8th-Grader's Letter Inspired Obama Speech

South Carolina teen becomes face of stimulus with plea for education funding

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 25, 2009 4:20 AM CST

(Newser) – South Carolina eighth-grader Ty'Sheoma Bethea became the symbol of the stimulus package in President Obama's speech to Congress last night, WSAV reports. The president has repeatedly referred to Bethea's dilapidated school in his calls for spending on education infrastructure, and during his speech he quoted from a letter the 14-year-old wrote to Congress urging lawmakers not to neglect education.

"We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself, and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina, but also the world," the president read from Bethea's letter as she looked on, standing next to Michelle Obama. "We are not quitters."

Michelle Obama and Ty'Sheona Bethea, second from left, applaud during President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress yesterday.
Michelle Obama and Ty'Sheona Bethea, second from left, applaud during President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress yesterday.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
First Lady Michelle Obama and others applaud during President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber of the Capitol yesterday.
First Lady Michelle Obama and others applaud during President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber of the Capitol yesterday.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Ty'Sheoma Bethea of Dillon, S.C., yesterday prior to President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress.
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Ty'Sheoma Bethea of Dillon, S.C., yesterday prior to President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Barack Obama addresses a group of educators at a round table meeting at J.V. Martin Junior High School, where Ty'Sheona Betha studies, in 2007 in Dillon, S.C.
Barack Obama addresses a group of educators at a round table meeting at J.V. Martin Junior High School, where Ty'Sheona Betha studies, in 2007 in Dillon, S.C.   (AP Photo/Willis Glassgow)
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President Obama mentions Ty'Sheoma Bethea in his speech to Congress.   (CNN Video)

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