Monday, September 07, 2009

My Thoughts On Pres. Obama's Speech To Schoolchildren

As I wrote when news first came out about this speech, that if Obama had just made a speech and not had the "kits" that went along with it, it probably wouldn't have created the controversy it did.

I said at the time that I wasn't going to take my kids out of school. Our schools here sent home a paper that a parent could sign if they wanted their child to participate in another activity during Pres. Obama's speech. I didn't sign that either. I wanted my kids to hear the speech. I wanted them to tell me their reaction to it. I wanted to know what the teachers and the other students had to say. Many will argue that this isn't the orginal speech. That this is the speech that was written after the controversy. There is simply no way of knowing that.

Tonight or tomorrow I will let my kids give you their reaction to the speech and what went on in the classroom.

In reading through the speech, I can see what Pres. Obama was trying to accomplish. He was reaching out to students whose parents aren't doing such a hot job in teaching and guiding them. Heaven knows we need to inspire these children somehow.

For many African American students in poor school districts, this may have been an extraordinary opportunity for them to hear directly from a black President about what is reality and what is not. For example Pres. Obama said:

"Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life - what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home - that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying."

We all know there are untold number of kids who need to hear that message. And hearing it from someone who also did not have advantages growing up, and is now President, is important as well.

He goes on:

"I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things."

That may be the most important thing he said. Do you know how many kids out there really believe that they can be a NFL player, a famous rapper, or basketball star? Way too many. Maybe, just maybe, this could open their eyes to the reality that that is highly unlikely and they need a back up plan. They need an education.

He also said:

"I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox."

This is a great thing to hear from our President. Who knows how many kids will think of that sentence next time they get home and turn on that Xbox. Maybe they will decide to turn it off and do their homework.

He talked about not having a father in his life and how he didn't let that be an excuse to not try. That is a very important thing for a child who doesn't have a father in their life, and there are way too many of them, to hear from our President.

Let's face it. This was a speech for the kids who are barely hanging on in school. And frankly, they do need to hear it. Maybe it wasn't meant for all schools. Maybe it was targeted at the ones who have a great many kids without fathers, without a lot of "things, and without much hope.

So what I am trying to say here, is that this was a good thing. Yes it was executed badly, and yes they should not have sent out the questionnaires, but the speech itself could be a catalyst for so many needy children to be inspired to do better in school.

The things that you and I might have big differences with Obama is not something schoolkids are aware of. To them he is the President. That's it.

Just because many of us don't agree with Obama on policy or issues, doesn't mean we can't acknowledge when he speaks the truth and says things that are important and that we agree with.

My only problem is that as much as Obama seems to want the best education for needy children, he turns his back on programs and caves in to unions instead.

P.S. Obama ended with "God bless you." Are we allowed to say that in public schools???? Oh my. Where is the ACLU??

Update: If you think Republicans overreacted to this speech, check out what the Democrats did when Pres. Bush spoke to schoolchildren in 1991. What goes around, comes around.