KALAMAZOO, Michigan (AP) — President Barack Obama is telling high school graduates not to make excuses, and to take responsibility for failures as well as successes.
In excerpts of remarks to be delivered Monday evening at Kalamazoo Central High School, Obama said that it’s easy to blame others when problems arise. “We see it every day out in Washington, with folks calling each other names and making all sorts of accusations on TV,” the president said.
He said the high school kids can and have done better than that.
The 1,700-student high school in southwest Michigan landed Obama as its commencement speaker after winning the national Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. It was among three finalists picked through public voting on the schools’ videos and essays, and the White House made the final selection.
WATCH MSNBC COVERAGE OF THE KALAMAZOO SPEECH HERE:
The administration cited Kalamazoo Central’s 80 percent-plus graduation rate, improvements in academic performance and a culturally rich curriculum.
“I think that America has a lot to learn from Kalamazoo Central about what makes for a successful school in this new century,” Obama said, listing community and parent involvement and high standards set by teachers.
“You could have made excuses — our kids have fewer advantages, our schools have fewer resources, so how can we compete? You could have spent years pointing fingers — blaming parents, blaming teachers, blaming the principal or the superintendent or the government,” the president said.
“But instead, you came together. You were honest with yourselves about where you were falling short. And you resolved to do better.”
Education is widely viewed as one hope for Michigan’s long-struggling economy. The state has had the nation’s highest unemployment rate for four consecutive years, including a 14 percent jobless rate in April. Thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost, many connected to the auto industry, and the state is trying to diversify its economy with alternative energy, biomedical and other jobs — most of which require education beyond high school.
The White House said more than 170,000 people voted in the contest. Cincinnati’s Clark Montessori Junior High and High School and the Denver School of Science and Technology in Colorado were the other finalists.
The school’s valedictorian, Cindy Lee, said she was excited but jittery about sharing the stage with the president.
“The whole school is excited about it. The whole community is excited. It’s on the news every single day,” Lee, 18, said last week. “And I’m also kind of nervous about giving a speech at the same time as the president.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.