(AP, ABC7) - President Barack Obama told students Wednesday in a back-to-school address that they bear responsibility in helping America get back on its feet.
"You're young leaders. And whether we fall behind or race ahead as a nation is going to depend in large part on you," he said in an address to high school student at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School that was broadcast live on television and online.
He encouraged the students to get an education after high school. He said in tough economic times, the country needs their ideas and passion.
Obama also confessed that he wasn't always the best student and didn't love every class he took. He told students that in eight grade, his favorite subject was basketball.
"And here's the thing: I still don't know all the answers," he said. "But if I'd have just tuned out because the class sounded boring, I might have missed out on something that not only did I turn out enjoying, but has ended up serving me in good stead for the rest of my life."
Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, a magnet school that opened in 1981, is designed to provide a rigorous academic background in preparation for college.
"I'm just glad he chose our school because we work very hard throughout the year," said sophomore Princess Brown.
"It was amazing, I was honored to see him. I got the handshake, really proud really honored it was a great experience,” said senior Nahom Gerai.
The White House released the text of the president's message the night before his speech to defuse any potential charges that he would be giving a political speech to the nation's schoolchildren. Two years ago, some conservatives accused Obama of bringing politics into the classroom with a similar back-to-school speech.
Last week, Obama announced his administration will allow states to apply for waivers around unpopular proficiency standards in the No Child Left Behind education law. To qualify, states must meet conditions such as setting evaluation standards for teachers and principals and imposing their own standards to prepare students for college and careers.
"I hope they're encouraged and they do well on my test on Friday," said math teacher Kelly Watson.