Obama Celebrates Technical High Grads: ‘Skills That Will Make America Stronger’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama Wednesday celebrated a fresh crop of high school graduates who can cook, construct, code a computer and cut hair.

At the Worcester Technical High School commencement ceremony in Massachusetts, Obama called the class of 2014 a success story of U.S. education, and of his vision for schools that train young people for 21st-century careers.

“You have set yourselves apart. This high school has set itself apart,” Obama said. “Over the past four years, some of you have learned how to take apart an engine and put it back together again. Some of you have learned how to run a restaurant or build a house or fix a computer. And all of you are graduating today not just with a great education but with the skills that will let you start your careers, and skills that will make America stronger.

“Together, you’re an example of what’s possible when we stop just talking about giving young people opportunity, when we don’t just give lip service to helping you compete in the global economy and we actually start doing it,” he added. “That’s what’s happening right here in Worcester.”

Ninety-two percent of Worcester Tech students score as advanced or proficient in English; 84 percent are advanced or proficient in math, according to the White House. The school has a 95 percent graduation rate. The school’s principal, Sheila Harrity, was recently named National High School Principal of the Year. She helped to turn the school from one of the lowest performing in the state to one of the top performers in just 8 years.

“I want you to remember that each of us is only here because somebody somewhere invested in our success. Somebody invested in us,” Obama said. “You’ve got to make sure that you use those gifts.”

The president joked at the start of his address that he was attending the ceremony in part “because I’ve got to practice because Malia is graduating in two years.”

“I’m trying to get used to not choking up and crying and embarrassing her,” he said. “So this is sort of my trial runs here.”

Obama also candidly noted that he doesn’t recall his high school graduation speaker, but believed that his remarks won’t be forgotten.

“I have no idea who it was,” Obama said of the speaker at his commencement in 1979 at Punahou School in Honolulu. “I’m sure I was thinking about the party after graduation. I don’t remember the party either. I’m just — I’m just telling the truth here. You will remember the speaker at this graduation because there’s a lot of Secret Service around, not because of anything that I say that’s so inspiring.”

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