How many Americans truly understand how democracy is supposed to work?
I was pondering that question this morning as I drove to work. I kept thinking about those television images of town hall meetings where the debate over health care reform was dominated by frightened, ill-informed people talking about Nazi political agendas and death panels.
Where were the thoughtful, informed citizens who wanted a reasoned debate about the costs of health care reform-or had questions about the wisdom of expanding the federal government’s role in health care?
Then I got to work and started reading news articles about parents who are upset that President Barack Obama plans to address the nation’s students next week to talk about the importance of studying and staying in school.
It seems some people are worried the president’s webcast is “political recruiting.” The president apparently intends to indoctrinate our young people, to sway them to a liberal political doctrine.
Oh, good grief.
Okay, it’s America. People are entitled to their opinions. But so am I, although as a journalist for ASBJ, I must choose my words carefully on this blog (and note that I’m speaking for myself, not the magazine).
And my opinion is this: Come on folks. Get a grip on reality. There is nothing wrong with the president addressing our schoolchildren. No one can really believe he’s out to brainwash students to the liberal cause.
(What’s more, not every schoolchild will hear the president’s message. Local school officials certainly are smart enough to determine if the president’s webcast has enough educational value to interrupt the school day.)
You know, there was a time when people took pride in having their president speak to them-and it was assumed that any president would offer children some innocuous, fatherly advice about mom, country, and apple pie. Presidents have been sending messages to schoolchildren for years.
Indeed, President Obama isn’t the first to broadcast a speech to students. As the Denver Post notes, President George H.W. Bush addressed the nation’s students in 1991, “urging them to study hard, avoid drugs, and turn in troublemakers.”
It is important to put things in perspective. All this fuss probably is stirred up by political commentators who make their money ranting-and build up their audience base by turning innocuous issues into political drama on a daily basis.
Part of the fuss also is fueled by political posturing. Democrats ripped into President Bush when he spoke to students nearly two decades ago. So it’s hardly surprising that Republicans are returning the favor.
And most people are dismissing this whole issue as nonsense. Good for them.
Still, it is disheartening that any American can be alarmed by the president’s decision. I could only shudder when I read how one school spokesperson described the concerns of parents who’d call the local schools: “They’re uncertain what the message will be, and they’re concerned about their kids sitting through a presidential address not being sure what it’s going to be about.”
Yikes. Some people actually believe we must protect our children from the president of the United States. That’s quite a lesson to teach our children.
Del Stover, Senior Editor