Obama's speech to students had sound advice

The president urged students to take responsibility for their education and cautioned them about their Internet postings.

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When President Obama gave a back-to-school address at Wakefield High School in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday that was broadcast in classrooms across the nation -- including some in Walla Walla -- he was quickly roasted by critics who claimed he was using the forum to push his political agenda.

Frankly, every president -- Republican or Democrat -- uses just about all of their public appearances to promote their agenda in some form. And many have done it from schools. But Obama's big issue -- health-care reform -- is so controversial that he is now getting heat even before he opens his mouth

Still, Obama's staff didn't do him any favors when his advance team offered guidance to school officials across the nation suggesting students compose essays stating how they could help "support" Obama.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was with Obama at the D.C. school, agreed mistakes were made and the essay suggestion was wrongheaded.

But, politics aside, Obama is the president. The president should be a role model for our children. And, on this day, the president had some important things to say that could benefit the students and their parents.

"There is no excuse for not trying," Obama said in the speech, adding students must be individually responsible for their education, and that it's important to work hard, pay attention in school and complete assignments.

"Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it," Obama said. "The truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject that you study. You won't click with every teacher that you have. 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."

In addition to the pep talk, Obama also gave students some great advice. The president told students to "be careful what you post on Facebook. Whatever you do, it will be pulled up later in your life."

That message might not resonate with teenagers, many of whom have a tough time thinking beyond today. However, their parents should understand how important a reputation can be to a career -- and to a good life.

The Internet is a powerful tool. The words and pictures posted on Facebook, MySpace or any other place on the Web will linger for years. Parents should make a point of talking to their children about what is appropriate and inappropriate to post on the Internet. Parents should get their own Facebook and MySpace accounts to understand what their children are doing. And they shold take the time to view what their kids are posting.

Obama's concerns about the impact the Internet will have on the lives of our children isn't rooted in politics. It's common sense.

Parents, regardless of their political views, should embrace the president's advice to students about using the Internet responsibly and taking responsibility for their education.

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