President Barack Obama was greeted by nearly 100 people Monday morning as he visited Parkville Middle School to deliver a speech to the school's eighth grade class about the national importance of science and technology education.
Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology served as an example to Obama's goal in his new $3.73 trillion national budget for 2012 to recruit 10,000 new science, technology, engineering and math teachers over the next two years. Obama has called for freezing annual domestic spending for five years, but his budget encourages new investment in science and math education.
"Even as we cut out things that we can afford to do without, we have a responsibility to invest in those areas that will have the biggest impact in our future—and that’s especially true when it comes to education," Obama said in a speech at Parvkille. "Right now, this school, Parkville, is preparing our kids for the jobs and careers of the 21st century.... Students in the magnet program here start out by taking courses in each of four subjects—from applied engineering to environmental science—gradually focusing their studies on one subject over the next couple of years."
He added: "These are the kinds of subjects and skills that our kids need to achieve success in the 21st century."
Obama's choice of Parkville Middle was a thrill for the school's parents and students.
"It's a big honor for them to have the president here. He only goes to, like, one school per year," said Kathy Haduch, 44, whose son is in seventh grade at the school.
Even at the young age of 10, Shanyah James knew the occasion was a big deal. She stood outside holding a copy of the book Yes We Can with her father Rodney James by her side.
"He's the first African-American president," said Shanyah James, who is also African-American. "This is like a historical moment for me."
Bernadette Zgorski was not as enthusiastic. She held a handwritten poster that read: "We want jobs. Not Obamacare."
"I'm here because I'm unemployed," said Zgorski, 53, of Churchville. "It's unbelievable. It's his policies that I object to."
When President Obama arrived at at 10:10 a.m., the crowd of nearly 100 people who gathered on Hiss Avenue was mostly supportive. They carried many signs wishing Obama a happy Valentine's Day.
Another woman standing near Zgorski, however, held a sign that read: "STOP Reckless Spending.'" We've got photos of the protestors here.
At 10:15 a.m., Obama entered an eighth-grade science class and was introduced by teacher Susan Yoder. The 29 students were clustered at several tables with what looked to be Jiffy Pop popcorn containers, except they were rectangular. They were models of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, showing how pollutants enter the bay.
"You look different!" one student blurted out to the president.
"Better?" Obama responded.
"Yes," several children said.
"That's very nice of you," he said.
Obama circled the room, watching videos the kids had made on laptops explaining their bay project.
He shook hands with the kids and said, "I'm proud of you—keep up the good work."
Then he went into a lab where a presidential podium had been set up amid the blackboards and periodic tables. He went into prepared remarks at 10:28 a.m. and finished at 10:37 a.m.
Obama then walked to the cafeteria where all the eighth-graders were gathered. He gave a few remarks and then took two questions. He wished them a happy Valentine's Day and sent hellos from Michelle, Sasha and Malia, getting hi's and waves back.
"What you kids are doing at Parkville is so important to our future," Obama said. "We live in a world that's getting smaller because of technology. We've seen what happened in Egypt with Facebook."
He went on to say that as the world gets smaller it gets more competitive and American students will have to compete. That is why he is investing in education at schools like Parkville.
"Your success ultimately is going to mean America's success," he said.
He took two questions.
A boy asked: "What's it feel like to be president?"
"You know, some days, some days you're burdened by really tough decisions," the president replied.
He went on to say that as commander in chief he's responsible for sending soldiers to war.
"Some of them get hurt, some get killed, so you feel a sense of responsibility that is profound," he said.
Obama added, "There are some days you feel excited," such as when the health bill passed.
A girl asked how he dealt with stress.
Obama said every job—including being a student—involved stress.
"If I feel I've done the best job I can do, then I feel OK," he said.
He shook hands with kids in the front row and kids who stretched over from farther back and then was gone by about 10:55 a.m.
Read the text of Obama's Parkville Middle School speech from the White House Press Office.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Accounts from inside the school were compiled by the White House press office from reporters allowed inside.)