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Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama Back to School Event

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The President: Hello everyone –how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.

I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.

Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”

So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you.

I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.

I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.  And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.  Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.

And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future.  What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment.  You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that –if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had.  There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.  Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school.  That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up.  No one’s written your destiny for you.  Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Young people like Jazmin Perez from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.

I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three.  He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer –hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.  And then there’s Shantell Steve from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.

Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up.  They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves.  And I expect all of you to do the same.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community.  Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work— that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.  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.

That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.

No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice.  It’s the same with your schoolwork.  You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.  And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself.  Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.  So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve?  What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?

Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Nurturing the "Grand" in Grandchildren

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By Karen Scott,
Executive Director
First 5 San Bernardino

How grandparents can help young children reach their full potential

A grandparent’s love and support has a positive impact on children, particularly in the early years of a child’s life. According to the Foundation for Grandparenting, when kids develop a strong bond with their grandparents, they feel more stable and even do better in school. Researchers have also found that these relationships between older and younger generations have long-term benefits for grandparents and grandchildren.

There are at least 56 million grandparents in the country, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting that more than 4.5 million children live with their grandparents. In honor of National Grandparents Day on September 13, First 5 San Bernardino recognizes the important role grandparents play in the lives of young children. Below are helpful tips on how grandparents can support their grandchildren in their early years.

Pas s on Traditions

Sharing stories helps develop a child’s mental, verbal and communication skills.

Share family stories with grandchildren.  Remember, children love to hear what their parents were like as kids!

Provide kids with wisdom and guidance – grandma and grandpa can be great role models.  Describe the “good old days” in

ways that help kids understand their own life and the world around them.

Move and Groove

Healthy eating and exercise are important. A grandparent can help a child develop a healthy lifestyle even at a very young age.

Keep physically fit together –indoors and outdoors – by stretching, playing hide-and-go-seek, dancing or walking around the neighborhood.  Limit a child’s time watching television, on the computer or playing videogames so they can have a more active lifestyle.

Pass the peas – or oranges, apples and broccoli! Help your grandchildren develop healthy eating habits by encouraging them to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Create Teachable Moments

Reading to children and playing creative games at an early age helps prepare them for success in school.

Play games like “peek-a-boo” when they are babies and word games when they are in preschool. Games help kids learn colors, shapes, numbers and letters in a fun way.

Read rhymes and stories or sing songs together. Choose books that encourage kids to touch and point to pictures.

Show kids how to play well with others. Teach cooperation and sharing by taking turns and working together to finish a project, put away toys or solve a puzzle.

First 5 San Bernardino encourages all grandparents and other caregivers to learn about local resources that can help young children. For more information, please call (909) 386-7706 or visit www.first5sanbernardino.org and www.first5california.com/parents.

Why African-American Men Fear The Police

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The recent arrest of prominent Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has put the spotlight squarely on the issue of police confrontation with African-American and Latino men and catapulted it into the national consciousness and daily discourse by President Obama’s assertion that the Cambridge police had acted “stupidly.” While most Blacks understood, others failed to grasp that this is the reality of life for most African-American men, especially those in urban communities across the U.S. An emotional and sometimes painful discussion of racial profiling, police brutality, and race relations, in general, is taking place in homes, in the media and among ordinary people.

In his latest book, The Most Dangerous Gang in America: The Police, author and social activist, Richard Jeanty tackles head-on the issue of police brutality. He documents example after example of cases where Latino and African-American men, and women, have lost their lives senselessly after coming into contact with the police.  “As a Black man,” Jeanty says, “I want people to understand what it feels like to be in my shoes. I know that I am a potential victim.” And it makes no difference if you are from the ‘hood’ or live in the suburbs, in your car or in your home, as Professor Gates discovered, and Earl Graves, Jr., another professional African-American man, found out when he was stopped, in 1995, and searched by Metro-North Police.  Jeanty adds, “Make no mistake, the message is loud and clear: no matter who you are in this society, as long as you are Black, you can still be stopped, searched and arrested by the police. And all Black men know, a seemingly minor interaction with the police can turn deadly.” Compiled from newspaper reports, The Most Dangerous Gang in America: The Police, re-visits several of the most notorious cases of murder by police: Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Alberta Spruil, Anthony Baez, and Ousmane Zongo.  In each case, unarmed Black and brown men and women were gunned down by the police, who, in many instances found some reason to justify their egregious behavior.

According to published reports, in New York City, Blacks accounted for 66% of those killed by the police between 2000 and 2007. And of 88 fatal shootings, only in one instance was an officer convicted of wrongdoing. In Detroit, another city with high police-involved killings, an average of 10 fatal shootings occurred between 1990 and 1998.  First published in 2007 with a focus on the New York Police Department, this new edition looks at police killings nationwide, from California to Florida and Kansas to Georgia.

The Most Dangerous Gang in America: The Police, examines issues such as:

·        Racial profiling

·        How the police hide behind procedure

·        Stereotypes of African- Americans

·        Police brutality towards gay men and lesbians

·        African-American cops and the ‘blue’ line

Following the murder of Amadou Diallo, University of Chicago assistant professor of psychology, Joshua Correl conducted a study to gauge how racial bias plays into a police officer’s decision to shoot a suspect. 270 police officers from 15 states, and 187 civilians were tested.  The study drew two conclusions: that police officers were less likely to shoot an unarmed man, regardless of race than the civilian testers but were quicker to decide not to shoot an unarmed white suspect than an unarmed Black suspect and slower to decide to shoot an armed white suspect than an armed Black suspect.

