WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama told students yesterday 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 students at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School that was broadcast live on television and online.
He encouraged the students to continue their education after high school. He said that 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.
"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, a magnet school that opened in 1981, is designed to provide a rigorous academic background in preparation for college.
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 taking politics into the classroom with a similar back-to-school speech.
Earlier, Obama, facing weakening support among Hispanics, expressed deep frustration over what he called an inaccurate and damaging perception that he can fix the nation's flawed immigration system on his own.
"This notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true," Obama said during a White House roundtable targeting Hispanic voters, a key constituency for the president's re-election campaign.
The president said comprehensive immigration reform continues to be a "top priority" for his administration. But he blamed Republicans in Congress for failing to join Democrats in supporting legislation that would address the flow of foreigners into the United States and deal with illegal immigrants already in the country.
A strong majority of Hispanics supported Obama's election in 2008, but his support among Hispanics has declined, as it has in the broader population. A recent Gallup survey found 48 percent of Hispanic voters approving of Obama's job performance, compared with 60 percent in January.