While President Obama's speech to students met a lukewarm reception at some schools around Dallas-Fort Worth, former Dallas mayor and current U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk made sure the speech played to a full house this morning at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
At a podium in Booker T. Washington's Montgomery Arts Theatre, fronted by a sign reading "My Education, My Future," Kirk took questions from students in the audience and onstage behind him, before watching Obama's speech on a projection screen.
Kirk told students that in his first few months traveling the world and cutting trade deals, he's seen that "we're in a horribly competitive world," and that it'll take hard work for the U.S. to maintain its place as a world leader.
A number of Cabinet officials fanned out across the country to host similar speech-watching soirees with students, but though Kirk was just one of only two who ventured too far from the East Coast.
"One of the dirty secrets in the U.S. is that the dropout rate is killing us," he said, nodding to DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa in the front row. "Half the kids in DISD won't graduate from high school," he said.
Kirk lauded his host school, where his daughter is a student, saying it's just the opposite of the urban high school stereotypes. "You have no idea how much I brag about Booker T. Washington," he said.
But he was less kind to Texas as a whole, following the widespread backlash against Obama's speech that's been especially sharp locally, calling this one of the "few moments in my life when I'm ashamed to say I'm from Texas," according to KXAS.
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After Obama's speech wrapped, Kirk returned to the podium to field students' questions about U.S. trade policy with Mexico, No Child Left Behind, and how to stay motivated after the school day ends. As mayor of Dallas, he said, he stayed focused by keeping an index card on his desk with his three biggest priorities written down, but said he sympathized with students who feel scattered. "There are just so many more distractions now than for any other generation," he said.