Jumping into the political fray….

I just had the distinct pleasure of addressing a letter my ten year old son wrote to President Obama.  We were talking last night on the way home about the President’s Back-to-School speech, which was not broadcast in the schools here (due to the fact that we live in a completely bright red state, in my opinion, in a school district where it was completely acceptable to have endorsements of McCain on the school billboard but no corresponding endorsements for Obama), and my little guy was MAD.  He felt like he needed to write a note of encouragement to the President, because as he says, “Not everybody is mad at him, and he needs to know that.”  Sam said this very matter-of-factly, so sure in his belief that even the President might need a little uplifting of spirits on occasion, and upon getting home he immediately went to his room and began writing.  He even did a rough draft first, then recopied it in his best handwriting, complete with his “special” signature. 

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction here in Idaho, Tom Luna, encouraged the airing of the speech, but left it up to each district to make the call.  In turn, the Superintendent in our district left it up to each teacher to make the call.  He said, and I quote,  “If deemed appropriate, teachers will have the option to integrate the recorded speech into the curriculum at a suitable time that meets their students’ educational needs. Parent notification will be sent home with students prior to any classroom use.”  He went on to say that if parents did not want their kids to see the speech, they could either be excused from the classroom or given a “comparable” assignment to make up for it.

Here is where I get upset with the whole thing: How, in any way, shape or form, is an address by the President of the United States to our children ever inappropriate?  Really; I don’t understand this.  Personal politics aside, why would any informed, reasonably intelligent parent refuse to allow their children the opportunity to hear what the leader of our countryhas to say, especially when it is aimed directly toward them?  I was never a supporter of John McFuck, but if he addressed our schools in a nationwide message of encouragement, touting messages like “personal responsibility” and “sure it is going to be hard work but you can do it,” you can damn sure bet my kids would be listening to it. 

I have heard so many different opinions about the speech, people not wanting their children to be exposed to the President’s Socialist views, and really, it makes me laugh and feel angry at the same time.  If the President has the power to turn the youth of our country into budding Socialists during the course of a 20 minute speech, then he is akin to God; and I don’t know about you, but as much as I love and admire the man, he ain’t God.  Not even close.  So why are these people so scared of allowing their kids to hear what he has to say? 

I have a theory, and that’s all it is.  I think these people, the Conservative Republicans, are afraid because the President is challenging their belief systems, maybe forcing them to re-think a lot of their previously held values.  President Obama is half-black, which maybe means that there is no room to say that the “filthy niggers” have ruined the country with their audacity to want to be both free and equal.  He was also raised in the dreaded single-parent household; how then can those Conservatives blame society’s economic downfall and increasing crime rate on we single parents, single moms specifically?    When the President talks about and actively works toward a health care plan that will actually provide health care to all, perhaps those who feel as if they are somehow better and more deserving of good health simply because they can afford insurance are being put into the uncomfortable position of having to rethink their elitist ideas.   I simply think that people don’t want to have to open their eyes to the fact that regardless of economic or social status, we are all the same underneath it all.  Who can those right-wing zealots blame for their unhappiness if they don’t have someone smaller, less-than, to grind into the ground under their heels?

I tell you all this, though.  I believe that we as parents have the responsibility to our children (and, since with hope our kids are going to grow up and be doing crazy things like voting and working and being contributing members of society, our nation) to let them see daily what is going on in our country and in the world around us.  We have a responsibility regardless of politics to let our children find their own voice, come to their own beliefs.  So what if you don’t like Obama’s message?  Isn’t it your responsibility as a parent to talk  to your children about what is said, explain why you think it is wrong/right,  listen to your children’s responses and allow them to come to their own conclusions?  We as parents have a lot more influence on our children’s thoughts/beliefs than any 20 minute speech by the President; I believe that we are responsible for providing access to different viewpoints, different cultures, different races and religions in order to give our youth the sense that they are not entitled to a certain standard of living just because the Conservatives say it should be so. 

I am glad that Sam, on his own, decided to write to the President.  It means I am doing something right.  I am glad when Eli and I get into arguments about politics or religion, because THAT means I am doing something right.  When Hannah mows the lawn instead of folding laundry, that also means I am doing something right.  We don’t have gender stereotypes in our house, we have different (in some cases VASTLY different) political ideas and religious views, we none of us think or feel exactly the same.  The point is that we are all thinking, widening our horizons bit by bit, expanding our minds.  Shouldn’t we all be doing the same things?  Like it or not, we are all part of the same country, and sooner than we like to think, our kids are going to be running it.  Don’t we have a responsibility to make sure they do a good job?

