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. Terri

    Kudos to President Obama. He always seems to shine even in the midst of adversity. After hearing the speech, I'm still wondering why there was so much controversy surrouding the speech. Pray for the USA.

    September 8, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  2. Lucy, Texas

    "Much to do about nothing". All these scare tactics are embarassing. I don't think this has ever happen to any other president. Obama is attacked by the losing party the moment he opens his mouth and has to spend his time trying to knock down the complete fabrications of the Republican tactic of "be scared of the Bogey man". The Republicans let Bush Jr. open his mouth and stick his foot in all the way up to his knee cap and they still said we need to support him because it was patriotic.

    Well, America wake up. Our rating's as a nation came below Tanzania per CNN. We need to roll up our sleeves and start fixing our problems like healthcare, education, and our economy or watch the rest of the world pass us by. If a corporation can reward their CEO's multimillion dollar bonuses because they provided much less services to their customers and increased the prices by 20% a year....then you need to see which politician is getting money from that corporation.

    September 8, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  3. Al, California

    If kids will study well in schools, then who will join in the future the religious extremists of GOP base? No wonder GOP is nervous about this.

    September 8, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. john

    Controversial only on the media.. The speech was in fact full of conservative values.

    September 8, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  5. robert diogenes

    Good for you Pres Obrama. Every way we can we must impress our students that schooling is important for them and for our nation.

    A February article in the Chicago Tribune by Clarence Page stated," The united States has slipped to 10th place among industrial nation in the percentage of 25 to 34 year olds who have received a post high school degre.". Page said these figures are from a study by the Lumina Foundation A good future demands that we do better.

    Perhaps the fear and closed minds of people who refused to hear the Pres are a reason why we have slipped

    September 8, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. Wake Up

    Honestly, who cares. Obama is such a disappointment...he just thinks he can brainwash the youth to his government control beliefs, but really....if he wants to act like a king, let him.

    Dems probed Bush Sr. when he did the same thing...so now repubs complain....politics repeat itself, both sides are corrupt...that's why we need LESS government!

    September 8, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. Yolanda Moore

    Didn't the 1st Bush and Regan do a speech to kids going back to school? I don't understand, what's the problem?

    The expectation this country has on an administration to fix problems that have occurred over the last 8 years in 9months is ridiculous

    And for the religous conservatives out there remember God is watching.

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

    Obama's Own state refused to play the speech in school that should tell you something?I guess it is about trust,and when your trust has been broken,why would you listen to any thing Obama said?

    September 8, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  9. Kimberly from Hawaii

    Bravo Mr. President! You were an inspiration today to America's youth, and you are a perfect example of what hard work and dedication can acheive. I believe you are an excellent role model to all children, especially ones that are not born into wealth and affluence. Keep up the good work.

    The majority of Americans are still behind you 100%, please don't let the vocal minority derail the wonderful progress you have started with your first 8 months in office. The silliness of the ultra right wing is not the opinions of the majority of American that elected you into office.

    September 8, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  10. James

    It wasn't controversial until the Repubs and other conservative smear tactic specialists made it so.

    Egg on your face now; blessed ones ??

    September 8, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  11. Nick

    Your headline is misleading. The speech itself is not controversial. Whack job right wingers attempted to make it controversial. Nice job attempting to stir the pot.

    September 8, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  12. Sigh!

    Affected parents should have kept their kids home to watch the speech.

    September 8, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. TEH

    Why is this still controversial? The guy made his speech. It is done and over with. Why can't the dems leave it alone. Republicans will never agree with dems on everything which if you didn't know that is why there are two parties. The speech was not as controversial as evryone made it out to be but I'm still glad it wasn't shown in my district. It should be up to parents to motivate their children not the Governments.

    September 8, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  14. Kimberly from Houston, Texas

    The speech is NOT controversial. The GOP response was stupid!

    September 8, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  15. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    After reading President Obama's inspirational speech on education, I can clearly see that the only complaint the conservative far right has is the fact it was given by a BLACK President.

    And CNN since you are now Fox-Lite, I expect 4 days of 24/7 coverage about how conservative republicans are against personal responsibility and advocate truancy and dropping out of high-school, because they are so against this "socialist" message.

    September 8, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  16. Alfred E. Neumann

    I thought that it was telling that the school districts that opted out of the speech voted over whelmingly for John McCain.

    Much ado about nothing and that I believe is the Republican agenda this year – nada!

    September 8, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  17. Katie

    OMG, anyone that had their child miss out on this speech were blinded by their perception of President Obama, and his political views. Who better than to influence a child to stay in school, (stay the course) and better themselves than him. Sometimes child/ren will not care what their parents say, but maybe the president of the united states will. You go OBAMA!!! Influence the children to better themselves, afterall, one of them just might end up being a president to us, when we are elderly.

    September 8, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  18. bozo the obama

    his education message was learn to read from a telepromter and speech will not be a required class.

    September 8, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  19. Gene

    Nice title there CNN. There was nothing controversial about the speech except all the scare tactics surrounding it.

    September 8, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  20. RLE

    Great Job, Mr. President.
    I am tired of the racists comments and inuendos and I am also sick of the media giving them credence
    I am amazed by the mother who didn't want her child to receive encouragement from the leader of the greatest country in the free world; that clearly is idiocy at its best.

    September 8, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  21. DODGE THESE BULLETS

    One recurring point that keeps being expressed by "conservatives" is that "...we express fear..." over this and that. Didn't you guys get the memo in November. We don't want fear, we want solutions, we want hope, we want progress, we want you out of politics!!! Thank you CNN.

    September 8, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. D. black

    Who is he to tell our children to stay in school, study hard and listen to their parents and teachers. Look how his life turned out, and not to mention his own children. Maybe next time he should speak in prime time znd let everyone her him.

    September 8, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. Annette Stanley

    So, what's the controversy.

    September 8, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  24. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    What I enjoyed the most was the Micheal Jordan quote.
    "But he once
    said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
    These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define
    you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do
    differently next time."
    This is powerful stuff, so many students give up when faced with not being able to learn something instantly. Seems we are raising students who are going to quit if they can not hit a home run on the first try.
    Mr. President good stuff here....

    September 8, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  25. D. A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA

    The parents who didn't want their children to listen to the POTUS's speech are brain dead. These are the very same malleable children, who did not rebel when they were teenagers and who grew up being brainwashed by the neocons. They were programmed to accept a oligrachial, fascist form of goverment as a democracy.

    Poor misguided people. Please do yourselves and your children a major favor, stop drinking the kool-aid

    September 8, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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