Students give Obama good marks on speech
By Kathy Chaffin
Students in Carly Moore’s pre-algebra class at Carson High School had positive reactions to President Barack Obama’s national address to students Tuesday.
“The students seemed really receptive just because of how they were listening,” Moore said. “They listen to me, but it’s never completely silent like it was. They really seemed to be into it.”
A few even joined the students and dignitaries at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. ó where Obama gave the live address ó in applauding the president at the end.
Marco Salazer was attentive throughout the preliminary speakers and Obama’s 15-minute address. “I think it was a great speech because he encouraged everyone,” he said.
Obama drew from his own difficulties as a child to encourage students. “My father left my family when I was 2 years old, and I was raised by a single mom who had to work and who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us the things that other kids had …” he said. “There were times when I was lonely and I felt like I didn’t fit in.”
His wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, faced similar difficulties. “Neither of her parents had gone to college,” he said, “and they didn’t have a lot of money. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.”
Moore said she told the class when school started this year that she was the first person in her family to go to college and encouraged them to set their own educational goals.
“If you would like to talk to me about yours,” she told students after Obama’s address, “I’ll be glad to help you … There is no excuse for not trying.”
The president shared other facts about his education, including the years he lived in Indonesia. His mother couldn’t afford to send him where the other American kids went to school, he said, “but she thought it was important for me to keep up with an American education. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday.”
“But because she had to go to work, the only time she could do it was at 4:30 in the morning.”
The pre-dawn lessons seemed to get the attention of Moore’s students. “That’s crazy,” Tyler Carpenter said afterward.
The class also seemed to be inspired by the examples Obama cited of students overcoming obstacles to excel in school, including Andoni Schultz of Los Altos, Ca., who has battled brain cancer since age 3.
“He’s had to endure all sorts of treatments and surgeries,” the president said, “one of which affected his memory. So it took him much longer ó hundreds of extra hours ó to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind. He’s headed to college this fall.”
“He kept on going,” Salazer said afterward. “He never gave up,” Carpenter echoed.
Moore received several responses when she asked students how they thought Wakefield High School student Timothy Spicer felt about being chosen to introduce the president on live television.
“Nervous, excited, lucky,” were among the responses. Lindsey Hall said it was an honor for Spicer, who is president of his senior class.
Moore said she decided to show Obama’s address in her classroom because she believes it’s important for the students ó including freshmen and a few sophomores ó to take their education seriously. “You guys are the future,” she said, echoing the president’s message.
“The future of America depends on you,” Obama said. “What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.”
Moore’s students seemed to be empowered by the president’s words.
“We’re the future of America,” Salazer said at one point. Carpenter said it was important for them to learn “because ‘We are the future.’ ”
Tuesday was the first time in Moore’s three years at Carson that she interrupted her pre-algebra class for a televised event, but she said it was important for students to hear Obama encourage them to get a good education.
“I say those things to them,” she said, “but I’m just like a broken record. I wanted them to hear it from somebody else, too.”
Rowan-Salisbury School System officials left it up to individual teachers as to whether to show the president’s address to students. Schools were to come up with an alternate activity for students who did not want to watch it or whose parents objected to them watching it.
Moore said none of her 25 students objected to watching Obama.
Carson Principal Henry Kluttz said he was surprised at the controversy that arose over Obama’s address to students. Concern expressed by parents and private citizens prompted school officials to notify parents of the address through the Connect-Ed automated telephone service.
The senior President George Bush addressed students, he said, as have other presidents.
Kluttz said he will never forget how excited his brother, Glenn, was when he heard then-President Dwight Eisenhower speak in Colorado in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Boy Scout Golden Jamboree.
“That’s the first time anybody in our family had ever seen a president,” he said.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.