28 thoughts on “Jumping into the political fray….

  1. Agreed. I am in a bright red state as well, so I completely understand. But, how proud you must be of your boy! That is a sign of a thoughtful kid, and he sure sounds like a smart one!
    .-= SJ´s last blog ..The Pieces =-.

  2. The events leading up to this speech and the ‘controversy’ following it is not only a prime example of how politics have become more about agenda and less about country, but also an embarrassment to me as an American.

    This is what I posted on Facebook yesterday: “Matt Pfingsten Would like to go on record by saying that ANY U.S. President can come speak at my daughter’s school any time. And if she walks out an hour later a completely different person with completely different values then I haven’t really been doing MY job, have I?”

    We have lost site in American politics of what it means to be HUMAN. I think that if we were all somehow able to put our collective foot down and just call bullshit, we’d all be better off for it. Since WHEN is having the flipping PRESIDENT come speak at your school a bad thing? That, my friend, is just wrong.

    Sorry about the hijack. Pissed. Good post, BTW 🙂
    .-= Matt´s last blog ..Is It Just Me?! =-.

  3. You are amazing Kori! An amazing parent, one who cares so much. You inspire me! Giving children choices and letting them have their own perspective is something that I sure didn’t have growing up and something I want to give to my children. Thank you for keeping it real!
    .-= annabbonkers´s last blog ..Art and mindless chatter =-.

  4. As usual, you have said all the things I have been thinking, only much better than I would have said them. If ANY school had reacted this way to a speech by President Bush, you can bet these same Republicans who don’t want their kids listening to Obama would have been in a frenzy calling that school un-American, unpatriotic, traitorous, etc. As Matt said, this whole thing is embarrassing.
    .-= Dreamybee´s last blog ..What recession? =-.

  5. Oh, dear. I am a Conservative Republican. There. I said it, LOL. That said, I loved President Obama’s speech, which my students heard today (they were not at school during the speech yesterday). I feel that when our president has something to say to us, we need to listen. The kids received it well, and I’m glad we showed it. I think people who feared the speech were afraid that they didn’t have enough control over influencing their kids themselves. My kids both said, “We watched the speech, but he basically didn’t say anything we didn’t already know.” That’s good. (See, we do have some common ground; we lunatics on the right, haha. Only kidding, Kori. I know you love me, and the feeling is mutual.)
    .-= Mrs4444´s last blog ..One Man’s Trash… =-.

    • @Mrs4444, I do love you, because you are who you are and don’t hide what you believe. Even if we don’t agree on everything, we can both recognize the other’s value; that transcends any political differences.

      And even though I know you know this, others might not: that is a generalization, I know lots and lots of good conservative Republicans! 🙂

  6. Ugh this whole thing has been annoying. I’ve been annoyed ever since they were talking about the first lady’s shorts. Great post!

  7. I know that we aren’t going to agree on this and I hope that anything I say doesn’t come as offensive because I don’t mean for anything to be as such. I just know that politics are an iffy situation and things can be taken out of context.

    I am not trying to say that you are wrong because you are in no way wrong. We all have different opinions and here in the US, we are allowed to openly have them.

    I think the problem with the speech isn’t that Obama was addressing our children (at least in my home). There was more of a problem that with the big health care debate, parents were worried about what would be included in the speech.

    When you work hard to try to raise your child according to your beliefs and morals (yes, they will make their own decisions…later in life, not in the 4th grade (my child)), as a parent I do not want my child to see something and then think that I am wrong because the President has said something different than what I am trying to teach my child. I DO want my child to watch Obama and know the situations and platforms but I want to make sure that in these early years, I am there to explain how they are different than our own. Until the day before the speech, and only by a rough transcript, we weren’t privy to what was included. We were told that it would only address education but the video wasn’t released for parents to review. I opted out of my child watching the speech BUT after viewing it tonight (which I taped), my child WILL be watching it with ME tomorrow evening. I think he did address important issues but I am glad about what I did (agreed by others or not). I, as a parent, limit my child as to what they can listen to, watch, etc with me absent or present. This is my right. I won’t even let my child watch Hannah Montana and the majority of Disney and Nickelodeon shows!

