The End of National Respect – A Letter to Jim Greer

September 3, 2009 — 33 Comments

"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power."
–Jim Greer, Florida Republican Committee Chairperson

Dear Jim,

Back in 1967, my parents were for anyone running for president who wasn’t Richard Nixon. They were of the generation who saw Nixon as the personification of a controlling way of life that they opposed in the middle of the free wheeling ‘60’s. And I, following my parent’s lead, supported Hubert Humphrey, only to be disappointed when he lost.

In that wake of that loss I, being an impressionable young tike who didn’t know any better, wrote a letter to the current vice president, telling him how sorry I was that he lost. A couple of weeks later I got a letter in the mail, written on creamy vice presidential stationary, thanking me for my condolences, but also encouraging me to support Mr. Nixon in his presidency, recognizing that our process requires a coming together after these battles for office.

So, on January 20, 1968, I made my way down to an office in the Justice Department building in Washington D.C. My uncle was a phone company executive in charge of the phone service for the Justice/FBI building, and he was able to get us a great vantage point from an office in the building to watch the inaugural parade of Richard Nixon. My family still wasn’t happy about his election. We didn’t fully trust him. But he WAS our president, elected by a majority of Americans, and so we stood at attention when his limousine came into view, and being a good cub scout, I place my hand over my heart as he drove by. Yes, we disagreed, but his office made him worthy of respect (that is until he abused it several years later).

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of American. And to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

For many years I recited that pledge every morning. Most days it was just another exercise to go through before the teacher would order us to turn in our books to the latest lesson, but there were times when I would think about the meaning of the words and see them as America’s version of the Musketeer rally: “All for one and one for all!” Here was a pledge that called us to understand the flag as a symbol for a deeper reality, a unified republic in which we worked toward the day when all people would experience freedom and justice. This was a time when we could admit our differences politically, but still claim with pride that we were “one nation . . . indivisible,” something that God might actually be willing to associate God’s self with.

Being a man of the cloth (usually black knit and blue denim) I am often hesitant to wade in on political issues, knowing that there will be many who deem it inappropriate for me to mix faith and politics. And yet, I too am a citizen of this nation; I too have been willing to but into this great American experiment of freedom and justice; I too put my hand over my heart and make the pledge (even though I also recognize that my first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God). I have tried to be quiet, to sit and squirm and not say anything as people take us further and further away from being “one nation” toward being something far different, but I can’t any more. It comes from the quote at the top of this article. It comes from an unwillingness of some to believe that any person they oppose actually might have something worthwhile to say along the way.

Zoom forward a few years after the Nixon era. I had grown up and had daughters of my own. We found ourselves with a President, George W. Bush, who I disagreed with again and again. And, like most families, our children absorbed our political leanings and for the most part weren’t too impressed with the president. However, when President Bush came to Nashville and Air Force 1 was parked at the airport near our house, I made sure to drive by, for that plane was a symbol of something greater than a political philosophy. I may have disagreed with Mr. Bush, but it never would have occurred to me to forbid my daughters from listening to one of his speeches on television, regardless of what the topic was. Yes, it IS MY responsibility to raise my kids up in the world, but President Bush WAS our president, even though I didn’t like him nor voted for him. And simply because of the office given to him, he deserved respect while he was holding that office. If I disagreed with something he said in a speech to my kids, I could always deal with that in a conversation after the fact.

So when I heard that persons were complaining and asking schools to let their kids opt out of watching a speech by President Obama on the value of education and personal responsibility next week, I was floored. Does anyone think that a President REALLY has so much power that a single speech would indoctrinate kids into becoming socialists (whatever that means, as no one is fully willing to explain the fear and/or the term)? Knowing most classrooms, this speech will be a time for kids to daydream, sleep, or pass notes to one another in the darkness of the room while the teacher takes a break to catch up on grading or creating lesson plans. And, if the President were to actually say something doctrinaire and controversial, could not the parents talk about this with their kids after the fact – in fact, wouldn’t it be a great opportunity to talk with your kids about your beliefs and your disagreements with our current president.

This arises, I believe, in a belief that there is no need to listen to someone who doesn’t agree with you, that in fact, those who disagree with you are of such little worth that you can completely disregard them. I wonder at times if those who believe that a little TV address is a time of political indoctrination aren’t driven by their own belief that the only teaching or conversations worth having are those in which our beliefs are affirmed and imposed on others (what some might call indoctrination). Thus, we avoid challenging debate for in that debate we might be confronted with a human being who doesn’t match up to the demon we have made him out to be; a person who doesn’t conform to the stereotypes we make about him. On both the left and the right, we are rapidly becoming a large echo chamber in which we are only willing to listen to those who are on “our side,” and in doing so, the call to be one nation, indivisible is completely lost.

