parents’ wishes as well,” said MCS Superintendent Anthony Albanese on Tuesday. Albanese added that he has received very limited feedback from parents of students.
“We live in a nation where everybody has an opinion they are able to share, and I hope, as far as being a democracy, everybody has a chance to voice that opinion. On the other hand, we are an educational facility, and we want to make that news available to our students, but parents have a right to a choice in the matter. We’ll do our best to keep both ends open for communication.”
Despite political implications or affiliations, however, Albanese said that he sees the value in the intent behind the president’s message.
“Anytime anyone encourage students to do well in school, I’d like to embrace that the best way I can,” he said. “And that goes across the board, whether it’s the president, a parent, a community member… encouraging kids to do well in school is something I’d certainly try to do on my own as much as possible as well.”
Roxbury Superintendent Tom O’Brien echoed that sentiment on Tuesday. While the RCS administration opted not to disrupt the first day of school by showing the address live, copies are being made of the president’s remarks to be made available to students at a later date.
“There are no politics here,” he said. “It’s honoring the Office of the President of the United States, and if the president wants to talk to our children, I’m going to honor that request. It has nothing to do with politics.
“We’re going to try to make it available,” he added, highlighting the fact that Tuesday marked the first day of school for Roxbury students. “With it being the first day, it’s not the greatest time, but we’re copying the speech and making it available to teachers for them to use.”
The president’s talk, which has drawn criticism from a number of Republican leaders and other opponents of the administration in recent weeks, has resulted in the refusal of some schools around the country to carry it, despite the White House’s release of the full text of the speech on Monday.
Obama’s address is not the first of its kind – past Republican presidents including George H. W. Bush in and Ronald Reagan have also addressed the country’s youth at the onset of school years. Those speeches were also met with criticism from opponents who charged the administrations with attempting to promote political agendas.
Excerpts from speech:
“No matter what you do with your life – I guarantee 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.
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.”