September 8th, 2009
02:11 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama delivers controversial school speech

WASHINGTON (CNN) – One of the most unexpected controversies of the Obama administration came to a head Tuesday as the president delivered a hotly debated back-to-school speech to students across the country.

Many conservatives over the past week expressed a fear that the president's address would be used to push a partisan political agenda. Obama, however, avoided any mention of political initiatives. He repeatedly urged students to work hard and stay in school.

"There is no excuse for not trying," he told students at a high school in Arlington, Virginia.

"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."

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Filed under: Education • President Obama
soundoff (194 Responses)
  1. Stephen

    The uproar over the president's speech to school kids and the paranoid parents keeping their little protoges from hearing the speech reminds me of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific and the song "You've got to be Taught".
    What are these parents teaching their kids?

    September 8, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  2. Cindy from NC

    Did I miss something. Where was the controversy in telling kids to be responsible for their own future and stay in school and excel.

    WOW...No wonder America is behind 3rd world countries when it comes to education.

    September 8, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. Mike in Los Angeles

    All the right-wing nuts out there who were going crazy over the idea of the President speaking to school kids across the country on their first week back ought to be really proud of themselves right about now for their misguided, paranoid rantings. His message? Stay in school and give it your best – the future well-being of your country could depend on it. Yeah, that's a message really worthy of protest. Maybe they'll learn to ignore the right-wing propaganda machine while they're at it....

    September 8, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. Timothy Cleaveland

    President Obama did not "deliver a controversial speech", as CNN's headline declares. Instead, he delivered a non-controversial speech that was demagogued by right-wing conservatives. CNN then reported the demagoguery with little or no comment, producing more of that brain-dead infotainment that we all know and love.

    September 8, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  5. Lydia

    CNN – you are really close to losing me, and I log into this site daily. I am so tired of your overheated rhetoric and desperate search for controversy. If you can't fill a 24 hour news cycle, then change the cycle. Don't make up the news. There are two reasons this was a 'controversy:'

    1. There are a few people who will say or do anything in order to try to destroy our President, and
    2. CNN will report every word each one of them says, ad infinitum, with as many inflammatory words as possible.

    Do your jobs better.

    September 8, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. phyllis

    Our President, has every right to speak to the school children of this Country, just like any other President has, and their has been other President's who have given speaches to the school children of this Country, and no one said a word about it. It just makes me so upset, when closed minded people want to lie about this speach. The far right and you know who you are, want this country to fail, and if we do you can take all the blame. I can only pray, and support my President Obama. thank you.

    September 8, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. Dr. Evelyn Hinton-Cook

    As a retired elementary principal, I found President Obama's message to students inspirational and on the money for the youth of our Country. It is hard for me to wrap my brain around all of the negative reactions to President Obama until I realized what is happening.
    I
    It is obvious that The United States of America has a long way to go I order to ase centuries of racism. It is clear that many can not tolerate an educated, well spoken, and not easily ruffled African-American as President.

    Even when a video of President George Bush, Sr. was played showing he used the exact words as President Obama concerning writing him about how they could help hm as presodent, the uproar still continued..........because he is African-American.

    It is amazing that those same parents have not shown their concern about the drop out rate, violance, and underachievement of too many students. They seem eager to build more jails rather than educate our children.

    I AM SO VERY DISAPPOINTED IN THE PROTESTERS WHO ARE THE ONES WITH A PERSONAL ADGENDA AGAINST AN INTELLIGENT, HIGHLY EDUCATED AND FOCUSED PRESIDENT. GOD HELP US TO LOVE AND RESPECT THE PRESIDENT WHO THE PEOPLE RESOUNDLY VOTED TO LEAD OUR COUNTRY.

    Distractors are sending the message that even when one is highjy qualified to speak on education,reject him if he is an African-American. SHAME, SHAME ON ALL WHO OBJECT TO MOTIVATING OUR STUDENTS TO ACHIEVE HIGH ACADEMIC STANDARDS as well as take responsibility for their part in achieving high academic goals.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA, I WILL DO WHAT I CAN TO SHOW SUPPORT FOR YOU AND YOUR POLICIES. I BELIEVE IT IS TIME FOR US TO HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO IS THERE BECAUSE HE IS QUALIFIED AND NOT BECAUSE OF FAMILY.AND POLITICAL TIES.

