Tuesday, September 08, 2009

controversy? really?

So, apparently it was way controversial for the President to give a speech aimed at our country's students, encouraging them to work hard and crazy stuff like that. As we listened to all the pre-speech hype this morning on the radio (et tu, NPR?), I turned to JAM and reassured him.

Me: "You realize that I am a responsible parent who cares about your well-being, right?"

JAM: "Uh... yeah."

Me: "So, you understand that when they air President Obama's speech at school today, you are to close your eyes and cover your ears, do you understand?"

JAM: "Huh?"

Me: "I will not stand for the leader of our country encouraging you to stay in school and to do your homework and to pay attention. You know this is all because I love you, right?"

JAM (catching on): "Oh sure. Of course! That would just be terrible!"

Okay, so beyond the fact that I love when my kids not only get sarcasm but also then choose to play along, I'm more than a bit steamed up. I cannot fathom how people were declaring that a speech given by the President and streamed to schools across the country to send a message about students' responsibilities toward their own educations was inappropriate, indoctrinating, and (GASP!) reeked of that dirty word- socialism. Okay, while I cannot fathom it, I guess it's no secret that there are a multitude of opinions out there about our current President... pretty much like there always is, with every resident of that big white house. The part that makes me the most frustrated is that the people spouting off on the news networks, shouting about their parental rights to control what their children are exposed to, aren't just saying it like it is.

They don't like him. They didn't vote for him. And there's no way that they want their children to be forced to listen to him talk while they're sitting at their public school desks.

Let's be frank. While George the second never did this type of talk directly to America's students, I can imagine that I would have been less than thrilled if my kids were subjected to it. I tried to watch all his big speeches, but I usually found myself more than a bit frustrated, and my television screen usually ended up dirtied by whatever snack food I wound up sending its way. Hell, my appendix almost burst during his 2004 State of the Union address! (Seriously. Surgery the next day. I still have uneasiness about those particular speeches... I don't have many other nonessential inner organs left to lose!)

But here's the thing. I had my issues with George the second, my many, many issues with his decisions, his gaffes, his representations of our country, his actions that would be labeled war crimes if he had been the leader of any other country in the world. Yes, I have many misgivings about his performance as the President of our country for eight long years. So, when I would speak to JAM in the last few years about politics, (c'mon, we live 12 miles outside of DC... we have no choice but to address politics), I would be very honest and open about my opinion of Bush's performance. I never mouthed off to him that I wished for him to have his "teeth kicked in" like a certain "Pastor" (His money quote that I heard on CNN today: "I don't want him to be a martyr. We don't need another holiday. I would like to see him die like Ted Kennedy of brain cancer." Nice, huh? Especially that little could-only-be MLK, Jr. reference, right? Pastor?? How are religious people in his denomination not denouncing this guy left and right??), but instead I spoke fully about my opinion on the wrongfulness of Bush's actions in his position as President.

That's what I find the most disgusting about this whole school-speech-"controversy." Nobody's saying what's at the real heart of it-- did you really feel that this was a socialistic, politicized speech that he was giving? Really? Or is it just that he wasn't your guy back in November, and for whatever reasons, you don't want your children to hold him in high respect? And if that's the case, why is no one articulating the reasons for their opinions? Actual fact-based assessments of his platform or performance? Nope, all I've heard is that he's a socialist or communist (yes, and how many of you could even define socialism and communism for us?), who wants to indoctrinate our children (do your homework kids, and don't forget to push your parents toward supporting a public health care option), and clearly is infringing upon our parental rights to not have our children listen to anyone.

Whew. I'm going to breathe for a second.

Okay, so moving on from things-that-confound-and-infuriate-Dawn to moments-that-Dawn-wants-to-remember. Unfortunately, as JAM reported it, they did not in fact watch the President's speech at school today, because "we didn't have time." Ugh. So instead, he and I watched it together online tonight. As President Obama gave shout-outs to the three students who have overcome some extreme obstacles to persevere and succeed in their educational pursuits, JAM let out a genuinely impressed, "Wow!" When he encouraged kids to take time to read each and every day, JAM enthusiastically responded, "I do that!" And when he went on the path of discussing failure's role in our lives, JAM got it: "Some people think when they fail, they really succeed, because they learn from their mistakes." I asked him afterward what he thought about the whole speech and here's what he had to say:

"It was really good. And he was saying lots of stuff-- pointing out really good students, and he was saying lots of stuff that some of my friends don't do... like paying attention and not bullying. I feel great because he was pointing out expectations that some kids don't accomplish. I'm going to work harder, try to get straight A's on every report card, and straight A's on every progress report. That's my own goal."

So there it is. Barack Obama was my guy last November, for a whole slew of reasons, and I still do truly believe that he is a leader with integrity, intelligence, vision and honesty, which is desperately needed now. So yes, that was definitely a factor in my opinion about the "controversy" about this speech. But honestly, it all comes down to the message, which was clearly as uncontroversial as it could get. With all that people can disagree about in this country, could anyone seriously take umbrage with what he said?

Often baffled and bewildered,