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September 8, 2009 - 6:12pm

Imagine, a President encouraging students to take personal responsibility gets blasted by the right

posted by Howard B. Owens in Barack Obama, politics, schools, elba.

Who would ever have thunk that the idea of a President of the United States speaking to the nation's students on the first day of school could be controversial, but in the days leading up to the speech, Obama was accused of attempting to subvert school kids, turning them all into socialists, or worse, Democrats, and/or of using the speech to push a policy agenda through Soviet-style propaganda.

Who would have thunk that a simple message: Do your homework and stay in school could be seen as an inappropriate message from the President.

Imagine, a President proclaiming the virtues of personal responsibility being blasted by the opposition party.

“At the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities,” Obama said in the speech.

“Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. And that’s what I want to focus on today, the responsibility each of you has for your education,” Obama said.

The speech didn't stir much notice in Genesee County. Only two districts were in session today -- Elba and Pembroke. The other schools start tomorrow.

Elba Superintendent Joan Cole spoke with WBTA this morning and said use of the president's speech in the class room was optional for teachers.

"We haven't had any concerns expressed by any of our parents," Cole said

Watch the video above for yourself, in which Obama makes such supposedly un-American statements as:

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

Bea McManis
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I posted the speech 12 hours ago and not one comment. Which means that Genesee County folks got it. I couldn't say it any better, this is from http://www.themudflats.net/2009/09/07/president-obamas-speech-to-school-... OK, everybody… Ready for the big scary indoctrination? Ready for some kind of evil fascist-communist-Democrat-Marxist-eepycreepyist propoganda that will be crammed down the throats of innocent school children turning them into librul slaves of their evil Obamacrat Overlords? Hide the children! They’re about to be told to never give up. They’re about to be encouraged to READ and attend school, and set goals for themselves! They’re about to be reminded of their potential and given inspiring stories of other children who have risen above circumstance and succeeded! Keep them home! Inspiration, hope and a good work ethic is the first step down the slippery slope that will lead to this country’s ruination! Yes, the speech is wonderful. Perhaps we should all enourage school administrators to give out handi-wipes to all the children who will be engaged in “other activities” during the President’s address. That way they can bring them home to their parents who will undoubtedly need them to wipe the egg off their faces.
Peter O'Brien
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Imagine, a President edits his speech before giving it to make his opponents look bad and removes the accompanying materials.
Jerry Buckman
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Nice speech by the President. Very altruistic, but good. Sadly, kids could care less what the President says. They observe the adults closest to them for cues on how to act.
Kelly Hansen
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Imagine when there were Congressional hearings when George H. Bush wanted to address the nation's school children. "when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush's speech -- they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue. Unlike the Obama speech, in 1991 most of the controversy came after, not before, the president's school appearance. The day after Bush spoke, the Washington Post published a front-page story suggesting the speech was carefully staged for the president's political benefit. "The White House turned a Northwest Washington junior high classroom into a television studio and its students into props," the Post reported. With the Post article in hand, Democrats pounced. "The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students," said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. "And the president should be doing more about education than saying, 'Lights, camera, action.'" Democrats did not stop with words. Rep. William Ford, then chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate the cost and legality of Bush's appearance. On October 17, 1991, Ford summoned then-Education Secretary Lamar Alexander and other top Bush administration officials to testify at a hearing devoted to the speech. "The hearing this morning is to really examine the expenditure of $26,750 of the Department of Education funds to produce and televise an appearance by President Bush at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, DC," Ford began. "As the chairman of the committee charged with the authorization and implementation of education programs, I am very much interested in the justification, rationale for giving the White House scarce education funds to produce a media event." Unfortunately for Ford, the General Accounting Office concluded that the Bush administration had not acted improperly. "The speech itself and the use of the department's funds to support it, including the cost of the production contract, appear to be legal," the GAO wrote in a letter to Chairman Ford. "The speech also does not appear to have violated the restrictions on the use of appropriations for publicity and propaganda." That didn't stop Democratic allies from taking their own shots at Bush. The National Education Association denounced