ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - In a pep talk that kept clear of politics, President Barack Obama on Tuesday challenged the nation's students to take pride in their education - and stick with it even if they don't like every class or must overcome tough circumstances at home.
"Every single one of you has something that you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer," Obama told students at Wakefield High School in suburban Arlington, Va., and children watching his speech on television in schools across the country. "And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is."
Presidents often visit schools, and Obama was not the first one to offer a back-to-school address aimed at millions of students in every grade.
"He said that we're the future, and he's right," said Mileena, a student at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, who wants to be a forensic scientist. "That's a president telling you, 'I care about you getting your education.' Just imagine what kids like us can do if we actually listen."
Yet this one was doused with controversy from the beginning, as several conservative organizations and many concerned parents warned Obama was trying to sell his political agenda.
That concern was caused in part by an accompanying administration lesson plan encouraging students to "help the president," which the White House later revised and Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged Tuesday was wrongheaded.
School districts in some areas decided not to provide their students access to his speech.