September 7th, 2009
10:17 AM ET
12 years ago

WH set to release text of controversial Obama school speech

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House is set to release Monday the text of a controversial back-to-school speech to students from President Barack Obama that has angered some conservative parents and pundits.

The text of the 18-minute speech will be posted on the White House Web site so people can read it before its scheduled Internet broadcast to schoolchildren on Tuesday.

Some conservatives has expressed a fear that Obama is going to use the opportunity to press a partisan political agenda.

"Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me," suburban Colorado mother Shanneen Barron told CNN Denver affiliate KMGH. "I'm an American. They are Americans, and I don't feel that's OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now."

On Sunday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said parents that are threatening to keep their children home Tuesday to avoid Obama's speech were being "silly."

Appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation," Duncan emphasized it is up to school officials whether to include the speech in the day's activities, and that the message of the speech is simply to encourage children to finish school.

"That's just silly," he said of anyone planning to have their kids stay home because of the speech. "They can go to school. They can not watch."

The speech is about "the president challenging young people," Duncan asserted.

Some school administrators have decided to show the president's speech, while others will not.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible contender for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination, said Sunday that Obama's speech would disrupt an already-hectic first day of school for many students.

"I think there's concerns about the disruption," he said on CNN's "State of the Union," calling the scheduling of the speech a "little ham-fisted" by the White House.

"There (are) also concerns about is this going to be done in an appropriate manner. I trust and hope that the White House will have a content that is not political and they're not using the public school infrastructure for that purpose."

Duncan, however, noted Obama's speech is not unprecedented. President George H.W. Bush delivered a nationally televised speech to students from a Washington D.C., school in the fall of 1991, encouraging them to say no to drugs and work hard.

In November 1988, President Ronald Reagan delivered more politically charged remarks that were made available to students nationwide. Among other things, Reagan called taxes "such a penalty on people that there's no incentive for them to prosper ... because they have to give so much to the government."

Some of the controversy involved a proposed lesson plan created by the Education Department to accompany the address. An initial version of the plan recommended that students draft letters to themselves discussing "what they can do to help the president."

The letters "would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals," the plan stated.

After pressure from conservatives, the White House distributed a revised version encouraging students to write letters about how they can "achieve their short-term and long-term education goals."

Duncan said Sunday that the passage was poorly worded.

At least one conservative backed the idea for a presidential speech to students.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told "FOX News Sunday" that Obama's speech is a good idea if the message is a positive one about completing school.

"If that's what it is, then it is good to have the president of the United States say to young people across America, 'Stay in school, study, and do your homework,'" Gingrich said.

–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand contributed to this story

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. Dave

    I wish I could be an Independent, and even vote Republican when their ideas have merit, but as long as the GOP is led by idiots disrupting town hall meetings, politicians spreading lies about "death panels," and hateful pundits promoting armed revolution against our Commander-in-Chief, I will have no choice but to remain a solid Democrat.

    September 7, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  2. Jen Bucholtz

    I have never in my life heard such nonsense from the American people.People crying because Obama is giving a speech to the school kids? Grow up people it's a speech! You twice voted in a president who couldn't spell and destroyed your country,so chill! At least Obama is trying to do something for your country!

    September 7, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  3. Fred Ackerman

    In the words of Congressman Barney Frank, " What planet are you from?" to that braindead participate at his Town Hall meeting a few weeks ago. These people who protest the President's speech to the children are they themselves 'braindead'? and hate the fact that Obama is Black so much that they will attack anything he does, even if it helps them personally. Morons!

    September 7, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  4. Joyce in South Carolina

    I am ashamed to be an American!!!!! I am also thankful that I am not a racist, and I AM from the south.

    This is so ridiculous. Even if he did say something, you don't agree with. You are with your children a lot more than 18 minutes a day. I would hope you are teaching them what you believe is correct. That way we can have another generation of bigots and racists.

    September 7, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  5. Bayousara

    Ohmygosh! Inflammatory! Shameful! Anti-American!

    Prez Obama should be ashamed of himself for such a terrible message to our kids!

    We gotta keep those babies ignorant and pregnant!

    September 7, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. Rodney

    Lets face it, there's still a segment of America that rejects the ideal of this country having a black President. When you have Americans making comments referring to we need to take back America, really what they are saying is we're taking back America from a black man.

    September 7, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  7. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    Just so you simple-minded Obama Kool-aid drinkers understand.....the actual speech has never been the problem. The problem is the lesson (or indoctrination) plan that was to come with it.

    When school children are forced to write essays on "how they can help their leader," or "how their leader has inspired them," it is no longer a lesson or a pep-talk, it is brainwashing. This is the kind of stuff that children in NORTH KOREA are forced to do. But then again, maybe that is why the Obama people like it so much. Of course I know this is a pointless message. You Kool-aid drinkers are already brainwashed.

    September 7, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. ron

    I wish for once that the President became more Liberal , that way at least he would live up to the Reputation that the Conservatives are painting for him. The media loves all this hype and feed on it. During the campaign Republicans were more tame because they thought " No way this guy is gonna become President" There is always some negative news about Obama. If nothing else at at least everyone in the country knows that he is President. Even if he is believed to be a Socialist, Nazi, Children eater, and some preachers even pray for his death. WHAT HAVE WE BECOME ?

