Dems attacked Bush's school speech

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush broadcast a speech from a D.C. junior high, reports NewsBusters. Democratic Rep. Dick Gephardt, then House majority leader, complained it was “paid political advertising” improperly funded by the Department of Education. I believe the elder Bush came out for kids getting a good education.

Via Jim Miller.

A number of school districts have announced they won’t air President Obama’s speech live. Some have explained to parents how to watch with their kids at home. I’ll be interested to see what percentage of schools carry the speech live. Not that high, I’d bet — for logistical reasons as well as flak-avoidance reasons.

Update: Jim Lindgren at Volokh has more on the coverage of the 1991 speech, which was carried live on CNN, PBS, and Mutual radio.

The Secretary of Education sent a letter urging schools to have their students watch, but I didn’t find any evidence of how many schools followed that recommendation. And most striking: Bush laid out goals — to increase the graduation rate, improve student competency and better prepare students for entering school — and said, “Let me know how you’re doing. Write me a letter. I’m serious about this one. Write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals.”

Of course, there was no fear of a George H.W. Bush personality cult.

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  1. My 4th grade class will be watching…what a perfect opportunity to to promote critical thinking and goal setting. I’m so embarrassed Glenn Beck graduated from our district in 1982.

  2. But not too embarrassed to let the world know.

  3. I’m starting to agree with what someone has posted: the hoopla surrounding this speech is far more “educational” than the speech itself will probably be.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Todd. Will there be room for a kid who thinks some of it is nonsense?

  5. Creepy but meaningless. Goal setting.

  6. Phil Graves says:

    Of course Dear Leader could have avoided all of this by simply publishing the text of the speech early. But no. He needs to whip up the hate between the parties into a frenzy. Emotion must drive his agenda, because it cannot stand up to rational scrutiny.

  7. Richard,

    I don’t care what the kids think, I just want them to think be able to think critically and support their ideas. I’m not sure why we’re so afraid of ideas in this day and age, divergent thinking stimulates innovation and change. I think it’s sad how much attention this speech has received, and I’m neither Democrat nor Republican.

  8. Teacher typo…now that’s truly embarrassing.

  9. timfromtexas says:

    Well, let’s see now, President Obama is going to speak about working hard and doing home work and thinking. Sounds to me the protestant work ethic. You don’t like it because it’s spoken by a black man?

  10. Richard Aubrey says:

    Who, exactly, is “afraid” of new ideas?
    Calling opposition “fear” or “afraid” is a cheap trick which, I should point out, never works. Find a new schtick.
    We are talking about children here, the most impressionable of them, and we don’t know what the president, whom many of us distrust, is going to say.
    The original supporting materials were creepy as hell. Once they got busted on that, the materials were modified, but the intent remains.
    My primary concern is that the gimmick will serve to impress upon the kids that there are no intervening institutions between them and the president. Used to call that “czarism”.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    The accusation of racism is a dead horse.
    Hasn’t worked for you in some time, has it?
    Well, keep trying.

  12. Racism is at the heart of this.

  13. Of course the worries about political campaigning to kids is EXACTLY equivalent to the “OMG! HitlerObama will brainwash my kids and make them CommunoFascists!”

  14. Richard-
    Would you have written the same thing about George H.W. Bush’s speech back in the day? Just curious (seriously).

    Also, I’m not sure about “czarism.” I might say, “Americanism” after it was accepted that military action against other sovereign nations are “police actions” that need no declaration of war from Congress, which loaded much more power into the executive branch of our government. Additionally, czarism implies families in power- nothing new in the U.S. Take the Clintons, Bushs or Kennedys for examples. Notice these things happened across party lines.

  15. No.. it has to be Czars. You see, Obama invented the idea of Czars in government. Never mind that what are actually called Czars are not a unified group of officials, but a more or less random selection of undersecretaries, advisors and envoys, what matters is that Glenn Bek (the missing C stands for Cerrrraaaaazy) and Limbaugh are ranting about Czars, and so Czars are terrifying.

