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. Denise from PG

    Thank you President Obama for doing and saying what many parents won't. I am so proud that I voted for you. You represent this country well. Keep up the splendid work that you have been doing.

    September 8, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. George the Democrat Obama fanatic.

    -------------------------------

    YES! I hope the brainwashing took. We do not want kids to see a minority in a position of power. It might end bigotry.

    September 8, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    To eveyone out there who hates the "educated elite," here are a couple questions to ask yourself:

    – Do you like your TV?
    – Do you like your computer?
    – Are you proud of our country and its status as economic leader (at least for now)?
    – What do you think of the Founders of our country (and the Constitution with its pesky First Amendment guaranteeing all your freedoms)?
    – How do you like automatic doors at the grocery store?
    – Or the scanner at the checkout?
    – How do you feel about going over a bridge, knowing that it won’t collapse?

    All of these things were created/invented/refined by people who were educated (mostly, in U.S. public schools and American institutions of higher learning).

    September 8, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. Leonard

    Mr. President thank you for talking to our children. President Bush talked to me and President Reagan did too. As a children I did not know if they were Rep or Dem. All I know is that the president told me to do good in school and stay aways from drung.. My parent already told me that and stress that at home but some children do not have that. It does not mater who is talking to the children as long as they are telling the children the right things about life.

    These parents need to stop making their children political pawns. If you taught your child morales, values, character and give them the right foundation, nobody can change that.

    Once again Mr. President thank you for thinking about the children.

    September 8, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. Voice of Reason

    You read that right – Controversial.

    Because no American president has the right to tell kids to do better. or to work hard. Or to refrain from making excuses for failure. Or break the news to them that they arent going to play in the NBA, or become famous rappers, or live off their earnings from 'dancing with the stars'...

    How dare he? How arrogant to think that he has a right to talk to any group of US citizens (regardless of age), and dispense advice and exhortations.

    Next thing you know, he'll want to talk to Union leaders on Labor day, or address Congress about pending legislation.

    Just who does this guy think he is – the president or something?

    September 8, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  6. Dont blame me

    Interesting how he changed it from this origina version.

    September 8, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. Okey Moronu

    I wish the reporters talking to those people who did not want their children to listen to the speech, had asked those parents about their own education background, their hopes and aspirations for their children and the country.

    There has been an too much focus on athletic achievment. Hardly any recognition for academic achievement. We glorify and/or idolize school dropouts that happen to be actors or athletes, implying that is the goal to strive for. While I admire their talents, they are not necessarily good role models.

    So, ask those parents, ask them who they think is an appropriate role model to go to their kids school and talk to them about staying in school and taking charge of their own lives now and into the future.

    It is a sad day when parents deny their own children an opportunity to learn and grow. Deny them the opportunity to listen to a lesson in civic and personal responsibilites.

    September 8, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. ETM

    "Controversial"? Let's see, the President exhorted student to work hard and not give up in school, get the education they need to both fulfill their personal goals and be good citizens, and avoid destructive behavior.

    Wow, how radical can you get!

    Granted, some people have been offended by this, probably because the notion of being educated and thinking about political problems is so subversive to them. In this case "some people" = Republican base.

    September 8, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  9. Obama Victim

    So WHY exactly did the White House originally send out classroom assignments asking the children to write a paper, "How can I help the President?"

    September 8, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  10. Mar

    I am so disappointed that my son's first grade class, in Naperville IL decided not to show president's speech to the students. I was looking forward to him seeing the president and knowing he can reach far if he works hard.

    September 8, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. Bryan Weil

    I had the pleasure of reading the complete text of Pres. Obama's speech to the students this morning.
    I found nothing remotely political in his speech. it was very uplifting and full of sage advice from a man who made it to the top the hard way.
    Pres. Obama was given nothing; he fought to get to college, worked hard to be successful in law school, and in politics. The advice he gave the students should be taken by everyone. Work hard, have personal responsibility, and respect those around you.

    September 8, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. Kevin in Ohio

    One more time...it wasnt the speech itself that was controversial...it was the "lesson plans" propogated by the liberal teachers unions surrounding the speech..... "I pledge allegiance to Obama....", "What can I do for Obama?....." etc.

    September 8, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  13. MONIQUE IN TORONTO

    The word controversial should have never been used – WHy do you continue to base your entire news network on Republicans speaking points – CNN has become a major joke since not one of your news reporters ever fact check their stories – and can you tell me when 20% of the popoulation – known Racist Republicans and Blue dog Dems speak for the entire country.

