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. The RedNeckRush

    Why is wrong with your news agency? You publish this story but never question WHY? ... why is the White House releasing the text of a controversial back-to-school speech to students from President Barack Obama ... on MONDAY?

    is this just another ploy to "ram propaganda down our throats" ? .. just like stimulus bills , where no one will have time to read or react?

    Why don't you guys at CNN do a real job of reporting?

    September 7, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  2. Alex

    The Republican's have clearly decided that it is in their best interest to blast the President on every issue no matter what it is. They would rather have 4 years of attacking the President than getting anything done.

    I hope this is the last straw for Americans to realize that the Republicans don't care about governing, they only care about winning elections. They were in power for 8 years and did nothing but get us into a war, give tax breaks to the rich, and turn a huge surplus into a massive deficit. Now that the Democrats are trying to actually govern our Country the Republicans have engaged in a negative campaign against the president ever since he was sworn in. On day 1 he was blasted for stumbling with the Oath of Office, to now attacking him for wanting to tell students to work hard and stay in school.

    I hope Americans are smart enough to see through the Republican strategy and not allow them to succeed.

    September 7, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. crownthorns

    It is totally not silly. Democrats trust the president almost blindly and conservatives do not.. the more unorthodox the president gets, the more we can not trust him.As long as Mr.Obama supports Abortion and other highly unpopular Actions the more we distrust him..Especially when it touchs our children and grandchildren.

    September 7, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  4. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    "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."

    And of course, in your mind, Obama is NOT (actually) an American.
    Was she wearing her tin foil hat during the interview or was she so outraged and concerned that she took the risk of leaving her skull open to the "Democratic Mind Control" long enough to make that statement?

    September 7, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  5. Loletha

    I believe in our President Barack Obama. I voted for him and we shall stand with him through all the rheotic and racism remarks.

    We as Americans must stand together and remember the WORLD is watching.

    Are we not the United States Of America

    September 7, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  6. Loletha

    We are the WORLD we are the FURTURE.


    September 7, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. D. Tree

    There are people out there who can't believe our president is American. They can't believe he loves our country. And they can't believe he's christian. And they think he hates white people.

    For whatever reason they believe ANY of the above, we should not be legitimizing them by giving them such a platform on national news.

    The networks should just call this what it is: stupid.

    September 7, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  8. MNgirl

    Controversial?!? Really? Controversial?!|? Who says this is controversial?

    September 7, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. Barbara

    How can the Americans continue to be successful when there are so many people disgustingly bringing negative vibes to the public about our President Obama. The kids need to hear his concern for them and the people. Many have threatened to keep their kids out of school. FOR WHAT? President Obama is smart, and would not do anything to undermine America through the kids. Ronald Reagan did when he addressed the kids. The actions of the objecting parents are RACIST. I know we have free speech, but HANNITY, BECK. LUMBAR and others are doing a lot of damage with the SICK. SICK people we have in this country. I knew this would happen. A BLACK MAN CAN DO NOTHING FOR ME!

    September 7, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  10. Steph

    The only thing the Republicans have done is draw more attention to the speech, ensuring that every child and adult with watch or read it. Thanks right wing freaks for promoting President Obama's outrageous education agenda ...setting goals, working hard, studying...How dare he?!?!

    September 7, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  11. nola

    Pray Tell Me what these wingnut mean when they say "I am American" Where do they think that the elected President is from? He won the election fair and square – these people need to accept the fact that he won.

    I also think that any person that prays for ill will on any person – Needs to know that God Almighty Does Not – Does Not acknowledge it. God Almighty is an embracer of love for all people regardless of race, gender – he is not a hater.

    September 7, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  12. Freeman

    I'm wondering how many of these republican idiots believe the President of the United States is really going to brainwash their precious gullible kids?

    September 7, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. spongebob

    I am a parent and a Pending Democrat. I made a big mistake voting for Obama and I am very angered by it why? because we as a nation are being driven by an administration that is thrusting it's self serving agenda against the majority of the will of the people. This is not what I call Capitalism. This administration has thrust-ed us into uncharted waters. More and more Democrats like myself are becoming more weary of their agenda and becoming more protective of our nation and our children future and with good reasons. Sometimes, it just doesn't make sense to me even when at one time I really liked Obama, and believed his voice of change would be for the good of the people, this is not what I ever expected. I've changed, I am bitter towards both Parties.

    September 7, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  14. T'SAH from Virginia

    This should not have been an ISSUE!!! The President is trying hard to BRIDGE the GAP among all Americans and all he gets in return from the far-right REPUBLI-CAN'Ts is HATRED and EVILNESS!!

