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A Speech Worthy of All the Fuss

By Jo-Ann Armao

A lot of pundits are seizing on the uproar over today’s presidential speech to the nation’s school children as further evidence of a bumbling White House. How could they let something so innocuous become so controversial?

But, after watching President Obama's speech, I'm convinced that the administration actually may have ended up outfoxing its critics. The furor -- as silly as it was -- focusing more attention on the event than it likely would have gotten in the first place.

The president essentially told students, on what for many is the first day of classes, that they needed to put in the hard work it takes to succeed. It’s an important message, but not one that would normally dominate the blogosphere or generate page-one headlines. So, criticism by conservatives and others of the president trying to foist his socialist agenda on unwitting children likely lead more people to tune into the events at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va.

Those who did were rewarded with a vintage performance by the president. Powerfully delivered, the speech drew on Obama’s experiences to speak directly to young people. “My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled...There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit,” he said. Obama brought in life lessons of others -- famous (Michael Jordan and J.K. Rowling) and not (Jazmin Perez, Andoni Schultz) -- to try to inspire children to set goals and not be discouraged by failure. “Don’t ever give up on yourself,“ he said.

In truth, there was nothing new or even terribly profound in the president’s address; critics were already labeling it corny and a waste of precious classroom time. But, if it ended up inspiring just one student to study more, take a harder class or stay in school -- it was a speech worthy of all the fuss.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | September 8, 2009; 1:59 PM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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Comments

The speech was appropriate, but the lesson plan was not.

Posted by: mckphx | September 8, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I am not a fan of the current administrations policies, however the notion that we should be scared of our President addressing our children is sad and stupid. Right up there with the notion that our President wants to kill your grandma.

Posted by: 1st72ndAR91W | September 8, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

It becomes increasingly obvious that the media is merely a fascist tool. While the dumbed down american program is indeed in full swing it hasn't reached the desired drool level necessary for a majority to believe that their children should not be addressed by a recently elected and popular president.

The Town Holler loonies were not news

This was not news

The American people ran off the republicans. The media needs to send foot to fleeing arse, not leading off their corporate controlled "news" with anything the discredited repugnicons have to say.

Fascism
A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

Posted by: mot2win | September 8, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

I do believe the speech was harmless. People are so sensational at times they did all that arguing and protesting and no one seemed to have a problem on 9/11 when Bush was reading to the children. The speech was informative and inspirational.

Posted by: ceskridge1 | September 9, 2009 12:02 AM | Report abuse

What I have learned from this fiasco is that the right wingnuts were left behind as a children.

Posted by: Single_Payer | September 9, 2009 4:46 AM | Report abuse

The mothers and fathers who wouldn't allow their children to watch the President's speech clearly despise Obama's leadership. But they explained themselves as protectors rather than censors. Of course one threat was certain: If their kids had seen and heard Obama's message, they might have come home with uncomfortable questions asking Mom and Dad why they are so angry with this man.

Posted by: OregonDem | September 9, 2009 6:25 AM | Report abuse

George H.W. BUSH, speaking to High School students in 2001: And by the year 2000, at least 9 in every 10 students should graduate from high school. We should be first in the world in math and science. We need to regularly test students' abilities. Every American child should start school ready to learn. Every American adult should be literate. And every American school should be safe and drug-free.

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.

House Democrats actually started an investigation by the General Accounting Office, and they held hearings on it because it cost about $26,000 to stage the whole Bush speech.

How much did the 0bama speech cost?

When should the GAO begin the new investigation?

Leftists can now enjoy a healthy taste of their own medicine.

Posted by: NeverLeft | September 9, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Evaluated by adults, perhaps, the speech may be seen as nothing profound are even necessary. But the speech was not intended for adults or even the media. The speech was addressed to students, grades K through 12. It was all about them and hit all the right notes if anyone else can get out of themselves long enough to look at it and evaluate if it was appropriate for age and developmental needs of those students.
K through Grade 6 relate to the President as a "Dad" and see him as "the country". He gave them importance because he spoke to them and, though they may have not needed or understood the content, they got the message.
Grade 7 through 12 received information germaine to their life and accomplishment of milestones that they are in the midst of. It was warm, personal, instructive, encouraging; it addressed "failure", which is something all of them need to hear, regardless of socioeconomic status. It told them they are important today and tomorrow in the life of the country. He reinforced the role of parents, teachers, counsellors, and perhaps, some will have their sense of isolation, despair, and loneliness mitigated and will reach out to someone if they are at risk for destructive behaviors.

The Dept of Education included a suggested "Lesson Plan", a guide for teachers in discussing the speech afterward. Every educational event by someone not on faculty of a high school; every adult continuing education or inservice presentation; every educational article in children's newsletters that abound today, will include a statement of goals at the beginning of the "lecture" or reading material, an exercise in determining if goals were addressed, inquiry if the goals can be applied or used in their life/work, and an evaluation of the presentor, the environment, etc.

The uproar over this was based on ignorance and politics, and not the politics of the President but the politics of his opponents, which has driven everything they do and say for the past 8 months.

Because it was an innocent and successful speech and because the opposition has made themselves look foolish, they have created another fiction, that the speech given was not the speech intended before all of the opposition. I saw the packet sent to teachers two or three weeks ago. The speech delivered is the same originally written. The Lesson Plan was changed to accomodate the uproar, which is unfortunate. If we trust the teachers with the kids 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, we can trust them to know how to use a suggested Lesson Plan.

Posted by: nana4 | September 9, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Lets see: The Education Dept. sends the speech and lesson plans to the NEA teachers union instead of to school districts. After the speech, the students were to write letters to themselves on what they could do to help Obama. Obama is constantly on television. Isn't this all about Obama. And those opposed (parents)are just ignorant?

Posted by: allamer1 | September 9, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

The flap over the speech was caused by the distribution of a "Lesson Plan" "PROVIDED" to the teachers to be used after the speech. I also believe that parents resented the administration telling them to get their children to do their home work, etc. My grand kids already study and work hard and I resent being told to do it an how.

There are groups of parents that do need to be told this because they are too ignorant to know to do it and thus need prodding.

Posted by: Jimmy7 | September 10, 2009 3:14 AM | Report abuse

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