On 24 July 2017, President Donald Trump delivered a controversial, politically-laced 38-minute speech at the Boy Scouts Jamboree in West Virginia.
“For 80 years, American presidents have been speaking to the National Scout Jamboree, a gathering of tens of thousands of youngsters from around the world eager to absorb the ideas of service, citizenship and global diplomacy. In keeping with the Scouts’ traditions, all eight presidents and surrogates who have represented them have stayed far, far away from partisan politics,” Katie Mettler and Derek Hawkins wrote in the Washington Post.
On September 8, 2009, President Barack Obama delivered a 16-minute “back to school” speech, complete with lesson plans. It was the first of three speeches broadcast to the nation’s schools and was preceded by GOP objections.
Some school districts are refusing to broadcast the president’s live remarks after parents complained that Obama is using the address to indoctrinate their children. Some parents threatened to pull their kids out of school if the address was shown, citing fears that the president was going to use the opportunity to promote some kind of political agenda.
GOP leaders on the record opposing Obama’s back to school speech included Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer, Oklahoma state Sen. Steve Russell.
Conversely, in 1991, the President George H.W. Bush announcement that he would speak to the nation’s students was greeted with “excitement.”
“The goal of the speech and the lesson plans is to challenge students to work hard, stay in school and dramatically reduce the dropout rate,” an Obama administration spokesman said at the time. “This isn’t a policy speech. It’s a speech designed to encourage kids to stay in school.”
Part of the controversy surrounded a lesson plan which included a request that students write a letter explaining “what they can do to help the president.” In 1991, President Bush had asked students to write a letter “about ways you can help us achieve our goals.” That request met no GOP objection.
Emphasis added in each of the speeches.
Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve, Glen Jean, West Virginia, 6:32 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much. (Applause.) I am thrilled to be here. Thrilled. (Applause.) And if you think that was an easy trip, you’re wrong, but I am thrilled — 19th Boy Scout Jamboree — wow — and to address such a tremendous group. Boy, you have a lot of people here. The press will say it’s about 200 people. (Laughter.) It looks like about 45,000 people.  You set a record today. (Applause.) You set a record. That’s a great honor, believe me.
Tonight, we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C. — you’ve been hearing about with the fake news and all of that. (Applause.) We’re going to put that aside. And instead we’re going to talk about success, about how all of you amazing young Scouts can achieve your dreams. What to think of — what I’ve been thinking about — you want to achieve your dreams. I said, who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?  (Applause.)
There are many great honors that come with the job of being President of the United States, but looking out at this incredible gathering of mostly young patriots — mostly young — I’m especially proud to speak to you as the honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: You are the young people of character and integrity who will serve as leaders in our communities, and uphold the sacred values of our nation.
I want to thank Boy Scouts President Randall Stephenson, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh, Jamboree Chairman Ralph de la Vega, and the thousands of volunteers who have made this a life-changing experience for all of you, and when they asked me to be here I said absolutely, yes. (Applause.)
Finally, and we can’t forget these people, I especially want to salute the moms and the dads and troop leaders who are here tonight. (Applause.) Thank you for making scouting possible. Thank you, mom and dad — troop leaders.
When you volunteer for the Boy Scouts, you are not only shaping young lives, you are shaping the future of America. (Applause.) The United States has no better citizens than its Boy Scouts. (Applause.) No better. The values, traditions, and skills you learn here will serve you throughout your lives, and just as importantly they will serve your families, your cities, and in the future and in the present, will serve your country. (Applause.) The Scouts believe in putting America first. (Applause.)
You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp. And it’s not a good place. In fact today I said we ought to change it from the word swamp to the word cesspool or, perhaps, to the word sewer. But it’s not good. Not good.  (Applause.) And I see what’s going on, and believe me I’d much rather be with you. That I can tell you. (Applause.)
