(NNPA)—No one questioned President Barack Obama’s right to deliver an address Wednesday night on health care to a joint session of Congress. However, his decision to address students the day before on the importance of excelling in school drew criticism from some right-wingers who charged that he was trying to exploit students for political gain.
If anyone was exploiting students, it was ignorant parents in need of parental guidance. Let’s call it for what it is: Many of these parents simply hate President Obama and will use students, or any other excuse, to bring him to his knees. We have the best educated president and first lady duo in history—each has two Ivy League degrees, including a law degree from Harvard—and some of these idiots who can’t spell the letter “a” were saying he should not be allowed to address the nation’s students.
In an Aug. 26 letter to principals, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the speech on the opening day of school for most districts would focus on “the importance of education” and “persisting and succeeding in school.”
With an unacceptably high dropout rate and students fighting against negative peer pressure, a word of encouragement from the president of the United States should have been widely applauded. Instead, the right-wing, whipped into a frenzy by Fox News and conservative talk radio hosts, were railing—incorrectly, as usual—about how the speech would be used to brainwash students and advance socialism.
As Chicago Examiner columnist Julie Driscoll put it: “I’d be surprised if any of these people protesting President Obama’s speech to their kids has a fraction of the education President Obama has. I’d be surprised if any of these people protesting President Obama’s speech to their kids has the success story President Obama has. In fact, from what I’m seeing and hearing, I’m thinking that most of these people vocally protesting President Obama’s speech to their kids are on a weekend pass from the asylum.”
Of course, opponents of Obama shouldn’t be called crazy simply because they oppose his speaking to the nation’s school children. They should be called crazy because that’s the best description of their wild and baseless rantings. Media Matters, the media watchdog group, provided the following examples:
Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck cited Obama’s speech as more evidence of the “indoctrination of your children.”
In a post on the American Thinker, Lauri Regan asserted, “Obama has turned his team of brainwashers on the task or indoctrinating America’s youth.”
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin claimed the speech was an effort to create “junior lobbyists” for Obama.
A writer on the Free Republic Forum said, “He’s recruiting his civilian army. His ‘Hitler’ youth brigade.”
Writing on the Newsmax.com blog, Pamela Geller said, “The fascist in chief is taking his special brand of brainwashing to the classroom. Keep your kids home. I think this man is a threat to our basic unalienable rights.”
Conservative activist Bryan Fischer wrote in a column, “Unless we get public assurances from the White House that the president won’t address health care or global warming or the homosexual agenda (under the color of ‘human rights for people different from us’) this might be a great time for parents to exercise their opt-out authority and give their students a biography of George Washington to read while the President turns the minds of an entire generation to mush.”
Where were the crazies when previous presidents addressed students?
For example, President George W. Bush not only spoke to students, he posted a “teacher’s guide” on the White House website intended to help students understand the “freedom timeline.” No one complained about politicizing the Oval Office when a posting encouraged students to explore the biographies of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their wives.
During his presidency, Bush’s father gave a speech to students that was crafted “to motivate America’s students to strive for excellence; to increase students’ as well as parents’ responsibility/accountability; and to promote students’ and parents’ awareness of the educational challenge we face.”
Of all places, school is where students should be exposed to a variety of views and encouraged to think for themselves. Perhaps the greatest fear of conservative parents is that once students begin thinking for themselves, they will reject their pablum.
As president, Obama has made education one of his top priorities, even while dealing with two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Therefore, it was not out of the ordinary for him to address students at the beginning of the school year.
Obama gave his speech at noon on Tuesday. That was perfect timing because so many of his critics are out to lunch.
(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his website, www.georgecurry.com.)