Obama’s Conservative Speech

On Tuesday, President Obama—following the precedent of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush—delivered a “Back to School” speech to American students, beamed live via the Internet and C-SPAN into thousands of classrooms across the country.

It was a fantastic speech. Read it here.

I always love a good Obama speech. He’s a great, inspiring orator, and in recent years he’s delivered some of the best American speeches of the 21st century (such as this race speech from the campaign trail).

His speech to America’s schoolchildren was impressive as ever, and I hope that it inspired some children to want to learn, study, and succeed in school.

Unfortunately, in the days leading up to the speech, the buffoons of conservative talk radio and Fox News preemptively labeled the speech “socialist propaganda” and basically accused Obama of trying to indoctrinate America’s children.

Sean Hannity claimed that “it seems very close to indoctrination,” while Fox News commentator Monica Crowley said “just when you think this administration can’t get any more surreal and Orwellian, here they come to indoctrinate our kids”; similarly, Michelle Malkin claimed that “the left has always used kids in public schools as guinea pigs and as junior lobbyists for their social liberal agenda.”

Maybe I’m missing something, but a careful read of Obama’s speech reveals that it is far from a propagandistic sales pitch for the social liberal agenda. On the contrary; It’s actually borderline conservative. Why? Because the point of the speech is personal responsibility. Obama makes it clear that we all have circumstances that make achievement difficult. We have absentee fathers (Obama talks about his own), poverty, prejudice, and a whole battery of other challenges that make success in life difficult. But they are all excuses. Here’s something Obama said in the speech:

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Isn’t this sort of what conservatives are always saying? That it’s all about moving beyond handouts and pity and taking ownership over one’s destiny? Here’s another excerpt from the speech:

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.

To me, the speech is about as American and far from socialism as you can get. It’s a speech about believing in yourself, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, overcoming adversity, etc. What was Fox News thinking in their overanxious denouncement of it?

Meanwhile, other conservatives—like Laura Bush and Newt Gingrich—have responded to the speech by praising it. Here’s what Gingrich said about it on the Today Show:

“If he could give a speech tomorrow night in the tone of his speech today to the students, this country would be much better off … It’s a good speech, I recommend it to everybody if you have any doubts.”

So, lesson for conservatives: Don’t be too quick to throw out something of value just because Obama’s name is attached to it. Maybe try listening to what he is actually saying and evaluating it on its own terms.

7 responses to “Obama’s Conservative Speech

  1. How sad. You’d think asking for a transcript before commenting on the speech would be common sense.

  2. I agree with you that the speech was conservative. Obama’s message has always been such with regard to personal responsibility. (Remember his charge to AfricanAmerican fathers to take care of their kids?)

    The pre-speech comments related to the educational materials sent out by DOE prior. I haven’t seen them, but they apparently were doctrinaire in tone, and furthered the cult of personality surrounding our president.

    I’d be interested to learn more, if anyone could comment on the materials.

    What would CNN have done had W done the same thing?


  3. Maybe you’re supposed to listen to the speech backwards to get the socialist propaganda. Who knows.

  4. Here, here, Brett! Kudos, Mr. President! Once again, assuring me that voting for a Democrat for the first time in my adult life was absolutely the right decision. It may even become a habit. Thank God that some conservatives are still able to think clearly enough to step away from the buffoon gallery of party bias long enough to acknowledge good stuff.

  5. I disagree with you about his “race” speech being one of the finest of the 21st Century. It’s not even in my top 500.

    I agree that yesterday’s speech was conservative in tone, but it’s just words. The President is unparalleled in his ability to dress up empty rhetoric with soaring imagery and instant-classic soundbytes with little real concrete action suited to his words. I do agree with most of statements in the speech that are meant to foster a spirit of personal responsibility in our school children, I just wish that the President would follow up his nice words with actions equally committed to personal responsibility.

    Instead he has done or supports the following:
    – Killed the School Vouchers program in Washington D.C. that allowed parents and kids to choose which school to send their children to, which would have forced schools and teachers to produce educational results to receive students and funding. The Teachers Union opposed it, so President Obama opposed it.

    – Encourages women to abandon their responsibility that they incur by being sexually active and to terminate the life growing inside them, even offering his lone support to the practice of killing an infant that survives an infanticide attempt, contrary to parental responsibility that is required by every couple that is expecting a child.

    – When negotiating the take-over of GM, made sure that the UAW was paid before funds were given to other debtors, ignoring the responsibility of a company to pay its debts in order to reward the union and its members who voted for him before satisfying outstanding debts.

    – Still has not officially apologized to the police officer who he accused of acting “stupidly” during the arrest of his friend “Skip” Gates.

    I can go on for quite awhile, but I think my point is obvious. This man, like many on the Left and some on the Right, are ever-ready to tell other people how they should be acting but are seemingly unable to conduct themselves in the same prescribed manner. For more on this topic, check out the book, “Do As I Say (Not As I Do)” by Peter Schweizer.

    Also, I believe that much of the uproar was in reaction to some of the comments that were scrubbed at the last minute.

  6. It’s like a laser beam of Liberalism and Communism aimed at their tiny defenseless little heads!

    Really, as a pretty conservative guy and no fan of Obama’s policy’s can we all just get a grip? This is about as “subversive” as Julia Child’s cook book!

    Shall we try and not make all conservatives look like morons?

  7. His race speech was just plain horrible. Nothing new discussed; just made sure he got away from his using “typical white person” line. School speech was ok; healthcare speech was flat out terrible, filled with lies.
    Ask yourself this Dale, is the government the best answer for your and your familie’s lives? If so, you’ll be just fine. If not, work with the rest of us to stop governemtn take over of healthcare.

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