  16. Richard Aubrey says:

    So tell us about the letter the kids were to write about helping Obama save the world or whatever.
    Czarism is the idea that the czar knows all and all comes from him.
    It’s final stage is “If only the czar knew…it would all be better.”
    And I don’t think I would have written the same about Bush because Bush hadn’t given me two reasons a week to distrust him
    This is a guy who, just for an example, is deliberately on the wrong side in Honduras.
    Our czars are not subject to senate confirmation.
    But Van Jones is probably a good example and mirrors a good deal of educrat thinking, so having the guy who recruited him coming into the classroom is unlikely to generate much teacher comment.
    And I am not so far from sitting in the classroom myself to know how far “critical thinking” goes if the teacher has a different view of things. I mean half a century past, but you don’t forget these things.

  17. Can someone espouse such a hands-off government mentality and still trust a president (Bush, Sr.) so much? Remember the whole “No new taxes schtick?”

    Also, some of the criticism coming out about the Bush, Sr. speech is that during that speech to students he pushed his Gulf War agenda (i.e. telling children to have faith in the commander in chief). Isn’t that more problematic than a president telling students to stay in school and follow the commander in chief?

  18. Robert Wright says:

    Sometimes I wish Obama hadn’t been elected because this “white anger” he generates is sickening and nonstop.

  19. Richard Aubrey says:

    How’s that accusation of racism thing working out for you?
    You probably didn’t get the memo. It died.
    Nobody worries about it any more.
    You need a new schtick.
    They tried “hate”, but that was lame from the get-go.
    “Afraid” just doesn’t have the juice.
    I really don’t know what to suggest.

  20. Robert Wright says:


    It’s an honest observation.

    What drives you to be rude an insulting?

  21. Robert Wright says:

    If Reagan had wanted to make one his folksy speeches to school children, would there have been any significant protest?

    I don’t think so.

    Many people just don’t accept Obama as their president. And never will.

  22. Richard Aubrey says:

    It is not honest. You know better. But the use of phony accusations of racism did work for a bit. It caused the accused to self-censor. Might have discredited him in front of an audience. Or perhaps caused him to think the audience might buy it so he’d better fold up on whatever argument you couldn’t handle otherwise.
    Point is, nobody’s buying it any more.
    It got used up. Overused.
    I accept that Obama won the election.
    But I figure the bar was set by Bush Derangement Syndrome and I’m waiting for somebody to explain why it’s (now) a bad idea to do the same to Obama.
    Not that I have.
    Howsomever, the guy gets worse with every day.
    Van Jones just quit. A columnist asked, about Jones, whether the FBI had looked into his background.
    If not, WTF?
    If they did, and presented the findings to somebody in the admin, probably Emanuel, who signed off on it, WTF?
    This is the kind of guy they like. That’s why they asked him.
    They just didn’t figure on getting busted again.
    This is a nutcase admin, both in ideology and competence.
    There’s no law says I can’t think so and say so.

  23. Robert Wright says:


    Mike Swift wrote a thought provoking article in the Mercury News about how “white anger” is fueling the health care debate. You can find it if you google it.

    You may not agree with him, but it certainly isn’t a topic everybody’s discarded.

    And though you might believe my observation is flawed, I assure you it is honest.

    You might also want to read Steve Lopez’s column today on Glenn Beck.

    There’s a lot of anger out there and it doesn’t appear that it all has to do with the issues.

  24. You must be a teacher Robert, handing out reading assignments like that.

    Swift’s column is just some retread Daily Kos bilge which carefully ignores the very widespread distrust of Obamacare among Medicare recipients who didn’t have to hear anything beyond a 40% reduction in Medicare funding to help fund Obamacare. Then there’s the unions which, other then the SEIU, have been notably quiet on the subject of Obamacare. Care to venture a guess about the source of their lack of input?

    Is there a racial component to either of those groups? I don’t think so but you’re free to discover whatever you need to to feed your prejudices.

  25. Hey Richard Aubrey,

    After the President gives the speech and after you realize that it contains nothing that should scare you and that it is just the leader of our nation telling our youth that they should work hard and study a lot, will you then write a post here apologizing for being such an alarmist? Because if I had written the stuff that you have been writing, I would be really embarrassed after the speech. Actually, I would already be embarrassed, because what you write is just nonsense, but after the speech it will be confirmed how you have embarrassed yourself. I await your apology post.

