Obama delivers speech to America's students

(AP) - In a pep talk that kept clear of politics,President Barack Obama on Tuesday challenged the nation's studentsto take pride and ownership in their education - and stick with iteven if they don't like every class or must overcome toughcircumstances at home.

"Every single one of you has something that you're good at.Every single one of you has something to offer," Obama toldstudents at Wakefield High School in Washington and childrenwatching his speech on television in schools across the country."And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what thatis."

Presidents often visit schools, and Obama was not the first oneto offer a back-to-school address aimed at millions of students inevery grade. Yet this speech came with a dose of controversy, asseveral conservative organizations and many concerned parentswarned Obama was trying to sell his political agenda. That concernwas caused in part by an accompanying administration lesson planencouraging students to "help the president," which the WhiteHouse later revised.

Obama preceded his broad-scale talk with a meeting withWakefield students, where at one point he advised them to "becareful what you post on Facebook. Whatever you do, it will bepulled up later in your life."

Obama, accompanied by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, met withsome 40 students gathered in a school library before the speechcarried on ESPN and on the White House Web site.

"When I was your age," Obama said, "I was a little bit of agoof-off. My main goal was to get on the varsity basketball teamand have fun."

The uproar over his speech followed him across the PotomacRiver, as his motorcade was greeted by a small band of protesters.One carried a sign exclaiming: "Mr. President, stay away from ourkids."

During his meeting inside, one young person asked why thecountry doesn't have universal health insurance. "I think we needit. I think we can do it," Obama replied. The president said thecountry can afford to insure all Americans and that doing so willsave money in the long run.

Obama is not the first president to give such a school-openingtalk, but his plans seemed to almost immediately get plunged incontroversy. Critics accused him of overstepping his authority, andschool districts in some areas decided not to provide theirstudents access to his midday speech.

Duncan acknowledged Tuesday that some of the prepared guidancefor school officials included a suggestion that students couldcompose essays stating how they could help support Obama - an ideathe education secretary acknowledged was wrongheaded.

In his conversation with the Wakefield students, Obama said thatnot having a father at home "forced me to grow up faster."

To see the president's speech in its entirety, go to Channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.

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