I’ll tell you the reason that I love this and the reason that I really wanted to be here is because as President, I rely on former Boy Scouts every single day, and so do the American people. It’s amazing how many Boy Scouts we have at the highest level of our great government. Many of my top advisors in the White House were Scouts. Ten members of my cabinet were Scouts. Can you believe that? Ten. (Applause.)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not only a Boy Scout, he’s your former national president. (Applause.)
The Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence — good guy — was a Scout, and it meant so much to him. (Applause.) Some of you here tonight might even have camped out in this yard when Mike was the governor of Indiana, but the scouting was very, very important. And by the way, where are our Indiana Scouts tonight? (Applause.) I wonder if the television cameras will follow you. They don’t like doing that when they see these massive crowds. They don’t like doing that.  Hi, folks. (Applause.) A lot of love in this big, beautiful place. A lot of love, and a lot of love for our country. There’s a lot of love for our country.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is here tonight. Come here, Ryan. (Applause.) Ryan is an Eagle Scout from Big Sky Country in Montana. (Applause.) Pretty good. And by the way, he is doing a fantastic job. He makes sure that we leave our national parks and federal lands better than we found them, in the best Scouting tradition. So thank you very much, Ryan. (Applause.)
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, of Texas, an Eagle Scout from the Great State. (Applause.) The first time he came to the national jamboree was in 1964. He was very young then. And Rick told me just a little while ago, it totally changed his life. So, Rick, thank you very much for being here. And we’re doing a lot with energy. (Applause.)
And very soon, Rick, we will be an energy exporter. Isn’t that nice — an energy exporter? (Applause.) In other words we’ll be selling our energy instead of buying it from everybody all over the globe. So that’s good. (Applause.) We will be energy dominant. And I’ll tell you what, the folks in West Virginia who were so nice to me, boy, have we kept our promise.  We are going on and on. So we love West Virginia. We want to thank you.
Where’s West Virginia by the way? (Applause.) Thank you.
Secretary Tom Price is also here. Today Dr. Price still lives the Scout Oath, helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy as our Secretary of Health and Human Services. And he’s doing a great job. And hopefully, he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us, folks. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: By the way, you going to get the votes?
He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better — otherwise, I’ll say, Tom, you’re fired. I’ll get somebody. (Applause.)
He better get Senator Capito to vote for it. You got to get the other senators to vote for it. It’s time. After seven years of saying repeal and replace Obamacare, we have a chance to now do it. They better do it. Hopefully they’ll do it. 
As we can see just by looking at our government, in America, Scouts lead the way. And another thing I’ve noticed — and I’ve noticed it all my life — there is a tremendous spirit with being a Scout, more so than almost anything I can think of. So whatever is going on, keep doing it. It’s incredible to watch. Believe me. (Applause.)
Each of these leaders will tell you that their road to American success — and you have to understand, their American success, and they are a great, great story was paved with the patriotic American values as traditions they learned in the Boy Scouts. And some day, many years from now, when you look back on all of the adventures in your lives, you will be able to say the same: I got my start as a Scout just like these incredibly great people that are doing such a good job for our country. So that’s going to happen. (Applause.)
Boy Scout values are American values, and great Boy Scouts become great, great Americans. As the Scout Law says: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal” — we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that. 
AUDIENCE: “helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: That was very impressive. (Laughter.) You’ve heard that before.
But here you learn the rewards of hard work and perseverance. Never ever give up, never quit. Persevere. Never, ever quit.
You learn the satisfaction of building a roaring campfire, reaching a mountain summit, or earning a merit badge after mastering a certain skill. There’s no better feeling than an achievement that you’ve earned with your own sweat, tears, resolve, hard work. There’s nothing like it. Do you agree with that?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m waving to people back there so small I can’t even see them. Man, this is a lot of people. Turn those cameras back there, please. That is so incredible.
By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive crowd, record-setting is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero? (Applause.)
The fake media will say: President Trump — and you know what this is — President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.