  26. Phil Graves,

    You can not be serious. The President is whipping up hate? He is driven by emotion? Remind me again who is vastly overreacting to a simple speech about the value of education. Remind me again who reflexively calls him “Dear Leader” or a communist no matter what he says or does. Remind me again who makes ad hominem attacks instead of engaging in logical and rational discourse. It is because of guys like you that I left the Republican Party. It is because of guys like you that the party has become marginalized. It is because of guys like you that the party looks paranoid, extreme, and angry. Think before you write next time. Seriously.

  27. Richard Aubrey says:

    Robert. If you think you’re honest, that I oppose Obama because of racism, you should be able to prove it.
    Start right in.
    Fact is, you can read. You can write. You can use a computer. Therefore, without a doubt, you are too smart to believe that the opposition is due to racism.
    That manipulative scam is…over.
    The emperor has no clothes.
    It doesn’t work.
    No va
    Il ne marche pas.
    You aren’t even puzzled about why the opposition exists. You know. You are simply trying to bully people into at least shutting up about it. Not working, sport.
    BTW. I’m rude and insulting? You called me a racist and I’m the one who’s rude?
    I am not one of your students, dependent on you for a grade and smart enough to keep my mouth shut.
    New experience, huh?

  28. Richard Aubrey says:

    Swede. I’m not objecting to the content of the talk, although as you know, objections to the inappropriate supporting material were legitimate. That stuff was creepy.
    I suppose you might say that the existence of creepy supporting material might presuppose creepy content. But we’ll see.
    I’m objecting to the fact of the talk.
    If he says work hard and do your homework, I’m objecting to the whole gimmick for such a simple lesson. Who hasn’t heard it already, and who is going to change MO because it was Obama who added to the chorus?
    Waste of time at best.
    Creepy content very likely in the first iteration.
    Creepy supporting material got busted and, probably, content cleaned up as well.
    Now, we have the website dedicated to ratting out your neighbors for fishy e-mails shut down. I denounced myself to the follow-on addy. Didn’t get to the first one in time.
    Anybody who would do that is creepy, not to mention worthy of suspicion.

  29. Robert Wright says:

    Richard, I never said you opposed Obama for racist reasons or any bad reasons at all.

    And I don’t want you to keep your mouth shut.

    But I do think you need to learn how to express strong opinions without being rude.

  30. Richard Aubrey says:

    Really. “White anger”. Referring to whom?
    Tim from Texas was more forthright.
    I’m telling you, it doesn’t bother anybody any longer.
    It appears I won’t be able to convince you. So you’ll continue doing it, with predictable–except to you–results.
    I’ll tell you something else:
    I spent two summers in Mississippi doing civil rights/education work at Rust College (HBCU) at time when the folks who are most loudly promoting their incredible moral superiority these days were pissing their pants at the thought of going south of Cincinnati.
    So it’s kind of hard for others to convince me they have squat worth of moral authority on this issue and I’m supposed to take their word for anything.

  31. You flunked History. GHW Bush made his school speech on the eve of the presidential election campaign, hence the grumbling. This is not a campaign year.

    Tuesday, after the President of the United States speaks to school children about the value of education, Republicans will surely make opposing comments extolling ignorance.


  32. Richard Aubrey,

    You write that “Creepy content very likely in the first iteration. Creepy supporting material got busted and, probably, content cleaned up as well.” You have no proof of any of these content accusations of course. Just baseless assertions sprinkled with weasel words like “very likely” and “probably” to ensure deniability. Spouting off meaningless accusations repeatedly is not a substitute for serious thinking and actual debate over issues and facts. That whole style offends me as somebody who actually tries to think through issues by studying the facts. You should try it sometime, Richard. It is actually rather gratifying to develop an educated and informed opinion rather than just going through an ongoing series of knee jerk reactions of “Obama likes it so I hate it.”

  33. “Sometimes I wish Obama hadn’t been elected because this “white anger” he generates is sickening and nonstop.”

    Ridiculous. How is it any different from the reactions generated by the last two presidents? Certainly not in intensity.

