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. Arzell

    All of these right-wingers are simply throwing bricks for the sake of throwing bricks. Because, truth be told, if it was John McCain preparing and giving this speech, they'd give him a standing ovation. And then they'd be saying something along the lines of "You tell 'em President McCain! Show these liberal hippie freaks that greatness is achieved through hard work and dedication, and not through government handouts and leeching off of genuine, hard-working Americans!"

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

    If the man blinks wrong, he's criticized... why is his speech any different than ones that preceded it?

    September 8, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  3. GOPer

    An inspirational speech...

    Oh, the horror...wait a minute...need a moment...fake fainting...quick, someone call Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Fox masters to tell us WHAT to think. Oh my! LOL

    What a joke the Party of No has become with their faux controversy about everything.

    September 8, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  4. kaydeedee

    CNN, get it right. The SPEECH wasn't controversial – the rightwing's paranoiac response is the controversy. When will the press networks wake up and stop covering the crazy current political going-ons as he-said, she-said arguments instead of truths versus lies?

    September 8, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  5. John peter

    Whats happening in our country( America) comes down to nothing but race. With bush he could do anything that he wanted and no one could question him however with president obama everything he does is 'controversial'. What does this tell us about our country?

    September 8, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. Common Sense 09

    Like on the campaign trail...change starts with us the American people. What better way to start with encouraging students to stay in school, not drop out and to make something out of your life! Just an educated person telling others how they can have the American dream...what's so wrong with that? Because he's not a republican or black....it's time to put all the bull to the side and make this world a better place for all!

    September 8, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  7. Ryan Stamen

    Now I see why the right made this a big issue. How dare the President push his agenda of encouraging kids to stay in school and work hard in order to achieve success in life?

    September 8, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  8. Ken in Gainesville

    The Republicans certainly have shown their true colors with this made-up controversy. Actually, I wish all the right wingers would pull their kids out of the "govmint" schools. That way, we could really teach science, history, civics, math, literature, music and art without their "flat earth" interference. The country will always need garbage collectors, yard men, fast food servers, and truck drivers. As to Mr Obama - good show. Responsibility, ethics, hard work, and study are what this country needs, not the barriers to education and critical thinking shown by these revisionists. If these people put half the effort into reading and study they put into conspiracy theories, we would all experience an upward surge of compassion and empathy. But alas, I am sure they are already thinking up the next diversion. Listen to Beck and Rush, guys, real symbols of accomplishment (and buffoonery). Time for responsible people, liberal and conservation, to say "ENOUGH"!

    September 8, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  9. KJ from Atlanta

    My only comment is that about the heading of this article, which I know is used only to grab readers attention, but you could have used a more true attention grabber, i.e. people in uproar over President Obama's speech, or Parents view President Obama's speech as controversial. The plain ole' truth of the speech is that it is not controversial at all, but what has been drilled in every student head that enters the school system. DO WELL IN SCHOOL, STAY IN SCHOOL, MAKE GOOD GRADES IN SCHOOL...etc. And if you were not told that or taught that in school there being a prime example of desparity amongst those not receiving an education of value.

    September 8, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  10. Island girl

    "Many conservatives over the past week expressed a fear that the president's address would be used to push a partisan political agenda".

    Yeah, fear that he would talk common sense into children who have been indoctrinated by their bigoted or educationally challenged parents who are quite satisfied with the status quo - teen pregnancies, high school drop outs, underachieving students who pale in comparison to Asian and European counterparts, young substance and alcohol abusers, etc.. Hey, some parents even host parties which drive their children and their friends into a drunken stupor. Why change things?

    September 8, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. Obama 2.0

    About time someone informed young people that they better own it!

    September 8, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  12. Brandon

    A great majority would agree that this great speech by the President could also benefit some bigoted republican parents who acted like small little brats by trying to prevent children from listening to their President.

    Such parents have a lot to learn and should be ashamed for perpetuating their own hate, narrow-minded idiocy, and disrespect on their children.

    September 8, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  13. Gifty

    OB 'speaks in poetry but governs in prose'

    September 8, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  14. Ben in Texas

    CNN calls this an "unexpected controversy", but that's wrong. I fully expect to hear the wing nuts launch a new "controversy" every time President Obama speaks. It's what the Party of No does: make noise to create chaos in the hopes that this presidency and this country will fail. Here are a couple of facts:

    We have a black president elected by the American People.
    We have a Latina Supreme Court Justice confirmed by the Senate.

    All you wingnuts need to accept that and get over it. Your team lost. Your country loses every time you manufacture a controversy. You need to "man up" and act like Americans, or get the hell out.

    I prefer that you get the hell out, or at least get out of the way.

    September 8, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  15. Tom

    Ever notice how Republican get their undies in a bunch before they even read anything. Makes me wonder just how illiterate Republicans really are. Can they read or not, or are they just "winging it"? My bet it thery're just "winging it".

    September 8, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  16. MaryAnne

    Republicans sure stirred the pot, for what? They should be embarrassed. . . . again!

    September 8, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  17. Mississippi Mike

    It looks like he stripped out all of the policy stuff. That's smart. What's smarter is to keep you politics away from kids that aren't old enough to vote.

    September 8, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  18. xcusme

    For those parents that kept you children away. You still don't get it. The speech will be or has been posted on Twitter, Face Book, My Space, etc. People will be talking about it. And you think your children wont see/read it. Oh I forgot you are soooo busy hating that you are not aware your child is in his/her room on the computer doing God's know what. When you tell your children don't to do something, do you really think they don't do it. Stupid is as stuipd does. Not all the time.

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

    Republicans are a joke. They actually argued against a "stay in school" speech...that's just pathetic.

    September 8, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. jaye

    The speech was great – its just the hatful republicans that had a problem with it. But, the hateful republicans are against everything Obama does and says.
    I say forget the republicans....let them stew in their own filth.

    September 8, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  21. Joe Fattal

    That man loves to make speeches. It was a good one, but I don't see any student will pay attention to any speeches were some of them at the age of 11 or 12 already made up their minds what they going to do later in the years.

    September 8, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  22. Karol

    What's controversial about it?

    September 8, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Sally from Michigan

    I just want to point out that for years in the classroom we have been having students write on topics like, "If you were the President, what would you do" ? Every year we have a natiional President's H. S. essay contest for students–comes from the federal government–has for years. This whole thing is rediculous. It's just a move by the right wing conservative extremists to spook out those people who already just don't like this President, partly because he is black and partly because he won. It's okay to have a federally run education program called "No Child Left Behind" that has totally changed what we teach and emphasize in the classroom, which is "teach to the test", but the White House can,t give a speech on education or suggest a writing topic for "reflection" on the speech. Our writing scores are worst then our reading scores by the way and our kids need all the help they can get. So much for trying to motivate students to learn and make them responsible for their learnling. Gee I thought this is what the"right" expects–accountabilityy! Give me a break!

    September 8, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  24. Steph

    Really??? Working hard, staying in school, setting goals, refusing to make excuses...that is controversial?!?! I now am the one afraid of the direction my country is going in! CNN – come to my house and take video of me crying because the crazy right wing freaks convinced our school superintendent not to show the address, preventing my daughter from watching the President of The United States!

    September 8, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  25. single mom

    The controversy wasn't about him addressing the schools. It was about the idiotic way this administration went about doing it.

    For people who wave their academic credentials around, crowing about Ivy League schools and everything, they sure are making some serious faux pas when it comes to presenting things to the public.

    September 8, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
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