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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

President Obama's Education Speech Reaction

During the two terms of President George W. Bush I, and many others, were appalled at the behavior of many Democrats in Congress, most notably Nancy Pelosi, and liberals across the country. No matter what the man did it was bad, evil and needed to be opposed. Ask them and in eight years as President every speech, every action, every legislation was bad, bad and bad. They were the party of opposition. No matter what the issue or solution they opposed Bush and the Republicans.

This myopic behavior was given its own name: Bush Derangement Syndrome. Now many Republicans and conservatives are acting in a similar way and in doing so are alienating groups that will be needed to turn over any seats in the mid-term elections and build momentum for the 2012 elections; they suffer from Obama Derangement Syndrome. Case in point: yesterday's speech to America's school children.

I have two young children who start classes today in elementary school. When I first heard of President Obama's intention to speak to school kids and that schools would be encouraged to show his speech and then use lesson materials provided by the Department of Education, I was concerned. I was concerned because my level of trust for Obama and his Administration is very low, in fact my trust has been replaced by wariness.

Against a backdrop of a President who campaigns for rushed legislation, such as the stimulus package and HR3200, that will have no impact for years after the legislation is passed, I was untrusting of what his message to my children would be. Against a backdrop of a President who requested emails from those who disagreed with the health care reform legislation in Congress be forwarded to a special email address in the White House, I was untrusting of what his message to my children would be. Against a backdrop of a President who has expanded the power of the Executive Office with "Czars" for every segment of America who are not put through any vetting or confirmation process, I was untrusting of what his message to my children would be. Against a backdrop of a President who has overseen the government take over of auto companies, banks and Government Sponsored Enterprises, I was untrusting of what his message to my children would be.

It concerned me that he would use the opportunity to try to wedge an issue between me and my impressionable children. It was a trust issue.

I did not vote for Barack Obama for President and I am not in favor of most of what he has done so far in office. Despite his inexperience, his political voting history, his personal associations and the lack of scrutiny from the national press he was elected by an electorate reacting to eight years of Democrats and the national press beating up on George Bush every chance they got; an electorate that fawned over his speeches but did not understand what was (not) said.

With all of that said, and while I was untrusting of what Obama's message to my children would be, I was very wary on the subject but wanted to see what he would be saying before entirely judging and dismissing the speech as more propaganda. With members of the conservative media and conservative politicians speaking against the speech before it was even published, I listened and became concerned as well. When it was let out that the speech would ask my children "what can you do to help the President?" I was becoming very incensed.

Then I read the speech and the lesson plans (links below) before the speech was given.

My reaction: Obama got this one right. His speech was right on the mark for what I would want a President to tell my children and the rest of America's school kids. Was every line and every word what I would want said? No, but speeches, even from those we support, rarely do that.

He told students to mind their parents and mind their teachers. He told them to study and work hard. He told them that there are no excuses for not doing well in school and gave examples of children who have great adversity in their lives and have succeeded. He told them that the chances of them having a glamorous career in sports or entertainment was unlikely and that they needed to study and do well in schools so they can contribute to our country when they become adults.

"Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future."

Isn't that what conservative Americans believe? That your destiny, good or bad, is what you determine? Is this not a message you want your children to understand and have as a basis for their future as they go through school?

But despite the positive message, despite encouraging our children to study hard, to go to class, to respect and listen to their parents and teachers, to have a goal of educational success, despite this those with Obama Derangement Syndrome could not help themselves.

Of the criticism perhaps the one that sums it up the best for me was this from Sean Hannity. On his radio show yesterday with a caller criticizing Obama and his speech, this was after it was delivered, Hannity said, "What did he say? Nothing good parents do not say to their kids every day!"