  34. Richard Aubrey,

    You also ask “Who will change their MO just because Obama added to the chorus?” Well, there is a large sub set of African-American youth who, for years now, have perceived taking school and education seriously as “acting white.” Do you think it possible, Richard, that the first African-American president ever might be able to help change that negative attitude? I think it will, and that makes the whole endeavor worthwhile.

  35. Richard Aubrey says:

    Pay attention. The first iteration of supporting material was withdrawn and cleaned up.
    That’s not a secret.

    Swede. No. Nobody has gotten anywhere with that meme. A couple of years ago, Bill Cosby tried it–still at it–and has been reproached by other black activists.
    John McWhorter ditto.
    Keep in mind that Obama’s background does not include slavery, the Middle Passage, or Jim Crow. He’s part Kenyan and part white.
    He may as well be Colin Powell whose family came from Jamaica.
    As to whether the folks who really need to change their MO…nope. A great many other people will make a good deal about it, but they’re not the folks you’re talking about.
    These kids have been exposed to preachers, parents, school administrators, public service announcements, military recruiters, teachers, cops, social workers, newspaper editorials. They’ve been the focus of innumerable studies and uncountable “programs”, all of which have gone on for decades.
    In the meantime, those who don’t think like that have been moving on up and leaving these folks behind in an increasingly toxic situation.
    Given all that, an inauthentic black man (doesn’t have the West African phenotype (subSaharan studies and physical anthro back in the day) who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii is not going to have any effect.
    I think he would be duty-bound to try, given his position, but I don’t see any direct good coming from it.
    Problem is, addressing the problem means acknowledging the problem.
    Recall a C-Span doc from years ago. Roy Innis talking to a group, saying it hurt his heart to see his people standing in the rain outside a drug store where they had to be served through a bullet-proof window contraption because the store had been robbed so many times. “Brother Roy,” said some of the attendees, “you may be right but do we want to give this example to the white power structure (paraphrase)”
    Very touchy subject.
    In any event, Obama has been so deeply dishonest that I wouldn’t want him near my pet rock.

  36. Hank Ashley says:

    If you’re truly paranoid about “what he’ll say”, get some serious help. If you just don’t want your kid to hear it, get some serious help. Your political ideals are not your child’s education. Get over yourself. Get out of your kid’s way and let him learn.

  37. Richard, I’d be very likely to agree with you about it being just one more ineffective plea for some cultural change for African Americans if I hadn’t seen some of my black boys straighten up in the wake of the election (they’ve looped with me from being weak 10th grade students to AP 11th — and doing quite well). I know it is completely anecdotal and unscientific, but it has caught my attention as someone who has been working steadily on the problem of African American underachievement for years. It may ultimately be meaningless, but I’m interested to see how it develops. Conservative rage over the speech is a separate issue, as I see it, as the obvious audience for the speech (I read the transcript today) is challenged urban youth — and those schools are not seeing parent backlash.

    That’s not really a political perspective, though. FWIW, I think this presidential term would be an enormous cluster for anyone elected — regardless of party. Those that didn’t make it should be breathing sighs of relief right now.

  38. No Richard Aubrey, you pay attention. We all know that the “letter to the president about how we will help the president” was counterproductive and tone deaf. That possible assignment was withdrawn. I am not contesting that. What I am contesting is how you drew the conclusion from that assignment that the content of the speech must be “creepy” (whatever that means- you use the word over and over again but it has no meaning as you have not defined what “creepy” would be. It is just an empty stand in for real meaning). What proof do you have that the content could be creepy? You have none, of course. Again, you just have empty assertions. That is not the way to make an argument. You just end up looking ill informed.

  39. Hank Ashley says:

    Just like in kids’ sports and other activities, leave it to some parents to screw it up for everyone.
    It’s school, leave your kid at the door, take your goofy prejudices to work and unload on some poor co-worker.

