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Around the country, schools took different approaches to the speech. In Marion County, schools generally left it up to teachers to decide if they wanted to show the speech.
According to local principals, some parents did request that their children not hear the speech. China Grundy, a sixth grader at Lebanon Middle School, said she didn't understand why it was an issue. "It was perfectly good," she said after she saw the speech Friday. Grundy was one of four Lebanon Middle students who spoke with the Enterprise about their impressions of the speech. In general, they had a positive opinion of what they heard. "It was a really good, educational speech," eighth-grader Rebekah Taylor said. Obama delivered his speech Sept. 8 at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. The Lebanon Middle School students heard him say that they had to take responsibility for their own education. "It's not all up to the teachers," Taylor said. "It's up to the students as well." In his remarks, Obama said that students will need an education no matter what they decide to do in the future. Seventh-grader Lindsey Buckman, who said she wants to become a teacher or a nurse, agreed that education is important for a career. "Nobody's going to see you walking on the street and say, 'Do you want a job?' You really got to be successful [in school]," Buckman said. The local students said they know students who work hard and others who goof off. They also said they realize that working hard in school will help them reach their goals. "You want to be able to take care of your family when you grow up," Buckman said. Obama shared some examples of individuals who worked hard to become successful. One of those people was Jazmin Perez, who couldn't speak any English when she started school. After years of dedication, Perez graduated from Brown University and is now working toward becoming a doctor. Eighth-grader Fernanda Ponce said she found that story amazing. Ponce's family moved from Vera Cruz, Mexico, to the United States when she was 7 years old. Like Perez, Ponce said she didn't speak any English when she first enrolled in American schools. Grundy asked Ponce if she was scared. Ponce said she was. She said at first she didn't know what people were saying or if they were talking about her. When people asked her questions, she couldn't answer because she didn't know what to say. But she didn't give up, and eventually, she started to understand. "One day you're actually speaking it and writing it, reading and being able to actually understand what your teachers are saying," Ponce said. Now, she is thinking of becoming a doctor, too. In doing that, she would be the first person in her family to go to college, and she said her parents are supportive of her dream. Although learning English involved some struggles, she's also seen how it could give her an advantage later in life. "I'm lucky that I know two languages because I have more opportunities to get a good job," Ponce said. "That's what my mom always tells me." The President spoke about people like J.K. Rowling (the author of the Harry Potter books) and Michael Jordan (who was recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame) who struggled before they enjoyed success. Taylor could relate to that in her own life through softball. She said she took up the sport when she was older than most players, which meant she didn't play tee-ball first. Because of that, she spent more time practicing to catch up with her teammates. "It's like they say. You learn from your mistakes," Taylor said. Buckman related it to something even simpler: learning to tie her shoes when she was younger. "You keep trying and finally you get it," she said. In her own way, Grundy said people's attitude toward education is just as important. "If you are going to succeed you can't be like, 'I think I'm going to succeed' or 'Maybe I'm going to succeed,'" she said. "If you are to succeed, go ahead and say, 'Yeah, I'm going to succeed.'" Grundy also said she would like to become a plastic surgeon or a medical examiner. Taylor added that working hard in school now (such as getting in Advanced Placement classes in high school) will help her get into college, which in turn, will help her become a lawyer or a counselor. "I'm willing to put as many years in that I need to get a good degree," she said. "That way I can either start my own business or my own firm or have a better chance of getting into a position." Obama concluded his remarks by encouraging the students not to give up when things seem difficult. Ponce indicated that the speech helped her appreciate her education even more than she did. "It made me look different at school, and it made me feel different," she said. "It made me realize what I have is an opportunity, and I should value it. And go for it until I'm successful." Editor's note: The text of President Obama's speech is available online at www.lebanonenterprise.com.