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Obama Delivers Commencement Address To Contest-Winning High School, Emphasizes Work Ethic, Education

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In a contest that resembles one typically held by rock bands or teen celebrities, the White House recently presented the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. Thousands of high schools across the country sent in videos, and WhiteHouse.gov users voted for the finalists.

In the end, it was President Obama who selected the winner: Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan. What did they win? A commencement address from Obama himself.

The president emphasized personal responsibility, ambition and conviction to achieve one's goals.

"...Your success in life won't be determined just by what's given to you," Obama said. "Or what happens to you, but by what you do with all of that -- by how hard you try, how far you push yourself, how high you're willing to reach. Because true excellence comes only through perseverance."

Despite addressing a winning school, Obama also spoke on failure, accepting it and overcoming it.

"You could have made excuses -- our kids have fewer advantages, our schools have fewer resources, so how can we compete? You could have spent years pointing fingers -- blaming parents, blaming teachers, blaming the principal or the superintendent or the government. But instead, you came together."

Watch behind-the-scenes footage of President Obama meeting some of Kalamazoo Central's graduating seniors:

Watch Kalamzoo Central High's submission video: