Well, the text of the president's speech to school students has been released .
To summarize, he talks about:
- How kids might feel nervous at starting school or as summer ends and a new school year begins.
- That teachers, parents and government have responsibility to make sure kids have good schools, opportunities and encouragement to learn.
- But, students have responsibilities too:
- Discover what you are good at and pursue it.
- Get an education to develop your talents and you will not only benefit yourself but the nation too when, as an adult, you contribute to solving problems.
- Don't be discouraged by hardships experienced by you and your family or by the advantages others may have that aren't available to you.
- The circumstances of your life now, don't determine what your life will be in the future.
- Other students, in similar or worse circumstances refused to give up. They set goals for themselves, took responsibility for their education and were successful.
- Success in life isn't easy to achieve. It takes work to develop your talents.
- There are failures along the way, but successful people don't let hardship or failures define them. Instead they learn from those experiences.
- Don't give up on yourself -- because if you do, you will be giving up on your country as well.
- The story of America is about people who keep going, who love their country too much to do anything less than their best.
- "Make us all proud. I know you can do it."
I suspect even those who were most vocally opposed will find that President Obama's speech is not as bad as they feared. In fact, they might even find it inspiring.
In my original article I compared attempts to work the public into an emotional frenzy over hot-button issues such as this speech to the cruel demagoguery of Senator McCarthy in his 1950's anti-communist crusade.
After reading and listening to much of the shrill opposition to the President addressing students and then reading word-for-word what he actually will say, I'm reminded of a newly elected president in the early 1930's as he talks to people suffering in the Great Depression and afraid for their future.
"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory."
The anger and angst we have witnessed in the vocal opposition to the President's speech to children has its roots in the kind of "unreasoning, unjustified" fear that Roosevelt spoke of in his inaugural address. And, it is that same fear that threatens to "paralyze needed efforts" to create a just and efficient healthcare system that most people acknowledge is an essential part of our country's economic recovery; and to help assure that uninsured serious illness or injury doesn't lead to personal ruin of our country's citizens.
Just as Roosevelt recognized that he needed the "understanding and support of the people themselves" to lead the country to "revive and prosper", our leaders today need at least the respect of the people -- even if there is reasoned disagreement about how to reach our goals.
Taking a metaphor often used by those who gain financially from stirring up fear and hatred, "Don't drink the Kool-Aid" of belief that your government is somehow the enemy of your happiness and prosperity. We are and will remain a country "of the people, by the people, (and) for the people" so long as we take seriously our responsibility as citizens to be informed, to participate, to hold our leaders accountable and perhaps most of all at this time, to recognize that whatever differences we may have, our opponents and leaders are citizens of this country too and deserve respect for their humanity as well as credit for their reasoned participation in the advancement of our nation.