President Barack Obama held his first ceremonial event in the Rose Garden Tuesday, using the scenic lawn outside the Oval Office to honor some of the country’s finest teachers.
“This is our first official Rose Garden ceremony — a place where so many,” the president started before being interrupted by a smattering of applause. “Yes, that’s worth applause, sure, why not,” he added to laughter.
“This is a place where so many presidents have honored so many citizens who’ve made extraordinary contributions to the life of our nation,” Obama said.
The Rose Garden was one of President George W. Bush’s favorite ceremonial venues. The day after November’s election, he spoke in the Rose Garden when he congratulated Obama and said his victory represented a “triumph of the American story” that made every American proud.
The people being honored Tuesday were educators who had been named national and state teachers of the year.
“Our teachers are the key to our nation’s success, to whether America will lead the world in the discoveries and innovations and economic prosperity of this new century,” Obama told the audience.
The president presented the national teacher of the year award to Tony Mullen, a former New York City police officer who worked his way up to the rank of captain while studying to become a teacher.
Mullen, who now teaches at the ARCH School in Greenwich, Connecticut, works with youths who have behavioral and emotional problems.
“I teach and mentor at-risk teenagers, because too many of the pages of their stories are filled with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, academic failure and despair,” Mullen told the crowd.
“I teach these young adults because they are among the most complex population to educate, and therefore challenge my ability as an educator,” he said. “And I teach them because they provide me plenty of opportunity to help rewrite their stories, to help them compose a happy ending.”
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Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama presents award to Mullen)