On Tuesday President Obama gave a national address to students, his Back to School speech. I remember last year when there was unbelievable outrage at the President wanting to speak to students. He was slammed by opponents and pundits who claimed he was using taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate the youth of the nation. Many parents kept their children home, and many schools refused to show the speech. I was visiting a school that day, sitting in on the foreign language class, and I was surprised to find out that the school would not be showing the President’s speech. They decided to make it available to those who wanted to watch it, during lunch, in the library. I know I’m in conservative Utah, but that’s red-(state)-iculous. To believe that the President would use a speech to students to ‘indoctrinate’ is laughable at best. It’s just another example of partisan politics where people disagree first out of principle and then find out later what they’re disagreeing with. And when the speech was given and the most subversive thing the President said was “Do your best, work hard and you’ll succeed” these same people issued hollow apologies.
This year the speech went by and I didn’t hear anything about it until I happened to overhear a news report about it in the break room at work. I am not the only one on the internet asking what happened to the furor, where’s the outrage that a President would dare to talk to children at Public Schools? Politics just makes me laugh anymore. But I’m laughing in the same vein as the Napoleon quote, “One must laugh for man, to avoid crying for him”. I am getting fed up with politicians who would rather debate their opponents than the issues. There is more yelling and screaming and defaming of character than honest, open discussion of policies. And I’m looking at both parties here. I am not affiliated with either the Republicans or the Democrats. I have long considered myself a Centrist, or a Democratic Republican. I look at the person and what they believe, and not what party they belong to. For example I voted for George W Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.
But all that aside – it is silly to get upset at a President who wants to address students. Especially when considering what he said. He didn’t outline any 5-year plan, he didn’t ask students to swear allegiance, he didn’t even try to promote any of his own policies (with the possible exception of the one sentence where he says, “I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books and the equipment and the computers you need to learn” – but really both sides agree that schools need a lot of help). I was really impressed as I read the transcript of the speech. It hits all of the normal buzzwords and is very encouraging without really saying anything controversial – but that’s exactly why it was such a good speech.
It was simple. It said what needed to be said. Too often we complain (especially in Church) when we hear people saying the same things over and over again. But sometimes (especially in Church) the same few answers are what we need. There are very few big answers that solve all problems, most can be solved by the same old simple things we know we need to be doing. And President Obama reiterates the same few basic things that will help students be succesful: Work hard, try new things, don’t give up.
It was a good speech and I would encourage everyone to read it. I enjoyed reading it and think there is a lot of good encouragement there for students today.