September 8th, 2009
02:11 PM ET
9 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. J

    Another example of news not covering subjects with substance and being distracted and in turn distracting the nation with stupid junk like this. If we had 1/2 the amount of substantial journalism on the serious issues we would have a nation of well informed voters instead we have birthers and teabaggers.

    September 8, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  2. JM

    I hope this speech proved just what fools some Republicans are. I can't believe some of them were raising such a ruckus about this.

    September 8, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  3. Greg

    To all those idiots like Shanneen Barron, if you feel so scared to be in this country then leave and see how GREAT you will have it anywhere else. This is totaly pathetic when a speech to school students gets to be such a political hot topic. Don't we have greater issues in this country to be more focused on. We are no longer a country that wants to be its best. It seems to be a rule that if your party is not the leader of this nation, you must disagree and bury the current President. Fight, lie, to anything to make our President a failure. I supported Bush in the beginning but found it very disturbing when we were told Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and NONE were found. Can anyone think that our HEALTH CARE system is NOT broken? When speical interest are spending money to keep the status quo, what does that say?

    September 8, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. Ellie, New York

    I agreed with everything the President said in his address to students; however, remarks and encouragement for students in vocational schools were conspicuous by their absence. Don't we need mechanics, plumbers, electricians, chefs, etc. as much as we need people with advanced degrees? Not every student is college bound but each shares equally in the responsibility to excel in fields where their talents can thrive.

    September 8, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. xcusme

    To dislike a President so much as to not let you children hear a positive speech is scary. Continue to raise your children to hate. Call it what you like. Shroud it in politics, it will not change the fact that you hate the idea of a President that has color in his skin. That is the true bottom line. I know you don't see youself as racist its too ugly a word. But it is what it is. It's a speech and you deny your children. What would you REALLY call it?

    Good job Mr. President.

    September 8, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. Mark Webb

    So, in your views, this was a controversial speech!!
    How stupid!!!

    September 8, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  7. Avi Shlomo

    I do not see anything controversial in President Obama speech to students unless the right wing extreme infer success and hard work as socialist idea. If that is the case, I will point out that Europe is east and go back

    September 8, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. Kev

    As a teacher, I sat with 30 mostly African-American students. A couple put their heads down on their desk as the President spoke. I had to take a phone away from a girl who was texting, I had hush some boys who tried to goof off while the President tried to lecture them on responsibility.

    No matter who the speaker is, some students just don't care, but we blame the schools and teachers.

    September 8, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  9. rta

    I am so sick and tired of all the hate, prejudice right wingers. I work in a school and our children need all of the encouragement they can get. from everybody. President Obama deserves the respect . You might not agree with his policies or politics, but he did not say anything that would hurt any child. The sky did not fall, etc. and the hate mongers ought to be shame of themselves for making much to do about nothing ,but something positive for kids, our future. The republican party, the racist commentators, that fuel all of this hate and fear should remember we are all in the same boat. they should keep that in mind also but no, show the hate on tv and elsewhere, be the negative influences you are, and then expect teachers and others to undo and teach what you have espoused. many other countries would love for their head of state to be interested in our children's future. maybe the sarah palins, glenn beck, rush limbaughs, republican naysayers ought to go to one those countries because none of you act like americans.

    September 8, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  10. suzyku

    The only controversy is the one the idiot rethugs tried to make and now they just look plain stupid and of course the media such as yourselves for perpetuating the stupidity!

    September 8, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. Marie C. Desir

    The President's speech about education this morning was an inspirational one. The message was clear and simple for school children to listen and take notes. The President used facts, (i.e Harry Potter's author and Michael Jordan's journeys) to convince the children about the process of becoming famous and/or how to use their God's given potential to excel in life. It was just a lesson about responsibility, persevarance, and not jeopardize your school work for any reasons. As a mother of three boys I was very pleased to hear the message live. I hope that children who had the opportunity to see the broadcast are inspired to do their best and become a better student in school. Remember, kids are more prone to listen to others than their parents.

