June 7th, 2010
06:11 PM ET
8 years ago

Obama to grads: 'Don't make excuses'

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan arrive in Michigan on Monday.

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan arrive in Michigan on Monday.

(CNN) - When President Obama delivers the commencement address at Kalamazoo Central High School Monday night, he'll emphasize to the class of 2010 that he believes success is achieved through personal responsibility.

"Don't make excuses," Obama will say, according to excerpts released Monday afternoon by the White House. "Take responsibility not just for your successes, but for your failures as well."

"The truth is, no matter how hard you work, you won't necessarily ace every class or succeed in every job," Obama will say. "There will be times when you screw up, when you hurt the people you love, when you stray from your most deeply held values."

While Kalamazoo Central High School will graduate 280 students, 5,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony including Michigan's two Democratic senators, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, according to the White House.

Kalamazoo Central beat more than 1,000 schools in the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.

Read Obama's full excerpts as released by the White House, after the jump.

Office of the Press Secretary
June 7, 2010

Excerpts from President Barack Obama’s Commencement Address at Kalamazoo Central High School

“… I’m here tonight because after three rounds of competition, with more than 1,000 schools, and more than 170,000 votes cast, I know – and America now knows – what you’ve done at Kalamazoo Central.

Together as a community, you’ve embraced the motto of this school district: “Every child, every opportunity, every time,” because you believe, like I do, that every child – regardless of what they look like, where they come from, or how much money their parents have – every child who walks through your schoolhouse doors deserves a quality education.

And I’m here tonight because I think that America has a lot to learn from Kalamazoo Central about what makes for a successful school in this new century: Educators raising standards and inspiring their students to meet them. Community members stepping up as tutors and mentors and coaches. Parents taking an active interest in their kids’ education – attending those teacher conferences, turning off that TV, and making sure that homework gets done.

Our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is here tonight because these are the values – these are the changes – that he’s working to encourage in every school in this nation. This is the key to our future.

But the most important ingredient is you: students who raised their sights; who aimed high and invested yourselves in your own success. It’s no accident that so many of you received college admission letters, Class of 2010. Because you worked for it. You earned it.”


“…understand that your success in life won’t be determined just by what’s given to you, or what happens to you, but by what you do with all of that – by how hard you try; how far you push yourself; how high you’re willing to reach. Because true excellence comes only through perseverance.”


“…meaningful achievement, lasting success – that doesn’t happen in an instant. It’s not just about the twist of fate, or the lucky break, or the sudden stroke of genius. Rather, it’s about the daily efforts, the choices large and small that add up over time. It’s about the skills you build, the knowledge you accumulate, the energy you invest in every task, no matter how trivial or menial it may seem at the time.”

“… don’t make excuses. Take responsibility not just for your successes, but for your failures as well.

The truth is, no matter how hard you work, you won’t necessarily ace every class or succeed in every job. There will be times when you screw up, when you hurt the people you love, when you stray from your most deeply held values.

And when that happens, it’s the easiest thing in the world to start looking around for someone to blame. Your professor was too hard; your boss was a jerk; the coach was playing favorites; your friend just didn’t understand. We see it every day out in Washington, with folks calling each other names and making all sorts of accusations on TV.

This community could have easily gone down that road. You could have made excuses – our kids have fewer advantages, our schools have fewer resources, so how can we compete? You could have spent years pointing fingers – blaming parents, blaming teachers, blaming the principal or the superintendent or the government.

But instead, you came together. You were honest with yourselves about where you were falling short. And you resolved to do better – to push your kids harder, to open their minds wider, to expose them to all kinds of ideas and people and experiences.”


Filed under: Education • Michigan • President Obama
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. thor

    Don't do as i do,do as i say do What a wonderful politician !!!!

    June 7, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  2. LacrosseMom (the real one)

    That's right, President Obama, NO excuses! We, Americans, for need to stop blaming everyone else and take responsibility for our lives.

    June 7, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  3. gary

    It wonderful that the President would speak to a high school graduation instead of some Ivy League college. What a thrill for these young people!

    June 7, 2010 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  4. Gerry NH

    Why not Obama makes an excuse or blames someone else for all of his and his administrations failures.

    June 7, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  5. Carl

    What hypocrite! He blames Bush for anything and everything, and spends all of his energy deflecting any negative press...and what does he tell our children? "Don't make excuses" and "Take responsibility...for your failures...". Can we PLEASE get this lame excuse for the penultimate in what's wrong with American politics OUT OF OUR WHITE HOUSE???

    June 7, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  6. Karl in Charleston,SC

    Don't make excuses... like blaming your predessor?

    June 7, 2010 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  7. Donnatella

    Congradulations to these grads, to have the president come to your graduation priceless.

    June 7, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  8. ehwilson429

    in other words 'don't be like me'.
    he has that loser Arne Duncan with him who made the Chicago schools even worse when he was allegedly in charge.

    what qualifies Duncan for a cabinet job?
    his failure in Chicago?

    June 7, 2010 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  9. Brian

    I bet he said that with a straight face, he who hasn't faced a problem yet that wasn't someone else's fault. With a little practice, he may be as competent a liar as Bill Clinton.

    June 7, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  10. Get A Grip

    "Obama to grads: 'Don't make excuses"

    This is a joke, right? Or at the very least a misprint. If O'blamer isn't making excuses he's blaming someone else.

    June 7, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  11. malabar

    What he meant was . . if all else fails, JUST BLAME BUSH! hahaha

    June 7, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  12. bess

    Funny. Especially coming from the man who still blames "the previous administration" every opportunity he gets.

    June 7, 2010 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  13. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Our children must achieve and get an education, it's not an option any more and don't listen to those who tell you different just because they are failures.

    June 7, 2010 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  14. Paul Brown

    Odd remarks from a guy who blames everything on everyone else and takes credit for things he has non or at best peripheral engagement in.

    June 7, 2010 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  15. joe m

    really? strange message coming from the president, who's made enough excuses since taking office.

    June 7, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  16. wood

    I cannot believe he said to the grads not to make excuses I hope he starts following his own advice all he ever does is blame everyone else

    June 7, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  17. james

    whats his excuse,for the lack of leadership and cluelessness . were3 trillion more in debt in 15 months he in office and 9.8 trillion from him over the next 10 years. he forgot about the people who needs jobs. he rather push his agenda of health care and cap and trade it does matter too him if this country can afford it. and he is to busies trying to grow the government and controlling important parts of the economy. some needs to tell this idiot when he out of office other will fix his mess. he think he doing a great job that the history books will put him down as the greats president ever. year from now when they write about him, the president that almost ruin America, him and his family will have too leave the country for being such embarrassment of the way he did his jobs in running this country.

    June 7, 2010 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  18. Nate

    Dont make excuses, but be ready because this president doesnt know how to make jobs. Get ready for a 26% unemployment rate in you're age range or take on some debt and go to school so you can look forward to a private sector that hired 41,000 last month.

    June 7, 2010 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |