Obama’s School Address

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Society & Culture

The entire transcript for today’s address can be found here.

I didn’t like the idea of the president broadcasting a speech to public school children all across America for two reasons. 1) It could be easily used to promote his political ideologies through both his own words and those of liberal teachers who would be leading class discussions before and after the speech, and 2) because I believe the god-like status of the modern American president has grown far beyond what is healthy as it stands, and that this type of stunt only furthers this idea. The office of the president and the executive branch in general has far more power and a much greater ego than was ever intended.

On the first front I don’t think there will be any serious problem. He seems to be directing his speech at primarily lower income or otherwise troubled students, and he is using his own personal story to show them that a person can change their life’s direction for the better by working hard. That’s a good message, and I will be disappointed if my conservative friends fail to rally behind that message and decide to bash him anyway. Conservatism is all about working hard and being productive citizens. There seems to be nothing else in the speech that adds a pervasive spin. There were, however, a couple of lines that I found to be slightly disturbing, and which I would not doubt we will hear about from Obama’s critics.

Quote: “You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free.”

Really? Is that all history and social studies is good for? There’s a brief mention of “free” – a vague term by the definitions of most K-12 students, and often one that associates more with American slavery than the absence of political tyranny. The emphasis is on poverty, homelessness, crime and discrimination – and “fairness.”  Now, perhaps these are what Obama sees as the most pressing issues of society, but where is national security, stability, prosperity and liberty? Not worth an honorable mention apparently. The message is clear: government is about making life better for poor people and minorities so we can have a level playing field. That may sound like a harsh translation, but read the quote again.

While tackling these social problems is an honorable task, Obama seems to frame these causes as the primary focus of social responsibility, and by logical extension the responsible function of government. I have to question why Obama would isolate those particular problems, which are issues that are more from the list of socialist concerns than that of capitalism. If our children are taught that justice means eliminating homelessness how do you suppose they will view welfare? If they are taught that justice is making our nation “more fair and more free” what might you guess their stance on universal healthcare would be? It would have been nice to hear him comment on limited government and economic liberty, but really, who am I kidding.

Speaking of limited government, this line was inserted in his closing statements.

Quote: “I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn.”

Yes, children. In case you were wondering, it’s the president’s job to make sure you have nice classrooms and cool stuff. We don’t need to get into state and local governments, and how your neighborhood property taxes pay your teachers and build your classrooms – what’s important is that you look up to President Goodwrench and the Fabulous Federal Government for all of your education needs.

Our chief megalomaniac is not only insinuating that he is personally responsible for their quality of education, but he is promoting a view that says the Federal Government has the right and authority to do so. If I had children I would be sitting with them today, either at home or at the school, explaining to them that what the president “means” is that he is trying to help the people who get us our books and buildings, but that he actually isn’t able to do very much.

Perhaps I’m kidding myself again. These days people seem to believe the president has, and should have, the authority to do pretty much whatever he wants. Sounds a lot more like a King than a President to me. What are we moving toward in America? As the office of the president gains ever more power, attention, expectation, reverence and authority we are gradually losing the structure that was created by the constitution. Executive orders are used to effectively create laws that completely bypass congress. The president’s reach into our businesses and our personal lives is an abomination to the very spirit that the American Republic was founded on when we parted from the tyrannical rule of the king and parliament of Britain. Congress – direct representatives of the people and the states – is supposed to create laws, and the executive office is to see that they are put into effect.

What have we come to when he who enforces the laws gets to make the laws? What if police officers were able to write their own rules, not having to answer to a greater authority? In America, authority comes from two places: the people and the constitution. They are both in place to keep power-hungry people from using the system to oppress others – think Hitler,… think Nepoleon,… think Caesar Augustus. It’s been going on since the beginnings of human civilization, and our founder’s primary objective was to keep it from happening in the United States.

This president doesn’t doesn’t seem to be aware of such a threat, or maybe he’s fully aware – that scares me the most. Either way, it makes me uncomfortable that he is putting statements like these into the minds of an entire generation of children. Hopefully they’ll walk away remembering his call to a strong work ethic and commitment to goals, and not that Barack Obama is trying to make our lives better, and that one day they too can work in the government for the same cause.

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  1. tomdegan says


    Just sit back and relax, folks. Barack Obama is only performing a routine presidential duty that has been performed by presidents for generations. There’s nothing to be afraid of. He’s not trying to turn your babies into mini Marxists. This isn’t the Trotsky For Toddlers program. The president of the United States merely wants to have a heart to heart talk with the children of America about the importance of a good education, that’s all. I promise you, we Progressives do not believe in evil, subliminal messages. Chill out!


    Just kidding.


    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  2. wesley says

    Thanks Tom,

    Regarding past presidential addresses, I personally deflect all criticism and allegations of hypocrisy simply for the fact that I was born in 1981. I really didn’t begin having political opinions of any sort until midway through Bush Jr.’s first term.

    Regardless of the particular ideology, the idea of presidents broadcasting nationwide addresses to public school children creeps me out. Anyone having that much influence over that many moldable minds at the same time simply provides too many opportunities for abuse for my taste.

    At the same time I understand the symbolic nature of the presidency, and to be honest I would much rather kids look to Obama as a role model than Will.I.Am or Ashton Kutcher. That being said, it still bothers me, and I have the wonderful internet, and the First Amendment, to thank for letting me spout my concerns.

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