  40. Richard,

    Can you for instance explain what you imagine a czar in the US government is? I will help you out… there is no such thing. The title of “Czar” is given, more or less at random, by the media. The people given such a title come into three groups; some presidential envoys, some presidential advisors and some sub cabinet heads of agencies. Now, none of those types of position are new. Yes, some the things that Obama gets advice on are new, but then that is to be expected since time does not stand still.
    As for Senate confirmation, the advisors and envoys are not so subject, but then they never have been. Bush’s special envoy to Afghanistan (now called the Afghanistan Czar by Glenn Bek) was not Senate confirmed. But, the California Water Czar, who is in reality an Undersecretary of State for the Interior (again, not a new position) is so confirmable.
    Sorry to have to break this to you, but Glenn Bek is not always right..

  41. This is a perception game. If you generally have good feelings towards President Obama and what his political philosophy is you see any attacks as being baseless and frankly stupid. If you oppose his philosophy you are inclined to believe he is trying to push his agenda at some level, no matter what the specific instance is. The truth, in most cases, is somewhere in the middle.

    President Obama is a political animal. There is always a political angle to anything he does. As head of the Democratic Party this is not unusual – name a president who wasn’t. To say that every action he makes is calculated to drive America in the ground is the height of demagoguery. Even if you believe the outcome of his actions or statements are detrimental to the US, it does not automatically follow that everything he does is consciously intent on such a thing. If that is you view, be vigilant against the errors, but lighten up on the caustic rhetoric. For those who support what President Obama does, be aggressive, but don’t impugn opponents simply because they don’t happen to agree with you.

  42. Richard Aubrey says:

    The portion which was withdrawn had to relate to something. What in the actual speech would relate to the “write a letter….”?
    From which I conclude there was a change in the speech as well.
    What are you going on about with czars?
    Speaking of which, we just had one quit on account of, either he wasn’t vetted and nobody had a clue, or they vetted him and liked what they saw, or they had known him for years and figured he was just right and didn’t need vetting.
    A president who would choose a self-admitted communist, truther, preacher that whites steer poison into black communities, and a Free Mumia type who wanted to use his green office to destroy capitalism (Jones’ words) is…Obama.

  43. Mr Aubrey, you ask what I am going on about with czars. Perhaps a few quotes from yourself might explain

    “My primary concern is that the gimmick will serve to impress upon the kids that there are no intervening institutions between them and the president. Used to call that “czarism”.”

    “Czarism is the idea that the czar knows all and all comes from him.
    It’s final stage is “If only the czar knew…it would all be better.”
    And I don’t think I would have written the same about Bush because Bush hadn’t given me two reasons a week to distrust him”

    “Our czars are not subject to senate confirmation.”

    Basically, I am giving you a free education in American Government 101.

  44. And the men who hold high places must be the ones who start. To mold a new reality, closer to the heart. Much ado about nothing if you ask me.

  45. Hank Ashley says:

    Hopefully everyone who was wringing their hands over fear that our President was trying to teach socialism now has their fingers back up their noses.

  46. It’s interesting to me that the main example alarmists were using to try to stir opposition to this speech was that the president was going to ask children to ‘write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals’. Interesting because it was G.H.W Bush who originally said that in a speech to schoolchildren Oct 1, 1991. And yet, I don’t think he was accused of trying to resurrect hitler youth, and I don’t think he was portrayed as a communist.

  47. James Hendry says:

    There is simply too much here, and I am not about to take notes on Blog comments in order to correct everything… Dick Aubrey, Czarism?? Get real. Every president EVER has addressed his constituency during their term in office, its their job. And, when people point out your fear drenched diatribes of Obama, they are merely pointing out your obvious, blatant behavior, its like when a kid says “I hate Broccoli,” and the analyst says, “is it really the broccoli you hate?” I think it would be healthy for you to ask yourself a lot of questions about motivation and responses you feel toward stimuli, see what you find out. And that goes for everybody, especially these conservative people screaming and making themselves look more and more like extremists backed into a corner. I believe Dick used the word creepy to describe something other than conservatives… sorry I dont usually label myself for either Dem, or Repub. but I am steadfastly against conservatism. (Both parties have been liberal by the way- and conservative, at various points, please- do not argue that point.) Anyway, oh yeah, and somebody brought up Cult of Personality… what, did you just take Russia in the 20th century class or something, sounds like a keyword? Come on people, think for yourselves.


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