    MAY GOD BLESS AMERICA AND OUR PRESIDENT OBAMA.

    September 8, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  8. Jose

    Totally a ridiculous controversy. If kids can't listen to Obama, than every politician ought to stay out of every university, community college, and school. Where were the republicans when Bush Sr did this or Bush Jr, read about the pet goat? Oh that's right, they must have been sleeping or out chasing down little boys.

    September 8, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. Craig in VA

    "One of the most unexpected controversies of the Obama administration...." Huh? How is that "unexpected"? Do you want some shady character giving your kids advice? What kind of person are you?

    September 8, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. Shelly

    Wonderful speech from an inspiring leader. I wish our children heard this everyday instead of the repulsive rhetoric from the disturbing right wing These people are reactionaries who were against this speech and everything this President is doing for the American people. They need to look in the mirror and asked themselves" Am I a good, decent, loving human being that a compassionate God has created"....they might be shocked to see what they have become.
    Also they need to go back to school and get a REAL education with an OPEN mind. The reality is the world around them is changing and their lack of education has left them behind!

    September 8, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  11. John Tucker

    What is controversial about working hard and staying in school?

    September 8, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  12. Ken in NC

    How dare this man to go into our schools and talk such stuff to our kids like working hard for good grades and staying in school and listening to teachers. No one has the right to tell our kids who to listen to. They do not have to listen to anyone. I set my own examples for my kids everyday after dinner. While I am relaxing and sipping on a cool one I tell my kids how I told the boss off today coz he didn't know what he was talking about and my kids are proud of me. They don't need some Black President telling them when they have me.

    Getting late now. Need to get to bed so I can get out early and find a new job tomorrow.

    September 8, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  13. Terry in Iowa

    The American Taliban’s only objectives are to bring down this President and institute their own right wing policies. They will say and do anything. They are un-American and have chosen to ignore the democratic process and spit on the US Constitution. They are traitors. Their propaganda a fear and hate are strait out of the “Repressive Regime Handbook”. And they want to call Obama, Hitler.

    It is time real Americans: the intelligent, the educated, the rationale individuals of this great nation stand up against these evil people and support our President; Barack Obama who was constitutionally and legally elected by the majority of the electorate, through our democratic process.

    You don’t have to like him or agree with him, but if you don’t respect the office or our democratic process, you are not an American and you are a traitor.

    September 8, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  14. beachgirl

    Why was the fuzz all about??? don't get it!

    Obama's speech was direct, simple, intelligent and to the point. These "mothers" saying......I don't want my children to listen to his speech........ are unintelligent, uneducated, unreasonable and I BET YOU ARE IN THE DOUGH litching the government from every point, UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!! and for sure Republicans.

    September 8, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  15. Becker

    Good speech but it is sad he had to be goaded into doing the right thing and changing the handout materials. And please don't be dumb enough to think they did not change the actual speech after the uproar – they did. With his huge ego I know that had to hurt.

    September 8, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  16. green party

    The republic-cons and right wing fear-mongers did not really care if Obama gave a speech or not.....they just wanted to dis him for anything new he tries to offer or accomplish....

    That's what the government and populus has become in this country–intolerant and non-supportive. Prejudiced against anyone who does not think like you or act like you or look like you...

    If the two parties and their supporters continue to fight like this all the time, our superpower status is going to erode just like Rome, British Empire and all the other great nations...... :) :) :)

    September 8, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  17. CW

    Yes, everything isn't about politics. Get over yourselves.

    September 8, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  18. MaryJo Bruce Surprise, Ariz

    Finally Mr. Obama gave a speech without an agenda for Healthcare or his other hobbies. And downing the Reps. Congrats!!!

    September 8, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  19. ANGIE

    Greer, the chair of the Republican party of Florida, this is the nut case that thinks the WH switched the speech. he's is the absolute worse.

    September 8, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
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