the speech, saying it "cannot endorse a president who spends $26,000 of taxpayers' money on a staged media event at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C. -- while cutting school lunch funds for our neediest youngsters." Lost in all the denouncing and investigating was the fact that Bush's speech itself, like Obama's today, was entirely unremarkable. "Block out the kids who think it's not cool to be smart," the president told students. "If someone goofs off today, are they cool? Are they still cool years from now, when they're stuck in a dead end job. Don't let peer pressure stand between you and your dreams." http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Whe... Bea, Genesee County folks get it. Though we are all to be considered as ignorant elitists by those who cleave to your point of view, we get it. All while Obama cuts the voucher program for the D.C. kids. Yes, we get it.
Bea McManis
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Kelly, I was giving a compliment to those who understood that the speech was a "welcome back to school" pep talk. I understand you don't like the president. I understand that you are against abortion (so am I, by the way). I realize that you would like that discussion up front here on this site. Go for it! Start a thread and let everyone have their say. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I am more than willing to listen to your's.
Kelly Hansen
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Bea, you ignored the point of the article I pasted above. Do you care to address it? How much did the address cost? Were there Congressional hearings? Did the NEA support the speech? Was the speech a horrid form of indoctrination? Answers: We'll never know. Nope. Yep. Nope. Read your post again, then read my post. Egg meet face? Probably not. ______________ By the way, Bea, Where did I say I dislike the President? Where did I discuss abortion within this thread (this isn't a health care thread, is it?)?
Howard B. Owens
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Whether it's GWB or Obama -- the idea of people trying to score partisan points on a speech by the president to school children is obnoxious and puerile. Partisanship is ugly and destructive.
Kelly Hansen
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Howard, it was George H. Bush, in 1991. You're absolutely right - the ugliness and destruction which it can entail can be dished from both sides. There is no gain by pounding another over the head again and again with a sledgehammer. It doesn't encourage listening, which is necessary for understanding. Double standard abounds.
nick driscoll
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i guess we can all agree that the right has never been so wrong (well....)
Karen Miconi
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Way to go President Obama!! You set a great, strong, example for these kids. You showed them leadership, pride in their country, and perseverance. You have been left with the biggest mess of any president I can recall, and you still move forward. You dont let the media, or political lines, hinder the job set before you. Keep Up The Good Work and God Bless You!!
Lorie Longhany
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Very good speech focusing on personal responsibility -- listening to teacher's and parents, getting homework done, inspiring kids to focus on their education no matter what their personal circumstances might be. I particularly like this passage -- "Every single one of you has something that you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer, and you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is." If I heard the same speech from Bush or Reagan I hope that I would also find it inspiring. I don't remember the George HW Bush speech and don't remember any of the controversy. Partisan selective memory maybe. Laura Bush (who I have always admired) had this to say about the speech: PARIS, France (Sept. 7) -- Former first lady Laura Bush praised the performance of her husband's successor Monday, breaking with many Republicans in telling CNN that she thinks President Obama is doing a good job under tough circumstances.
Howard B. Owens
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My friends and ideological cohorts over at Reason Magazine are less sanguine with the president's speech, noting that some of the rhetoric should make individualists cringe (and it should). My tone in this post was more to take conservatives for condemning a speech that espoused many conservative values -- further evidence of putting partisanship ahead of principle. But there was much statist rhetoric in the speech, such as, "If you quit on school, you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country...." and "Don't ever give up on yourself, because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country." I do and did take exception to such rhetoric, but I disagree with my friends at Reason that the president shouldn't give such speeches. While the speech might violate many libertarian ideals in its words, conservatives and Republicans really have little to complain about, except to be partisan.
Susan Kennelly
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Howard....Is there a 12 step program for out of control bloggers? :)
Jeff Allen
