US President Barack Obama has counselled American children to aim high as the country's success in the 21st century depends on them in the face of increasing competition from "Bangalore, India" and "Beijing, China" where students are "working harder than ever."
"You've got an obligation to yourselves, and America has an obligation to you to make sure you're getting the best education possible," he said on Tuesday in a back-to-school address at a Pennsylvania magnet school.
"At a time when other countries are competing with us like never before, when students around the world in Beijing, China, or Bangalore, India, are working harder than ever, and doing better than ever, your success in school is not just going to determine your success, it's going to determine America's success in the 21st century," Obama said.
"And making sure you get that kind of education is going to take all of us working hand-in-hand," the president told pupils at the Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School, which covers grades 5 through 12.
"Nobody gets to write your destiny but you. Your future is in your hands," he added.
"Your life is what you make of it. And nothing - absolutely nothing - is beyond your reach. So long as you're willing to dream big. So long as you're willing to work hard. So long as you're willing to stay focused on your education."
"You've got to instil a sense of excellence in everything that you do. That kind of discipline, that kind of drive, that kind of hard work, is absolutely essential for success," he said citing his own example.
"I wasn't always disciplined. I wasn't always the best student when I was younger. I made my share of mistakes. I still remember a conversation I had with my mother in high school. I was kind of a goof-off," Obama said.
But eventually his mother's "words had the intended effect, because I got serious about my studies. And I started to make an effort in everything that I did. And I began to see my grades and my prospects improve".
"And I know that if hard work could make the difference for me, then it can make a difference for all of you," Obama said.