- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2009

Christina Romer found herself in front of an audience of well-prepared students on Tuesday at the School Without Walls high school in Northwest. Mrs. Romer, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House, was given a warm welcome from students and faculty as she spoke to a full auditorium about a more personal aspect of President Obama’s national education address earlier that afternoon from Wakefield High School in Arlington.

“She was trying to relate to us,” said senior Twabech Mantemework, 16. “She let us know that we can go into college with one idea but come out with a different dream.”

As many students listened in the audience, the rest watched as the address was broadcast into their classrooms.

“Education has both private and social benefits,” Mrs. Romer said after speaking about her personal experience with education as a graduate of the College of William & Mary. She went on to encourage students to continue to work hard and stay focused - much as she had to do when she was in school.

“I found college very challenging,” said Mrs. Romer, who earned her doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I am where I am today because of the education I had. And when you find that field that you love, it becomes less work and more fun.”

She mentioned to students that education not only improves living standards but also has private benefits.

“Education is good for your perceived happiness,” Mrs. Romer said. “Keep doing what you’ve been doing. Your hard work will be worth it.”

After listening to the president’s remarks, students said what stood out most was Mr. Obama’s reference to persons who overcame personal tragedies and conquered limiting circumstances to become successful in the classroom. The students said they should not let failures define them. Instead, they would allow their failures to teach them.

They understood Mr. Obama’s and Mrs. Romer’s messages of not taking any opportunity for granted.

“We should stand up and do what’s right, do what’s good,” said senior Daniel Bonsu, 16.

After listening to Mrs. Romer, the students began questioning her.

“I thought today was good,” said Twabech, adding that she better understands the relationship between baby boomers and the economy. She also said she is excited about graduating and attending college. “I’m motivated. It’s now or never.”

The question-and-answer session was loaded with economy-related issues - from bailout policies and unemployment to student loans and credit. Students wondered when the economy would start turning around and how the recession would affect them as teens and young adults.

“We’re bottoming out,” said Mrs. Romer, who advises the president on economic affairs. “It’s going to be a hard fall. … In three to five years from now, we’ll be much more back to normal.”

Mrs. Romer answered many questions from students as they passed the microphone up and down the rows - each with an interest in the economy. Instead of cheerleading the motives of a good education, she found herself advising a room full of high school students on the job and credit markets.

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