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obama-at-law-schoolToday President Obama delivered his much anticipated first-day-of-school speech to America’s public school children. If you believe the mainstream media (depending on your network of choice), everyone who lauded the speech is a wacko socialist while those who opposed it are crazy glue-sniffers. But what about those who don’t place themselves on the far right or left? From a limited government, independent standpoint, was the speech good or bad for America’s children?

In order to answer this question, let’s look at the major talking points from both left and right.

Left:
1. We won the election, so shut it you crazy conservative right-wing psychopaths. This is pretty much the left’s current battle cry. They feel that the President has a voter-bestowed mandate to do most anything he wants. There is some truth to this. The voters did elect the Democratic Party pretty much across the board. However, as has been seen during the Congressional recess, there is still a vocal-if-not-large portion of the public that doesn’t care for this argument.
2. The speech was so benign, uplifting, and conservative, it sounded like a Republican speech anyway. True to an extent, but, as shall be demonstrated, the President wove some subtle statist mumbo jumbo into his “don’t give up, stay in school” message.
3. The right will oppose anything Obama does, no matter what it is. I have to say that this is probably true. He has become the anti-right, even if some of his anti-rightness is purely imaginary.

Right:
1. Obama is indoctrinating the children. He’s trying to turn my kid into a socialist. OK people, I read and watched the speech. There were a few little things, but for the most part the speech was apolitical. Most of the kids weren’t paying attention anyway. In fact, if you ask them tomorrow morning what the message of the speech was, most likely they would reply, “Study hard, stay in school.” That is, those who remembered that they watched a speech at all would say that. I doubt any of them were convicted to mark “D” on their first ballot in 2-10 years purely on the merits of this talk.
2. Obama is trying to teach my kid values I don’t agree with. Really? Like what? Work hard, do your best, finish school? Those are pretty darn good suggestions regardless of where they come from. Again, the speech was not controversial in this respect. There was nothing about abortion, gun control, or homosexuality, although the President did encourage students to stand up for kids who are different and are being bullied. I don’t think a million newly minted school age liberal socialists spilled out of America’s schools today at 3 pm. The speech was just not that value laden.
3. I just don’t like the guy and he shouldn’t be talking to my kids. Fair enough. Many school districts didn’t show the speech, and many more parents kept their kids home today. When it came right down to it, parents who felt strongly that their children should not hear what the President had to say found a way to keep them from hearing it. Was it a big loss? Probably not.

Sadly, the above points are about as deeply as most liberals and conservatives are looking at the issue. From my standpoint, though, there are a few other things to consider, some pro-speech and some con. For instance:

1. Why are we so afraid that our children hear a speech from THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES? Haven’t we taught our kids to think critically about an argument before they accept it wholesale? Don’t we have any confidence at all that we have bestowed our cherished values in them? We send them off to public school every day to be molded by state employed teachers and other kids, yet we are afraid for them to hear the President, the holder of an office we should teach them to respect?
2. On the other hand, the federal government is not supposed to interfere in public school curriculum. That realm is reserved for the States. The White House provided a much edited study guide to go along with the Obama speech. This should not have been done. Speech OK. Assignments related to the speech, not OK.
3. Get a load of the ego on this guy. One of the things that amazed me about the speech was how Barack Obama turned the first day of school into Obama Appreciation Day. I mean, shouldn’t the first day of school be about students, teachers, and the excitement of a new school year? Instead the day was completely disrupted all for the sake of a 15 minute story about how young Barry became a success against all odds. I hope the kids loved him because he sure loves himself.
4. Perhaps most disturbingly, the theme of the speech, while hiding behind a mask of determination and perseverance, was really about dependence and malleability. Consider the following quote:
“So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country? Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn.”
Do our kids need the government in order to learn, make discoveries, solve problems, or make a contribution? It seems to me that these great things most often occur when government influence is absent. We all know that actions speak louder than words. What will our kids think when their President tells them:
“You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.”
“We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.”
“Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future. That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.”

and then they see the same President’s government taking the fruit of their talent and hard work and handing it to dropouts and quitters? That doesn’t sound like writing your own destiny. That sounds like signing your own indenture.

So will President Obama’s speech make that much of a difference? Probably not. Like most speeches, it will likely be thrown into the dustbin of history. Was it good or bad for the kids? Probably neither. Most of the kids won’t remember it anyway. On the other hand, I was a public school student in October 1991 when George H.W. Bush delivered his (much maligned by the left) public school speech, and I still remember that. Yes indeed. I explicitly remember thinking, “Man…that dude is old.”

Read the speech here.

Watch the speech here.

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