First off, (graduation) hats off to the students and community of Kalamazoo Central High School. What an incredible experience for them tonight to have the POTUS deliver their commencement address.
If you haven’t been following, President Obama promised to deliver a high school commencement address every year of his presidency. It has become a contest of sorts, with students playing a lead role in developing promotional videos to make the case for their school.
1,000 schools applied and the President ultimately picked the winner. Pretty cool – regardless of your politics.
The White House has already published excerpts from the President’s speech tonight. Among the ultimate sound bites that caught my eye was this one:
“…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.”
Said so many different ways and so many times in the history of man, the message is that there are no silver bullets. “Meaningful achievement” is never easily achieved and never the results of gimmicks.
The irony is a little thick for me. Look at Kalamazoo Central in context.
They are being uniquely recognized by the President of the United States at arguably the height of the financial distress affecting Michigan public school districts. Amidst Proposal A, charter school laws, NCLB and its equal time respondent, Race to the Top, Kalamzoo Central stuck to their vision statement: Every Child, Every Opportunity, Every Time.
Sound familiar? GPPSS’ vision statement is Each and Every Child, Each and Every Day. Kalamazoo, Grosse Pointe, Anywhere, USA. That’s the call to action for public schools.
The students and school community of Kalamazoo Central took responsibility for themselves to achieve what they have achieved – as will be the case for the scores of public school districts across the state with similar achievements – based on hard work, ingenuity, pride and determination. If every school community did this, we’d hear a lot less about new state and national legislation promising salvation.
Amidst the veritable din of calls for the never-to-be-too-narrowly-defined “reform” Obama’s message is really “There is nothing new under the sun.” Communities and students who dedicate themselves to excellence, however they choose to define that, will create that opportunity for themselves.