Last week, the Department of Education honored the 2009 class of Presidential Scholars—141 of our nation’s most promising and accomplished recent high school graduates, who were recognized for their outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, and public service. Selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars, the group includes one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from families of U.S. citizens living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large and 20 Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
Although they have only just graduated high school, these exceptional young people have already launched award-winning companies, presented papers at scholarly conventions, performed at Carnegie Hall, mastered multiple languages, and conducted research at the nation’s leading scientific institutions. Academic, volunteer, and extracurricular interests have led them across the country and around the globe, to places as far away as Taiwan and Turkey. They have already applied for patents for medical technology with the potential to revolutionize medical screening; stepped forward to serve as officer candidates in the U.S. Armed Forces; won countless academic competitions; raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity; and gained entry to our nation’s top universities.
National Recognition Week brought the 2009 Presidential Scholars to Washington for a series of events in their honor, as well as educational and service activities. These included a trip to the White House and a visit with Vice President Biden; a show at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at which a number of the Scholars performed in dance, music, and theater before an audience of more than 1,000; the Teacher Recognition Dinner, where Secretary Arne Duncan helped the Scholars to honor their most influential teachers; and an afternoon spent working with the Washington, D.C., charity Dress for Success.