Jim, I get it completely that you disagree with the path that President Obama is taking. I do have to disagree that his approach goes against the “majority of Americans” since the polls, including the big one in November said that a majority of Americans is willing to follow his approach.  Of course, that probably isn’t obvious to you, for the majority of the folks you talk to most likely think Obama is Benedict Arnold returned from the grave. You and I disagree. I understand where you are coming from and understand your worries, but I come to a different place.

Understand however that President Obama really hasn’t done anything different than what he said he would do in the election. He said he would close Guantanamo, and he’s working on it. He said he would look at a stimulus, and did so. He said he would try to reform health care, and he’s trying that as well. If anyone should be angry at Obama is should be the folks on the far left, for the places where he has wavered has been in his move to the middle, not his move to the far left.

Based on this, and based on respect for the Office of the President, can’t we assume that when he says he is going to talk to our kids about staying in school and taking responsibility for their work, that he is going to stay on message? He hasn’t, to my knowledge, drifted off in mid speech to readings from Chairman Mao. He pretty much stays on the task at hand, and this speech is part of a larger effort to encourage kids to stay in school. It doesn’t sound like much political indoctrination to me.

The bigger problem for me is that this move, like so many in recent weeks, is simply another step against being one nation, indivisible. I don’t care whether you are conservative or liberal, right or left, we can’t make this liberty and justice for all thing work if we decide to take our toys and run off on our own if we don’t get our way.  Yes, we disagree, and I will never convince you to see the role of government in the way that I see it. But, if we can’t come together about anything– things like the value of education, things like the need for all of us to take responsibility for ourselves—then frankly, this American experiment is doomed.

For it is in disunity that we are weak. It is in disunity that we place ourselves at risk. It is in disunity that everything we have worked for falls into ruin, and we lose our standing in the world.

Don’t you think that we can find at least one moment when we can rally behind our President for our common good. I remember that happening for a day or two in September of 2001. I would wish that could happen again in September of 2009 as we encourage our kids to learn, learn, learn.

For if they don’t learn, what hope is there for us anyway?

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33 responses to The End of National Respect – A Letter to Jim Greer

  1. 

    Amen, Jay.

    I was horrified to learn that parents at my childrens’ (magnet!) school wanted to keep the speech from being shown. Aren’t these the same folks who demanded respect for President Bush despite angry (and often admittedly) disrespectful protests against the war and Bush’s stands on just about everything? I guess the President only commands respect when you voted for him or her. How has it come to this?

    Thanks so much for such a thoughtful post. I’ll be praying hard for our indivisibility.

  2. 

    Thank you so much for this response – I could not have said it better – if we can cannot live together and listen to each other with care and respect – where are we???

  3. 

    Jay,
    I have some things to say here, as well:

    “I may have disagreed with Mr. Bush, but it never would have occurred to me to forbid my daughters from listening to one of his speeches on television,”
    –No one is forbidding children to listen to a speech., but rather wanting to evoke our parental rights to choose what our kids listen to, watch, etc. If anything, this is forbidding parents to make an informed decision.
    –I think this is about the way the situation was handled. A note home notifying the parents and allowing them to make a choice about their children would have made all the difference in the world. I am sure that about half the parents would have allowed their kids to attend the speech and half would not.

    “Does anyone think that a President REALLY has so much power that a single speech would indoctrinate kids into becoming socialists”
    –Obviously, you remember your letter writing from the 60s and I remember writing a Get Well card to President Reagan, so it should not be minimized. In addition, kids are impressionable and willing to accept anything an authority figure tells them… especially young kids. If you don’t believe that, you should see my kids watching toy commercials around Christmas!

    “This arises, I believe, in a belief that there is no need to listen to someone who doesn’t agree with you, that in fact, those who disagree with you are of such little worth that you can completely disregard them.”
    –I listen to you, though I don’t agree with you. I read your website from time to time and listen to you almost every Sunday! I believe this comes from the idea that parents who disagree with the president feel like they are being steamrolled by him and our school systems on this specific matter.

    “On both the left and the right, we are rapidly becoming a large echo chamber in which we are only willing to listen to those who are on “our side,” and in doing so, the call to be one nation, indivisible is completely lost. ”
    –I agree with you! However, this is one specific instance where this statement doesn’t apply. If anything the president is polarizing parents by doing something so controversial and not allowing parents to have a choice.