    He picked his cabinet in an effort to make it bi-partisan – REPUBLI-CAN'T BACKLASH; he picked historical positions to show that the government is more fair – REPUBLI-CAN'T BACKLASH; he's trying to fix the health care crisis by providing competition for the insurance companies so cost can go down – REPUBLI-CAN'T BACKLASH; he wants to speak to the YOUNG of America to encourage them to stay in school – REPUBLI-CAN'T BACKLASH... This is why President Obama should do all he can do WITH or WITHOUT the REPUBLI-CAN'Ts!!!

    September 7, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  15. mn

    So all of you who say they don't want their kids to hear what the president is going to say tell do you all know what he is going to say?
    You think you know because some right wing nut is telling you what he "Thinks" the president will say.
    You will gladly listen to someone like that yet you don't want your child to hear the president of this country speak about staying in school?
    If your kid is capable of being brainwashed or indoctrinated after one speech then you and your child should be seeing a therapist not listening to Glenn Beck and the rest of these whack jobs.
    Grow up people. If you don't want your child to hear what the president has to say about staying in school keep your kid home or call the school and have your child removed from the classroom for the duration of the speech.
    Unless of course, there is another reason you don't want you child to hear our president speak. If so, then tell us all what it is or isn't it politically correct to admit you don't want your child listening to a black president???? Stop hiding behind the Limbaugh's and Beck's of the world.

    September 7, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. foreigner taking your jobs, CA

    I ask where are all the moderate Republicans? Are you out there? Or is your party only filled with racist ignoramuses?

    The GOP is represented by radical dim-wits. The media is constantly giving air-time to bigots and just plain stupid right-leaning people. Like this ignorant, paranoid lady from Colorado – making one of the ALL TIME STUPIDEST STATEMENTS EVER!!

    The GOP has become the party of stupid. Non Racists, and educated people need not apply.

    September 7, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  17. spongebob

    We have real issues besides a school speech in this country. We have an administration who is by passing congress by infiltrating the system with too many czars to thrust a self serving agenda against the will of the people, which I feel will eventually bring the country to it's knees. For those people who do not like the schools way of teaching, put them in home school and hope Obama doesn't come up with a czar to control your kids the way the govt. sees fit. These czars are a real eye opener for those who are still in the dark, please do you homework.

    September 7, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. Hammerer

    Do you get the idea that Obama is not very well respected or trusted?

    September 7, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. mike

    Republicans are getting more rediculous by the day. So its now controversial to tell a child to stay in school? Remember losers, you have a 20% approval rating and you haven't done ONE SINGLE THING since Obama took office.

    September 7, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  20. Mark S.

    Where was George Bush when he found out about the attacks on 9/11.... oh yeah, he was INDOCTRINATING, um, I mean, TALKING TO SCHOOL CHILDREN. Republican hypocrites.

    September 7, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  21. Dionne

    I am sick and tired of the media reporting every fake outrage about anything the President does. This is ridiculous!! And the whole thing about it is that the childen of the parents who are protesting are not even the target audience. He is speaking to the 50% of Black Students who are dropping out and the 30% of white students who are dropping out of school. This is an epidemic. We can't expect to remain the leader of the world when nearly a third of our students are simply quitting school. I am very sad to see the level of hate towards a great president simply because the color of his skin. I really thought that we had made huge gains in this area. I would like for CNN to stand up and call a spade a spade and stop legitimizing this so-called outrage!

    September 7, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  22. Rick

    Nothing must piss these loonies off more than their kids coming home from school saying that they think Obama is cool and (gasp) maybe even gives them hope.

    September 7, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. MH

    Here is a case that you can borrow a logic from extreme-right:
    If you are against your president, you are not patriotic.
    If you are not patriotic, you are anti-America.
    If you are anti-America, you are a terrorist.

    Please use it on TV or anywhere you can, like repub. did in the last 8 years. Play their game their way. Speak the language they can understand!

    September 7, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  24. Kevin B

    The contrived hysteria surrounding this president speaking to school children about studying ghard and finishing school is a thinnly veiled bigoted tactic to ensure children stay in line with the bigoted principles that have been passed down from generation to generation.

    I mean us good citizens can't have an uppity, articulate bi-racial president, encouraging all kids to do well in school, now can we ??

    Some republicans are plainly and transparently bigoted and stupid and they have no shame.

    September 7, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  25. Linda

    Gee, if this were McCain would these people object to a speak about education to our kids. Of course NOT!

    September 7, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
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