President Obama Surprises Booker T. Washington Graduates

May 16, 2011 | 3:08 | Public Domain

The President does a surprise drop-in on the graduating class at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, TN before he speaks at their graduation ceremony. The school was the winner of the 2011 Commencement Challenge contest.

Download mp4 (30MB) | mp3 (3MB)

Read the Transcript

Remarks by the President in a Surprise Drop-By with Booker T. Washington Class of 2011

11:13 A.M. CDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  How’s everybody doing?  (Applause.)  You’re all excited about graduating, huh?  (Applause.)  Listen, I just had a chance to meet with your principal and these two outstanding classmates of yours, and I just want to say how inspired we were.  We were inspired by the video you sent.  We’re inspired by the stories you told.  We’re inspired by how you’ve turned this school around.  But obviously a lot of that has to do with your outstanding principal.  (Applause.)

     She says you guys know how old she is.  How old is she? 

     STUDENTS:  Twenty-five!

     THE PRESIDENT:  Twenty-five.  She started when she was seven.  (Laughter.)  Teaching high school at seven years old.  (Laughter.)

     Obviously it has a lot to do with great teachers, but this is mainly your day and your success, because a lot of you -- and I’m going to talk about this at the commencement -- a lot of you had to struggle to get here.  Most of you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth.  But what you’ve shown is determination.  What you’ve shown is character.  What you’ve shown is a willingness to work hard and the ability to steer clear of folks that were trying to send you down the wrong path.  And so as a consequence, you’ve now become role models for all the young people coming in behind you.  You’ve become an inspiration to the city and the state of Tennessee and the country.
So I just wanted you all to know, you inspire me.  That’s why I’m here.  I could not be prouder of what you do.  But I’ve still got some big, big expectations for you, so don’t think just because you graduate from high school that that’s it.  You’ve got a lot more work to do, because I expect all of you to be leaders in this community and communities all across the country.  And this is just the beginning.  This is not the end.  All right?
So God bless you guys.  I’m so excited to be here.  (Applause.)  

END 11:17 A.M. CDT

Close Transcript