    Of course, you know that I homeschool my kids. This kind of disreguard of parents’ wishes are one of many reasons that I do. I feel that God has put me in charge of my children and therefore, holds me responsible for the rearing of them. I try to teach them to think for themselves and not to just accept anything as truth just because someone of authority told them. I would rather them to test it with the Bible, with their own former experience, with their Holy Spirit and with what I have experienced as a portion of that.

    • 

      Deb, Did parents feel this way when Reagan and Bush gave this same speech during their administrations? I doubt it. This is bitter partisanship, idiotic ideology, and, worse, unconscious racism.

      You can say it’s about “how the situation was handled” all you want, but there was no “situation” until a bunch of parents decided to make the President’s speech an issue (and perhaps the media has since blown it out of proportion).

      Jay, great letter/article. Thanks for writing what I was feeling about this whole thing.

      • 

        “Racism.” Really?

        Yeah, because there is no way that people simply disagree with the man. There must be some insidious reasoning behind it.

        I thought we would now be “post-racists”.

      • 

        John, this isn’t about “simply disagreeing.” This is about how we live with our disagreements. Jay’s article describes civil disagreement. What is happening with these schools is uncivil and, frankly, unChristian.

        And yes, for some of these “concerned parents” racism is a very real factor. To think that it’s not is, well, to live in willful ignorance of the racial history and prevailing white privilege in this country.

      • 

        So, if I don’t want my kids to watch, I’m a racist?

      • 

        John, the question of motives regarding why you would choose to opt out of listening to our elected leaders is certainly up to you . . . none of us can say with any sense of clarity what the motives are behind why folks choose to do what they do. Are you an Archie Bunker, died in the wool, bigoted racist if you choose to have your kids not watch our president (and no matter how you voted, he is OUR president, just as Bush was OUR president as well)? I can’t say, for I don’t know you, but given our culture today, I would say that outward overt expressions of racism are few and far between.

        What I am left with, however, is why one would fear having your children exposed to the leader of our country? Fear might seem like a strong word, but there is some emotional place of loathing that would lead one to so reject a leader that we wouldn’t want our kids to hear what he has to say. It may be very well that there is a deep fear that the path this person is leading us on is taking us down a road we don’t want to travel. However, for some, the fear has as much to do with who this man is as what he is doing. They may not overtly see this as a racist response, but the fact is that this president IS different and I have little doubt that there are some for whom ANY thing that this president will do will be suspect because he isn’t like “us” (that is, the “us” that we identify with).

        What I have yet to hear from anyone is a tangible reason why you don’t want your children to hear their president speak. You may say it is about having the option to choose who your kids hear from (which is certainly your choice) but what is it that this president might say or do that would want you to keep your kids from simply listening to a speech (one that they will probably find boring anyway)? Is there something so terrible about the man that your kids can’t handle being exposed to him? I really and truly want to know, so I can better understand the place that you are coming from.

        One last question that we all need to ask ourselves. Would I respond in the same way if Hilary Clinton were president? Or how about George Bush? Colin Powell? John Kerry? Is this simply a question of ideological purity, or is something deeper going on?

      • 

        Archie Bunker? No. But your statement, “I can’t say, for I don’t know you, but given our culture today, I would say that outward overt expressions of racism are few and far between.” is obviously meant to imply that I am a closeted, inward racist.

        Fear? Hardly. Over at The Onion, there was a posting called “Cliche, hooray” about movie cliches that people most enjoy. The top pick was “the big speech scene, when the hero (in this case POTUS) takes center stage and delivers this brilliant monologue that just kills everybody in the room. I’ve always been infatuated with the idea that if you can just get the chance to explain everything-if everybody would just shut up for long enough for you to lay it all out-then you could fix any problem, win any argument.” I do not fear the president. I do not fear what he has to say. Why? We’ve heard it all before. What I see is him taking advantage of a truly captive audience, in the middle of a school day, with a speech offered on CSPAN (I don’t have cable) and the internet (I have a job) with zero parental involvement or oversight. What’s more, when parents hear that curriculum includes things like “How can I help the president?” (yes, i know that this has been changed), I guess I wonder if indeed there is more than meets the eye. What the President is looking for, is for everyone to shut up, so he can clearly articulate his message. Unfortunately for him, I don’t subscribe to the point of view that I “just need to listen”. I simply disagree with the man. I could care less if his skin color were purple. There is nothing, nothing, that he could say that would cause me to agree with him on a great many things. No cleverly worded argument.

        As far as “tangible reasons” go, I don’t believe I owe you one. This may be hard for some people to understand, but as the parent in my home, I believe that I have the primary role in shaping the values of my children. In fact, I believe I read that in scripture somewhere.

