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Update: President Obama’s School Speech vs. Reagan’s ’88 School Speech

posted by Ethan Nichtern

Via Daily Kos, a parent in Ohio sent this note to school with their daughter regarding Obama’s school speech. I wish my mom would’ve written permission slips like this for me:

“Despite the warnings of right-wing radio hosts, and fullycognizant that my daughter risks learning a lesson in civics, I,nonetheless, grant her permission to watch a televised address by theduly-elected leader of these United States, President Barack Obama onthe controversial subject of the importance of school.”

Obama-laughing.jpg

What Would Buddha Do?I’m really not sure. I think Sid might not’ve given a speech on theneed to work hard in school. He might’ve told kids to get to the forestas fast as they could. Rush Limbaugh would’ve crucified Buddha’s School Speech, I’m pretty sure.

Do you find this controversy, um, well, at all…you know…racist? Or are we just upset that a highly literate president is addressing the kids, for a change? Yeesh. Here, check out Ronald Reagan’s School Speech from 1988 (more politcal, you think?). By the way, Rush Limbaugh supposedly just recommended Obama’s Speech! I guess Limbaugh is not anti-learning after all.



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Lynne

posted September 8, 2009 at 8:26 am


Not only does it smell of racism, but what scares me is how it’s deeply effecting kids at developmentally sensitive ages, who walk into their classrooms declaring “my parents won’t let me watch this,” believing daddy knows best, and grow up knowing the big scary black man who uses 2+ syllable words really is a threat.



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SudoGhost

posted September 8, 2009 at 9:21 am


I don’t think it’s racist, because everything I’ve heard about Obama, I’ve remember hearing about Clinton as a child in school. Everyone complains about presidents. When there were republican presidents, the democrats did everything they could to complain and make noise about how the republican is ruining out country. Now the democrats aren’t complaining, it’s the republicans. Same noise, different mouth. Just because you aren’t in agreement with this particular mouth doesn’t make the point any more or less (in)valid.
I think it’s important to remember that we can’t think in terms of “right and wrong” because as much as people try to make, that isn’t how life works. Everyone is quick to throw the “racist” card in whenever someone doesn’t like someone who happens to be different, but I really don’t think that’s it in this case.
These aren’t hateful, evil people, who are out to destroy everything. These are simply people with differing opinions about how things should be governed. The person in charge of our country right now is governing in a way that isn’t in agreement with their outlook on life, so they are upset. If you didn’t like President Bush (myself included) then you should have an understanding of what I mean.
I wasn’t happy about the way my country was being run, by any stretch of the imagination. Things I’m hearing about Obama, I remember thinking about Bush.
They don’t think Obama is a “big scary black man” (at least I hope most people don’t) I think they’re of the mind set of “this man is trying to teach my children lessons that are not the same as my own” and while you may think that’s hateful and ignorant, I’m sure that if you’re a parent, you’ve thought that at least once, even if you didn’t think of it in those terms.
I guess what I’m trying to say is different doesn’t mean wrong, and if we keep looking at it that way then they aren’t the only ones being ignorant.



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Also Via

posted September 8, 2009 at 1:52 pm


Also via DKos, an address by Pres. Reagan in 1988 that went way further into the political waters than Pres. Obama did today (i.e. today Pres. Obama did not mention politics _whatsoever_):
http://www.dailykostv.com/w/002107/



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Ethan

posted September 8, 2009 at 2:38 pm


Yes I heard about that Reagan speech. Really makes you wonder…
…unless you are the cable news media, in which case it makes you do nothing.



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Evelyn

posted September 8, 2009 at 4:57 pm


I may tick some folks off with this comment and I debated not posting but.. hey.. here’s my two cents on the matter:
I don’t think this situation was racist, I think it was silly. He is a sitting president, which means that he deserves at least some modicum of respect. I fully understand that not everyone will agree with his politics. This is America, you don’t have to agree with the president and you do have the right to express your disagreements freely.
When I heard that parents were actually pulling their kids out of school because of this, it both irritated and depressed me. Parents should take responsibility in these situations instead of just plugging their kids ears to differing views. I happen to be an Obama supporter from way back but if I had kids in school right now and I deeply disagreed with the president, I would have made sure my kids made it to school today. If you disagree with the president, then why not watch the speech yourself and then discuss it at home with your child and explain to them why you have a problem with what Obama had to say? It requires a little extra effort and it means that parents would have to actually teach their kids instead of leaving it up to school teachers and TV but since when is that a bad thing? I think this whole controversy highlights why we have some of the problems we do in this country. Instead of actually listening to the people we disagree with and expressing our opinions in a civilized manner, we tend to tune in to the cable news channel that fits our fancy.
I happen to think the reason you didn’t get an outcry in ’88 is because the country has changed. The country has become more polarized and more individualistic than it was then. I’m not saying that the late ’80s and early ’90s were a golden era of bipartisanship but I just feel like the cable news channels and talk radio have pulled people apart in a whole new way. Instead of simply respecting the office, we want to tear down everything we don’t agree with or just stick our fingers in our ears and hum the national anthem as loud as possible.
I haven’t had a chance to hear the speech yet, but I understand it was your basic “stay in school kids” fare. Much ado about nothing.
And for the record, if it had been W. (who I am certainly no fan of) and I had kids, you bet I would have kept them in school.



