Obama recounts identity struggles in back-to-school speech

President Obama will get personal in Philadelphia on Tuesday when he encourages students across America to study hard and help their classmates.

The president will decry school bullying and tell students about his own struggles with identity during high school, according to speech excerpts released by the White House.

"Being a teenager isn’t easy. It’s a time when we’re wrestling with a lot of things," Obama will say. "When I was your age, I was wrestling with questions about who I was; about what it meant to be the son of a white mother and a black father, and not having that father in my life. Some of you may be working through your own questions right now, and coming to terms with what makes you different."

The speech at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia comes a little more than year after his first speech stirred controversy among Republicans and conservatives who worried that Obama would use the occasion to push his political agenda.

In the end, Obama's call to study and work hard, similar to Tuesday's remarks, was well-received.

This year, Obama will announce his second commencement challenge: a contest for high-performing schools that could win the president as their commencement speaker.

"If your school is the winner; if you show us how teachers, students and parents are working together to prepare your kids for college and a career; if you show us how you’re giving back to your community and our country — I’ll congratulate you in person by speaking at your commencement," Obama will say.

The president will also acknowledge the tough economic and security challenges facing the country, noting that many students can probably "see it in your parents' faces and sense it in their voice."

"A lot of you are having to act a lot older than you are; to be strong for your family while your brother or sister is serving overseas; to look after younger siblings while your mom works that second shift; to take on a part-time job while your dad is out of work," Obama says in the remarks.

Still, he said, "nobody gets to write your destiny but you."

"Your future is in your hands," Obama says. "Your life is what you make it. And nothing — absolutely nothing — is beyond your reach."