        As far as Steve’s “bunch of parents” comment goes..imagine that. I thought it was there role. But I guess we have differing idea about the roles of government.

        Finally, President Obama is my president. While I did not punch a card for him, many did and I respect that and the process we live in. I simply disagree with the man. And, last I checked, that was still allowed.

    • 

      Deb,
      A couple of thoughts along the way:

      1) We don’t know that a note wasn’t going to be sent . . . these things usually don’t come out until the end of the week. But in any case, the fact is that there are all sorts of speakers and presentations that happen in schools in which permission isn’t sought. Even worse, we’ve experience teachers using resources which promote a particular agenda that we don’t agree with. While we talked with the teacher about our concerns, it also gave us a teaching moment with our daughters to talk about why we didn’t agree with what was being shared.

      2) Sure, the president’s speaking has an impact — that is why he is doing the speech. And, given what I know of the speech (having seen an video ad that is part of the larger campaign that this speech is connected to), it’s something that kids need to hear, especially here in Antioch. Do you know the statistics regarding dropouts in our community? Do you know how many kids hold education in contempt in our community because they don’t think it can make a difference in their lives? We have kids that need to hear that school is important and that they need to apply themselves and take responsibility for their education. How can that be a harmful message?

      3) Why is the president speaking to school kids so controversial? Other presidents have done so. George W. Bush was reading stories in a classroom on September 11. Other politicians speak in our schools on a regular basis, be they the Governor or Mayor. Why then is it okay for them to speak but not okay for this president to do so?

      Look, I am a public school supporter. I was educated in public schools, and lived to tell about it, eventually leading to a Masters Degree Summa Cum Laude. My kids are in public schools, one enrolled in a school that is ranked as one of the top fifty in the nation, and the other having received TCAP scores that were stunning. Their eduction is being done by the government, and I have no problem with that, for they are learning what they need to know to succeed in life. It seems to me, then, that it is perfectly appropriate (and even desirable) for the person who is the senior official in our public life together to speak to my kids, and more importantly kids not like my kids who are on the cusp of failure, and tell them that they can make something of their self. To do otherwise is to ignore the fact that it takes a village to raise a kid.

      • 

        Well, I guess the short and sweet answer didn’t satisfy!

        1) Okay, teachable moments are fine… and we do those as well, but I don’t understand how they aren’t allowing parents the opportunity to make those decisions for themselves and their kids. Why was there a decision made without consulting the parents? Why can’t parents choose to opt out? What is so important that MUST be said to our kids, despite some parents’ concerns? Stay in school, do well, go on to college… don’t we say these things to our kids already and if not, shouldn’t our teachers, guidance counselors, principals, etc. say these things more often than in one speech?

        2) You know that I live in this community too and longer than you have, actually. I see that need all around us, from right in my neighborhood to the various community projects that I have been involved with. While I don’t see how ONE speech can make that difference in the dropout rate of our kids, I do see it being impactful (just in a more politically motivated way).

        3) Other presidents might read from a children’s book to one classroom or give a speech to a graduating class. Still, if you can point out one instance where a president has given a speech to ALL schools, without the option of parents not allowing their kids to attend, and then supplied participation materials, I will promise to skip lunch tomorrow. I will be enjoying my meal, because it has not happened! Frankly, my thoughts are unpopular on this blog space, but that’s okay with me. Obama has a “thing” about getting undivided attention from our young people. Why else would there be political ads for Obama on Xbox 360? Many of these games are geared toward children who are too young to vote, so what was the point?

        You and the kids are a success story. There are many like that on both sides of this debate. Why not allow members of the community a bigger part in shaping those children who are on the verge of failure? Why does the government have to be involved, especially since government run schooling let them fall through the cracks in the first place? In addition, those kids on the verge may have a whole network for reasons for why they are falling behind in school and a simple, “You can do it!” speech from the president is not going to change those influences. If anything, a person who is strongly connected to that student will have the biggest impact on that child. Lastly, my children have a parent, two in fact, and I don’t want the rest of the village telling me what is right for my child! Maybe others are not so blessed, but I want the choice to decide what is best for my children.

      • 

        Deb, look the fact is that schools, be they private or public, make decisions all the time without parental input. While we have a representative system here , with an elected school board, it simply happens that schools make choices everyday without asking the parents — choices about curriculum, choices about values, yada, yada, yada. No one asked our friend Dianne when her daughter was at the private religious school for her opinion when they started teaching that Roman Catholics were headed to hell. Part of placing our kids in any school involves a certain degree of trust that the leaders are making good decisions for our kids, and if you don’t have that trust at a basic level, then one should opt out of public, or for that matter private, education. In any case, once the speech was made public and parents made their wished known, the schools made provisions for students to opt out without consequences for those students.

