Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"That Is One Classy Lady"

Those were the words of my husband upon hearing Laura Bush's comments on Obama's then-upcoming speech to American school children. "There's a place for the president of the United States to talk to school children," she said. Then she added, "It's really important for everyone to respect the president of the United States."

A year ago, I was in a classroom when I heard Mrs. Bush's own comments broadcast over the intercom; like the president did today, she encouraged students to work hard and stay in school. Students can't hear that often enough from successful adults. No one groused about it's being a political ploy, despite the fact that a hotly contested presidential election was just two months away.

When he was informed about the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, George Bush was meeting with a group of second graders. I don't recall hearing any fuss then--no Democratic parents pulled their children out of the classroom, fearing that Bush would somehow infect them with his diabolical "Republicanism."

Now an ardent Obama supporter, my husband is a former life-long Republican--from back in the days when the "GO" in "GOP" stood for something other than "General Opposition." The paranoia, negativism, and general hysteria of today's right-wingers leaves him cold, as it does so many Americans who well remember when there was such a thing as a "moderate" Republican.

It seems that America's children have survived the anticipated onslaught of leftist propaganda from the president today, in which he encouraged them to work hard and prosper. Or will we hear tomorrow on FOX News that the president somehow planted subliminal messages that will hatch in the brains of our nation's children and turn them into socialist automatons. . . ?

Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Citizen Jane, it cuts both ways. See below from Byron York, Chief Political Correspondent of the Washington Examiner:

"The controversy over President Obama's speech to the nation's schoolchildren will likely be over shortly after Obama speaks today at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. But when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush's speech -- they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue.

Unlike the Obama speech, in 1991 most of the controversy came after, not before, the president's school appearance. The day after Bush spoke, the Washington Post published a front-page story suggesting the speech was carefully staged for the president's political benefit. "The White House turned a Northwest Washington junior high classroom into a television studio and its students into props," the Post reported.

With the Post article in hand, Democrats pounced. "The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students," said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. "And the president should be doing more about education than saying, 'Lights, camera, action.'"

Democrats did not stop with words. Rep. William Ford, then chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate the cost and legality of Bush's appearance. On October 17, 1991, Ford summoned then-Education Secretary Lamar Alexander and other top Bush administration officials to testify at a hearing devoted to the speech. "The hearing this morning is to really examine the expenditure of $26,750 of the Department of Education funds to produce and televise an appearance by President Bush at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, DC," Ford began. "As the chairman of the committee charged with the authorization and implementation of education programs, I am very much interested in the justification, rationale for giving the White House scarce education funds to produce a media event."

Unfortunately for Ford, the General Accounting Office concluded that the Bush administration had not acted improperly. "The speech itself and the use of the department's funds to support it, including the cost of the production contract, appear to be legal," the GAO wrote in a letter to Chairman Ford. "The speech also does not appear to have violated the restrictions on the use of appropriations for publicity and propaganda."

That didn't stop Democratic allies from taking their own shots at Bush. The National Education Association denounced the speech, saying it "cannot endorse a president who spends $26,000 of taxpayers' money on a staged media event at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C. -- while cutting school lunch funds for our neediest youngsters."

Lost in all the denouncing and investigating was the fact that Bush's speech itself, like Obama's today, was entirely unremarkable. "Block out the kids who think it's not cool to be smart," the president told students. "If someone goofs off today, are they cool? Are they still cool years from now, when they're stuck in a dead end job. Don't let peer pressure stand between you and your dreams."

Citizen Jane said...

The transcript of Bush I's 1991 speech can be found at: http://www.live5news.com/Global/story.asp?S=11086291

Readers who care can decide for themselves whether that president was encouraging children to work hard or pushing his own political agenda.

Anonymous said...

I thought both speeches were fine.

As far as Pres. Bush being in a classroom on 9/11, my observation is that visits to a single classroom do not seem to rattle partisan chains. Every president that I can recall has made such visits and they don't seem to generate controversy.

Anonymous said...

Fairly certain the Democrats overreacted improperly to Bush I, and in turn the Republicans overreacted along thier own partisan lines this time around. In the end, the children in all liklihood will not remember a single thing he said.

Personally, I don't see the point of a president giving a speech to children in this manner. Seems like a waste of classroom time and taxpayer funds - but then again... I tend to think most thing done in DC is a waste of time and taxpayer funds.

knwick84 said...

Glad to see you back, Jane!

I, too, have been quite amused at some of the comments about this. As far as I can tell, masquerading the Fox News channel as actual "news" does more harm than anything our President could do.

Note: Does anyone else think it strange that more people are upset at Obama's so-called socialism than Bush's fascism?

Sue said...

How sad that our society has reached a point where when the highest elected official in the nation tries to encourage students to work hard and stay in school the message is overshadowed by the political implications being read into the event. And how even more unfortunate that many students are deprived of the opportunity to hear the President of the United States tell them how important schooling is. That's a message that all students need to hear -- from everyone!