Patti Wenzel

Much ado about nothing

By - Sep 8th, 2009 01:51 pm
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President Barack Obama. Photo, courtesy of The White House.

President Barack Obama’s speech to American schoolchildren this morning was nothing more than an adult urging students to study hard, have a dream and shoot for the stars. There was no mention of kneeling at the feet of the leader or encouraging them to lobby their parents for unquestioning support of the President’s agenda.

Instead, Obama shared stories of his and First Lady Michelle Obama’s struggles to succeed and told students that “where you are now is no excuse for where you will end up.”

He stressed responsbility in the speech, telling students that they are responsible for discovering what they are good at doing in order to reach their goals.

“For whatever you want to be, you will need a good education,”  Obama said. “You can’t drop out of school and drop into a good job. Develop your talents, skills and intellect to help us solve these difficult problems.”

Obama finished his address by telling students not to give up on themselves because, when they do, they give up on the country.

“Don’t let your family, country or yourself down,” he said.

School districts throughout metropolitan Milwaukee handled the event differently: the West Bend school district refused to show the speech. West Allis-West Milwaukee, Grafton, Waukesha, Elmbrook and Wauwatosa taped the event and will show it in the future as part of the curriculum. And, Milwaukee, Nicolet, St. Francis and South Milwaukee left the decision up to individual teachers.

In a last-second reversal, Shorewood School Superintendent Blane McCann allowed the speech to be shown to students, after initially saying the speech did not align with the curriculum and wasn’t timely.

A number of parents protested McCann’s decision. But after the superintendent reviewed a copy of the speech released Monday, he said he did not feel the President’s “remarks were political and that they fit with the District’s mission and core beliefs.” He added that while he isn’t requiring district teachers to use the suporting materials the Department of Education supplied with the speech, those materials do “reinforce the President’s message of persistence, hard work and that students take advantage of the opportunities offered through a free and public education.”

It was those materials that caused the most uproar among conservative protesters. The main sticking point — a project directing students to write letters to the President telling him how they would help achieve his educational goals for the nation.

Florida Republican party chair Jim Greer, who said last week he was “absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology,” said Monday he favored the speech after changes he said the White House, under political pressure, had made.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has acknowledged that a section about writing to the president on how students could help him meet education goals was poorly worded and had been changed.

Categories: Commentary, News, Politics

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