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I have to go with Peter on this one. If you read the pre-speech material issued to and then retracted by the White House to the schools and then listen to the speech, the two don't make sense together. The problem the right had with this whole ordeal was the material sent as preparation and follow-up gave every indication the at the speech would be a "let's get behind the President and do what we can to help him" speech. Once it made the media, the White House retracted it. It is reasonable to conclude that the speech given by the President was not the one originally planned. I have no problem with any President addressing our nations schools, since there is such apathy towards the workings of our government in young people now. The content of his specch was fine and if it motivates some kids to pursue politics, achieve goals, or just become more invoolved in things that are important to them, then it was a success. For the White House to plan one speech, edit it to pander to the commotion and then blast the right is very disingenuous. Howard writes "the idea of people trying to score partisan points on a speech by the president to school children is obnoxious and puerile." Both sides are guilty on this one. Where is the the outrage over the hypocrisy of the NEA who blasted Bush for spending $26,000 on his 1991 speech as innapropriate and wasteful at a time of tight budgets and then praised Obamas speech. House Democrats even held hearings questioning the Dept. of Education for the expenditure. Then House Majority leader Dick Gephart stated "The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president" I have no problem with the speech or it's edited content, just the hypocrisy on BOTH sides in their reactions to it.
Jeff Allen
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Sorry Kelly, I skipped down too far and didn't realize you had already covered the 1991 House hearings in such detail. Makes the last part of my post redundant.
Howard B. Owens
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Has anybody seen the so-called pre-speech materials/text come from a third-party, non-partisan source, especially a source that got it directly from the White House? Was it posted to WhiteHouse.gov? I've only seen it from conservative/Republican sources.
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I can't find it on www.whitehouse.gov or on http://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouse I did find the study guide which is no different than any other study guide provided to teachers when a program is presented on TV (ie: History Channel; TLC; PBS etc.) suggesting age appropriate discussions.
Jeff Allen
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Howard, are you really suggesting that Republicans took Deptartment of Education letterhead and concocted a fake letter to schools as part of their partisan propaganda? I didn't think you were a conspiracy theorist. The pre-speech material was from www.ed.gov. The original version was redacted after the firestorm and is no longer on the website. And yes, I read the original Dept. of Education version. If the actual intent of the speech was as they claim, then why did they feel the need to back pedal on the original material?
Richard Gahagan
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What's the big deal kids can get the same messages the president presented from watching cartoons,sesame street, and barney.
Howard B. Owens
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I wouldn't put anything past fringe Republicans, or fringe Democrats. I'm not suggesting anything about official party conduct.
Jeff Allen
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agreed on the first part, fringe is the key word.
Charlie Mallow
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This one is pretty obvious; a fringe element did concoct the whole story. I’m pretty sure that main stream Republicans would not want anything to do with this. There are nuts on both sides. You don’t support or follow the nuts. I watched an overlay of the crazy talking heads and the president’s actual speech last night. They called the man every name in the book for telling kids to work hard and stay in school. The Presidents comments where not unlike what most parents tell their kids on the first day of school. I think what we often forget is there are a lot of kids without real parents to tell them these things. There is no better role model than our president to a lot of these lost kids who are having so much trouble staying in school and doing the right thing.
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Posted by Richard Gahagan on September 9, 2009 - 9:46am What's the big deal kids can get the same messages the president presented from watching cartoons,sesame street, and barney. Richard, You might be right, but I think every president, regardless of party, should address our children at the beginning of the school year. It is a real time civic lesson. I was just a kid when Truman made his whistle stop tour and came to Batavia. We walked from school to the train station to see him. Today, the fringe would be screaming "indoctrination" for allowing school children the opportunity to see a sitting president. Most likely, at that age, I wasn't aware that his stop was part of his election campaign. It must have made an impression because I can still remember the event. That is the point. Yes, the president stated "if you fail, you fail yourself and your country" and it is true. These children are part and parcel of the fabric of our country. The message is that their success, in school, will strengthen that fabric for many years to come. Can they get that message from watching a cartoon? Maybe, but wouldn't it be nice if they got the message from every president?
Jeff Allen
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Charlie, the fringe right did not concoct the WHOLE story. They certainly blew it out of proportion as did the left fringe. It WAS the White House who back pedaled on the wording of the original materials. I still believe that the Administration got caught trying to slip one past the public and edited the message to a more benign one.
