Obama Gave His Education Speech (The World Did Not End)

My sons watched President Obama's back-to-school speech today.

The world did not end. My sons did not turn into zombies. They didn't even ask me if they could go to the library and check out a copy of the Communist Manifesto.

Instead they heard the President of the United States saying the SAME stuff their mommy tells them all the time:

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work — that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you're not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject you study. You won't click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won't necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.

That's OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who've had the most failures. J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

No joke, I tell my sons about Michael Jordan and J.K. Rowling all the time. When I was a teacher, I told my third grade students similar things. It's called building intrinsic motivation.

As for the speech? Read it for yourself to see what was so terrifying. Is this not what American children need to hear?

I'm still trying to figure out what was SO not okay about the President of the United States giving a speech to the nation's children. I'm supposed to be proud of being an American. My children are supposed to be proud Americans. Well how are we supposed to get that pride? Through Fourth of July cookouts?

No, we get it through developing a sense of civic duty. That whole asking what you can do for your country thing. Real talk - what ALL of us can do to help America is get serious about education. There are no more jobs for high school dropouts. Companies want ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANTS to have master's degrees these days!

But instead of asking what our President is doing about serious issues, and actually educating people about the truth, our media chose to waste a week of news-time showing white Americans engaged in hunting-for-Frankenstein's-monster behavior.

Dear White Americans, Frankenstein does not live in the White House. It's just a man who happens to be black and named Barack Obama -- and he got elected by a diverse constituency which includes your fellow white brothers and sisters.

Look, I know you're scared and you want your country back. You want Thomas Jefferson to rise from the grave, make more babies with Sally Hemings, crack his whip and make all the black folks fall back in line to the way things used to be. But let's face it. Jefferson has been dead a LONG time and the so-called good old days are never coming back.

As for your media idols, folks like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are laughing all the way to the bank. Here's the thing about the pundit class that spends their time making a lunatic fringe seem like mainstream America: These people enjoy living in exclusive communities and they send their kids to the most elite schools. The same elite schools the wealthy liberal politicians they supposedly hate send THEIR kids to!

If their kids don't do well, that's OK because it's not a meritocracy for them. All they need to do is make some phone calls and their child will get into a school, get an internship or get a job. Their children have choices that my children do not. Their children have choices that the average American does not. Maybe they didn't want their kids to hear a message that encourages them to think of someone other than themselves and their own bottom line?

America, I hate to say it but, you're playing yourself, homie.


jamaise said…
Hey! No need for that racist bit. Homie.
Liz Dwyer said…
Are you referring to something I wrote? Please clarify what racist bit that would be.
jamaise said…
"Dear White Americans, Frankenstein does not live in the White House. It's just a man who happens to be black and named Barack Obama -- and he got elected by a diverse constituency which includes your fellow white brothers and sisters."

"Look, I know you're scared and you want your country back. You want Thomas Jefferson to rise from the grave, make more babies with Sally Hemings, crack his whip and make all the black folks fall back in line to the way things used to be. But let's face it. Jefferson has been dead a LONG time and the so-called good ole days are never coming back."

Yikes! You didn't realize that's the racist part?

I'm as frustrated with Conservative America as you are, but I am really frustrated at people seeing only a very specific one side of the coin.

He's not actually a black president, but because his skin has color- that's what he is.

I can't wait for race to be irrelevant.
April said…
Sylvia's 7th grade English teacher wouldn't let her class watch. Called it a "waste of time." This is the same teacher who has made it her goal for the year to help the students pass the standardized test. Some days, I just want to give up.
Remnants of U said…
Yes, the world & America is still here. I can't comprehend the stupidity of some people in regard to the President.

Once again you stated the truth, well said Liz Very well said.
Anonymous said…

Obama is black because that's how he identifies himself. And calling out racism is not racist.

And I too can't wait for race to be irrelevant. But that's obviously not the case when certain people don't even like to say that the President is a black man.

Being "color blind" is just as offensive as being a stone cold bigot. Both deny a person's full humanity, which includes ethinicity.
Lolita said…
And being able to see only color is as offensive. Every one of us is more than our color, our sex, our ethnicity. It is necessary to bring up our sex, our color, our ethnicty when revelent but it is not always revelent. We cannot get past being judged by our sex, color, ethnicity until we ourselves quit limiting ourselves to just one aspect of who we are. I think Obama would be just as promising a president if he were green. It is not his color that gives me hope, it is his ideals. Yes, part of who he is black and male. But the bigger part is someone who can see a better America, and can bring that vision to all of us. Even white America, who, it seems, are fearful, slave-owner-wannabees.
Paul said…
Just like the Armageddon that would befall us in the year 2000, the speech that was suppose to indoctrinate our youth. Now who was spreading the baseless lies…..hmm…..oh ya, “Fake News”. Is anyone real surprised? Too funny.
Liz Dwyer said…
Hmm...Sarcastic, yes. (Probably TOO sarcastic.) But racist?

I don't think it's racist to say what it is I'm seeing and hearing in our nation. And, the last time I checked, the only non-white person I've seen on TV talking about how they want their country back and all the other unhinged, insane stuff is Michelle Malkin. Even Michael Steele doesn't go there.

What's racist about acknowledging that some white people are angry that a black man is POTUS? Because clearly, they are!

As far as blackness, Obama is the President of the United States, period. But he identifies as black and I'm going to respect that.

Waste of time? Well, not a shocker b/c that's a really vague and unmeasurable goal she has there. The results for the standardized test are not available in time to show the students and keep them motivated all year. Tell the teacher she needs to try to get her kids to score 80% or higher on every single standards-based quiz or test she gives all year long. If she does that, they'll do alright on the standardized test.

