President Obama delivered his second back-to-school speech this morning. Last year, as the heat from the health care town hall flare-ups still simmered, conservatives accused the president of using “taxpayer money to indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda.” That’s what chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Jim Greer actually said. He wasn’t alone. Talk radio show hosts warned parents against the speech and in conservative Colorado towns like Colorado Springs hundreds of parents flooded schools with angry calls demanding their children be kept away from the suspected propaganda.
In response Colorado school districts this year sent a letter of notice to parents in advance of the speech, giving parents the opportunity to opt out on behalf of their kids. National talk radio hosts and conservative commentators didn’t seem to care about the speech this year and Greer, who is now battling fraud and money laundering charges, has apologized to the president and rebuked his Republican colleagues.
“In the year since I issued a prepared statement regarding President Obama speaking to the nation’s schoolchildren, I have learned a great deal about the party I so deeply loved and served,” Greer said in a release. “Unfortunately, I found that many within the GOP have racist views and I apologize to the President for my opposition to his speech last year and my efforts to placate the extremists who dominate our party today. My children and I look forward to the president speech.”
I wasn’t always disciplined. I wasn’t always the best student when I was younger. I made my share of mistakes. I still remember a conversation I had with my mother in high school. I was kind of a goof-off. And I was about the age of some of the folks here. And my grades were slipping. I hadn’t started my college applications. I was acting, as my mother put it, sort of casual about my future. I was doing good enough. I was smart enough that I could kind of get by. But I wasn’t really applying myself.
And so I suspect this is a conversation that will sound familiar to some students and some parents here today. She decided to sit me down and said I had to change my attitude. My attitude was what I imagine every teenager’s attitude is when your parents have a conversation with you like that. I was like, you know, I don’t need to hear all this. I’m doing okay, I’m not flunking out.
So I started to say that, and she just cut me right off. She said, you can’t just sit around waiting for luck to see you through. She said, you can get into any school you want in the country if you just put in a little bit of effort. She gave me a hard look and she said, you remember what that’s like? Effort? (Laughter.) Some of you have had that conversation. (Laughter.) And it was pretty jolting hearing my mother say that.