I’ve Read the President’s Speech: Amazing

This is the speech I expected the President to give to our children—excellent.

Given that he is not directing them to Christ, which would be the best counsel, his advice is a wonderful gift of common grace from God to the students of our land.

If you settle for the news headlines that say the president tells the kids to wash their hands and take care of the environment, you will miss the wisdom and courage in this speech. Within its spiritual limitations it is simply amazing.

You can read it all at the White House Site. Here are my excerpts.

  • I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn. 
  • I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox. 
  • But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. 
  • Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. 
  • And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. 
  • Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. 
  • Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. 
  • Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
  • And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it.
  • You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
  • And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. 
  • What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future. 
  • You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. 
  • You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. 
  • You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy. 
  • If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country. 
  • I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. 
  • But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. 
  • Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. 
  • Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right. 
  • But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. 
  • That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying. 
  • Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future. 
  • Today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. 
  • Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. 
  • I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things. 
  • But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
  • That’s OK.  Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. 
  • If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. 
  • So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals. 
  • And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
  • But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. 
  • So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
  • Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.