Sitting, waiting, hoping. Students at Turlock High drummed their fingers on desktops and watched the blank overhead projector in their United States history class hoping the Internet would work. “We are just waiting for the president to come on,” said U.S. history teacher Mark de la Motte, assuring his students. Two minutes later, the President appeared on the screen and a sigh of relief escaped the students.
President Barack Obama gave a speech at 9 a.m. Tuesday for students all over the nation to promote motivation, responsibility and staying in school.
The public high school graduation rate is currently at 68 percent in the nation, according to a study by the Urban Institute. Which means 32 percent of high school students are not graduating.
Obama’s speech touched on working hard for success, staying motivated through difficult times and not giving up on oneself or the country. His speech was about 20 minutes long.
“It helps me get through the day knowing he cares about us,” said junior Tristan Jordan. “He isn’t just worried about the bigger stuff like the economy right now, he is also worried about the smaller things like us, the younger generation.”
After his speech, Motte’s history class was silent. Motte opened up the class for discussion and many students expressed their support for Obama’s message.
“Did his message make sense?” Motte asked. “Have you heard this speech before from your parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, etc.?”
Most students nodded their head in agreement.
“He has a point,” said junior Freddy Mercado. “You shouldn’t give up on yourself and you should always strive to be the best.”
Most students understood Obama’s message and agreed with him.
“People tend to take things for granted, especially education,” said junior Ashley Corgiat.
Other students felt like they could personally relate to the president and his situation.
“I usually don’t like figures of authority, but Obama went through some tough times and now he is making something of himself. That shows me that anything is possible,” said junior Diamond Linan.
Linan said she felt inspired after hearing his speech and said she wished she was at Wakefield High School to see Obama give his speech in person.
Obama’s speech made junior Alexandria Valdez want to try harder in school because she could relate to him, she said.
Other students were inspired as well.
“It makes me feel important that he talked to us,” Jordan said.
She said it was great to show the speech during class time because it forced people who usually don’t care to hear what the president had to say. “Those people that don’t care about school are the people that needed to hear his inspiring words the most,” Jordan said. “They need to know that he cares about them too.”
All of Turlock High School’s students watched the president give his speech, said Dana Salles Trevethan, principal of Turlock High school. Students watched the speech in ninth grade English, 10th grade world history, 11th grade U.S. history or 12th grade economy and government. Students who did not want to watch the president give his speech were excused to the library during the speech.
Most local schools opted to show the president’s speech, although a few decided against it. Pitman High, Turlock Journal High and all Denair Unified School District campuses left the decision to show the speech up to individual teachers. Dutcher Middle School and Chatom Union School District administrators decided not the show the speech.
Chatom administration did receive complaints about not giving the students the opportunity to watch Obama’s speech.
“Our response to that was that we want to teach students to read and write
and we want to keep our eye on that ball,” said Jack Mayer, CUSD superintendent.
Due to the controversy surrounding the lesson plans released by the White House to accompany Obama’s speech, Turlock High decided to only show the speech then open it up for discussion afterward, said Trevethan.
“It was more about an observation and reflection activity. The school wanted to be neutral,” Trevethan said.
Motte said the message was more important than any lesson plan. If the message can push kids to do the right thing then it is worth it, he said.
“Everyone needs to be pushed in the right direction and that was Obama’s push today,” Linan said.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.