Today, like other Administration officers, I went back to school.
In my case, it was in my hometown, Peoria, Illinois. It may not be easy to stop me once I start talking about Peoria, but I'll try to stick to the two schools I visited--Banner Elementary, of Dunlap, and Peoria's St. Vincent DePaul. Based on the kids I talked with today, America's future looks as bright as ever.
At Banner Elementary, I visited with Mrs. Conlee's kindergarten, where the students had just created a journal project on transportation and safety. Of course, that was right up my alley, and it didn't hurt that my grandson Luke is a student in Mrs. Conlee's class.
After the class visit, I spoke to an all-school assembly. My message there was simple, and it echoes an idea in President Obama's address to the nation's students: whatever role books and materials and facilities play, what makes a school special are its teachers and, perhaps more importantly, its students. Education is about students.
The students seemed most interested in what goes on inside the White House, but they were curious about how teachers have influenced my life. I was unequivocal in my support of teachers--many of you know I spent several years as a teacher--"Whatever teachers do, they do it for you; they help you because they care about your future."
At St. Vincent DePaul, I again talked to a schoolwide assembly. But I also had the pleasure of visiting another grandson's class, McKay's 2nd grade taught by Ms. Schwenger. The 2nd graders had prepared posters about transportation--it's safe to say they've got some interesting ideas. Again, I fielded questions though this time the students seemed more interested in what kind of sports I liked as a kid than in the doings inside the White House. I am tickled to note they did not dismiss kick-the-can as an old man's game--and I don't think they were merely being polite.
Today, we tried to teach students about taking responsibility for their education, about valuing the wisdom and preparation of their teachers, about not being bound by doubt.
And when the kids spent so much time asking me about what it was like growing up in Peoria, I learned that kids want to be able to reach out and understand previous generations. They want to see themselves as part of a continuing American project. More importantly, they seem ready to participate in that project, and I'm grateful to them, their parents, their teachers, and their school administrators for that.
Thanks in particular to today's teachers--Mrs. Conlee and Ms. Schwenger--and principals--Banner's Greg Fairchild and St. Vincent DePaul's Michael Birdoes. You've got a great bunch of colleagues and a fabulous bunch of students.
Luke and McKay, I love you guys-