That’s some — that is some crowd. (Applause.)
Fake media. Fake news. Thank you.  And I’m honored by that, by the way, all of you people they can’t even see you. So thank you. I hope you can hear.
Through scouting you also learn to believe in yourselves — so important — to have confidence in your ability, and to take responsibility for your own life. When you face down new challenges, and you will have plenty of them, develop talents you never thought possible, and lead your teammates through daring trials, you discover that you can handle anything. And you learn it by being a scout. It’s great. (Applause.)
You can do anything. You can be anything you want to be. But in order to succeed, you must find out what you love to do. You have to find your passion. No matter what they tell you — if you don’t — I love you, too. I don’t know. It’s a nice guy. (Applause.) Hey, what am I going to do? He sounds like a nice person. He, he, he, he. Thank you. I do. I do love you.
AUDIENCE: We love Trump! We love Trump! We love Trump!
THE PRESIDENT: By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree? 
THE PRESIDENT: And we’ll be back. We’ll be back. The answer is no, but we’ll be back.
In life, in order to be successful, and you people are well on the road to success, you have to find out what makes you excited. What makes you want to get up each morning and go to work? You have to find it.
If you love what you do and dedicate yourself to your work, then you will gain momentum, and look — you have to, you need to. The word momentum — you will gain that momentum, and each success will create another success. The word momentum.
I’ll tell you a story that’s very interesting for me when I was young. There was a man named William Levitt — Levittowns, you have some here, you have some in different states. Anybody ever hear of Levittown? (Applause.) And he was a very successful man. He was a homebuilder — became an unbelievable success, and got more and more successful. And he built homes, and at night he’d go to these major sites with teams of people and he’d scour the sites for nails and sawdust and small pieces of wood. And they’d clean the site so when the workers came in the next morning, the sites would be spotless and clean, and he did it properly. And he did this for 20 years, and then he was offered a lot of money for his company.
And he sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. At the time especially — this was a long time ago — sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that because you’re Boy Scouts, so I’m not going to tell you what he did.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Should I tell you? Should I tell you?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life. So — look at you. Who would think this is the Boy Scouts, right?
So he had a very, very interesting life, and the company that bought his company was a big conglomerate. And they didn’t know anything about building homes, and they didn’t know anything about picking up the nails and the sawdust and selling it — and the scraps of wood. This was a big conglomerate based in New York City, and after about a ten year period they were losing a lot with it. It didn’t mean anything to them, and they couldn’t sell it.
So they called William Levitt up and they said, would you like to buy back your company, and he said yes, I would. He so badly wanted it, he got bored with this life of yachts and sailing and all of the things he did in the south of France and other places. You won’t get bored, right? You know, truthfully, you’re workers. You’ll get bored too. Believe me. (Applause.) Of course, having a good few years like that isn’t so bad. (Applause.) But what happened is he bought back his company, and he bought back a lot of empty land. And he worked hard in getting it zoning, and he worked hard on starting to develop.
And in the end he failed, and he failed badly. Lost all of his money. He went personally bankrupt, and he was now much older. And I saw him at a cocktail party, and it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party. It was the party of Steve Ross who was one of the great people — he came up and discovered — really founded — Time Warner, and he was a great guy. He had a lot of successful people at the party.
And I was doing well so I got invited to the party. I was very young, and I go in — but I’m in the real estate business — and I see 100 people, some of whom I recognize and they’re big in the entertainment business. And I see, sitting in the corner, was a little old man who was all by himself. Nobody was talking to him. I immediately recognized that that man was the once great William Levitt of Levittown, and I immediately went over — I wanted to talk to him more than the Hollywood show business communications people.
