The nation needs American students' passion, ideas and energy now, not just tomorrow, President Barack Obama is to tell students, the White House said.
"Our country used to have the world's highest proportion of young people with a college degree -- now we're 16th," Obama is tell students at 1:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday at Washington's Benjamin Banneker Academic High School.
"That's not good enough. And so we need your generation to bring us back to the top. If we do that, you guys will have a brighter future. And so will America," prepared remarks of Obama's third annual Back-to-School Speech indicated he would say.
Banneker is a small, 30-year-old magnet school considered Washington's best public high school due to its strenuous curriculum and advanced-placement and International Baccalaureate programs.
Its Web site says Banneker is a "No Child Left Behind blue-ribbon school."
Obama announced changes to the Bush-era law last week, letting states seek waivers from what its critics call its most onerous requirements, including the requirement that 100 percent of students test at grade level in reading and math by 2014 -- which many educators argue is unrealistic.
The White House released an advance copy of Obama's third annual Back-to-School Speech Tuesday night seeking to blunt any allegations Obama would give a political speech to schoolchildren.
The address was to be broadcast and streamed live to students nationwide.
The White House said Obama -- who was expected to confess in his speech that he wasn't always a good student -- would tell the Banneker students excelling academically didn't have to mean getting straight A's all the time, "although that's a good goal to strive for."
It meant "being the best student you can be," setting sights high and taking risks, the remarks said.
"But I also want to emphasize this," Obama was expected to say. "With all of the challenges that our country faces today, we don't just need you for the future -- we need you now. America needs your passion, your ideas and your energy right at this moment."
He cited three high school students he said made extraordinary accomplishments -- Will Kim of Fremont, Calif., "who launched a non-profit that gives loans to students from low-income schools who want to start their own business"; Jake Bernstein of St. Louis, who launched a Web site with his sister "devoted to community service for young people"; and Amy Chyao from Richardson, Texas, who "discovered a breakthrough process that uses light to kill cancer cells."
Like those three teenagers, "you don't have to wait to make your mark," Obama's remarks said.
"A lot of the time, you've got better ideas than the rest of us anyway," he was expected to add. So get those ideas "out in the open, in and out of the classroom."