Politics & Government

Obama tells students to dream big, work hard in back to school address

President Barack Obama's back-to-school welcome to the nation's students created less controversy in North Texas this year as fewer parents objected to letting their children view the address and more districts made it available.

Obama spoke to students at an elite school in Philadelphia for about 20 minutes, and the speech was aired nationwide.

The president told students that "nothing — absolutely nothing — is beyond your reach. So long as you're willing to dream big. So long as you're willing to work hard. So long as you're willing to stay focused on your education."

At Arlington's Shackelford Junior High School on Tuesday, about 750 students viewed the address, either live or taped, depending on their lunch periods.

Only two parents requested that their children be exempt from watching, Principal Andy Hagman said. "It's just part of the school day," Hagman said. "I have sensed no controversy about this at all."

Students in Angelique Bell's seventh-grade math class sat quietly during the address, though a couple of girls put their heads down on their desks as soon as the room darkened.

One of Obama's talking points was that it is OK to be different. "So, what I want to say to you today — what I want all of you to take away from my speech — is that life is precious, and part of its beauty lies in its diversity," Obama said. "We shouldn't be embarrassed by the things that make us different. We should be proud of them. Because it's the things that make us different that makes us who we are."

Keller district students, too, watched Obama's address with little fanfare or controversy.

All 32,000 students in the district had the chance to view the speech, either live or on tape.

A year ago, many Keller parents objected to their children watching the speech during the school day, and about 5 percent requested that their children opt out.

This year, few parents expressed concerns, spokeswoman Shellie Johnson said.

In John Keigley's AP world history class at Fossil Ridge High School, students said Obama delivered a positive message. "It wasn't political like some people said it would be," said Audon Archibald, a 10th-grader. "He told kids straight up, 'You have to work hard for your future, and with hard work comes good things.'"

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