So I went over and talked to him, and I said, Mr. Levitt, I’m Donald Trump. He said I know. I said, Mr. Levitt, how are you doing? He goes, not well, not well at all. And I knew that, but he said not well at all. And he explained what was happening and how bad it has been and how hard it has been. And I said what exactly happened? Why did this happen to you? You’re one of the greats ever in our industry. Why did this happen to you? And he said, Donald, I lost my momentum. I lost my momentum. A word you never hear when you’re talking about success. When some of these guys that never made ten cents, they’re on television giving you things about how you’re going to be successful, and the only thing they ever did was a book and a tape.
But I’ll tell you, it was very sad, and I never forgot that moment. And I thought about it, and it’s exactly true. He lost his momentum. Meaning, he took this period of time off long — years — and then when he got back, he didn’t have that same momentum. In life, I always tell this to people, you have to know whether or not you continue to have the momentum, and if you don’t have it that’s okay. Because you’re going to go on and you’re going to learn and you’re going to do things that are great. But you have to know about the word momentum.
But the big thing: Never quit. Never give up. Do something you love. When you do something you love — as a Scout I see that you love it. But when you do something that you love you’ll never fail. What you’re going to do is give it a shot again and again and again. You’re ultimately going to be successful, and remember this, you’re not working. Because when you’re doing something that you love like I do — of course I love my business, but this is a little bit different. Who thought this was going to happen? We’re having a good time. We’re doing a good job. (Applause.) Doing a good job. But when you do something that you love, remember this, it’s not work. 
So you’ll work 24/7, you’re going to work all the time, and at the end of a year you’re not really working. You don’t think of it as work. When you’re not doing something that you like or when you’re forced in to do something that you really don’t like, that’s called work. And it’s hard work and tedious work.
So as much as you can, do something that you love. Work hard, and never ever give up, and you’re going to be tremendously successful. Tremendously successful. (Applause.)
Now with that, I have to tell you our economy is doing great. Our stock market has picked up — since the election November 8th. Do we remember that date? (Applause.) Was that a beautiful date? (Applause.) What a date. Do you remember that famous night on television, November 8th, where they said — these dishonest people — where they said there is no path to victory for Donald Trump? They forgot about the forgotten people. By the way, they’re not forgetting about the forgotten people anymore. They’re going crazy trying to figure it out. But I told them, far too late. It’s far too late.
But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say? (Applause.)
And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College — popular vote is much easier. Because New York, California, Illinois — you have to practically run the East Coast. And we did. We won Florida. We won South Carolina. We won North Carolina. We won Pennsylvania. (Applause.)
We won and won. So when they said, there is no way to victory, there is no way to 270. I went to Maine four times because it’s one vote, and we won. But we won — one vote. I went there because I kept hearing we’re at 269. But then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years — Michigan came in.
And we worked hard there. My opponent didn’t work hard there because she was told —
THE PRESIDENT: She was told she was going to win Michigan, and I said, well, wait a minute, the car industry is moving to Mexico. Why is she going to move — she’s there. Why are they allowing it to move? 
And by the way, do you see those car industry — do you see what’s happening, how they’re coming back to Michigan? They’re coming back to Ohio. They’re starting to peel back in. (Applause.)
And we go to Wisconsin — now, Wisconsin hadn’t been won in many, many years by a Republican. But we go to Wisconsin, and we had tremendous crowds. And I’d leave these massive crowds. I’d say, why are we going to lose this state?
The polls — that’s also fake news. They’re fake polls. But the polls are saying — but we won Wisconsin.  (Applause.) So I have to tell you what we did, in all fairness, is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for Make America Great Again. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: And I’ll tell you what, we are, indeed, making America great again. What’s going on is incredible. (Applause.)
We had the best jobs report in 16 years. The stock market on a daily basis is hitting an all-time high. We’re going to be bringing back very soon trillions of dollars from companies that can’t get their money back into this country, and that money is going to be used to help rebuild America. We’re doing things that nobody ever thought was possible.
And we’ve just started. It’s just the beginning. Believe me. (Applause.)
In the Boy Scouts you learn right from wrong, correct?
