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Obama to push kids to work hard in 'back-to-school' speech

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The president will urge students to make the most of their education
  • Obama travels to Philadelphia for his second "back-to-school" speech
  • Last year, conservatives worried Obama would push a political agenda

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama will deliver his second "back-to-school" message to the nation's students Tuesday, but this year, no one's complaining.

The speech -- to be delivered at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- encourages students to make the most of their education opportunities.

"Nobody gets to write your destiny but you," Obama will say, according to a text of the speech released Monday night by the White House. "Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is beyond your reach. So long as you're willing to dream big. So long as you're willing to work hard. So long as you're willing to stay focused on your education."

Obama goes on to emphasize the importance of education in the text, saying it "never has been more important."

"I'm sure there will be times in the months ahead when you're staying up late cramming for a test, or dragging yourselves out of bed on a rainy morning, and wondering if it's all worth it," he will say, according to the prepared remarks. "Let me tell you, there is no question about it. Nothing will have as great an impact on your success in life as your education."

Last year, his first as president, Obama's plan to deliver a similar message prompted an unexpected backlash from conservatives who worried he would push students to support his political agenda. However, the speech Obama delivered at a Virginia school included no political references and was welcomed by conservatives.

This year's speech also focuses on urging students to work hard in order to achieve their goals.

"More and more, the kinds of opportunities that are open to you will be determined by how far you go in school," Obama will say, according to the prepared remarks. "In other words, the farther you go in school, the farther you'll go in life. And at a time when other countries are competing with us like never before; when students around the world are working harder than ever, and doing better than ever; your success in school will also help determine America's success in the 21st century."

He will call on students to meet their responsibilities for school by showing up on time, paying attention in class, doing their homework, studying for exams and staying out of trouble, according to the text.

"I wasn't always the best student when I was younger; I made my share of mistakes," Obama will say, going on to describe a scolding from his mother about the need for more effort.

"It was pretty jolting, hearing my mother say that," the president will say, according to the prepared text. "But eventually, her words had their intended effect. I got serious about my studies. I made an effort. And I began to see my grades -- and my prospects -- improve. And I know that if hard work could make the difference for me, it can make the difference for you, too."

He will call for hard work and taking on new challenges, with specific encouragement to rebound from disappointment and failure to try again.

"So, what I want to say to you today -- what I want all of you to take away from my speech -- is that life is precious, and part of its beauty lies in its diversity," the president will say. "We shouldn't be embarrassed by the things that make us different. We should be proud of them. Because it's the things that make us different that make us who we are. And the strength and character of this country have always come from our ability to recognize ourselves in one another, no matter who we are, or where we come from, what we look like, or what abilities or disabilities we have."

Some of the controversy last year involved a proposed lesson plan created by the Education Department to accompany the address. An initial version of the plan recommended that students draft letters to themselves discussing "what they can do to help the president."

The letters "would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals," the plan stated.

After the criticism from conservatives, the White House distributed a revised version encouraging students to write letters about how they can "achieve their short-term and long-term education goals."