        I of course can’t speak to the full set of details regarding previous speeches, but it has been documented that both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush spoke via satellite to mass groups of students in schools before. To my knowledge, this was seen as a good thing and no one every felt the need to have the choice of an opt out.

        This ultimately comes down to a difference of philosophy, which is highlighted in your last sentence. I, of course, want the final say in deciding what is best for my children. But the fact is that I can’t parent, nor for that matter be a Christian, on my own. God created community for a reason — to mutually support and care for one another. This isn’t about control, it’s about support, and concern, and care for one another. It is about being community together.

    • 

      John, I don’t know you so whether your decision is based on personal prejudice is really between you and God. Please understand I said “some parents,” not all.

  4. 

    Jay, thank you for a thoughtful reply to something that made me angry… and very disappointed (but not surprised).

  5. 

    Okay, make that invoke… stupid spell check!

  6. 

    I guess what I do not understand, perhaps because I do not have children yet, is why any parent would have any problem with their child listening to a speech by the President of the United States. OK, Deb, let’s say for a moment that they choice was yours, why would you not want your child to hear a speech from the POTUS? Why would any parent, even if that parent did not vote for Obama and disagrees with his politics? I guess for me it is a simply a case of respect for the office. I listened to every State of the Union speech given by former President Bush, I did not always agree, but I listened and I would want my children to listen to those they disagree with. The notion that Jim Greer is putting out there is that Obama wants to brainwash our children which is a best ludicrous and asinine and at worst vile and racist.

  7. 

    Even though they lost the last election, many of those whacky republicans still cling to fear as a means to sway, motivate and control the masses. This time, SOCIALISM is the bogeyman. Yes, because Barry O. seemingly wants a public health care option, it’s socialism. I guess we’ve just been lucky that government built and maintained roads, utilities, etc. haven’t yet plunged the U.S. into a socialist nightmare. But health care… oh yeah, that’ll somehow be the last straw, for sure. Rush says so!

    • 

      Neil, do you actually believe Russian bloggers who get reprinted on Pravda.com?! I would say that’s … less than reliable … 😉

    • 

      This is a place where I have to agree with Steve. It, like so much of the rhetoric on both sides, is an opinion, one that I disagree with for sure, but an opinion just the same. It is an interpretation of events seen through a particular lens, just as those who are opposing Obama’s speaking to the schools are viewing that event through a particular lens.

      Look, we all have our lenses that we use to interpret events, and we have every right to use those lenses. The problem is when those lenses get dirty, or fogged, or the view somehow gets distorted. Of course, folks will argue with me and say that I am wearing the rose colored glasses, while I will look at them and tell them that they are viewing the world through Coke bottle bottoms. How then do we take a moment to wipe off our lenses, or even better yet, listen to the other’s view with a willingness to gain a fuller picture of what is happening.

      Here is the truth in regards to education — we have far too many kids who are continuing to drop out of school or not apply themselves. Whatever you think of our President’s policies, the fact is that he is a man who did well in school, eventually becoming a Constitutional law professor, and has made a success of himself in spite of the odds. That may seem like a cult of personality, but heck, our nation has always celebrated those who pulled themselves out of difficult situations and made something of themselves. Why then are we so resistant to this person’s story?

      That is why some are pointing to racism. We don’t mind celebrating a Warren Buffett, Sam Walton, or Bill Clinton in their ability to move out of poverty and succeed. However, it appears that when a black man does that, we minimize his accomplishment, think that he is putting on airs, and I think for some, is not “recognizing his ‘place’ in the world.”

      That may not be the case. It may be that the lenses that some wear simply can’t believe that society can EVER do anything benevolent for another. It may be that there are those for whom the radical individualist narrative has so taken hold of themselves that they can’t really believe that someone would put aside their personal agenda for the good of the whole. Who knows what makes folks tick.

      But what I do know on this issue is this: I want my kids to hear the President of the U.S. to affirm the value of school and study, maybe motivating themselves to be more than their circumstances suggest they will be. I want my kids to hear that ANYONE has the ability to learn and grow up to be president. And, I want my kids to hear that there is an ideal of a beloved community in which we understand that the good of the whole is in our best interest as well.

      BTW, for all the posturing in the Pravda commentary (a press which is no longer completely free under Putin’s rule) Russia today is far from a thriving democracy, and the leadership lauded in the article has been far more repressive than the author suggests. Thus, I don’t think we can use this as our defining argument as to why what the President is doing is wrong.

      • 

        “ANYONE has the ability to learn and grow up to be president.”

