Much Ado About Nothing

Labor Day Weekend 2009

I’d heard it was the Gay Agenda to co-opt the nation’s innocent children, but now heard the villain is President Barack Obama, who intended to Pied-Piper our kids away into some little blue schoolhouse, and—what?

I waited through the weekend with bated breath to see if the Right’s darkest fears would be realized.

In the 1950s, had President Dwight Eisenhower announced he would be speaking to the nation’s children at my grade school in West Hartford, Connecticut (I’m that old!), everyone from the principal to the janitor would have cheered.

In fact, 18 years ago, President George H.W. Bush visited the Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, DC, where teacher Cynthia Mostoller later remembered how her eighth graders “were thrilled at the prospect of seeing him, hearing him, and meeting him.”

Why would all children—particularly children of color—not profit from hearing their President, with two daughters of his own, welcome them to a new year, and encourage them? Why would Florida GOP Chair Jim Greer call this address “an invasive abuse of power?”

Tuesday, September 8

I read a copy of Obama’s address delivered at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, and available nationwide to all students (whose principals and parents let them listen, that is). The gist? Take responsibility for your education. Ask for help. Don’t let failures define you. Keep trying.

Now, that’s the kind of talk that will bring this country to its knees, and destroy the “nukeulur” family President George W. Bush so cherished.

“And that’s what I want to focus on today,” President Obama said, “the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Citing the initial failures of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and hoop wizard Michael Jordan, Obama continued, “These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you—you have to let them teach you.”

Nothing extraordinary, but kids heard the words from their President, who had taken the time to speak to them. I could not help but think of the long and rocky life path of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, as Obama urged youngsters to believe “where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up.”

Call me subverted, but I’ll use his words in my own continuing education.

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