Advice from the top: Newton students tune in to Obama speech

COVINGTON - Students in Newton County's public schools had a chance to watch President Barack Obama's National Address to American School Children on Wednesday.

In order to not interrupt students' lunches when it originally aired at noon Tuesday, the Newton County School System told schools they could air the speech Wednesday; students also had the choice to opt out if they did not want to watch it.

"I like to think that the students are open to hearing from the nation's leader, whatever their political ideals," said Aaron Robinson, an Advanced Placement macroeconomics teacher at Newton High School. "I'd like them to keep an open mind and be informed on issues."

During the speech, Obama gave advice to students regarding staying in school and charged them with setting goals and keeping them.

"No matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it," he said. "You cannot drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You've got to train for it and work for it and learn for it."

He told them how he wasn't such a great student because of his absent father and told stories of other notable figures who have struggled but continued to work hard to become successful.

"J.K. Rowling, who wrote 'Harry Potter,' her first 'Harry Potter' book was rejected 12 times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team," he said. "These people succeeded because they understood that you can't let your failures define you - you have to let your failures teach you."

After the speech at Newton High School, hundreds of students who had gathered in the auditorium to watch it clapped and cheered before they headed back to class. Information about the number of students who chose to opt out of watching the speech or absentee numbers were unavailable Wednesday.

Rashad "Airion" Crawford, a ninth-grader, said the speech inspired him to continue being a successful student and he hopes it does the same for his fellow classmates.

"(Obama) is telling the truth. We should pay attention and try to be more successful," said Crawford, a JROTC student who plans to one day enter the military. "People should listen, and I'm glad the teachers took the time out of class to let us watch this."

The Georgia Department of Education asked schools to tie the speech to their lesson plans.

Robinson said his class often talks about national and political issues such as unemployment, inflation and Obama's health care policy, most recently, and how they affect the economy. Students also held discussions before, during and after the speech in their classes.

Shane Smith, a senior at Newton High School, said those who think Obama is trying to be the "enemy" and push his health care plan on students by giving the speech are wrong and "paranoid."

"Obama really is trying to boost morale on students and not promote health care reform," he said. "Obama is just trying to do the best he can for our country."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.