Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Effort and Responsibility

President Obama made his first presidential commencement speech this week, and he offered some down-to-earth advice for the high school graduates in Kalamazoo, MI. He told them that they are likely to make mistakes, but that they must persevere. He noted that there may be occasions where they work hard, but to no avail. Why such seemingly negative words? His key message was, "Don't make excuses. Take responsibility not just for your successes. Take responsibility where you fall short as well" (

How refreshing it was to see someone encouraging our youth to avoid the blame game and stand up for both their good works and their mistakes. Claiming ownership is certainly one of the first keys to fixing, and learning from, our mistakes.  Lately, I've been in meetings where one segment of the education field will blame another for the current deficits in our system. Colleges are pointing at high schools, and high schools are pointing at elementary schools, and elementary schools are pointing at preschools, parents, etc. Rather than working on pointing the finger at others, we all need to stand up and be a part of the necessary change to help our youth grow into responsible citizens. I'm pleased that in this day and age we can admit to mistakes and yet still overcome them.

I'm also pleased that President Obama reinforced the principle of effort. Current research indicates that effort, more than talent or ability, is the necessary ingredient for student success. I believe we need to empower our youth with the understanding and skills to help them succeed in this new century. They need opportunities to practice perseverance, and the support system to help them overcome their mistakes. President Obama's speech sent the right message; now we need to put it into action.

Check out the full article detailing President Obama's address at The New York Times with the link below.

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