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At CMS, kids take in Obama speech

Students at Alexander Graham Middle School in Charlotte watching President Obama's speech. hspace=4

President Obama delivered his much anticipated speech Tuesday to kindergarteners through 12th graders across the country. The days leading up to the speech drew fire from Republican politicians and parents who said they didn't want the president telling their kids what to do. Some said the speech was a sort of indoctrination of the Democratic platform. Here, at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the district allowed students to opt out of hearing the speech at their parents' request. WFAE's Simone Orendain attended a viewing at Alexander Middle School near Southpark and has this report: It's minutes before the speech and the anticipation is building. Social studies teacher Kellie Chapman holds up one student's assignment sheet as an example for her sixth graders. "She's going to put her points over here. Things that she hears the president tell her on the left. Her questions on the right," she explains. On a screen, President Obama takes the stage before a screaming crowd in a Virginia high school. "Thank you, thank you!" he says. "Alright everybody go ahead and have a seat" Inside the sixth grade social studies classroom at Alexander Graham, some students beam at his image. " I am here with students at Wakefield High School" As the speech continues, some of the sixth graders put their heads down on their desks, eyes glued to the screen, others take notes. "So today, I want to ask all of you, what's your contribution going be? What problems will you solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in 20, 50 or 100 years say about what all of you did for country?" Sounds of the speech bleed out into the empty halls of the school. Everyone's watching the president tell kids to take personal responsibility for their education. Everyone- except the five students in the very quiet media room. "They're completing a writing assignment," says Alexander Graham Assistant Principal Kevin Sudimack. He's supervising these students. They're a mix of sixth through eighth graders. "They're reading a short story and then continuing on kind of using their imagination to finish off the story as they see fit," he says. A CMS spokeswoman says most of these students are in here because their parents asked the school to give them something else to do during the 20 minute address. She says one or two students asked to be excused on their own. News media were not allowed to talk to them. We don't know if other schools had large numbers of students who opted out because we were only allowed to visit certain schools. Back in Ms. Chapman's social studies class an animated discussion followed the speech. "Michael Jordan! Michael Jordan didn't even make his high school basketball team the first time he tried. If he had never made it do you think we would we have ever seen him play NBA basketball?" Chapman asks. "No!" shout some students. "No, he kept trying!... So failure is not an option, right? Failure's going to teach you to become stronger. What else were some of the points he made?" Chapman's student Taylor Sharpe was downright moved by the speech. "I loved it," she says. "I almost started crying. I just thought it was- I just thought it was really good." Sharpe says she's already doing her part by setting goals like improving her math. Her classmate Malik Samuel says he really liked the president's message. "Because he was trying to reach out to kids and telling them not to drop out of school and study hard so you can be whatever you want. Like when I get older I plan to be a football star and if that can't happen, I'll open up a restaurant," he says. For his part, Samuel adds that his restaurant would donate food to the homeless.