Appleton school students hear Obama’s speech

A little hard work can help anyone overcome hurdles to academic success.

That’s the lesson Barbara Williams’ class of third-graders at Appleton Elementary School said it learned from President Barack Obama’s second annual back-to-school speech.

Appleton’s second- through fifth-graders watched the address on a television in the school library Tuesday morning as the president’s speech was broadcast live from a school in Philadelphia. Kindergartners and first-graders watched the speech in another room. Students whose parents did not allow them to view the speech read books down the hall.

Parents were given the option last week to sign a paper permitting their children to leave the room during the president’s speech.

Appleton Principal Mark Schmalz said a “small percentage” of parents went that route.

Last year, Schmalz received a half-dozen calls from parents concerned about students watching the president’s first speech to school children. He received no calls this year.

“I think people saw last year it wasn’t controversial,” Schmalz said. “It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, I think everyone can agree hard work and education make America great.”

A room full of elementary students is bound to be full of squirming and thin attention spans, but Williams said her students got the gist of Obama’s speech.

“I think some of the kids get wiggly, but they get the meaning. The message will carry through to them every year,” she said.

The president’s 20-minute speech touched on the virtues of working hard even when times are tough, how students can succeed at even their least-favorite subjects, and his mother’s advice to him to put more effort into his school work when he was in high school.

“I think it was uplifting because it sends a powerful message to kids that they have to take control of their own lives,” Williams said.

Schools that had lunch during the president’s speech or do not have cable or Web-streaming access will screen the speech at a later date.


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