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September 5th, 2009
07:20 AM ET

Dear President Obama #229: School dazed

Reporter's Note: The President’s upcoming speech to the school kids of America is brining some hard lessons in Pushback Politics.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Thanks to that speech you are giving to school kids on Tuesday, I spent hours on Friday trying to determine if there is any state out there where all the schools are just going to turn it on and give you a listen. And as best I can tell, the answer is no.

Many of the Departments of Education told me they are “encouraging” their schools to watch what you have to say. Some spoke about how important it is for any president to talk to students about staying in school However, they almost all ended with, “But it’s really up to the local school, principal, or teacher to decide whether to watch the speech.” The result is that in every state in this country (except maybe Rhode Island…that was the one for which I could neither find information, nor reach someone) some schools will either not show, delay and review, or let kids opt out of watching your speech.

How many? I really don’t know. Despite all that research the only school district I ran into that openly says it is requiring all kids to watch is in New Orleans. There must be others, but I didn’t find them.

I’m suspect that must be disappointing for you and not exactly what you were hoping for. Being accused of trying to brainwash the young people of America doesn’t look particularly good on anyone’s political resume. Sure the criticism is largely driven by conservatives, who aren’t exactly your pals, but it can’t feel good no matter who is behind it.

Of course, trying to foist a political agenda on defenseless kids is pretty much what your fellow Democrats accused the first President Bush of when he spoke to school children on TV back in 1991. Congressman Dick Gephardt essentially said Mr. Bush was using taxpayer money for a paid political commercial. So I suppose some would argue turnabout is fair play. Who knows?

But I do know this: The playground can be a tough place, especially in DC when the opposition gets its feet planted, and the president starts looking vulnerable.

Hope your weekend is going well. Call if you can. I may or may not be around; we might run to the beach or a ballgame. Or maybe just sleep a lot. Ha! “Back to school” has the whole family exhausted.

Regards,

Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Diana V.

    I am completely distubed by the fact that my 7th grader has to have a permission slip to watch the PRESIDENTS address. What is going on now, any other past presidents would have been welcomed with open arms...what is so different now? My daughter and I stayed up all night watching the elections, we were so thrilled about the out come, they even did mock elections at the schools and now they want to deprive them of a good chance to learn something.

    September 6, 2009 at 11:16 pm |
  2. Lori

    Everyone I know prefers to preview info first.

    September 5, 2009 at 8:00 am |