Then again, if you say that, that teacher is gonna HATE you! ;)

At the very least I thought California might decide to break off into the Pacific the second Obama opened his mouth, but no such thing happened! How could that be?

No, noting racism is not racist. Really, if folks think it's NOT, at the end of the day, about race with Obama, they better get a clue! It'd be like saying the Tuskegee Experiment wasn't on some level about race.

How about Obama just start going around saying he's a spirit trapped in a physical body? -- Oh, wait, people will STILL look at him and see a black man. Then their blood will boil over with rage and their heads will explode from the stress and horror of it.

Sigh, I need to stop being sarcastic. I'm just frustrated with the drama.

I agree that he's someone who can see a better America. Absolutely. And yes, we are all more than one facet. But I don't think it's bad to see Obama's color. It's the attitude folks have AFTER they see his color that's the problem. How about see it and value it? LOVE his color. Think it's an asset!

I don't know how Fox passes themselves off as a news company. I am personally boycotting all their TV shows, not just on the news network but on our local Fox station. That's one of the main reasons I don't watch American Idol. I'm extending it to their movies as well. I know I'm only one person but at least I'm not giving them my $$.
nick said…
That's a fantastic speech. I'm sure it will inspire a lot of kids to try a bit harder and get a good start in life. The three people he quoted are good examples of how you can overcome really daunting obstacles if you're determined enough.
BlackLiterature said…

I'm not sure if you are checking the comments. Like you, I can't wait for race to be irrelevant. Unfortunately, some in the conservative circle are making it more and more relevant when it comes to the current president. Since you are a frustrated conservative, maybe you could spend your time and resources working to eliminate the not so subtle racism coming from your side.

BTW, I'm not sure what you mean that he isn't really Black. Barack Obama self identifies as Black and many on the conservtive side have no problem reminding us of this daily.
Jen said…
I just don't get it. I don't get how hearing "work hard" from your PRESIDENT can be a bad thing.

Um, better than "I got to Yale because of Daddy and I was a C student - too busy partying".

1969 said…
Obama is black. According to the rules, 1/8 qualifies you as being black. We didn't make up those rules, they were thrust upon us.

Seriously, the Republicans can only operate on fear. That's what they are clinging to. They have to drive that "Socialist" crap into every red-staters head...that's all they've got.
Lolita said…
No, it's not bad to see his color, to acknowledge this as part of his culture. He will go down in history as our first black president. But I hope he goes down for more than that. I hope he changes political behavior, I hope he changes world view, I hope he changes the attitudes that bring this country down to ignorant fear. Focusing on his being black is neglecting all these things that he brings hope for. Focusing on his color is doing exactly what the fear mongrels want. Yes, I'm thrilled that blacks have come this far- a president! We should all feel inspired by this fact. But lets bring focus to what is really important about this president. The changes he promises. The real vision of hope, of raising the bar.
Great post. I have been pissed all weekend about this brouhaha. I don't know why it gets under my collar that people are so ignorant . . . but it does. Oh, the nerve of our president encouraging my kids to work hard and perservere. If only Sarah Palin were around to give them a message about the honor of quitting. ;)

BTW, When you write something like, "Dear White Americans", I assume that you are not talking to me, but to the loud, stupid extremists. I can see where some might think you are making a sweeping generalization about white people, though. Most white people I know think the outrage over this speech was pure crazy. But I try not to surround myself with the kind of people who believe the fear-mongering and xenophobia coming from the right.

I'm not gonna lie, if I hear someone is a fan of Glen Beck, I can't even be friends with them anymore. Seriously. Dealbreaker.
Anonymous said…
Maybe it's because I'm Canadian, but I can't for the life of me understand why people were bent out of shape about Obama's speech. I thought it was great.
Liz Dwyer said…
It inspired ME to try harder! I can always use some reminding that I can't give up and I have to do my best!

Black Lit,
I think a lot of folks have made themselves feel better by believing that race is ALREADY irrelevant. Lots of swimming in "De Nile" about what's really going on.

Exactly! But it seems like some folks LIKE the whole daddy-makes-a-phone-call thing better than everyone having an equal chance in life. :(

Yep, he identifies as black and is identified by others as black. As he's said, if he gets stopped by the police, they are going to describe him as black, not the "biracial" guy. But I'll admit I'd love to see what would happen if he suddenly started referring to himself as white. That would really roil up the lunatic fringe!

When I get up in the morning, I don't think of Obama as being a black president, I think of him as being the president, period. But he is black, and I don't think the significance of that can be over-emphasized. I mean, we've come a long way but not so far that we need to act like his blackness is not a big deal historically. I think the folks who are focusing on his blackness are focusing on it in a negative way are the ones who keep stirring the pot of racial animus and throwing out the dog-whistle code words and disrespectful behavior.

Yeah, I'm probably over the top with my sarcasm because I'm just so mad. Definitely talking about the crazy extremists who've been on TV much too much for my taste. Not talking about white folks like my dad who have worked their whole lives for racial equality. I can't even watch Fox 11 here in LA anymore. Anything associated with Fox is banned in this house.

Mr. Write On!,
I think it's because it wasn't really about the speech. It's about how racism and partisan politics are just destroying this nation. Dangit, how come my family had to move back here from Montreal? I could have awesome Canadian health care, be fluent in French AND not have to see the stupidity in the media over Obama! Sigh.
Bronwyn said…
I am a teacher (and white) and I am proud that my president - although I disagree with him on certain things - is eloquent and educated and cared enough to talk to the children in my class and all classes around the country.

Anyone who thought that was "indoctrination" should be ashamed. They are not the "real" Americans.

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