THE PRESIDENT: You learn to contribute to your communities, to take pride in your nation, and to seek out opportunities to serve. You pledge to help other people at all times. (Applause.)
In the Scout Oath, you pledge on your honor to do your best and to do your duty to God and your country. (Applause.)
And by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying, merry Christmas again when you go shopping. Believe me. Merry Christmas. (Applause.)
They’ve been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying, merry Christmas again, folks.  (Applause.)
But the words duty, country, and God are beautiful words. In other words, basically what you’re doing is you’re pledging to be a great American patriot. (Applause.)
For more than a century that is exactly what our Boy Scouts have been. Last year you gave more than 15 million hours of service to helping people in your communities. (Applause.)
Incredible. That’s an incredible stat.
All of you here tonight will contribute more than 100,000 hours of service by the end of this jamboree — 100,000. (Applause.)
When natural disaster strikes, when people face hardship, when the beauty and glory of our outdoor spaces must be restored and taken care of, America turns to the Boy Scouts because we know that the Boy Scouts never, ever, ever let us down. (Applause.)
Just like you know you can count on me, we know we can count on you because we know the values that you live by. (Applause.)
Your values are the same values that have always kept America strong, proud, and free. And by the way, do you see the billions and billions and billions of additional money that we’re putting back into our military? Billions of dollars. (Applause.) New planes, new ships, great equipment for our people that are so great to us. We love our vets. We love our soldiers. And we love our police, by the way. Firemen, police — we love our police. (Applause.) Those are all special people. Uniformed services.
Two days ago, I traveled to Norfolk, Virginia to commission an American aircraft carrier into the fleet of the United States Navy. (Applause.) It’s the newest, largest, and most advanced aircraft carrier anywhere in the world, and it’s named for an Eagle Scout, the USS Gerald R. Ford.  (Applause.) Everywhere it sails, that great Scout’s name will be feared and revered, because that ship will be a symbol of American power, prestige, and strength. (Applause.)
Our nation honors President Gerald R. Ford today because he lived his life the scouting way. Boy Scouts celebrate American patriots, especially the brave members of our armed forces. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
American hearts are warmed every year when we read about Boy Scouts placing thousands and thousands of flags next to veterans’ gravesites all across the country. By honoring our heroes, you help to ensure that their memory never, ever dies. You should take great pride in the example you set for every citizen of our country to follow. (Applause.)
Generations of American Boy Scouts have sworn the same oath and lived according to same law. You inherit a noble American tradition, and as you embark on your lives, never cease to be proud of who you are and the principles you hold dear and stand by. Wear your values as your badge of honor. What you’ve done, few have done before you. What you’ve done is incredible. What you’ve done is admired by all. So I want to congratulate you, Boy Scouts. (Applause.)
Let your scouting oath guide your path from this day forward. Remember your duty. Honor your history. Take care of the people God put into your life, and love and cherish your great country. (Applause.)
You are very special people. You’re special in the lives of America. You’re special to me. But if you do what we say, I promise you that you will live scouting’s adventure every single day of your life, and you will win, win, win and help people in doing so. (Applause.)
Your lives will have meaning and purpose and joy. You will become leaders, and you will inspire others to achieve the dreams they once thought were totally impossible, things that you said could never, ever happen are already happening for you. And if you do these things — and if you refuse to give in to doubt or to fear — then you will help to make America great again. You will be proud of yourself, be proud of the uniform you wear, and be proud of the country you love. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE PRESIDENT: And never, ever forget, America is proud of you. (Applause.)
This is a very, very special occasion for me. I’ve known so many Scouts over the years. Winners. I’ve known so many great people. They’ve been taught so well, and they love their heritage. But this is very special for me. And I just want to end by saying very importantly: God bless you. God bless the Boy Scouts. God bless the United States of America.