    Fort Collins, CO

    September 8, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  12. J.P.

    Oh please... he's talking a good game here, talking about responsiblity-this and self-determination-that... but he doesn't believe even a word of it.

    In fact, everything the man said in this speech is complete and utter bullsh!t, when juxtaposed against every vote the man has taken and every policy or program he has ever endorsed.

    If he actually believed any of this, maybe I wouldn't view this through such a doubting prism. His speech was, in effect, no different than "Atheists for Christ" or "Addicts for Sobriety."

    September 8, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  13. Gary

    I'm glad our President took his message directly to the students of the US. If Reagan & Bush #1 can do it, why can't President Obama?

    September 8, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  14. in WI

    If his speech was "controversial" what was what Bush/Cheney did to this world??? What a joke. If the tables were turned and Dems called out Bush giving a speech we would be called "anti-american", repubs are such hypocrites.

    September 8, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  15. Isaac

    I mean hey, get off your high horse you conservatives, you are driving a wedge inside the country that could have detrimental effects even when a conservative takes office. All that is going to happen is that the politics of fear will be played to separate political classes and as clearly eveident, the gallible will pay the price

    September 8, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  16. Terry from West Texas

    I am appalled at the snake handler wing of the Conservative movement. Conservative leaders are saying things like "taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obamas socialist ideology." The Neanderthals who post on this blog are even more outrageous. There are two possible explanations:

    1. Conservative leaders are stupid enough to actually believe what they are saying, or...
    2. Conservative leaders are lying through their teeth and making fools of their followers.

    Both explanations are pretty scary. Can anyone think of another explanation?

    September 8, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  17. betty in Arizona

    I am beginning to think most of America has completely lost their minds. Why was Reagans and Bushes speeches not censored?
    Why did they not have to post their speeches on line, and get approval? Maybe more parents should actually sit in the classroom with their children, maybe parents should monitor their childrens computers, friends, family members or maybe if they litsten to the media long enough they can make stuff up and twist the information in their minds so that when it actually comes out of their mouths they can convince themselves our president is a demon. I was taught to RESPECT the office of the president no matter what party is there. Teach your children the same. You should be ashamed.

    September 8, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  18. Tina

    Thank you, Mr. President, for urging students to take responsibility, stay in school, and dare to achieve. We can all learn from these words.

    September 8, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  19. debbie

    Staying in school, and trying your hardest to reach your full potential is controversial? What's controversial about that? Let's talk about sensational headlines that imply that our President's rah-rah speech to kids is controversial....

    I don't know why I still come to CNN for news. I'd probably get the same crud at E!

    September 8, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  20. Jaxon

    Wonder how Republicans are going to find fault with this??????
    I'm sooooo sick of the GOP!

    September 8, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  21. JES

    Thank you Mr. Predident for your continued course of taxing our grandchildren to death and get us deeper in debt.

    Vote change next year. I don't think you get it yet or don't care about anything but your agenda getting a check mark beside the box.

    September 8, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  22. Nancee

    I'm sure some poor ole' disgruntled Republican got his feelings hurt with this one. Complainers, one and all. I hate the GOP!

    September 8, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  23. Kevin B

    Would some one please tell me what was "controversial" about the speech?

    The news media, even no longer attempts to be an honest broker in calling out a manufactered controversy and untruths, It just plays along for the cheap suger high of disingenious reporting.

    There was never any controversy involved witht he Presidents speech to school children, only the ginned fake out rage of the wing nuts and media.

    September 8, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. tacuache

    Now don't you feel stupid, Jim Greer and Tim Pawlenty?

    September 8, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  25. Mary

    The only controversy is ignorant parents that don't allow their children to hear more than one point of view.

    Get a grip – kids and young people are much smarter than they are given credit for. Let them hear the speech – and then discuss it with them.

    September 8, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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