Obama's Talk With Students Controversy


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Today, I read the speach Obama will give to students K-12 tomorrow morning. As someone who just graduate high school not too long ago I know it's a little different for a President to address students directly as Presidents are typically seen as highly political figures and it is a rare thing to have one as polarizing as Obama or Bush try to reach out to students. I believe this is the first time a President has made a direct address to all students since Bush 41. Typically during my schooling (Clinton and Bush) the President would discuss the history of the White House or something that is reflective of the most nonpolitical thing and often the First Lady was the primary speaker. It was also always through a video tape rather than a direct address.

Obama has taken a different course than a President typically would a decided to try to encourage students. Honestly, this should be left up to the First Lady as she is a less political figure (Laura Bush would have fit this role well as she focused on education).

Overall, I would say there is nothing that objectional in the speach that would cause me to worry about a kid watching it. I would say it's not even that good of a speach. He goes on and talks about his experiences and Michelle's as if some kid in 3rd grade actually cares to sit and listen to a guy his parents hate talk about how his father left him. At one point Obama is a typical politician and tries to get brownie points by mentioning some kid with cancer and his personal story.

 Some of the statements that I would find some objection with are:

  1. And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future. 
  2. We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country. 
  3. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
  4. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down
  5. (The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, ) who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best. 
The above statements show his belief in collectivism. That your problems are really my problems. If you are failing it's because I'm failing you. That is the sort of thinking that leads to nationalism and socialism. People shouldn't be motivated to advance their country, they should be motivated to advance themselves.
However there were some lines that I also completely believe in and agree with. Those are:
  1. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future
  2. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures.
  3. The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder.

In the end, this is well intentioned, but as I pointed out there are some themes of collectivism/nationalism laced into this and people are right to question what he is trying to do.

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