Go out. Have a great time in life. Compete and go out and show me that there is nobody — nobody — like a Boy Scout.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END / 7:10 P.M. EDT
Wakefield High School, Arlington, Virginia, 12:06 P.M. EDT
Hello, everybody! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.
All right, everybody go ahead and have a seat. How is everybody doing today? (Applause.) How about Tim Spicer? (Applause.)
I am here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, from kindergarten through 12th grade. And I am just so glad that all could join us today. And I want to thank Wakefield for being such an outstanding host. Give yourselves a big round of applause. (Applause.)
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now — (applause) — with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little bit longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived overseas. I lived in Indonesia for a few years. And my mother, she didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school, 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.
Now, as you might imagine, I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. And a lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and she’d say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.” (Laughter.)
So I know that some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now, I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked about responsibility a lot.
I’ve talked about teachers’ responsibility for inspiring students and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and you get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with the Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, and supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working, where students aren’t getting the opportunities that they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world — and none of it will make a difference, none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities, unless you show up to those schools, unless you pay attention to those teachers, unless you listen to your parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. That’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education.
I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. Every single one of you has something that 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 great writer — maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper — but you might not know it until you write that English paper — that English class paper that’s assigned to you. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor — maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or the new medicine or vaccine — but you might not know it until you do your 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 cannot drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to train for it and work 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. The future of America depends on you. 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 and your skills and your intellect so you can help us old folks 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 it’s like. My father left my family when I was two 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. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and I felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been on school, and I did some things I’m not proud of, and I got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was — I was lucky. I got a lot of second chances, and I had the opportunity to go to college and law school and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, she has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, 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.
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 — none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. There is 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, because here in America, you write your own destiny. 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. Neither of her parents had gone to college. But she worked hard, earned good grades, and got a scholarship to Brown University — is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to becoming Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s had to endure 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. 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 in the city, she managed to get a job at a local health care 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.
And Jazmin, Andoni, and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They face challenges in their lives just like you do. In some cases they’ve got it a lot worse off than many of you. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their lives, 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 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 some 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 young people 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, by the way, I hope all of you are washing your hands a lot, and that you stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
But whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes you get that 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. Chances are you’re not going to be any of those things.
The truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject that you study. You won’t click with every teacher that you have. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right at this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s okay. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. J.K. Rowling’s — who wrote Harry Potter — her first Harry Potter book was rejected 12 times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed.”
These people succeeded because they understood that you can’t let your failures define you — you have to let your failures teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently the next time. So if you get into trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to act right. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at all 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. The same principle applies to your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right. You might have to read something a few times before you understand it. You definitely have to 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 because it shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and that then allows you to learn something new. So find an adult that you trust — a parent, a grandparent or teacher, a coach or a counselor — and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you, don’t ever give up on yourself, because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and they founded this nation. Young people. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google and Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask all of you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a President who comes here in 20 or 50 or 100 years say about what all of you did for this country?
Now, your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books and the equipment and the computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part, too. So I expect all of you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down. Don’t let your family down or your country down. Most of all, don’t let yourself down. Make us all proud.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)
END / 12:22 P.M. EDT
 Press reports: more than 30,000 students and leaders were at the event. Not 45,000.
 “Who the hell”? Cursing.
 He said he would not talk politics and here he is, talking politics.
 Dig at news media.
 Allusion to West Virginia voting for Trump in November.
 Obamacare. Threatens Secretary Tom Price. Obamacare. Senate votes.
 Trump alludes to his complaints about disloyalty.
 Another dig at news media regarding crowd size. “Fake news” not once but several times.
 Reference to Obama.
 “Me, me, and more me” in 10 paragraphs – the longest sustained thought in the speech. Analysis of the anecdote.
 More “me, me and me” with reference to election day. Six more paragraphs, with his prompting the Scouts to “boo” Hilary Clinton.
 More “fake news” and continuation of 2016.
 War on Christmas.
Featured image: Obama Whitehouse Archives