Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Podcast #199 - Students Listening to President Obama's Speech on September 8th, Your Thoughts

Hello. The topic of today's podcast is the upcoming speech President Obama will be making to the students of the United States on September 8th, 2009 (11:00 AM central time) on the Internet and C-Span. This is the first time a sitting President will specifically address students across the United States.
The White House released the following information about the topic of the speech : "The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning." Some have expressed concern over the president speaking directly to students and the amount of influence the speech could have on a group of young people.

Some thoughts as I try to wrap my head around the issue (or non-issue). Please leave a comment on this blog post. I'm very interested to see what teachers across the country are thinking about this topic.

- Does it surprise anyone else that this is the first time a sitting president has specifically addressed the students of the United States?

- At what point does a speech from a president become more "political" than "educational"?

- How is this situation different than the inauguration speech that many students watched across the country several months ago? Was that speech considered more "historic" and therefore not as controversial when aired in classrooms across the country?

- Is your school planning on showing the speech to all students, none of the students, or based on the decision of each teacher?

(Note : I just read on the Department of Education website that the length of the speech is to be 15-20 minutes. In the podcast I mentioned that I was not sure how long the speech would last.)


  1. What a great memory it would have been if Reagan would have had the opportunity to address all school children! I would have treasured that memory as an adult.

    Personally,I'm just totally baffled! So much fear over something that has the potential to inspire our kids. Let the politics go, I say! Talk to your kids at home and let them be addressed by the president.

    During a debate with friends online last night words like "indoctrination" and "beginnings of communism" were flying around. This is definitely not a NON-issue for some people.

  2. Not really that historic.

    President Bush addressed the nation's children October 1, 1991 on C-Span.

    President Reagan addressed the nation's children on Nov 14, 1988 on C-Span.

    Here's a portion of the transcript from President Reagan's address, and I post the University of Texas link if requested (not sure if links get flagged as spam).

    "You know, this is a real treat for me -- having you here and to have, in a little while, the chance to answer some of your questions. Let me also offer a special hello to those of you who are watching on C-SPAN and -- or the Instructional Television Network. Thank you for inviting us into your home or your school today.

    This marks the beginning of American Education Week, and I'm particularly pleased to be talking to American students in this, the first in a series of speeches that I'll be giving before I leave office. But before we begin here, I have a special message from my roommate. She says to please -- for your families, for your friends, for your country, and most of all for yourselves -- just say no to drugs."

  3. I see not a single thing wrong with showing the speech - if the leader of our country wants to take the time to address our nation's youth in a non-partisan fashion I am for it 100%. The original assignment that went out is something I would take issue with - but that assignment has since been modified. I see it as a non-issue and it's a shame that adults have to inject politics into something as inocuous as having our Commander in Chief try to inspire hope and encourage our youth to take responsibility for their actions (which, lsat I checked as a plank of the GOP platform) and work hard. I am not old enough to remember #41's speech, let alone Regan's - but I see nothing wrong with that either.

  4. Chris Voutsas10:17 PM

    So our Social Studies department was called in to the Principal's office this p.m. and told that the district has been inundated with calls (apparently encouraged by various right wing groups) demanding the right to have students opt out / and to be present if anyone was going to stream it live in the classroom. In 30 years of teaching...I've never seen anything like this!

  5. I think the problem is what is going to be said - and if it's going to be political at all.

    And, when the lesson plans that are released to coincide with the event talk about students writing letters to the president talking about how they can "help the president" - people are justifiably concerned.

    It might turn out to be nothing - but considering some of the things that the president has done in his first 8 months in office - some people are concerned.

  6. I agree that I am not sure I like the suggested activities and our department is trying to come up with some type of viewing guide or activity for those who are able to watch it. We have created a worksheet with similar questions about goals and such for the students who are not able to watch it. We did that to insure that all students regardless of participation will get the same experience and we can discuss the overarching themes together later.

    It is surprising the number of parents who do not want their children to watch.

  7. Bintohead, it is not what he has actually done, but rather what people have said he has done. Facts are stronger than propaganda.

    If he remains consistent, this speech will be nothing less than inspiring for our kids – something they are not hearing from the adults of this country.

  8. This is yet another example of the power of AM talk radio and, in this case, Glenn Beck. My sense is that FEAR is the driving force today with those operating on the fringe and it seems that their voices are given far greater weight than deserved. I have been teaching history and politics classes for 31 years and am saddened that this is even an issue. The President is the leader of our government whether you agree with EVERYTHING he stands for, or not. That is the way I have always approached this in my classes. People that are in our profession need to take our role very seriously and realize that, in many respects, it is up to us to teach civil discourse. 2009 is not an easy time to do that.

  9. I think it is a sad day in America when the right wing fanatics can cause all the schools in America to censor our "elected" PRESIDENT of UNITED STATES from a speech about "staying in school" and "doing your best even in hard times". Makes me wonder and nervous what else they will censor and how easily the schools were persuaded by fanatics. That is the REAL concern!