Teens react to President Obama's speech

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SANDY -- President Obama gave a motivational speech to the nation's school children Tuesday morning, highlighting their responsibility as students. The speech has come and gone, but it was probably the hot topic at many dinner tables Tuesday evening.

Obama delivered on his promise to talk to school children about responsibility in school and to steer clear of any partisan propaganda.

"Every one of you has something to offer, and you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is," Obama told the students.

The Canyons School District is one of the districts that encouraged schools to show the speech to students, but also gave parents the option to opt their kids out. Everyone at Brighton High School who wanted to watch the speech was able to.

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We joined members of Cher McDonald's 11th-grade AP U.S. History class as they viewed the speech via the Internet. Afterward, we asked them about what they thought of all of the hype and controversy surrounding the speech.

Jenna Jackson said, "I thought it was a little ridiculous. The president was trying to help the students on a personal level, trying to encourage them. It wasn't propaganda or anything to help him in any way."

"I thought the controversy was unfounded, even before seeing the speech, because what the speech was, was posted everywhere," John Wright said.

Troy Gordon agreed. "I thought all that stuff about whether it shouldn't or should be viewed was kind of overblown," he said.

Thomas Palmer says the message they ultimately heard wasn't political at all.

"We need to work hard in everything we do, and we need to study hard, or else we're not going to get good grades," Palmer summarized.

He continued, "I don't know what was wrong with it. He told people to be good in school and to try to succeed, so I don't know what the problem is."

McDonald says her classes routinely analyze the speeches of other presidents.

"To be honest, most of the speeches that we analyze are much more political in nature, because students need to be able to understand both sides of an issue," she said.

Wright says the speech he heard was nothing different than he's heard from other adults all his life. "You need to try. It's not just going to be handed to you. You're not going to make millions of dollars out of high school," he said. "Teachers say try and you'll succeed; so do parents. But it was, I think, a bit more influential coming from the president."

While their classmates watched the address, those who didn't want to watch it had a study hall in the media center.

"If you didn't go, you didn't really miss out on much. Any teacher, parent, anyone that has a good influence on you, they could have done the same thing with staying in school, achieve your dreams," said 11th-grader Derek Jensen.

The principal also allowed teachers to choose whether to air the speech based on the technology available in their rooms--not all could view it.

Other districts also gave parents an opt out. Tuesday morning, we talked to a few parents at Washington Elementary in the Salt Lake City School District.

Katrina Stucki said, "Everybody has their side of the argument. Even if we don't agree with it, it's something we need to hear and it's a great opportunity to have a dialogue."

"Every parent is entitled to decide what they want to do as far as having their child listen to the speech or not," Ti Kinikini said.

And Ken Hurtado added, "Since there is no political statement, it's just a speech about kids setting goals for themselves, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that."

Of the 1,700 or so students at Brighton High School, 20 opted out of watching the speech.


Story compiled with contributions from Nicole Gonzales, Courtney Orton and Becky Bruce

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