Speaking at a high school in Arlington, Virginia, and beamed to schools all over the country, Obama said, "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.
"There is no excuse for not trying. Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. The truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject that you study. You won't click with every teacher that you have. At the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents and the best schools in the world, and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities."
Here's a portion of the President's speech:
Obama is not the first President to deliver such a speech to students -- Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush did the same thing. But this speech was mired in controversy from the beginning, in part because the initial draft included a lesson plan encouraging students to "help the President."
Conservative pundits saw this as a way for Obama to push his agenda. After much criticism, it was dropped from the final speech.
Whle most Republicans bashed the idea of the speech, Obama received support from a surprising source -- former first lady Laura Bush. Mrs. Bush told CNN: "I think there is a place for the president of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children. I think there are a lot of people that should do the same, and that is, encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dreams that they have."