The Example We Need
President Obama will be addressing American school children this week in a nationally-televised address. It is not the first nor the last time presidents have spoken to this segment of the population. They regularly direct their speeches at adults in radio addresses each Saturday, during press conferences and on plenty of other occasions. When our leader speaks to our children we have certain expectations, however. It is usually limited to topics important to this demographic: staying in school; getting good grades; rejecting drugs and alcohol.
Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush made such speeches during their terms in office. Schools across the country tuned in to hear these men encourage the best from school kids and few adults had any qualms about them doing it. Their performances were harmless as far as politics is concerned, with no references to the parties, to hot-button social issues or to right-wing agenda matters flagrantly being inserted into the dialog. These Republicans knew how to walk the narrow path they had to, and they set a precedent for others to follow. Although President Bush 2 didn’t avail himself of the honor, President Obama will be taking on the task.
This has provoked cliched, predictable outrage on the part of that outlaw fringe now dominating discourse among conservatives. Foam drips from their mouths as they moan about ‘socialist plots’ or cult-building akin to Hugo Chavez and Kim Il Jong II. These operatives see bears behind every tree, and poison in every well. Obama could read from a published book and they would smell conspiracy in the choice of title. But if John McCain had won the election and were to be reading to school kids this week, the story would certainly be different. The same screaming protesters would be cheerleading McCain on, forming coffee and doughnut groups to watch and beam as the president launched into the very same themes the true president will cover.
But President Obama should have little trouble winning over the majority of the kids he will address. Regardless of their parent’s attitudes (and maybe in spite of them), millions of school children will appreciate the fact that a world leader wanted to talk to them. Maybe the older students will have an understanding of the big issues which won’t be spoken about. They are only a few years from voting themselves, and the sharper ones already read news reports and know about the controversy. I’ll wager a poll of students would find majority support to hear the speech. Better than studying ancient Greece, anyway.