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. Darren

    Republicans you scared away even more people from your party with your lies and fear-mongering !

    September 8, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Thank you, President Obama.

    September 8, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  3. David

    I have no problem with the speech he gave. Other presidents have done it. I had a problem with the inital speech he was going to give because of the wording in asking students to help HIM, but they changed that.

    Just remember, when President George H.W. Bush gave a speech at a school to students, the Democrats investigated and held hearings to see if it was legal. Hypocrites, all of them.

    September 8, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  4. Jeff S

    Any parent who let their kid skip out of this speech should be ashamed of themselves! I went for a run on my lunch hour and couldn't believe the number of kids I saw on a bike trail. The parents viewed this as an extra vacation day for Johnny & Sally; truly sad!

    September 8, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. unshrub

    The speech is not controversial; it's just the conservative talk-show hosts who tried to make it controversial. There was nothing out of line with the content.

    September 8, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. Alice Newman NH

    Check my faulty memory but didn't President Bush address the school children – asking them to send money to kids in Afghanistan??

    I do know that In 1991, then-President Bush addressed school kids in a speech broadcast live to school classrooms nationwide. Among other things, he promoted his own administration's education policies. But before he wrapped up his remarks, H.W. Bush told students something else:

    'Let me know how you're doing. Write me a letter - and I'm serious about this one - write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals. I think you know the address.'"

    Somehow the words simple-minded and hypocritical come to mind when I think of the GOP .... wonder why?

    September 8, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  7. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Once again......it was never the speech that was controversial. It's been done before. It was the NORTH KOREAN-STYLE lesson plan which the DOE was planning on force-feeding students and teachers.

    September 8, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. baracuda

    What exactly is controversial about the speech. CNN needs to stop recycling nonsense all the time. It is getting boring. Get real editors to post stories on real time instead of telling us what they thought was the story yesterday.

    September 8, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  9. Tanya

    So interesting that CNN used the word 'controversial' in their headline grabbing subject line. Gosh, how radical can we get...stay in school, work hard, try and try again, respect your teachers, do your homework, get help from responsible adults, take individual responsibility, etc. etc. etc.

    The 'furor' regarding Obama's message demonstrates one of the most important tasks of this administration: rapid and continual response to the false chaos, lies and diversion tactics used by the right wing extremists.

    It was a great speech....keep up the good work Obama!

    September 8, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. Lynne

    Obviously CNN has sided with the wingnuts when it decides to call it a "controversial" speech in its headline. The problem witrh the media is that they thrive on controversy even when they create it.

    The emphasis on the people who have decided to oppose President Obama no matter what he attempts to do are given voice no matter how small their numbers or how inaccurate their contemtions from pastors praying for the death of the president, to birthers, to people lieing about death panels, to one Republican state leader out of 50 to a former governor whose words she posts on Facebook are treated as news.

    Perhaps candidiates can save scades of money if campaigning is strictly done on Facebook and the media can pick and choose what they will post.

    September 8, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  11. Steve (the real one)

    What happened when he asked the kids to write down what they could do for the president? That wasn't mentioned you say? Then the speech was altered!!

    September 8, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  12. Michael

    Let's just say it...get it out there and move on. The people who are complaining about their children having to endure an inspirational, motivational speech from the President is that they still can't get past his color. Grow up America!

    September 8, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  13. Joe

    remind me again why this was ever an issue?

    September 8, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. Reagan was wrong

    The absolutely innocuous nature of the speech and the outrageous response by Republicans really makes it clear that the GOP has been taken over by a fringe whose hatred of Obama has NOTHING to do with his policies and everything to do with just simply who he is.

    September 8, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  15. Diana Kennemuth

    Lets see I think there is free speech in this country for everyone but the President of the United States.. Right ? RIGHT

    September 8, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I think addressing high school students was key. They're the ones most likely to skip school and cut class and I think the President's message was on point. No where near as good as the speech that he gave to the NAACP though.

    September 8, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  17. Alex in Wisconsin

    Well once again, President Obama made his ultra-conservative critics look like idiots. Seriously, there is only so much stupidity from the Right one person can take before the smart people start thinking everyone on the Right are also idiots. Will all the smart, intelligent, and analytically thinking Republicans please stand up....anyone?

    September 8, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  18. Mike Acord

    COME ON!! The Republicans are still trying desparately to save us from the 20th Century. To be afraid of a speech from the President is ludicrous! Grow up, and quit whining!! Perhaps the Republicans' collective shadow (generated by the corruption, deceit and mismanagement of the past 8 years) is the thing they SHOULD be afraid of.

    September 8, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. truthsayer

    What about this speech was controversial?.. CNN your headline goes way beyond hyperbole.

    September 8, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  20. Jim Loomis

    There was nothing "controversial" about the president's talk to the nation's schoolkids. The real issue was the cynical and outrageous politicizing of this non-event by the right wing crazies in this country.

    September 8, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  21. Scott

    Oh no! Republicans wrong AGAIN!

    September 8, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  22. Jim

    And so the party of no ideas whipped their base up and made a mountain out of a mole hill.

    A great speech to encourage kids to study hard and stay in school, linking it to patriotism and their future as well as the country’s future.

    Reagan, George H W Bush, and now Obama have talked to school kids, wow what a controversial subject. Next up the far Rightwing Nuts attack apple pie as a “socialistic desert” – and motherhood as a secret liberal cabal out to overthrow fatherhood.

    September 8, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  23. jfs Memhis, Tn

    Beautifully delivered , truely inspirational to all children as well as informed , concerned and proative parents. Thank you Mr. President.

    September 8, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  24. Arthur Hitt

    I am a retired teacher. I would like to tape today's speech for a fellow teacher who is still teaching. Will CNN be playing the speech again?

    September 8, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    Wow...misleading...the speach was only "controversial" until he gave it and all the "indoctrination" and "soshulizms" nonsense that the GOPers were ascribing the speach was proven definitively false by the words that actually came out of Obama's mouth. Feel free to keep treating the GOP's claims as though they deserve to be given credence or merit a "discussion" though, CNN...you're nothing if not giving them every chance in the world to actually bother to say something meaningful...even if they do it by accident. We're completely and utterly understanding about your need to justify your ad pricing to your advertisers though, so it's ok that you pander to the right by not calling them the stinking liars that they are and expressing any outrage at their democracy-threatening misinformation jihads. We'll forgive you as soon as the country collapses as a result of the media's failures to live up to its ethical obligation to correct such wrongdoing.

    September 8, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
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