The White House is set to release on Monday the text of a controversial back-to-school speech to students from President 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 Tuesday. Some conservatives have 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 that parents who 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 that 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, but others will not. Watch CNN’s Ed Henry talk about school speech uproar
Many conservatives enraged over Obama school speech
KMGH:Many schools won’t show Obama speech
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 school in fall 1991, encouraging them to say no to drugs and work hard. Read text of Bush’s speech to students (pdf) In November 1988, President 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.” Read text of Reagan’s speech to students (pdf) Some of the controversy over Obama’s speech 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.