        This kind of thinking drives me batty:

        To imply that President Obama took on the world, against all odds is ridiculous. Occidental College. Columbia University. Yale Law. Please.

        What’s more..the phrase “anyone can be president” implies that they all can. Which is simply not possible. Certainly not the governor of Alaska…right?

  8. 

    Jay,

    I applaud you for an extremely well written and thought provoking blog. You said everything I was wanting to say but enable to because I was too flabbergasted to write. I commend you not only on the content of what you wrote but also the tone in which you wrote it. Thank you for expressing so eloquently what I feel the vast majority of people who heard Greer’s comments feels.

    I look forward to reading your blog posts in the future.

  9. 

    Many school districts in my area have decided not to air the speech. I am so frustrated. I will now be keeping my kids home to watch the speech. Thank you for your article.

    See link below, I guess copy & paste.

    http://www.ketv.com/news/20731870/detail.html

  10. 

    You know, I just want the choice and I think others feel the same. I like having the choice between Wheaties and Cheerios and I like the choice of allowing my kids to participate in the speech or not. I would want the choice whether the person was male or female, black or white, Demo or Repub. I simply want the choice to say yes or no.

    • 

      Deb, sorry to keep pushing back, but … Your response still begs two very fundamental questions:

      1) At what time were parents not given the choice? Simply keep your kids home from school if you don’t want the
      hearing the President’s speech. That choice was and is always there. (BTW – One parent has told me they child’s school has decided not to air the speech, so they are keeping their child home from school so that they *can* hear the speech.)

      2) Why would you *not* want your child to hear a message from the President, whether it was about the importance of staying in school or something else?

      • 

        I am from a district that is not allowing the speech to be aired. Luckily I have internet at home, I don’t have cable so we can’t watch c-span. But, what about the parents that have neither cable or internet & the school district takes away our choice to let our children see the President. This seems completely inappropriate to me. A sign directly from the school district that the President of the USA can’t be trusted.

  11. 

    Okay, the parents were not given the option to “opt out” of the speech, therefore there was no choice. The parents have this choice:
    1. send my child and have them hear the speech and allow them to participate in speech related activities.
    2. don’t send my child and risk an unexused absence and have them miss other activities/subjects of the the school day.

    Electing to show your child a speech is quite different. You have a choice to show your children the speech. I choose to preview the speech before showing my child this speech and I can do that because I homschool! But what about those parents who will not get to preview the speech even if they wanted to do so? I don’t like the idea of having to blindly send my child to participate in a speech.

    In addtion, the speech has not been released, so parents still do not know what President Obama plans to say to their children. One of the questions is, “Why is it important to listen to the president and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress or the governor? Why is what they say important?” The word obey could easily be substituted for “listen to”. Well, I have been watching said officials and I don’t think that we should think that everything they say is important. If it goes against my religion, better judgement, or personal values, I am not going to listen to what they say… all the way up to the president or any president for that matter.

  12. 

    Wow, I just got on here and read to get caught up.

    Several points to make regarding the families for and against our President speaking to our children. For one to think that Racism would be a major contributing factor is Sooooo incorrect. In the last national election, there were more people voting FOR Obama because of his skin color, than against him because of it.

    Compare the final voting numbers of the 2008 election. Obama v McCain, President Obama received about the same number of votes in Tennessee Gore did, eight years earlier. There wasn’t a big swing one way or another in the final polls.

    Question, did all the people that voted against Gore in 2000, suddenly turn racist in 2008 when they voted against Obama? The truth is that the same people who voted against one liberal democrat in 2000, voted against another liberal democrat 8 years later, skin color had nothing to do with it. If you don’t believe me or don’t remember, go check the numbers yourself. I do remember however, and made a point about it then at the time of the election.

    I could care less about our president’s or anyone else’s skin color, as do 99 percent of other caucasian folks. To be rediculed as racist for not supporting President Obama is very hurtful to me. Take the race card out, and throw it away. PEOPLE DO NOT CARE WHAT HIS SKIN COLOR IS!!!!

    Half of the white people in this country voted for him, and please give the other half a little more credit than to believe they voted a certain way because of skin color.

    As a matter of fact, there were’nt any states that had a major voting swing one way or another in 2008. The same states that were tight the two previous presidential elections, were tight in 2008. The independent vote was in the mood to “throw the rats out”, and voted differently than they had in 2000 and 2004, thus giving their votes to more democrats.

    Thankfully, we as a society have come a long way since 1954,(Brown v Board of Education), 1964 (Johnson’s civil rights acts), integration of public schools in the 60s and 70s, etc. We should be proud of ourselves.

