I just finished watching the President’s address to our nation’s schoolchildren. You know, the one that generated such heated debate over the last week or so that several states and countless school districts decided not to show it. Even here, in my liberal little biosphere of a Village, the Superintendent of Schools sent out an email informing all parents that if anyone chose not to have their child watch the speech, they could opt out by sending an email to that child’s teacher.
My husband and I chose to let our children watch the speech. No—that’s wrong. We didn’t give it a second thought. It was a given that our kids would watch the speech. And yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I did vote for the guy (not that it’s anyone’s business but that seems to be a crucial part of the debate…along with the assumption that if you vote for someone you automatically agree with everything that person says or does. Not true, by the way.). But had a previous administration’s President spoken to our children, they would have watched that speech as well. President George H.W. Bush spoke to our schoolchildren in 1991; same for President Reagan in 1988. They were/are our Presidents. We need to listen to what they have to say and make our own judgments. And civic responsibility? It’s never too early to learn that.
So I’m interested to find out a) if the kids had a reaction to the speech and b) if they are interested in talking about it at all. Because I’ve found that those things that get us adults all up in arms are really not the same things that get our kids agitated (i.e. the price of the new Rock Band Beatles edition for one). I’m guessing that the speech won’t be mentioned unless either hubby or I bring it up, or unless somebody got in trouble for talking during the speech which would be duly noted and reported on in great detail.
I decided to withhold judgment on the speech until I watched it. I know, novel idea. Many of the vociferous rantings of the last week were done without benefit of even having read the transcript of the speech. But after watching it, all I can think is, “Is this what got everybody all fired up?”
“Do your best.”
“…start with the responsibility you have within yourself.”
“Every single one of you has something to offer.”
“What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country.”
I heard nothing in the speech on health care, the war in Afghanistan, tort reform, or the stock market, some of the topics that opponents to this speech feared would be presented. What I heard was a President imploring the nation’s children to take responsibility for themselves and their education, to make the most of what this country has to offer in terms of education, and to know that who they are and how they behave is of vital importance. It was a great speech, written for a varied audience, hitting all of the notes that parents should hit every now and again while raising their own children. I’m glad President Obama spoke to the kids today, on the first or second day of school. Come to think of it, I wish President Obama would speak to them every week. Or at least come over here once a week and talk to my kids. Maybe then we could table the “great green bean debate” once and for all.
I’m getting concerned about the backlash to everything this administration, and even the smaller local ones, are trying to do. While not a fan of some previous administration’s efforts to reform certain things in this country, I do have a healthy respect for anyone who tries to affect any kind of change, even if I am ideologically opposed. So, until it doesn’t work, let’s give it a try (I’m looking at you, No Child Left Behind). But having the President take time out of his day to speak to the nation’s schoolchildren about the value of education? Not something we need to worry about.