    I know that many say that I may be a horrible parents because I opted out of the speech (and no, Kori, you didn’t say that. Thank you by the way 🙂 ). I can say with certainty that I am not a bad parent nor am I ignorant. My child isn’t going to grow up blind to the fact that there’s another side(s) but right now…while I am in control of my child and their upbringing, I will continue to teach my child according to MY beliefs.

    Thank you Kori for posting about this. Most people are hesitant to do such and it’s admirable that people will stand up for their beliefs!

    • @reg, It is your right and also your responsibility to monitor what your children watch and are exposed to. I mean, we don’t have television at all for that reason, because there is too much out there that I don’t think my kids need to be exposed to (including advertisements!). I also respect that you wanted to preview the speech for content before watching it with your child, and I understand that. However, and this is where we will have to agree to disagree 🙂 , I also am suprised at how many people assumed this would be about the health care debate and refused to let their children watch/listen based on that alone. Even if-and he didn’t but even if-he had talked about health-care reform, why should our children be sheltered from listening to someone else’s viewpoints on that issue? This affects them as well, and what the eventual outcome of Obama’s time in office is will continue to have an impact on their lives far past the 20 minutes allotted to the speech. Which also means that our thoughts/feelings/reactions and willingness to talk with our kids about it is also going to continue to have an impact on their lives.

      I don’t for one minute consider you (or a lot of other people) “bad” parents for making what choices you feel most comfortable with. What I am most upset about are the people who have accused Obama of trying to “indoctrinate” our youth into being Socialists in the course of a 20 minute speech. Please; if we are doing our jobs as parents (as you are), that shouldn’t even be an issue at all, never mind the fact that it is impossible for anyone to be brainwashed in the that amount of time even if that were this agenda. I am also upset about narrow-minded people who would willingly prevent their children listen to a speech by the President out of fear, those who perpetuate blind hatred and a callous attitude of “He is wrong because I said!” without having anything to back that up. There have been so many comments around here that regardless of education, economic, or social status display not just ignorance but a complete lack of willingness to let go of blind hatred. So many people who still think that George W. just needed a little bit more time in office to get things figured out, so many people who assume that Obama has some nefarious plot to take away the rights they feel entitled to (never mind anyone else’s rights, mind you)…it is so sad and also mind-boggling.

      I think there is a lot of fear involved, and I stand by that; fear that the status quo is going to change (which it is) and that perhaps it is going to be a half-black man from a single parent home who makes that happen. Fear that those with wealth and a certain amount of security with their place in the world might actually lose their job and have it taken by someone who worked their ass off to put themselves through school because the President said “You bet you can do this.”

      I have gone on too long with this and now have to get ready for work; so much more to say! I truly appreciate your willingness to stand up and say “This is what I believe” and also have reasons for doing so. All too often that isn’t the case, and thank you for being here and taking part in this discussion. You and my oldest son would really like each other, methinks! 🙂

  8. I didn’t hear the speech and didn’t have time to read all you wrote, but I don’t get why anyone would NOT want their kids to see/hear an address by the President. If you disagree with everything he says, your kids still need to be aware of what’s happening in their country. Ignorance is never bliss. I despise these idiots who are too stuck up to let their kids hear what the President has to say. He’s the President! Don’t you want them to know what he thinks?
    .-= FreedomFirst´s last blog ..Hope deferred =-.

  9. Amen Kori! I can’t remember one time when George W. Bush wanted to make a speech for our students and the schools and parents made a fuss about it. Don’t these parents realize that they are teaching their children to not be open to change and isolating them from what is going on in this world. I mean, come on, President Obama has two young children I don’t believe he would even consider saying something inappropriate and why not open the doors of communication between parents and children. If anything this gives kids the opportunity to come to their parents and ask questions as a family about what the family believes. Trust me regardless of what the President says children are aware of their family’s morals and values. So, what if parents talked to their kids instead of preventing them from taking part in history, let them know your beliefs, let them ask you questions, what is that going to hurt?
    .-= Mrs. Ski´s last blog ..Wondering on a Wednesday =-.

    • @Mrs. Ski, I agree wholeheartedly that this could have been a great opportunity for parents of ANY political affiliation to 1. impart their own beliefs to their children through an open discussion and 2. give their children an opportunity to feel part of something much, much larger than themselves.

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