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Is Obama using this speech as political gain?

Tomorrow, schools and students from all across the country will be tuning in to a speech that some Republicans and parents claim is just pro-Obama propaganda. Now in case you haven’t noticed, this speech has been hyped for a while now, to the point where the government has made advertisements featuring NASCAR drivers and is hosting a contest where students can submit a video detailing what they will do for their education, three of whom will take home 1,000 dollars in cash. But should you be worried for your kids? Since I happen to be one of those “kids” that will go to school the next day and view the speech, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to take a look.

First off, I just wanted to throw out into the open that George H. W. Bush Sr. made a similar speech in 1991, which the Democrats claimed that Mr. Bush was using education funds for political gain. So yea, we shouldn’t point fingers just yet. Especially since this is 2009, where we’re in an economic crisis, and considering all the work that has been done to generate hype for this event, this event probably has taken a chunk out of the Department of Education.

So, what does Mr. Obama talk about in his speech? Well, it first opens up with Obama talking about how he knows the first day of school can be, and how in Indonesia, he had to wake up in 4:30 in the morning because his mother was too poor to send him to a school where the American children were going to school. Any brainwashing yet? Nope, my brain is fine. Of course it looks like a bit of pride since he’s talking about himself, but this is the kind of things that need to broadcasted to American children: dedication and motivation. It shows students how fortunate we are to live in a rich society, and how we must use it to its potential to benefit us.

He then talks about how he made a lot of speeches about education, and how he talked about how teachers, parents and the government can play a part in reforming education.

Then he gets to the whole purpose of this speech: you (if you’re a student, if you’re not sorry!). Only you, the student, can determine the future of your life. Everything else won’t matter unless you, the student, make a use of it.

The President then talks about his life again, about all the hardships and troubles he’s faced, about how he’s thankful that he has been given a lot of second chances to work hard and grow out of poverty to fulfill his dream (which should be pretty obvious).

Continuing on, he talks about students that have faced hardships in their lives. About Jazmin Perez, who couldn’t speak English and lived in a community where almost no one had a college degree, but now Jazmin is now studying public health to become a doctor. About Andomi Schultz, who is fighting brain cancer but is now going to college, and about Shantell Steve who has lived in many foster homes but has a job at a health center and has helped people stay away from gangs, and she is now going to graduate high school with honors and plans on going to college.

All very motivational and inspiring in itself, but President Obama doesn’t stop there. He talks about success comes with hard work, and how even if you have failed, you can never give up. He mentions successful people like JK Rowling, whose first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve time, and Michael Jordan, who was cut from the high school basketball team and has missed countless shots and lost many games. “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed,” Obama quotes from Michael Jordan.

So, propaganda? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Change for the future of education and America? We’ll see. But I’m pretty sure thousands and maybe millions of students like me will get the wakeup call and work hard to leave the world a better place than they found it. After all, isn’t that what we all want? Would we rather have Obama fail and make America worse for us all?

I now leave you with Obama’s final words.

“So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?  


Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.”

Read the transcript here. (The White House)