President Obama's speech eloquent, but mostly nothing new

Sep 13 2009 - 11:12pm


(The Associated Press) President Barack Obama delivers a speech about education on Sept. 8.
(The Associated Press) President Barack Obama delivers a speech about education on Sept. 8.

Upon first hearing that President Barack Obama would give a speech to the students of America while we were actually in school, my initial reaction was something along the lines of "Huh? Why would he do that?"

I soon learned that many were asking "Can he do that," or "Should he do that?" It seemed revolutionary to me -- almost like Obama was riding ahead of what the Founding Fathers intended the executive branch to do -- not to mention all the talk that the president was trying to "indoctrinate" us.

To be fair, I am too young to remember either of the previous such presidential speeches to students, by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, but once I found out that they had, in fact, occurred, I felt like it was perfectly OK. Obama is the president, and even those who -- like me -- disagree with his policy agenda ought to recognize the office itself and the dignity thereof. And while I suspect the worry over indoctrination was more for the more innocent -- and therefore impressionable -- elementary kids and younger middle-schoolers, the fact that many parents think we young people will blindly believe a man, whom we didn't want in that office in the first place, at our age -- some of us almost voting age -- seemed a little ludicrous.

When my own father admitted that he wasn't exactly deliriously happy about my watching the speech, I started wondering, "What is this, some James Bond movie? Do they think he's going to pull up the curtain on a giant spinning wheel and hypnotize us all over TV to elect him dictator for life?"

Now, there are some good points to the fears of our parents: our president is a highly skilled, persuasive orator, and could easily plant his ideas in impressionable young minds if he saw the opportunity, and it's also pretty obvious that the majority of the media is at least mildly infatuated with Obama. So if Obama wanted to try to indoctrinate us and do to America what Hitler did to Germany -- the youth devoted and all -- he very easily could.

At least, that might happen with younger kids. Those listening in my seminary class were hardly impressionable, barely open-minded even. I heard several politically barbed comments ("Dude, what if this is being filmed in communist Russia?", or, "Dude, it probably is."), as well as one very true remark ("We don't need new computers -- or textbooks, etc. -- we need air conditioning!"). My classmates were playfully making jokes but otherwise they were fairly respectful, considering most of them didn't want him to win the election.

As to the speech itself, I found it to be an eloquent reminder that we need to focus on educating ourselves as much as possible so that we can lead A merica into a brighter future and pull ourselves out of the crevasse we're stuck in.

Now, here I did catch a wee bit of an agenda on the president's part. As he listed the ways in which he saw we, the bright and fearless leaders of tomorrow, would advance the nation, only one of them seemed to me to come from a traditional viewpoint -- creating new companies and therefore job opportunities. Other things he talked about were making our country less racist and taking better care of the environment.

However, I suspect my thoughts might be a matter of personal political preference, and President Obama does want his own ideas to be heard -- that's why he ran for office in the first place. In short, there was no political brow-beating or indoctrination, only a firm, but encouraging, reminder that we need to prioritize our education, and therefore our future, and with it, that of the nation.

So, while I still do NOT agree with much of the president's agenda, there is no need to give 007 a mission to infiltrate the White House staff or a party in the East Room, and daringly disable a giant spinning wheel to save Americans from surrendering their free will to a broadcast.

Not that it wouldn't be interesting ...

Lindsey Larson is a senior at Roy High School. She enjoys reading, writing, Broadway, watching movies and cooking. E-mail her at

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