    You should simple merge your company with Fox News and then you can continue to report on the racist hard working white republicans and what they think

    September 8, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  14. Justo Gonzalez

    The only thing controversial about the speech is the title of your article and the lies that have been put out. It wasn't a problem when President Reagan spoke to school kids or when President Papa Bush asked them to send him letters supporting him and telling him how they could him him. Let's get real, this is a non-story unless you're wacked and part of the right wing.

    September 8, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  15. Jeff

    So that was the 'Socialist ideology' Jim Greer and everyone else said the President would be indoctronating children with today?

    Let me re-phrase it for Mr. Greer and the rest of these idiots:

    "We just don't want a black man speaking to our children"

    If you're going to be shameless, at least be honest.

    Great speech.

    September 8, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  16. Marcus, Great Lakes Illinois

    Shock and awe! It's hard to believe parents would be against their children to stay in school. But, what do you expect from parents who would take a child out of school for a full day because of a 15 minute speech made by the President of the United States.

    September 8, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  17. Independent

    We are badly in need of another political party....The repubs are an embarrassment

    September 8, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  18. Proud American

    I am so pleased that our President has chosen to speak to the young folks in this country. The youth should never feel forgotten for a moment. So many positive messeges are passed no matter what your politics are. (I had to laugh at the "boogie man" mentality that kept some kids from watching this speech) Those that did not want to or have their children watch had that right. We are still Americans. I just feel sorry for the missed oportunity to potentially inspire thought one way or another in a child. THE CATS OUT THE BAG LONG AGO "FIX NEWS". HE GONNA BE THERE 8 YEARS.

    September 8, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  19. Professor MoFo

    Great, great speech! Inspirational, encouraging, insightful, thoughtful and timely are words that come to mind. What a breath of fresh air this President is! All of those kids (who were actually 'allowed' to hear and see it) will be much better off for it; IF they truly listened and decide to take his words to heart and make something more of themselves in the future.

    September 8, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  20. I can see Canada from my house!

    Much ado about nothing( For you conservatives, that means its not a big deal). I don't ever recall anyone accusing a previous president of attemtpts at indocrtrination, though Bush #41 was accused of politicizing his speech in 1991( a sin of lesser degree, but an idiotic accusation nonetheless). None of the pitch-fork- carrying crowd could say with any real certainty where or how the President would indocrinate our children.

    It should be noted that one of the primary goals of the GOP in its early history was to help transform immigrants and working people into "Americans" as quickly as possible, through controling public education and telling the emerging middle class how to model proper American behaviors. When it comes to indocrination, the GOP has a long history of putting it into practice. Read it, if you can.

    September 8, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  21. Idiot_Pelosi

    I don't care about this harmless speech to students.

    I do care that this SOCIALIST has to constantly be in the lime light.

    Where is OBUMMER's detail plans to cut the huge deficit that he has created? Don't whine about inheriting the BUSH deficit (That I did not like) when you increase by 3.5 fold.

    Why is unemployment still rising after that huge PORKulus bill?

    September 8, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  22. Anne from MN

    And again, the right wing is all sound and fury with no substance. When will they do the job they were elected to do?

    September 8, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  23. Mike, Albany

    This is an inspirational and eloquent speech that comes from the heart. What parent wouldn't want their children to hear this? The "controversy" is just further evidence of the republican obsession/fixation with wanting Obama to fail. They hold onto this obsession even to the detriment of the country, and this controversy is a clear example of that. They should be ashamed. Obama WILL succeed, and he will do it despite the climate of extreme rancour out there. Healthy debate is fine, but the case of Obama's speech to school children is unmitigated nonsense. Stop it, everyone!

    September 8, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  24. Keith

    Why do you label it controversial just because some on the right said so? This is why the Media get such low marks these days. Nothing that he said was controversial except to those whose only job is to paint any remark the president makes as controversial and to scare their constituents. Stop being yellow journalist and do the resonable amount of work to come up with your own label

    September 8, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  25. Anne E.

    Honestly, the actions by the wingnuts are beyond comprehension.
    Keep trying to muck up the country - you're going a long way toward ensuring Democratic administrations for years to come, while your children will remain as lacking in gray matter as you.

    September 8, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
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