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?