Political News

Obama's speech to students creates divide

Posted September 4, 2009
Updated October 12, 2011

— When kids all across the country return to school Tuesday, some will see a welcoming message from President Barack Obama and some won't.

Obama's planned address to students has touched off yet another confrontation with Republican critics, who have battered the White House over health care and now accuse the president of foisting a political agenda on children.

students Obama's speech to students concerns some

The White House said the message will encourage children to study hard and stay in school. Melissa Hogan said the president is a perfect person to share that message with her daughter, Tori, a fourth grader at Dillard Drive Elementary.

"This is a very important person and when kids get to hear something about motivation from someone like that – someone who was motivated enough and got voted in – that's fantastic," she said.

"I don't think they (critics) should think it's political. He's just trying to do what's best for our kids."

The president's address will be shown live on the White House Web site and on C-SPAN at noon EDT, a time when classrooms across the country will be able to tune in. WRAL.com will carry the speech live, and record it so that you can watch it online anytime.

Schools don't have to show it. But districts across the country have been inundated with phone calls from parents and are struggling to address the controversy that broke out after Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to principals urging schools to tune in.

Wake County public schools will make individual decisions about whether to show the speech, a district spokesman said. The school system said schools should treat the speech like any other enrichment opportunity. As such, it must meet three criteria:

  • The activity must be aligned with the state's Standard Course of Study;
  • Parents of the students who might participate be made aware of the activity
  • Appropriate alternative educational activities must be provided for students whose parents opt not to have them participate.

Colleen Cox, of Raleigh, said she will keep her second-grader home if her school chooses to show the speech.

"I don't trust what he says. He changes what he says all the time to go with poll numbers," she said.

Districts in states including Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech to students. Others are still thinking it over or are letting parents have their kids opt out.

The White House plans to release the speech online Monday so parents can read it.

Kerra Bolton, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said, "Republican fear-mongering has reached a new low. ... We are lucky to have a president who makes communicating with all Americans a priority."

Tom Fetzer, chairman of the North Carolina GOP, called on North Carolina school systems to refrain from participating in the speech, saying, “This speech is clearly political in nature and has no place in the classroom.”

White House deputy policy director Heather Higginbottom noted that President George H.W. Bush made a similar address to schools in 1991. Like Obama, Bush drew criticism, with Democrats accusing the Republican president of making the event into a campaign commercial.

Arizona state schools superintendent Tom Horne, a Republican, said lesson plans for teachers created by Obama's Education Department "call for a worshipful rather than critical approach."

Critics pointed out that lesson plans the administration created to accompany the speech originally recommended having students "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president."

The White House revised the plans Wednesday to say students could "write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals."

Fetzer advised parents to read the speech and related material for themselves before making a decision.

In the Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas, the 54,000-student school district is not showing the 15- to 20-minute address but will make the video available later.

PTA council president Cara Mendelsohn said Obama is "cutting out the parent" by speaking to kids during school hours.

"Why can't a parent be watching this with their kid in the evening?" Mendelsohn said. "Because that's what makes a powerful statement, when a parent is sitting there saying, 'This is what I dream for you. This is what I want you to achieve.'"

Cox agreed, saying her daughter can watch the speech on one condition. "I will watch it with her, so I can help her understand what's being said," she said.

"I do see a value in what any president has to say. However, I want to know what they are going to say to my child and feel that should be monitored ...  I monitor what she watches on television, regardless of what it is, so this is something I want to know," she added.

In Wisconsin, the Green Bay school district decided not to show the speech live and to let teachers decide individually whether to show it later.

Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer said in a statement he was "absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology." Despite his rhetoric, two of the larger Florida districts, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, plan to have classes watch the speech. Students whose parents object will not have to watch.

The Minnesota Association of School Administrators is recommending against disrupting the first day of school to show the speech, but Minnesota's biggest teachers' union is urging schools to show it.

Quincy, Ill., schools decided Thursday not to show the speech. Superintendent Lonny Lemon said phone calls "hit like a load of bricks" on Wednesday.

