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September 9, 2009

Fight the future

President Obama lectured schoolchildren Tuesday about the importance of staying motivated in the face of so much distraction.

Like many torchbearers of freedom and liberty across America, I did not watch it. This is because I had already read it, and I am working under the assumption that the president’s actual delivery did not include subliminal messages designed to make children suddenly cede the toys they’d acquired via their own hard work and budgeting to their neighbors, in an attempt to be more altruistic and inclusive. That kind of attitude, like the frothy “stay in school and contribute to the betterment of our society” communique we’ve been indoctrinated with forever, is better left to the socialists.

The Obama administration released the speech Monday in an attempt to address a virulent strain of reactionary fervor from Republicans who believed El Presidente would use the face-time to convince kids they’re entitled to health care, regardless of their income level or work status. Or that they can throw money at problems and expect a good result, like when parents send their kids to private schools because the public ones are overrun by people who smell weird and expect things for free.

As such, these defenders of the Constitution were able to push Obama into offering me and everyone else a free, early version of the speech (taking notes, Hulu.com?).

I am appalled at what I read. I believe Obama cribbed so much from former President George H.W. Bush’s nationally televised address to schoolchildren on Oct. 1, 1991, that he could be rightfully accused of plagiarism. What does that teach our children?

Both speeches began with a personal story about the president’s family life, and both included references to “mothers,” although Obama’s — about living in Indonesia as a child — was troubling, for it could stir in children the notion that there is a world beyond our borders. Both included mentions of “The Future,” a non-specific mythical land where children become adults and rule the country (I can provide no evidence of this place). Evidently, children have something called “potential” to aspire to such greatness as these presidential men.

Both included a nefarious directive to avoid blaming failures on teachers, and encouraged self-sufficiency in the face of adversity, whether personal or societal. Both featured stories of those who have overcome difficulties. Both presidents cited famous athletes as exemplars of success. Both speeches were delivered around noon on a Tuesday.

Both inspired insipid protests from the opposite political party about using presidential status to indoctrinate children. Neither included any specific mention of policy proposals or extant political issues.

There was one crucial difference: Where Bush spent several paragraphs encouraging children to stay away from drugs, Obama never mentioned the word. It could’ve been an honest mistake, but with polls suggesting trust in government at an all-time low, I couldn’t bring myself to give up on a potential conspiracy.

So I researched a little more and found something as disturbing as everything I’ve conveyed thus far. On May 13, 1986, President Ronald Reagan conducted a nationally broadcast Q&A session with schoolchildren in which he mentioned drugs six times, offering a sly bump to First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign of the time.

It appears presidents have always been willing to poach from that which came before, a lesson that can be good for children, if they’re also encouraged to avoid history’s pitfalls. Maybe that’s why Bush and Obama didn’t talk politics to the kids: Reagan’s address differed from the others in that he discussed with the children of John A. Holmes High School of Edenton, N.C., specific policy issues, including national defense, the importance of clear communication with our foreign adversaries, and a two-thumbs-up rundown of Reaganomics — which included tax issues presented in the kind of detail you’d expect for a joint session of Congress.

Kentucky was among the first states last week to ask schools to offer an alternative to students whose parents objected to Obama’s plotting encouragement of “The Future.” According to Mr. New Oxford American Dictionary, “indoctrinate” is a verb meaning “to teach (a person or group) to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.”

Perhaps the mistake we keep making is to think American presidents might have more influence on children than their idiotic parents.