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School talk will urge hard work

Amid concern, White House releases transcript early

Tom Hamburger Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – Conservative activists blasted it as socialist. Worried parents called for boycotts. School administrators struggled over whether to let students hear it.

But in the “back to school” speech Barack Obama plans to give today, he will do what American presidents have done before: Urge students to work hard, stay in school and follow their dreams.

“If you quit on school, you’re not just quitting on yourself; you’re quitting on your country,” Obama will say in the speech, which is loaded with similar exhortations.

The White House released a transcript of the president’s remarks Monday afternoon in hopes of neutralizing the voices that have charged he was promoting a political agenda.

In the transcript of the school speech, Obama cites the importance of education as an equalizer, the power of social networking tools and the importance of working hard and taking personal responsibility.

He plans to talk of the challenges faced by young people in a media culture that seems to offer opportunities to get rich quick.

“I know that sometimes you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work,” the president will say. “… But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.”

Obama’s speech draws on his own experiences to support the notion that education is the key to personal success and to the success of the nation.

Math and science, he will say, will help young people “develop new energy technologies and protect our environment.” He will also call for young people to battle poverty and injustice.

Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, who said last week he was “absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology,” said Monday he now favored the speech after changes the White House made to supporting materials for teachers and to the speech itself.

Former first lady Laura Bush said Monday she supported Obama’s decision to address the nation’s schoolchildren.

“There’s a place for the president of the United States to talk to schoolchildren and encourage schoolchildren” to stay in school, Bush, a former teacher, said.

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