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President Obama’s video talk to students last week turned out to be quite innocuous. He urged them to do their best in school and used his own background as an example of triumph over bad circumstances. It was appropriate for the President to do this.
The speech was preceded by a major flap. Student exercises recommended by the federal department of education included a suggestion that students write a letter to themselves explaining how they will help the President.
Help him to do what?
That was the big question. The suggestions weren’t accompanied by a transcript of the speech President Obama was going to give and a lot of people, me included, suspected that he was going to use this speech as a propaganda effort. Third graders, for example, aren’t going be able to recognize political propaganda when they hear it and take it with a grain of salt.
The Department of Education quickly retracted that suggestion, replacing it with something about how students will reach their goals. A transcript of the speech appeared on Labor Day.
My suspicion is that President Obama did, indeed, plan to use the speech as a propaganda moment and misjudged, as he seems prone to do, public sentiment. The strong negative reaction the Department of Education got to its proposed student exercise led the White House to backpedal. The speech didn’t appear until the day before it was to be given because his speech writers needed the time to write a new one. We will probably never know whether the speech President Obama delivered to the nation’s public school students was actually what he intended to say all along.
Maybe I’m just being too cynical. The Department of Education claims that its original suggestion for the student exercise was just badly worded and maybe that was true. It seems that President Obama does have some clumsy supporters.
Before the presidential speech controversy, there was outrage in Utah when a video called “I pledge” was shown in an elementary school. The video was made by Ashton Kutcher and his wife Demi Moore and some of their celebrity buddies. A number of people complained that it was an effort to indoctrinate children with left wing values.
The Salt Lake Tribune posted the video on its Web site and I found Kutcher and Moore’s pledge to be rather frightening. They said, “I pledge to be a servant to our president.”
I wonder what they learned in their high school civics class. Perhaps somebody should sit down with them and carefully explain that, back in November, 2008, we elected the 44th president of the United States. We did not elect a fürher.
Back during World War II, members of Germany’s armed forces took oaths of allegiance to Adolf Hitler as Leader of the German Reich and People. By contrast, when Americans join our armed forces, we take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. We don’t take oaths of allegiance to the president. As commander in chief of America’s armed forces, American soldiers, sailors and airmen are obligated to obey all of the president’s lawful orders, but they are not his servants.
Neither are any of the rest of us.
It would be nice to be able to dismiss Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore as having the IQ of fishing worms, or simply being profoundly ignorant people. Unfortunately, neither of these is true. And, that is exactly what makes some of Barack Obama’s supporters scary.