Says Jeanty, “Clearly, police involved killing of brown and Black people will continue until concrete steps are taken to bridge the gap between police officers and the people they are paid to serve. I truly hope that this book will get a dialogue started and maybe even set the motion for some action towards a resolution.”

Strategy for Finding Romance after Fifty -- 3 of 3 parts

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Richard O. Jones
It doesn’t take the world’s most observant looky lou to see that single seniors are on the rise. This statistic does not discriminate.  Singles going through sunset years alone can be seen at senior citizen recreational centers, in churches, restaurants, malls, museums, movie matinees, on cruises, the Las Vegas Strip, and practically everywhere else.

However, the most blatant exposition of seniors alone is in the personal ad section of newspapers, magazines, and Internet dating clubs. I have viewed hundreds of classified personal ads from various publications and websites and discovered a few counter productive similarities of lovelorn seniors.  At least 70% of the females require that their future companion is of their religious faith, 50% wants a mate that is tall and handsome, 40% require financial security, and 10 - 15% insist that he has no criminal past. Senior men, on the other hand, at a 75% rate require that their future companion is younger than they are and attractive, only 40% are concerned about her spirituality, and 20% has a prerequisite about her finances.

Let’s take a closer look at what these diehard home alone seniors.  The females want a man that is (1) a faithful believer of her religion, (2) tall and good looking, (3) financiallysitting pretty and (4) with a squeaky clean past. Men, for the most part, are fantasizing (1)          being the Prince Charming of sleeping beauty, secondly a good religious woman, and hopefully she’s not flat broke. These mindsets are selfish and self-defeating.

There is a continuously grown of baby boomers without mates.

These dire circumstances stimulate long-term depression, which, according to many psychological studies may trigger other mental and/or medical problems.

Since most seniors have a religious affiliation, I will address the religious aspect first. The Holy Bible states in Genesis 2:18 – The LORD God said, “It is not good for

the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Yet, a few seniors profess they will not compromise their wish list. No one, in good faith, can use the logic that

God in his or her life is sufficient because God himself said, “It is not good to be alone.” God then created woman for man. The Bible says: Genesis 2:25 - And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. In my opinion, this statement – they were both naked – extends to means pure, without artificial or superficial attraction, without insecurities or lure of material things. Their nakedness freed them of all earthly attractions and distractions. So religious seniors need to tear down their great wall of expectations – and begin to seek the fruits of the spirit in their future mate as mentioned in Gal.5: 22-23 Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

A senior females and males in search of a companion builds a high wall, of no value, around themselves by insisting that a mate is a faithful believer of their doctrine. If either is solid in their faith, they shouldn’t squander their few precious years concerned about what an, otherwise good and kind, mate spiritually believes, as long as the two respects each others right to religious choice as guaranteed by the constitution.  Seniors shouldn’t become snared by the term unevenly yoked unless they’re founding a church or oxen harnessed together. And the statistics are that seldom does both parties meet the high standards of the religion they claim to belong.

Therefore since neither is perfect anyway both should cut the piousness, vanity, and the materialism and seek down to earth companionship, honesty, and someone to grow old and cranky with.

(For strategic ways of meeting quality seniors other than online go to writer’s website and click Blog.)

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Strategy for Finding Romance after Fifty -- 2 of 3 parts

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Richard O. Jones
As a divorced senior with renewed interest in dating, I have discovered counterproductive strategies that senior singles employ, which serves to keep them unattached, though many profess contentment in their solitude.  Nevertheless there are actually millions of singles on Internet dating websites including hundreds of thousands of seniors. I am personally acquainted with three married couples including a pastor and his wife that met online. It is an easy, safe, and convenient method of prescreening potential mates prior to meeting them.

However, based on my empirical knowledge, successful relationships are an anomaly because the men and women online are exaggerating their good traits and failing to mention or downsizing their shortcomings.

For example, in my online profile, I stated that I don’t smoke and prefer a woman that does not smoke. Eventually a 60-year-old woman that claimed to be a nonsmoker contacted me. When we met, her clothing and hair had the hint of tobacco. Before I left her home, her adult son came home.  After our brief introduction, he asked his mother for a cigarette.

She sheepishly looked at me and said that she can quit anyway and only smoke one or two cigarettes a day. Although I replied that it was no big deal, I realized that her

quickness to prevaricate likely goes beyond her smoking. For her apparent prevarication habits, I decided to sidestep this friendship and we never became better acquainted.

According to several women that I’ve met online, most of the men they meet lie in their profiles.  Women have stated that some men tell such blatant lies that as soon as you meet them you see the discrepancy. For example, a couple women have told me that they met men who were at least two inches shorter than their profile claimed. Men typically lie about their true intentions, their professions, and age. One Black woman told me that she even met a white man that tried to deceive her that he was biologically Black.  One of the strategies that online seniors need to employ is truthfulness.  They need to adapt the attitude that they rather be rejected based on truth than accepted based on lies. Insecurity is the main reason online romance seekers lie.

However, the risk of being rejected is reduced when the truth is told.  No matter what personal trait or background a person is insecure about there are people that would accept them. In preparing for this article, I asked a 55-year-old woman if she would date a man if she knew that he was bisexual. It surprised me that she said that she could as long as the two of them used protection during sexual contact.

However, she stated that she would stop dating him if she discovered on her own that he was bisexual. The point is that when a person tells the truth, no matter how insecure the person feels they will find acceptance based on their honesty.


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