President Obama at Kalamazoo Central High

*Since he has become the president, President Barack Obama has spoken at several graduation ceremonies across the U.S. but never at a high school. Recently he encouraged Michigan students at Kalamazoo Central High School to “Be a part of something bigger than yourself.”

How did they get Obama of all people to make the speech? A nationwide contest, Get Schooled Race to the Top, urged schools to submit a video, demonstrating how the institute is dedicated to making it to the top and making strides toward academic excellence. One thousand schools entered the competition, but only one got the prize, the president to speak at commencement.

“It gives me great confidence to know that we’ve got such incredible young leaders that are going to be remaking the world in so many ways,” Obama said. “I’m here tonight because I think America has a lot to learn from Kalamazoo Central about what makes a successful school in this new century.”

The president shared some encouraging, funny, and important words to the graduating class. He also singled out a student who was quoted in an article for saying her school is never recognized for anything.

“Well Kelsey, I’m here tonight because … I know, and America knows what you’ve got at Kalamazoo Central,” he said. “You are amazing. We know.”

He also advised the students not to party too much and to stay focused in school.

“Don’t just hang out with people who look like you or go to the same church as you or share the same political views. Broaden your experiences, because that’s how you’ll learn what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes,” Obama said. “Be a part of something bigger than yourself … because there is work to be done, and your country needs you. We’ve got an economy to rebuild … we’ve got an oil spill to clean up, we’ve got clean energy to discover. … It’s going to be up to you. Pursue excellence in everything you do. After all, you are the Giants, and with the education you got here, there’s nothing you can’t do.”

Watch a clip of President Obama’s speech at Kalamazoo Central:

ABC News reports on how the school got the president to visit: