The silly blow-up over President Obama’s back-to-school speech drove home once again how I am that won’t be around when the current crop of kids take the reins of political, social and business so-called leadership roles.
I am continually amazed and revolted as I watch so-called conservatives of all stripes work to be sure their children are exposed to nothing that conflicts with whatever ideology they are steeping them in.
I say ‘conservatives’ because so-called liberals seem more flexible within their stands. (Please note that I said ‘flexible, not changeable.)
What exactly was in this speech, that some kids weren’t allowed to hear? Here are some excerpts that I found especially uplifting to hear—and if you think I cherry-picked the contents you can read it in its entirety and decide for yourself.
- But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, the best schools in the world — and none of it will make a difference, none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities, unless you show up to those schools, unless you pay attention to those teachers, unless you listen to your parents and grandparents and other adults and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. That’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education.
- You cannot drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to train for it and work for it and learn for it.
- What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. The future of America depends on you. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
- We need every single one of you to develop your talents and your skills and your intellect so you can help us old folks 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.
- But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life — what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home — none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. There is no excuse for not trying.
- [After describing specific kids’ situations] But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their lives, for their education, and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
- I know that sometimes you get that sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star. Chances are you’re not going to be any of those things. The truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject that you study. You won’t click with every teacher that you have. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right at this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
- I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength because it shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and that then allows you to learn something new.
- So today, I want to ask all of you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a President who comes here in 20 or 50 or 100 years say about what all of you did for this country?
The text of the speech was released early in response to fear-mongering, but some schools still didn’t broadcast it and some parents still prevented their kids from watching.
Why? Because he encouraged them to take responsibility for themselves? Because he said that our country’s future depends on them? Because he was raised by a single mom? Because he told them that success was a function of very hard work?
Or is it the closed-minded attitude of the ideologue represented by 15-year-old Andrew Quick, near Orlando, Fla., who said “he considered the speech to be a potentially disruptive interruption of his school day, so decided not to watch it. “I’m a Republican,” he said, “and I really don’t like Obama all that much.”
I translate that to mean ‘I don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t think as I think and agree with me’, an attitude that doesn’t bode well for our country’s future.
Exactly what in this speech was of such concern to the conservative agenda that their kids should not hear it?
Perhaps the problem is the message that, in the end, they are each responsible for what they become—not their parents or teachers or politicians and certainly not God—just them.
That they will be what they choose to be and whether that choice is active or passive; it’s their choice as thinking individuals—assuming they choose to think and not just blindly follow a given ideology.
Image credit: edokhan on flickr