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Damaris

posted September 8, 2009 at 5:01 pm


Not racist at all.



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Damaris

posted September 8, 2009 at 5:21 pm


Racism has to do with power. Whether it’s maintaining it or taking it away.
That’s why someone who may not necessary be a bigot can engage in racist activity if race is used as the mechanism to engage in a power play.
Also
@Evelyn – people have always behaved this way. The media has only chosen to maximize it’s profits by customizing it’s product.



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SudoGhost

posted September 8, 2009 at 8:58 pm


You all disappoint me. I guess no matter what “side” your on, the world will always be ignorant of those unlike yourselves.



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Your Name

posted September 8, 2009 at 10:30 pm


Evelyn, I agree with you about not removing my children from school just because of the speech. I am not an Obama supported but I agree that it is important for children to hear both sides of an argument and form their own opinion (and hopefully discuss those opinions with their parents). I do feel that President Obama’s speech and President Bush’s speech in 1991 was in poor taste. They have the feeling of being a PR stunt. I have less issue with Reagan’s. His was done a week after the election of President Bush and contained a question and answer period from students. I don’t feel any of them should have been broadcast, but should have been recorded and distributed so teachers and administrators could be prepared for questions from students and prepare if desired a lesson plan based on the speech.
Remember that all news is seen thru the eyes of the reporter and therefore is biased. Somewhere between all the news sources is the truth.



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Cynical Synapse

posted September 8, 2009 at 11:07 pm


@Evelyn:
I agree with you. The fundamental issue is conservative vs. liberal, which some misunderstand to be Republican vs. Democrat. That’s not necessarily the case. Others confound the matter by throwing race into the mix. I don’t doubt that race is an issue for some, but not most.
@Your Name:
What presidential speech of any kind isn’t a PR stunt? How can you have less issue with Reagan’s speech than Obama’s? Reagan’s 1988 speech was almost nothing but political positioning while Obama’s 2009 speech was about doing what’s right and making a difference. Obama didn’t define what either of those meant except kids should do their best.
As for “pre-distribution” so teachers could be prepared to discuss, the biggest issue with Obama’s speech was the Education Department’s so-called lesson plans. Heaven forbit we’d foster discussion.



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Your Name

posted September 9, 2009 at 3:17 am


…and don’t forget that it was FOX News who intentionally and so egregiously put the WRONG spin on this speech BEFORE it was delivered by labeling it “The Indoctrination Speech.” Oh REALLY?! Fox News couldn’t have been further from the truth, and it isn’t the first time they’ve been so completely wrong …
What a shame that so many children have just been given a model, which they in all probability will follow, on how to believe anything they read/see/hear without taking the time to find out what the truth actually is…how to fear and withdraw/disengage from anyone who might happen to have a different opinion or another point of view… how to vehemently show disrespect for the authority figure in leadership.
Parents who caused their children to miss an entire school day to avoid a speech that lasted only minutes should have been willing to miss a day of work to be WITH their children in the classroom.



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Not Totally Anonymous

posted September 9, 2009 at 6:19 am


@ “Your Name” just after “Sudo Ghost”:
If you continued to listen after the prepared speech given by President Obama, you would have heard a very informative and engaging Question and Answer period between the President and a group of around 30 Ninth Graders in the school library. I was very impressed with the questions that these young people presented, and with the candid responses which the President gave back to them. It was very positive, far from apologetic or an attempt to justify himself (as the 1988 Reagan clip seemed to me)and encouraged kids to learn from their mistakes, rather than feel defeated when faced with obstacles and setbacks. As a parent, I wouldn’t know what better lesson to teach to my own children.



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gypsychant

posted September 9, 2009 at 3:07 pm


I feel some need to issue an apology for the stupidness that they tried to blame Obama for.
I really want to hear them say, “I was wrong.”
This was a great speech all children should hear.
I believe the right does not want to take a chance that their children will actually respect the president.



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Annoyed

posted September 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm


Oh, are you KIDDING me? Because some are strongly opposed to the president’s political views, the racist card has to be thrown out. That is such a ludicrous and lazy statement. Believe it or not, I disagree with people from all races, religions, and both genders. Obviously that makse me a racist when I disagree with someone who is of a different race than I am. The same ridiculous fallacy could be used the other way–those who opposed President Bush’s views and decisions could be labeled as racist as well. Stupid, isn’t it?



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