The Whitehouse was completely unprepared for the backlash politically and publicly when president Obama announced he was giving a speech to school children about the importance of staying in school, working hard, setting goals and personal responsibility. Some of the concern began when essay materials were distributed to schools included a question asking students to write a letter or essay on how they could help the president reach his goals. While the education secretary insists it was a question on national education goals and the Whitehouse, as a whole, insisted it was a gaff, that the question had since been reworded; it did little to quell political and news media conservatives or jittery parents. Some consider the uproar a stark overreaction, one political analyst stating that parents that did not want their kids hearing the speech or even keeping their kids home from school were too stupid to educate them properly; others pointed to former presidents who have spoken to schools George H. W. Bush even asking a similar question. What strategists who helped get the president elected, media outlets and the Whitehouse forget is the level of controversy surrounding this president, from his possible ties to Islam, to questions about his citizenship, for older Americans, veterans, scenes of him refusing to put his hand over his heart during the pledge of allegiance, rumors that when sworn in as senator he wanted to be sworn in on the Koran, these things are all not far from the public’s mind. Just because the media forgot, the Whitehouse forgot doesn’t mean the American people did; add to that many people’s views regarding the president’s actions for the economy, his stance on healthcare, the feeling that he is pushing for not only socialized medicine, but a socialized economy, and it starts to make a little more sense.

The so called panic, the hype was never about parents who don’t want their kids to be inspired by a leader to work hard, stay in school and set goals; it was about them not wanting their children indoctrinated with a political agenda, never mind while in the classroom. People have to understand that this is also coming off 8 years of the Bush administration where people feel like they were mislead about 9-11, Iraq, Afghanistan, people feel like the constitution was thrown out, in many ways, during those 8 years; couple that with the concerns about the current president, current administration, as well at the current turmoil and the recipe for the outcry fully takes shape. Likewise, it very quickly became about the Whitehouse’s reaction to the issue, the dismissive attitude toward parental concern; that, not stupidity is the cause of some parents keeping their kids at home. Looking at the issues listed above, parents hearing the question: what can you do to help the president reach his goals, got a big warning bell going off in their head thinking hold it- are we headed for communist China where children are indoctrinated with the state, the state and nothing else, the greatness of their leaders and nothing else? And for the Whitehouse to ignore that, play it off, answers part of the question as to how this is different that George Bush seniors question in 1991. The other half of the answer comes in looking at the times; we are in a time when a majority of Americans feel their freedoms are being taken away, feel they no longer recognize America, they are worried about the direction this country is taking. If it was a gaff, it was the most poorly timed one.

Still, there are other possible concerns that could have been running parent’s heads when the announcement was made and the subject content briefly mentioned; perhaps parents didn’t want their kids given a responsibility lecture from a leader on whose watch we have bailed out big bank, big auto and they feel little was done to save their home. Perhaps they didn’t want their kids given a responsibility lecture while AIG partied on the taxpayer’s dime and congress couldn’t account for billions of dollars in bailout money; maybe, just maybe it had something to do with the big 3 auto makers coming to Washington in jet planes with their hand out and still getting the money. How about congress’ own plan to buy new jet planes; while president Obama spoke out against it, spoke to them about it and the idea dropped; many may wonder if he would have done so if it hadn’t reached the news. Lots of Americans parents and not, feel like they have been personal responsibility-ed to death; when the foreclosure crisis hit, it was all about the irresponsibility of the consumer not the lenders, with the credit crunch people saw the credit limits dry up and their rates raised astronomically even illegally, when they paid their payments on time, white collar workers getting laid off along with every other sector, people pounding the pavement looking for jobs and can’t find them, people who saved only to see it swallowed by the economy or the stock market. People are sick of hearing about personal responsibility in the absence of any other kind. Some parents and opponents of the speech saw it as overreaching; possible political agenda aside, leaders and parents see it as the parent’s job to teach kids responsibility, to teach the value of an education. The echo of “these are our kids not yours,” a comment broadcast on the national news spoken by one parent, may not have referred only to pushing a political agenda, but trying to raise their kids. The political analysts and everyone in Washington running around calling parents stupid and not understanding the issue should be applauding parents for standing up, having an opinion and taking action, not proverbially laughing them out of the building when they do.

As for the push in educational importance parents may have chafed against that too, not only in light of schools that are literally falling apart, with no textbooks, no computers, outdated items on both those fronts, but also my generation, the millennial generation is starting to have and raise kids, the generation that was spoon fed get an education, who got their education and went nowhere. This is the generation that went to college and ended up flipping burgers, to work, to put a roof over their heads. The 35-40 plus year old crowd consists of a significant number of individuals who are possibly on their 2nd or 3rd degree on their 3rd or 4th career change, and they have a job that barely makes ends meet. These people don’t want their kids ingrained with the idea that education is the key to their dreams, that education will get them far, in essence, that they will get more out of it than they actually will. Why, because this is the generation given that ideal and they crashed and burned, the generation that stayed in school, set goals, took responsibility, some overcoming insurmountable odds and they are barely getting by. It was never about parents not wanting their kids to be inspired, but they want realistic inspiration not the pipe dream. They don’t want their children falling in the same expectations trap they did, don’t want their kids given false hope, and they certainly don’t want the president leading them there.