    September 7, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. Jorge en Texas

    The only way the republican manufactured pseudo-grass roots revolt against President Obama can be effectively counteracted is for those of us who supported him and voted for him to stand with him now and fight back with our words AND actions. He can't do it alone. He tried to to the right thing and work with the opposition, but all he has gotten back from most of them is a slap in the face. A clear cut majority voted for him. We should not allow ourselves to be terrorized and tyrannized by a vocal minority.

    September 7, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. mary

    Yes, it's very controversial to encourage students to work hard and stay in school. What next? Rush and company are looking sillier by the day. If it's socialist to encourage your kids to work hard and stay in school, then call me a socialist.

    September 7, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. robert

    The teachings of Jesus are apparantly meaningless to Republicans these days. Anyone that thinks that Jesus would oppose expanding healthcare to cover the uninsured is not a very good student of the bible. One can debate whether or not "cutting a check" to the needy is ultimately good for them...this is not true in regards to healing them..."because the bible tells us so....."

    It's time for the administration to stop playing defense...and start playing on the other side of the field

    September 7, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  12. Johnny DC

    Why does it make us "bigots" if we don't support this president's agenda?

    Some of you (I'd bet my life on the guess that you are 99% comprised of minorities) jump straight to the race card any time the GOP or Conservatives oppose something.

    Like it or not, the mandated 100% attendance required speech of a President to the youth of America is one giant step closer to a socialist/facist state. We have the right to express concerns, and we have the right to not participate in such an exercise.

    Just like you have a right (evidently) to cry "BIGOT!" every time we put up a sensible, sensitive argument.

    September 7, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  13. Raymond Burgoon-Clark

    Who performed Shanneen Barron's frontal lobotomy? Michael Steele? With a rusty steak knife?

    September 7, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  14. Drama

    "Some conservatives has [sic] expressed a fear..." Imagine that from the hypocritical GOP of fear and paranoia.

    Setting educational goals and promoting personal responsibility should be universal, except for the right-wing drama fringe that makes EVERY little thing controversial.

    These absurd GOPers do not even realize that NASCAR drivers such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, etc. are working with President Obama BEYOND political affiliations on this educational message for our kids.

    September 7, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  15. Ann

    I have never in my entire being seen anthing like this. Our President is the target of distortions and lies., We truly have a long ways to go. I can't believe a Black man in the white house has caused this much upset. A white President put this country in this mess, and a Black President is going to get us out. I can't wait.

    September 7, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  16. Jane

    I'm sure Obama will tone down the speech now that Republicans have brought the truth to the American people.

    It is truly sad that so-called 'news' organizations will hardly report on the original pre-speech, during-speech and after-speech lesson plan and exercises the government sent out ahead of time.

    Why is this pResident so divisive?

    Why does he not care to unite the American people?

    September 7, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  17. J of K

    First, why is it every time some one disagrees with the Prez. they are called names, – racist, nazi, republican, unamerican, hatemongers – the list goes on and on. The prez. can speak up for a black man arrested breaking into what turned our his own house, BUT where was the outrage when a black man was badly beaten by SEIU thug ? Where was the media reporting on SEIU thug biting off a persons finger?
    The current administration has not only lied to the people so many times to be uncountable, but has by passed congressional review by creating Czars who report only to the president. Our prez apologies when speaking in other countries, bows to kings and is spending more of our grandchildren's taxes then all the Presidents before him. He has NOT earned our trust or respect as a person. Trust him with our children – you are joking!

    September 7, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. karen

    To " Learn how to think": ...AMEN!
    And all this hatred from the "christian" right???!!! What God do you worship? Mine is a benevolent, loving God. All this hate and fear mongering is just wrong...we wouldn't allow that kind of behavior in schools (anti-bullying policies) but we see where it comes from. When ever these hateful people speak, think about what you are saying and what Jesus would say if he were next to you!!!! Have you no shame?
    I am ashamed of my country when I see this kind of behavior from elected (rep) officials....and I am a white, middle aged, middle class, mother of 2.

    September 7, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. Chris

    Now the Right is blaming Obama, saying he acted "suspiciously" for not releasing the text of the speach at the same time as the announcement the speach was going to be made. Whenever has it been considered the norm that a President has to pre-release the text of one of his speaches so that it may be approved by the general public beforehand? The idea that it was suspicious only follows if you start wtih the presumption that everything Obama does must have some sinisiter motive behind it. Reagan and Bush didn't prerealesed the text of their speaches to school children days ahead of time, and their actions were never deemed "suspicious."

    September 7, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  20. S. in Florida

    "Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me," suburban Colorado mother Shanneen Barron told CNN Denver affiliate KMGH. "I'm an American. They are Americans, and I don't feel that's OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now."
    As a former resident of Denver, CO, I bet this woman lives in Jefferson County or the Highlands Ranch area. These neighborhoods may have only one black family if even that living in those areas. I can attest from experience those folks are very racist and very Republican.

    September 7, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  21. Bobbi

    Honestly, my fellow Americans, I get very tired of the race card being brought into this. It isn't that at all. I am a white Republican, and I am a substitute teacher. I cannot tell you how many times I have had an African-American student tell me (when I write them up or correct them in some way because of their BEHAVIOR) that it is because they are black. (I write up whites just as much when their behavior warrants it.) If they only knew that it is actually one of my goals in life to bridge the gap between whites and blacks as much as I possibly can because I think the division is absolutely despicable. Nobody is greater or lesser than anyone else because of the color of their skin, period. That's what God says! I don't disagree with much of what Obama is doing because of the color of his skin, but because it goes against my morals or values. It's just that simple.

    September 7, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
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