One Idaho school superintendent, Murray Dalgleish of Council, urged people not to rush to judgment.

"Is the president dictating to these kids? I don't think so," Dalgleish said. "He's trying to get out the same message we're trying to get out, which is, `You are in charge of your education.'"


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  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 7, 2009

    Obama's Socialist Indoctrination on Tuesday is very similiar to the way that the Hitler Youth was started during the 1930s in Nazi Germany.

    It's scary how Obama is leading the United States down the road to Socialism.

    Hopefully he doesn't get re-elected in 2012 if he and his Democratic allies in Congress allow us to have free elections in 2012.

    Obama is starting to sound like Chavez who's basically declared himself dictator for life.

    It's also scary how positively some of Obama's allies in Congress speak of Castro and the Cuban revolution.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Sep 7, 2009

    If Wake County forces children to sit through Obama's Socialist Indoctrination Session tomorrow, it's a guarantee of a lot of people voting against incumbent school board members in the fall.

    If I want my child to be force fed Socialism, I'll do it.

    I don't need the President brainwashing my child with his Socialist agenda.

    I'll be glad when the Democrats lose their majority in the house and senate in 2010 and Obama loses the White House in 2012.

  • SEOpro Sep 7, 2009

    I think the speech should be during prime time where parents can watch and discuss with their children afterward. That is much more appropriate than arranging to have a "captive" audience of school children all across the country, thinly veiled as an educational opportunity / moment.

  • mom2threecld Sep 7, 2009

    the reason being the general public doesn't trust obama or his administration. that should clue in these people at the white house how america really feels about obama..........nothing good

  • mrbigt032j Sep 7, 2009

    I don't blame obama for going on tv and asking all kids to stay in school and get a good education . becaus someone is going to have to pay for the mess he's getting this country in

  • josephlawrence43 Sep 7, 2009

    We should not make the parallel between Hitler and Obama as individuals-there simply is no comparison. However, similarities between their methods of operation and anticipated (if unspoken) outcomes are there. Hitler,during his climb to absolute dictatorship of Germany, addressed many times the school children of Germany. At first, these "talks" were bland, non-political and more or less innocuous. As time passed, these speeches became more strident, more indoctrinatioal and more teaching of the national socialist ideals and beliefs. This talk by Obama will certainly not be his last address to school children-and each subsequent address will become more political, more indoctrinational and deeper into the socialist
    system and its "benefits". Start teaching the kids early, when they get older there is less resistance to whatever plan he may have. But, you decide for yourself.

  • nufsaid Sep 4, 2009

    "People want the facts, not hate.

    Remember all those Bush haters? And they are still around. Are you are right, people want facts, not leftist spin.

  • nufsaid Sep 4, 2009

    "nufsaid: Most people are not trying to demonize the right. But you have to realize that a lot of the comments have been proven to be lies. People want the facts, not hate.

    Many of Obama's statements have been proven to be untrue. And hate seems to be a specialty of the left.

  • yankee1 Sep 4, 2009

    Judging by many of the comments here, the problem is obvious. Many are so hung up on the Republican/Democrat thing they can't think straight. It should be about what's best or the country and the kids. to let this guy speak to kids without seeing what he intended to say is ignorance in action.Look at what he's surrounded himself with, listen to what he says, look at what he's done to the country so far. It's a joke to allow your kids to be given unmonitored access to this guy! Those who think this is a good idea proves that some people just shouldn't be parents. If it was so innocent and he had no ulterior motives, he could spoken to them in the evening on home TV. No wonder many of you keep voting for Democrats and get a thrill every time they stick it to you!!

  • nufsaid Sep 4, 2009

    ""That is why it is important for citizens to speak out no matter how hard the left tries to silence and demonize them."

    Uhhhh... have you seen any "Town Hall Meetings" as of late?

    Is your point that people are getting fed up and speaking out, or that the the left and the current administration are doing all they can to silence and demonize them?