    Truthfully, if you want to see a segment of our society that has been held down, what about women? They didn’t receive the right to vote until 60 years after the civil war, the right to own property until years after african-americans, and recently the Title 9 act for women’s sports had to go thru the courts to even the playing field.

    By the way, have you seen any information about the difference between men’s and women’s pay for the same job??? Oops, I have jumped topics.

    Please, you show ignorance or lack or intelligence to speak of racism being a major factor in 2009. I am not saying racism is not still here in our world, as the greusome rape and murder last year in Knoxville of a white couple by a few black men would show us. Racism still raises its ugly head now and again in all races, not just one.

    I have a new question for you folks who call yourself Christians and support whole heartedly our President. President Obama calls himself a Christian too, however, during the presidential race last year,
    in an interview, he states emphatically that there is more than one way to get to heaven, you don’t have to just believe in Jesus. President Obama says there are several ways to get to heaven, and goes on to give several examples.

    Wow, ……………..did my King James version I grew up with miss something? Does my New International Version skip a verse or two?

    Am I not correct that my Christian faith recognizes but one way to get to heaven, thru Jesus Christ? Works alone will not get you there, nor any of the other crap our president said in his interview. That is,
    according to my Bible(s).

    What Bible does the now infamous Reverend Wright preach out of???

    But back to the main topic of our leader’s speech set for Tuesday. I have read it, and I remarked to my wife it is a very well written speech.

    I am glad to have had an opportunity to read it beforehand (you know how parents are always told to be involved in school and know what the schools are teaching your children). How nice of the current administration to allow us to view what they will be speaking about.

    We, my wife and I, have not decided whether or not we will be at school tomorrow during the speech, and afterward, or not take her to school, but do something educational somewhere else, or to take her to school and drop her off and talk about it tonite and tomorrow after school.

    We will make the decision a little later this evening.

    If you will give me credit that maybe, just maybe, I am not a racist bigot, I will share with you my true concern.

    Our daughter is aware of who our president is, but at our house, she is able to watch him speak on T.V., or go to the restroom, or go to her room and color, or do anything, she is not made to watch the news.
    However, at school on Tuesday, President Obama will have her undivided attention. He will be speaking directly to her. I’m sure the warm lighting will be appearing over his head to give him the “angelic” look. He will look at her, smile and speak of all the warm and fuzzy topics in his speech.

    I am confident that most of our children will have a most favorable opinion of our president after the short 10 minute speech.

    There lies the problem. I read the speech on the whitehouse.gov website. All the things he says, we, my wife and I, tell our daughter already. As well as her grandparents, and the school teachers, and administration, to be sure, anyone who has our daughters best interests at heart tell her these same things our prez plans to say.

    This next paragraph gives the main point that I and millions of Americans just like me realize about the president’s speech that many of you must not realize. Here it is……are you ready and listening???? Bells and whistles should be going on and off in your head.

    The president is doing more than encouraging our children of the importance of education. HE IS PLANTING SEEDS. He has the bully pulpit and is using it tomorrow to, in a few cases speak for the first time, to our nations children.

    Our society has entered an age of “cult of personality”. I, and millions like me recognize that some of our children’s first encounter with our president will most likely be a short movie produced and edited by a high paid staff that most assuredly will make him appear to be a little less than a movie star, idol, or icon. And although this speech may have no politics anywhere cited, the door has been opened to see this man as a very favorable person to be well liked, admired, and looked up to.

    Remember the projects the teachers WERE being asked to assign the children, to write essays of “How they could help Barack Obama”?) Not to be good citizens, stewards for the environment, or help in
    their communities, but how to help “Barack Obama”? Gasp…..!!!!

    I, and millions like me also believe he is a socialist, or marxist, a globalist for sure, but I do not believe this man is pro-American.

    Don’t believe me? Okay, just look up the recently resigned Vann Jones, Green Jobs Czar. His ideas and thoughts and viewpoints are alarming to me. He affirms to be a communist as late as 2005. In 2001, after 9/11, he aligns himself with the muslim extremeists who carried out the attack or those who would support them.

    You and I both know the Prez knew about the views Jones had before he was selected to be the Green Jobs Czar. He was probably selected because of his views. If our president has similar views, which many believe he does, what is our future? As a country, what is our future?

    I don’t want my kid, or yours for that matter, to be indoctrinated with any views from people who think the United States should be taken down a few pegs. I don’t want my 4th grader to have to listen to the president/dictator of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, nor Fidel Castro of Cuba etc., either.

    My last point is this. My Bible says there will be many who will claim to be Godly men, but be wary of false prophets.

