Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama's First Day of School Speech

Yesterday, throughout the country, President Barack Obama addressed students on their first day of school. You can watch his address here or read the transcript of the address here. Since I'm one of those visual learners, I needed to digest what the president said and then read the transcript in order for me to be able to fully take in everything the President said yesterday. No matter whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, I'm sure everybody found something they could take from the speech.

Since I view the world in the tutoring and mentoring perspective after having worked at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection for a little over two years now, I'll just comment on a couple of things that struck me after watching the speech yesterday, digesting it, and then reading the transcript today.

At the beginning of his speech, President Obama says:

"I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. Every single one of you has something that you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide."

This is one of the main tenants of tutoring and mentoring - that every child has the potential for greatness, no matter what the circumstances they grew up in. However, some of these kids need a little help along to discovering what they have to offer, especially if they have no support at home. This is where tutors and mentors come in.

President Obama goes on to say:

"And no matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You're going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You cannot drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You've got to train for it and work for it and learn for it."

One of the main ways to prevent dropping out of school is for students to enroll in an afterschool tutoring and mentoring program. With someone who ha their back and who won't give up on them, these at-risk students are less likely to give up on themselves and drop out of school.

Also, in regards to preparing for a career - Many tutoring and mentoring progams offer career training such as on how to write a good resume or how to dress for success at a job. Some tutoring and mentoring programs even offer job shadowing or internship programs at a variety of professions. When students learn what it takes to get the job of their dreams, they are also less likely to drop out of school.

An especially central part of Obama's speech was where he talks about his own story, growing up with no dad and not having a lot of money. This is something that a lot of kids that tutoring and mentoring programs can relate to. He says:

"Now, I know it's not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork. . .
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don't have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job and there's not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don't feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren't right."

These are all circumstances that many of our kids face everyday. Obama talks about how he succeeded despite difficult circumstances, as did the First Lady. He also highlights three students who have also succeeded despite difficult circumstances, including Shantell Steve, a young woman who has grown up in foster care on the South Side and who has succeeded acedmically and has become a leader in her community. What Obama doesn't say is that I'm almost positive that he, Mrs. Obama, and the three outstanding young people that he talked about all had mentors in their lives who encouraged them when they were about to give up and who helped them realize that they could be even better than they thought they could be.

That's what tutors and mentors are here for - to help young people who wouldn't have the support, guidance, and belief in them otherwise. Students working hard and striving to succeed are one part of the equation. The other part of the equation are caring adults who can help these young people become contributing members of society.

Unfortunately, many of these programs where students meet these tutors and mentors are being cut due to the economy. This is a shame and you should do everything you can to support your local tutoring and mentoring program. If you want to help tutoring and mentoring programs throughout Chicago continue to succeed in this rough economy, I encourage you to do two things:

1) Volunteer - the role you may play in the program may be an even bigger role than just a one-on-one tutor/mentor. You have the potential to impact a large number of people with doing whatever you can with your time in helping these programs.

2) Donate - your dollars will come back to you better used than you can imagine. With the money you donate, programs can retain staff, help kids get into college, and help them into adulthood with the continued support these programs can offer.

If you would like to volunteer or donate visit the Cabrini Connections or the Tutor/Mentor Connection websites to find out more. Also, you can quickly donate by clicking the PayPal icon in the upper right-hand corner of this blog. We need your help now more than ever. But the payoff will be sure in the future.


Arlan Berglas said...

We, The World (WTW) and the Pass It Forward Movement (PIF) is taking part in United We Serve, a national effort launched by President Obama to engage more Americans in serving their communities this summer.

WTW will be launching a pilot program to give every person the opportunity to be a mentor and to have a mentor as part of the summer service initiative, which President Obama announced in his video message.

“In these tough economic times, we need volunteers more than ever,” said Arlan Berglas, WTW Executive Director. WTW is facing increasing demands for services, and volunteers can help us fill this growing need. We are pleased to join this national effort and thank the President for making this call to service.”

United We Serve kicks off on June 22 and runs through September 11, which will be marked for the first time as a national day of service and remembrance. The initiative is being led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that improves lives and strengthens communities though volunteering and service.

“This summer, I'm calling on all of you to make volunteerism and community service part of your daily life and the life of this nation,” said President Obama in the video. “Economic recovery is as much about what you're doing in your communities as what we're doing in Washington – and it’s going to take all of us, working together.”

United We Serve focuses on five key areas where everyone can have a real impact in their community: education, health, energy and the environment; community renewal, and safety and security.

To make it easy for individuals to get involved, the Corporation created, a website that allows visitors to type in their zip code to find local volunteer opportunities, recruit volunteers by posting their organization’s projects, or get ideas for creating their own projects with friends, families, and neighbors. There you will find information about the Pass It Forward Movement.

“Everyone has something to give, and summer is a great time to get involved,” says Berglas. By serving this summer, we hope more people will make an ongoing commitment to volunteering throughout the year. For more information about WTW & the PIF Movement, please go to

Arlan Berglas said...

In these times of great economic need, it is critical that we all step up to address the issues that are directly affecting our communities. For this reason, President Obama has launched the United We Serve initiative to provide us with tools to volunteer efficiently and effectively in our communities, whether we donate a few hours of our vacation to a soup kitchen or a few hours each week to mentoring a child.

Government can only do so much, and non-profits have been hit with a double-whammy of increased demand for services and decreases in charitable giving. It is up to all Americans to work together to tackle challenges of raising each others self esteem, and help to make our world a better place for all.

Globally, a group of us have been Pass It Forward Volunteer Online Mentors ( To join us, find other opportunities to serve, or even create your own opportunity, visit

Arlan Berglas said...


A pilot community service program, sponsored by Pass It Forward, is reaching out to men and women the world over, via the web. has the capability of making a difference in other people's lives, enhancing the mentor as well.

In literally a 30-minute personal evaluation process, the individual is awakened to his or her own gift, strength, or purpose. This knowledge translates to purpose becoming passion! Then, by mentoring another person, he is now in turn passing it forward. The mentor and the mentee each are making a positive influence on the lives of others. They are empowered and they participate in a spirit of caring, to maximize social change for a world that works for all!

This "Pass It Forward" project, with worldwide outreach, is under the auspices of We, The World. The website is accessible at The "30 Minute Mentor" is a non-profit global initiative, designed to maximize social change through volunteer mentoring.


Arlan Berglas said...

Especially in uncertain times, people are job transitioning, or going through life-changing circumstances. A volunteer community service program, sponsored by Pass It Forward, has launched a worldwide mentoring program, quick to accomplish, and benefiting both the mentor and his or her protégé.

The program is conducted completely on-line. Called the 30 Minute Mentor(, the individual is awakened to his or her own gift, strength, or purpose. This knowledge translates to purpose becoming passion! Many advantages, including renewed confidence may result. He is given his own website, and by then mentoring another person, he is now passing it forward.

The mentor and protégé each are making a positive impact on the lives of others. In so doing, they are empowered as they participate in a spirit of caring, to maximize social change for a world that works for all!

Under the auspices of We, The World, the global outreach of this volunteer project welcomes all adults who wish to find their purpose, develop a passion, and put it into action. For more information, go online to