Point-Counterpoint: Obama Speech

Abby Singley

Since President Barack Obama’s election in November of last year, it seems that he has been under constant scrutiny, mostly from the opposing right wing. Their issues range from the church he previously attended, taking one too many breaks to play golf, his decision to appoint Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Justice, and reforming health care. The latest controversial decision that Obama has made is delivering a “nonpartisan Back-to-School” speech from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. Is the president of the United States not allowed to talk to the students of the country in order to encourage them to try their best in school?

Once news broke of this speech, many schools like WJ prepared to show his address to students during the school day. Surprisingly, many parents expressed resentment and even threatened to take their kids out of school to prevent them from seeing the speech. Others were ecstatic that the president was taking time out of his day to talk to their child.

When the president first planned to have this speech, I can guarantee that he never imagined he would receive the reaction he did from parents and the media. Last time I checked, Obama’s decision to have this speech wasn’t a new idea. Former President Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both gave speeches to the children of the country during their terms. So why is there a problem when the current president of the United States, Barack Obama, desires to do the same thing?

The criticism varies from he secretly plans to push various democratic policies like the Health Care bill along to our children or that he should be focusing on other, more important issues rather than talking to students who decide as Obama stated, “the future of this country.” Ensuring that the children of today’s society work hard and stay on the path to becoming the future politicians, doctors, lawyers, and responsible working adults of this country isn’t important right?

Although many presumed Obama’s speech would be filled with information regarding his policies, it actually was a very bland and straight forward motivational speech. The irony in this situation is that when former President Reagan gave his speech to kids around the country in 1986, he actually did ramble on about some of his policies. In fact, his speech had practically nothing to do with students’ work in school. The theme was centered around everything that his administration had accomplished from “taking an economy that was in bad shape and get it moving and growing again,” decreasing inflation and interest rates, and even assisting the poor who are “increasingly able to dig themselves out of poverty,” according to Reagan. Absolutely none of these issues were mentioned, referred to, or even implied in Obama’s speech.

Reagan’s address to students shows that the right wing typically accuses others of doing something that they have already done in the past. In this case, many accused Obama of attempting to change the opinions of children on various policies even though Reagan obviously focused on swaying the minds’ of students, specifically high school students, with his address.

All of the criticism surrounding the president and everything he does points to the real problem in today’s society: people will continue to spout lies regarding his policies and actions regardless of the truth.