• President addresses high school graduates

    Date: 05.18.11 | by Judge Tom.

    Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee won a national competition in 2011 with a video created by student, Christopher Dean.* The film depicted a boy running in despair toward the camera as a bulldozer tore down apartment buildings in his neighborhood symbolizing the hopelessness in the boy’s community.

    Accompanying the video were the statistics of remarkable improvement at the high school.  Starting in 1873, Booker T. was the city’s first school to educate black children. It boasted of several distinguished graduates including NAACP executive director, Benjamin Hooks, songwriter Lucie Campbell, and Willie Herenton, the first elected black mayor of Memphis. However, the neighborhood declined over the years and became crime-ridden and poor.

    Hard work and dedication saw the school overcome a history of disciplinary     problems and high drop-out rates. Innovative changes included in classes and separate academies for freshman boys and girls. In 2011, the graduation rate of its students rose to 82% from 55% in 2007. In addressing the 150 graduates  and their families on May 16, 2011, President Obama repeated part of his 2008 campaign slogan in stating “Well, we are here today because every single one of you stood up and said. ‘Yes we can.’ Yes we can learn. Yes we can succeed.”

    Photo by Team Sticker Giant (Flickr)

    The President continued, “You’ve shown more grit and determination in your childhoods than a lot of adults ever will.” He personalized his remarks by telling them that he was two years old when his father left home. His mother and grandparents pressed him to excel. “I’m lucky they kept pushing,” he said. “I’m lucky my teachers kept pushing. Because education made all the difference in my life. And it’s going to make an even greater difference in your lives. You’ve now become role models for all the young people coming in behind you.”

    *Christopher was given the honor of introducing the President at the ceremony.

    Watch valedictorian Deonte Bridges’ address here.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    2 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Askthejudge.info
      Thu, 19 May 2011 at 02:19

      Obama spoke at this Tenn. high school's graduation ceremony as they were the winner of a ntl. competition. http://fb.me/FADqZME4

    • Oklahoma City Divorce Attorney Matt Ingham
      Wed, 29 Jun 2011 at 09:10

      The faculty, staff, and students at Booker T. have displayed a lot of grit and determination and the President rewarded them by addressing them as a whole person to person. Say what you want to about President Obama’s politics, but there is no denying that the man has ‘walked the walk’. Glad to see him acknowledge his humble beginnings and encourage others.

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