Students react to Obama's speech on education


Posted on September 8, 2009 at 4:51 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 15 at 5:13 PM

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(WHAS11) - At the surface President Obama's speech looked innocent, telling students to stay in school and do their best in life.

However, critics called it socialism and politically motivated.

So, we asked JCPS students what they thought.

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President Barack Obama says, "Every single one of you has something to offer and you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is."

About 35 law and government students watched President Barack Obama's speech with the rest of the nation.

A webcast in teacher Joe Gutmann's class.

His students are predominantly African American.

However, Obama's speech touched upon issues that go beyond race and focused on education and overcoming failures.

Central High School Junior, Jalyn Hewitt says: "If you fail it's ok to get back up and face that mistake and keep going so you can succeed."

Kevin Cornelius is also in his junior year. Cornelius says, "It shows us that we can be a president. We can be important like that anybody can. All it takes is time and effort."

Consider this, the feds estimate a 10% dropout rate around the United States.

Kentucky falls at roughly 4% and JCPS at 6.5%

And more than 75% of students at Central High receive a free or reduced price lunch with about 40% for all JCPS students.

With that challenge, many felt inspired by Obama's own financial struggles growing up in a single parent home.

Cornelius adds, "His mother had to take care of him by herself. That's stuff I see happen every day like every single day in my life. If he can do it, we can do it."

Law and government teacher Joe Gutmann says, "One of his focuses is on the workplace and workforce."

Gutmann encourages his students highlighting seven habits of highly effective people including a win-win situation and being proactive which are qualities re-enforced by Obama's address.

Not everyone agreed as some conservatives even called it socialism, motivated by politics.

One parent argues: "There does seem to be a real significant agenda that not everyone agrees with."

Another says, "I think every parent is entitled to their own opinion. If they don't want their kids watching it. That's fine."

Christian Russell, a Central High School senior, addressed the controversy.

She says, "If you're Republican and I'm a Democrat... you tell me you need to go to school. You're not telling me anything wrong."

Kentuckiana schools displayed Obama's 15 minute address on a voluntary basis and if parents didn't want their kids to watch, they were given alternative class exercises.