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Riverside kids learn from Obama's speech

September 8, 2009 4:51:08 PM PDT
Tuesday morning, an address from the president was given to students.The president's message came through at Commonwealth Elementary, even though their video signal dropped out. They listened by radio and heard a repeat by visiting official with the U.S. Department of Education.

"I believe that I can actually accomplish my goals now," says a Commomwealth student.

The president's speech was also heard at Patricia Beatty Elementary in Riverside.

"I don't think any president has done that before and it's really nice that he's saying that to us," said Jonah Fernandez, a sixth grader at Beatty Elementary.

President Barack Obama told students to set goals and reminded them not to give up.

Mrs. Boling hopes this message from the president will get through to her kids.

"What was confirming for me was all of a sudden, he was saying the same things I've been saying, like attend school, read and do all the things you need to do to be successful," said Boling.

Last week, a notice went home to parents informing them about the president's speech, if they signed it and returned it they could opt out.

Parents seemed to be divided on the issue.

"It's indoctrination. And I think he should stay out of the classroom and get on with the business of trying to repair the economy," says Brian McGuire, a Glendale parent.

"He's got an inspirational story and I think he's the best President to inspire kids," says Lori Lee, another parent.

About 40 percent of students didn't attend. These students were placed in classrooms that did not show the speech.

Teachers could also decide on their own whether they wanted to show the president's speech.

For those who did attend, there was a lot to take in.

"It's gonna make me try much harder," said Fernandez, who added that he did not want to let the president down.

Some critics had called for a nationwide boycott. Later the toned softened but only after the White House released an advanced copy of the speech.

"I think that there is a place for the President of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children," says Laura Bush, the former first lady.

Florida Republican Jim Greer also expressed his support after first opposing the speech.

"The speech is a speech that any president should give and my kids will be listening to it," says Greer.

At least one school district plans a follow up. The superintendent of San Bernardino City Schools says that he personally will visit the homes of students who have not been coming to school, students who are at risk.

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