    I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that says to allow those men who teach things other than what is God’s word is, be allowed to teach your children. Ya’ll help me out with that one.

    What does your Bible say????

  13. 
    Jon Marc Johnson September 7, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Thank you Jay for sharing your views so eloquently. I have posted similar viewpoints on several sites as of late. The idea that one would be served by not listening to the viewpoints of others is pure insanity to me. No offense meant to Mr. Mulholland but unless you have heard President Obama’s viewpoints on “everything” than how do you know that you disagree? I find it sad that disagreements on political philosophy can generate, what sure looks to me like, hatred. Thank you again Jay, one American to another.
    By the way, I am a registered independant and only decided to vote for Obama the week of the election.

  14. 

    I, too, am new to this site. Thanks, Jay, for tackling the controversy. It has taken a while, but I have read through the comments… wow!

    My assumption about why parents were notified is that most schools didn’t think twice about showing a speech from our President. The public schools are government-funded and tend to be a vehicle for promoting nationalism and patriotism. Why would anyone think there would be controversy?

    One of Deb’s comments bothered me: “The word obey could easily be substituted for ‘listen to’.” Perhaps it could, but we live in a democracy. In America, we can listen to our President, then make an informed decision about the action we take next.

    I would give the same response to Mike when he challenges those who “support whole-heartedly” the President. We live in a democracy. Our support does not have to be “all or nothing”. And Mike, Barack Obama is President of The United States, not High Priest. His religious views, IMHO, are not relevant.

    Deb also commented that if someone would tell her that other presidents have spoken to school children (beyond reading storybooks) she would skip lunch. Deb, according to CNN, President Ronald Reagan addressed students in 1988, during which, among other things, he made the politically-charged statement that taxes “are such a penalty on people that there’s no incentive for them to prosper… because they have to give so much to the government.” Democrats were livid!

    In 1991, President George H.W. Bush also addressed school children, urging them to avoid drugs and work hard. The Dems accused him of using it as a campaign speech.

    Don’t worry, supper is coming soon.

    Compare that to President Obama’s speech: “But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.”

    Mike, can’t you agree with the President even on that?

    • 

      I certainly can agree with our president and said so in my letter, (please re-read paragraph 16 and also paragraph 23)

      And, if our president’s religous views are not relevant, why then all the endless questions regarding religion that were asked of all the candidates during the republican and democratic primaries??

      Most Americans would disagree with you on that one bro. Dave. lMHO.

    • 

      Bro Dave, Yes, we do live in a democracy and should be able to make up our own minds up about anything and almost everything. However, impressionable young children (Kindergarten, yikes!) do not have all the tools to make appropriate decisions for themselves. They have to rely on their parents’ decision making skills, which is why I think parents should have been notified, had more say in this situation and should have been given the option of “opting out” of the speech!

      Bro Dave, you only read and quoted PART of my statement… I said, “Still, if you can point out one instance where a president has given a speech to ALL schools, without the option of parents not allowing their kids to attend, and then supplied participation materials, I will promise to skip lunch tomorrow.” One sentence, one thought, you spliced it unfairly. I am aware that Presidents in the past have addressed schools, but this is not what parents are upset about! They are upset that Pres. Obama did all three:

      1. attempted to give an address to ALL public schools

      2. supplied participation materials to teachers

      3. in some cases, the parents were not allowed to opt out of this speech, however, some parents forced the schools to change the policy and some schools simply did not participate.

      IMHO, the final speech he gave was NOT the speech he had originally had prepared. We know that he took out the part about writing a letter to one’s self on how we can help Pres. Obama. Sure, we can agree that today’s speech was well written and delivered. In my opinion, parents kept the president in check today by reminding him that we are the final authority over our kids, because we are the ones being held responsible for them. There is no need to justify it. It is not a matter of control… it is simply our duty.

      Unfortunately, I just don’t think this kind of debate is getting any of us anywhere. I just don’t normally get involved in online debate. I am going to believe my convictions, unless God asks me to change and I am sure that others feel the same. I don’t like being unfairly characterized, but I just had to speak up, because I believe in America and I believe that individuals have a right to choose what is best for ourselves and for our kids.

  15. 

    I perhaps attributed my closing comment to the wrong message. I apologize to Mike.

    “IMHO” means “in MY humble opinion”. Yes, many others think the POTUS should be a high priest of Christianity. I disagree. President Obama is a Christian lay person elected to a high office in the U.S. government. He has a law degree, not a seminary degree. As president, I expect him to make decisions based on law, not faith. Which is as it should be… or we would be unable to wage war, individuals couldn’t work on Saturdays, and we would have to stone to death adulterers and insolent children.

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