Bea McManis
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Posted by Jeff Allen on September 9, 2009 - 10:12am Charlie, the fringe right did not concoct the WHOLE story. They certainly blew it out of proportion as did the left fringe. It WAS the White House who back pedaled on the wording of the original materials. I still believe that the Administration got caught trying to slip one past the public and edited the message to a more benign one. I don't think it was so much trying to slip one past the public as it was 'let's get the kids involved', very much like H.W. Bush asking the kids to write letters to the White House. In my opinion, they were wrong to cut the speech. The attempts to please everyone and avoid controvery only seems to displease everyone and still stirs up trouble. You know, H.W.'s speech to the kids apparently didn't bother me (neither did Reagan's). I don't recall being upset about it. I guess I believed then, as I do now, that a speech from a president is a good thing. Making children political pawns in this issue is wrong..on both sides. Arlington TX refused to show the speech yesterday, but today they are busing 5th graders to hear President G.W. Bush speak on education Sept. 21. "A double standard? That's the question being asked amid plans by the Arlington, Texas school district to bus school children to hear former President George W. Bush speak at Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 21 after the district decided not to broadcast the education speech by President Obama. (PoliTex)" http://blogs.chron.com/txpotomac/2009/09/post_126.html. At first the school district said the children could watch President Obama's speech, but off campus. Then they issued a statement saying they would make the speech available to the teachers to use in their lesson plans, if they wanted to use it.
Charlie Mallow
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Jeff, from my understanding urging children to write letters telling them how you can “help” the president is not new and that is exactly what other presidents have done before. I think people with a crazy political agenda read that statement much differently than a young person would.
Jeff Allen
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Charlie, having teachers on their own, urging kids to write letters to the President on how they can "help" is not new. It's a kind of political at it's core when teachers would, by simply being human, inject their views into the project. But when the White House initiates the "help" letter writing it is as Bea just rightly said "making children political pawns". Again, why was the left ALL OVER the entire concept 18 years ago and right on board now? Notice I said concept, not content.
Charlie Mallow
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The intent was to get kids write the president with THEIR ideas. Didn’t you ever do that as a kid? I remember being asked to write all kinds of letters to people as a student. It’s a very common practice to provoke thought and discussion in a classroom or at least it was when I was in Catholic school. Kids love to be asked what they think. It looks like some political screwballs are trying to turn this into more than it is. From what I have read in this post, it has happened before. I don’t remember it happening to Bush but, it also sounds like something I would have just ignored as being from political nuts.
Jeff Allen
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The truth we will never know what the Presidents original intent was before being forced to back pedal. He gave a benign, feelgood speech and both sides have taken up the cause to use a dead issue for partisan gain.
John Roach
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You wonder if the left now wish they had never started this stupid stuff with Bush #1?
Lorie Longhany
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I remember writing a letter to Nixon when I was a kid. I was thrilled when I received the reply with the White House return address on the envelope.
Howard B. Owens
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Wish I had kept my letter from Nixon ...
Lorie Longhany
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Me, too.
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Come to think of it, I was forced by Sister Crucifesa to write a letter to Ronald Reagan. The worst part was I received a letter back and had to read it in front of the whole class! I now see that I was brainwashed by Ronald Reagan into believing in Reaganomics. It took me years to get over it.
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I think I wrote a letter to John Adams, but Ben Franklin's mail service was a tad slow back then. I don't remember getting a reply.
Charlie Mallow
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LoL
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I had one from Jimmy Carter. While I think he was one of the worst Presidents, it was nice getting that White House letter head.
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Still have my letters from President Clinton from when I wrote to the White House in 3rd grade and from President Bush when I earned my Eagle Scout.
bud prevost
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We got a letter from GWB and his lovely wife when we got married. I also sent a letter to President Carter, after losing to Reagan, to see if there was gonna be a blowout,closeout liquidation sale on the Billy beer. No response :( Guess he had better things to do, like packing and boo-hooing about Iran.

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