President Obama’s Speech on the Importance of Education and Self-Responsibility to American Students

Last Updated: 26 Apr 2023
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One of the most important and discussed topics in politics has always been education because of its decisive role in society. Education is the key stone for the generations to come and well educated citizens are a necessity for a successful society in the 21st century. Politicians also make education a high priority because they know it is where votes can be drawn. A politician who also is concerned about the matter of education is President Barrack Obama. And in his speech “Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama: Back to School Event” held in Arlington, Virginia on September 8, 2009, he addresses to the Americans students the importance of education and emphasizes that the responsibility to do well in school lies with the students themselves.

This is a responsibility that they have to meet, not only for their own sake but for the sake of their country. President Obama emphasizes the importance of education and self-responsibility to children from kindergarten to 12th grade. Children at that age can be difficult to address to, especially with such a big size of group, so Obama must use various approaches to make it possible. He talks to them as an equal so young audience can identify with him and not only see him as the President. He uses a simple and informal language with many repetitions and examples they can relate to. He starts out by saying “Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today?”(Page 1, line 1). He speaks directly to the audience to get their attention.

He needs the attention from the children and hold on them to get through with his message. He does that by gaining their respect for him and shows that he sincerely cares about them. In the beginning of the speech Obama tells about his story from when he was young. How he was raised by his mother who did not had any money to take him to school, so she had to give him lessons at home at 4:30 in the morning. He also mentions things he did he is not proud of that got him in troubles. Then Obama shares and opens up about his personal stories, he uses ethos in his arguments to increase his reliability with the audience. It makes it easier for Obama to get through with his message when the people he talks to have his respect.

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Obama starts stressing his message after he has achieved the audience’s attention. Obama has two main messages in his speech. The first one is that the self-responsibility of the education lies with the student. Maybe the parents and the teachers also have some responsibility for the student, but it all comes the student “none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities”(Page 2, line 30). The students will not have everything served for them; it is their turn to take action and take responsibility for their choices. The second one is that the students also have a responsibility for the nation. The nation depends on the students to get a well education.

The future of the nation lies with the students to be a functional part of the US society so the nation can operate and compete “What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.”(Page 2, lines 52-54). Obama is addressing to the students patriotic American inside them. Most American is raised to be patriotic and Obama knows hot to make use of it. Everybody wants to be a part of something that has an influence on the nation, and every student has the responsibility to their nation “We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect … If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.”(Page 2, lines 62-64).

Obama begins to speak about how hard work is the most important key to success. Everybody has the opportunity to succeed. Here he indirectly refers to the American Dream; with hard work you can accomplish everything. “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.”(Page 3, lines 88-90).

He uses himself and Michelle Obama, the first lady, while using pathos as examples of people who started from the button with bad conditions and build up to become successful. He comes up with three other cases than himself: “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”(Page 4, lines 105-107)

Obama uses the sponsorship effect to create ethos. He also uses Michael Jordan’s and J. K. Rowling’s story to get it out that you cannot succeed without failing. Obama uses persons who are idol to many so they get
inspired to try to accomplish the same success. He wants the students to understand that if they want to be successful, they need to set goals for themselves and take responsibility for their education for that to happen. Throughout the speech, Obama uses a number of different strategies to affect the broad group of audience. By use concrete example they can relate to with a language everybody is able to understand, he inspires and motivates the young people who is the future of the USA.

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President Obama’s Speech on the Importance of Education and Self-Responsibility to American Students. (2016, Jul 01). Retrieved from

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