As the mother of two young children, I digested with great interest the speech President Obama delivered to a group of school children today. With the exception of a few FaceBook status updates indicating that some people disapprove of the speech, I decided not to read or listen to any commentary before sharing my own.
I think the principles contained in the speech are exactly what every person, regardless of age or ethnicity, needs to hear, take to heart and act on. I cannot find anything in the speech that is in any way objectionable.
What's All The Fuss?
The fact that there's any controversy at all has me thinking, What’s wrong with accountability? Why not remind young people that life requires something of them; that success takes hard work? That they are responsible for their home work, even when they don’t see the point in doing it? That they can choose to respond to life's challenges in ways that either minimize or intensify those challenges? What's all the fuss?
Don’t get me wrong; I know that millions of American youngsters arrived at school hungry this morning, reside in broken homes and have limited positive role models. And I do not agree with everything President Obama is doing.
But I don't think the points made in the speech are political issues. In fact, I think the speech could form the basis for an inspiring commencement address. I even wonder whether people like Tony Robbins, Joel Osteen or Stephen Covey would be criticized for delivering the same speech.
Life's Tough, But …
Life is hard sometimes. It is painful and often terribly unfair. Shame on us that any child in this wealthy country of ours goes to school hungry or waits for a school bus in sub-zero temperatures without a warm coat.
But that’s no reason to abdicate our responsibility as parents and leaders to challenge them to rise above their circumstances. If we excuse ourselves from holding young people accountable, they will excuse themselves from being accountable.
Improvement is a Choice
No one is entitled to any particular standard of living, but a better life doesn’t just happen.
You may have to get up earlier or stay up later than everyone else.
You may have to take three steps backward in order to take one step forward.
You may have to mow lawns in extremely hot temperatures to save money for the car that can get you to the junior college, that will pave the way for the Bachelor’s degree.
You may have to humble yourself and ask someone to help you.
Until a youngster realizes that he is accountable, at least in part, for how his life turns out, he will forever blame everything and everyone else for any misfortune he experiences.
We must encourage young people to exercise these and other proactive options in order to achieve in life, especially if we are going to adequately prepare them for entrepreneurship — as we must.
The Heart of the Matter
I'm writing in the first person because I think it's important to consider these as lessons in my own personal life.
- Nothing anyone else does to or for me will matter unless I fulfill my responsibilities and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
- I never have an excuse for not trying.
- I must develop my talents, skills and intellect so I can help solve my most difficult problems.
- Success is hard. No one’s born being good at things. I become good at things through hard work.
- What am I going to do to make a contribution?
I’m will take some time today to learn what others find objectionable about this speech. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile –
Question: Did you read the above 5 points out loud and in the first person? If so, did it have an effect on you? Do you find any aspects of the speech objectionable? If so, which ones? What am I missing?