Obama: 'I Don't Think Ethics' Was My Favorite Subject

Terence P. Jeffrey | September 29, 2011 | 4:21pm EDT
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President Barack Obama spoke at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 28, 2011 in his third annual 'Back to School' speech. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama told an audience of high school students in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday that he was “not always the very best student” and that ethics “would not have made it on the list” of his favorite subjects.

“I was not always the very best student that I could be when I was in high school, and certainly not when I was in middle school,” Obama said, speaking at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School.

“I did not love every class I took. I wasn’t always paying attention the way I should have,” Obama said. “I remember when I was in 8th grade I had to take a class called ethics. Now, ethics is about right and wrong, but if you’d ask me what my favorite subject was back in 8th grade, it was basketball. I don’t think ethics would have made it on the list.”

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Obama went on to tell the high school students that even though that 8th grade ethics class was not one of his favorites it did have a significant impact on his life—and now inspires the way he acts as president.

“I still remember that ethics class, all these years later,” Obama said. “I remember the way it made me think. I remember being asked questions like: What matters in life? Or, what does it mean to treat other people with dignity and respect? What does it mean to live in a diverse nation, where not everybody looks like you do, or thinks like you do, or comes from the same neighborhood as you do? How do we figure out how to get along?

“Each of these questions led to new questions,” said Obama. “And I didn’t always know the right answers, but those discussions and that process of discovery--those things have lasted. Those things are still with me today. Every day, I’m thinking about those same issues as I try to lead this nation.”

Obama attended 5th through 12th grade at the Punahou School in Hawaii. The K-12 school describes itself as “an independent college preparatory day school.”  On its website, it cites as the first element of its mission: “To provide an environment where students can: Develop moral and spiritual values consistent with the Christian principles on which Punahou was founded, affirming the worth and dignity of each individual.”

The Benjamin Banneker Academic High School where Obama spoke about the ethics he was taught in 8th grade at his private college preparatory school is a public school.

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