Exactly. The President of the United States told America's school children what good parents say to their children every day: study hard, listen to your teacher, go to class. Thank you Mr. President for reinforcing in my kids, all kids, what they hear, or should hear, every day. Thank you for basically telling the kids, "hey, you've heard this from your parents--and if you haven't you should--and your parents are right." We all know that after time our messages to our kids become "blah, blah, blah, do your homework, blah, blah, turn off the t.v., blah, blah,..." But yesterday the President of the United States sounded like us! He said what we say and hopefully this time the kids got the message.

In reading the speech it seemed to me that the audience for him was not necessarily my kids, raised in a safe home, in a safe neighborhood, attending a quality school with two parents at home for dinner every night. It seemed to me his audience were those kids from broken homes, homes with one parent, maybe, home for dinner any night. Kids who are not in our best schools, and in fact in some of our worst, kids who do not hear from parents every day to do their homework, go to class, listen to their teachers. It was my impression his audience yesterday were those kids most at risk of dropping out, being discipline problems and not being contributing members of society as they matured into adults. The kids that really need the support and the encouragement of their President to tell them, stay in school, do your homework, listen to your teacher, find a path for your future...write your own destiny. And that is good. It is good that the kids who need to hear these messages the most have heard them from the President.

There are a lot of issues I am in disagreement with the President on. But that does not mean that on every issue, on every speech, on every action he is wrong. So far on education issues he and his Administration appear to be on track as far as I am concerned--and when he gets it right he needs to get credit for it. His "Race to the Top" initiative to reward teachers and districts that are successful in teaching our kids to read and write could have been written by a conservative, and he needs credit for bucking the teachers' unions and pushing forward with the program.

Republicans who oppose anything just because it comes from the White House are in danger of being the boy who cried "Wolf!" Clearly everything cannot be wrong, everything cannot be bad, everything cannot lead to the downfall of American civilization. We heard that for eight years from the Democrats led by Pelosi, do we need to hear it for at least four years from Republicans? It dilutes the message when something really is wrong, like the health care proposal, and people tune out when you want them to hear your ideas, your solutions.

While I hope it does not become an annual event, unless the message stays the same (I am still wary of his using the opportunity to push his agenda and ideology on impressionable students), I am glad President Obama spoke to our school children yesterday with the message he delivered.

He got this one right, give him credit.


Paul said...

Just like the Armageddon that would befall us in the year 2000, the speech that was suppose to indoctrinate our youth. Now who was spreading the baseless lies…..hmm…..oh ya, “Fake News”. Is anyone real surprised? Too funny.

poolman said...

actually most of the criticism was directed at the lesson plan. and the offending lines were deleted. i do think that his speech was well crafted and well delivered. but given his tendency to become america's apologist in chief and given the fact that there is a tendency by this administration to cultivate a cult of obama's personality to advance a his agenda, i think that it was appropriate to be cynical until the lesson plan was revised and the text was actually released. before this was done there was a realistic concern that his speech might be a gentler version of this video...

where celebrity's pledge to help obama, demi moore even going so far as to pledge to be a "servant to our president" (interestingly close to the deleted lines from the lesson plan)

now dont get me wrong there are some very worthy concepts expressed in that video but it is a little scary when instead of looking to do things which make our country better we would pledge to serve a person. sounds a little like North Korea or an 18th century british monarchy.

some of the celebrity pledges promise to end slavery. interesting in that some of the same arguments that were used to defend slavery i.e. that slaves were actually better off because they were taken care of, are many of the same paternal arguments out of nancy pelosi's mouth in which she envisions a population dependent on the government to provide basic needs because we obviously can't take care of ourselves.

Bob Schilling said...

Yes, it was a good speech. Yes, Obama said what good parents have said for generations. Yes, a belief that we can all get ahead with hard work and dedication is an admirable conservative value. And yes, some conservatives seemed compelled to find fault with it.

What I wonder is when we're going to stop throwing rotten tomatoes at each other and start sitting down to find real solutions to the challenges we face -- solutions that will benefit us all and secure safety and prosperity for our children and grandchildren.