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The speech was widely covered on could have been me 35 years ago.
Table of contents
- Obama Speech on Race at the National Constitution Center
- Watch Next
- Obama's full speech on the state of American democracy
- The Effectiveness of Obama’s Oratory
These words express our fumbling, imperfect attempts to create a meaningful life, as well as our vulnerability. View image of Martin Luther King, Jr. These words express our fumbling, imperfect attempts to create a meaningful life, as well as our vulnerability — the acknowledgement of which is not a weakness but a source of strength. Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something.
Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again. There is a disarming honesty to this suggestion: we ought to love our fellow citizens perpetually, but such an emotional commitment is a significant undertaking. They regarded the heart as the most important muscle: the more it loves, the better it becomes at loving.
At first, it is not easy to exercise — we are cautious, wary of others, and fearful of rejection — but with practice comes fluency. The day before his assassination, as the death threats escalated, Dr King delivered a prophetic speech in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. View image of Barack Obama.
At the start of his first presidential campaign, Obama reflected on the civil rights era in Selma, Alabama, from where King had led freedom marchers in Obama framed their generational relationship in biblical terms, with King as Moses on the mountaintop:. I stand on the shoulders of giants. This statement seems ironic if one finds currency in the idea that God prohibits Moses from entering the land as an act of mercy, since it was bound to disappoint.
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Culture Menu. Share on Facebook. Share on Twitter. 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.
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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.
Obama Speech on Race at the National Constitution Center
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.
Obama's full speech on the state of American democracy
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.
The Effectiveness of Obama’s Oratory
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.