The far-right tends to be scared of just about anything these days — free health care and the first lady’s staff among them — but for nonsensical bogeymen, you just can’t beat a presidential address to schoolchildren. As a reminder, the right was convinced that Obama’s address would push a “socialist agenda,” with “socialism” defined as anything from “Hey, there’s a black man on TV!,” to “I disagree with the general sentiment of this presidency!,” to too-little-too-late complaints about the federal deficit.
Yesterday, the White House published the proposed text of the speech. To the surprise of none, the address is beyond innocuous — it’s affirmatively patriotic, and inspiring. Striving to maintain a connection with students throughout, Obama reminds students that effort is essential to the process:
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. [. . .]
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best. [. . .]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.