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Bush 41 School Speech Roundup

By John Martin - Posted on 06 September 2009

In the words of former Majority Leader Dick Gephardt: "The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students."

Of course, that was back in 1991, and Gephardt was talking about then-President George Bush.  I'm happy to remind people that the Democrats are also periodically guilty of over reacting when they're not in charge, although the tone does seem to be a bit higher on the unjustified-paranoia scale these days.

Here's a video clip of the president back then.  This'll come in handy as we compare it to Obama's speech later this week:


Thanks to The Volokh Conspiracy, here's some of what the press had to say about the '91 school speech:

10/1/91 USA TODAY

President Bush takes to the airwaves today to promote his education goals, a day after the Education Department released a bleak report on students' achievement. Bush is scheduled to make a noontime speech to be carried live by CNN, PBS and Mutual Radio. He'll speak from Alice Deal Junior High School, in Washington's affluent suburb of Chevy Chase, Md.

10/2/91 Cincinnati Post

Bush told students to write him [my emphasis] to let him know how they were doing in school and to suggest ways to help achieve his national education goals — to increase the graduation rate, improve student competency and better prepare students for entering school.

10/2/91 Baltimore Sun

Yesterday was one of those occasions White House image-makers love.

They gave their boss the hated task of reading a prepared speech from TelePrompTers but put him into one of his favorite places to do it — a small classroom.

Walking casually around the room as he spoke, President Bush gently exhorted 27 rapt eighth-graders — and pupils watching his televised performance throughout the nation — to take control of their own destinies by making sure they get the most out of school.

The effect was part bully pulpit, part campaign ad. Mr. Bush was simultaneously employing the power of his office in the drive to improve American education and making another bid to focus voter attention on what he considers the centerpiece of his domestic agenda.

"I'm asking you to put two and two together," Mr. Bush told Cynthia Mosteller's history class at Alice Deal Junior High School in Northwest Washington. "Make the connection between the homework you do tonight, the tests you take tomorrow, and where you'll be five, 15, even 50 years from now. . . . You're in control." . . .

In one of the few ad-libbed lines of his 10-minute appearance, the president added: "I can't understand for the life of me what's so great about being stupid."

Mr. Bush's speech was part of a broader effort to promote the goals of America 2000, a program that calls for vast improvements in student learning levels by the end of the century. With little new money to put toward the cause, the Bush administration has focused on encouraging students, parents and communities to pressure their schools to meet higher standards.

10/3/91 Orlando Sentinel

President Bush gets nearly a quarter-million letters a year from America's schoolchildren. Now he's looking for more. He has appealed to students to write him with ideas for improving their schools. He made the pitch Tuesday at the end of a nationally televised speech from an eighth-grade classroom, urging students to ''make it your mission to get a good education.'' Perched on a stool in front of a blackboard at the District of Columbia's Alice Deal Junior High School , the president said, ''Let me know how you're doing. Write me a letter. I'm serious about this one,'' he emphasized. ''Write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals.'' Bush also exhorted students to insist on ''a first-class education. Take control. Don't say school is boring and blame it on your teachers. Make your teachers work hard. . . . Tell them that you're here to learn.''

And here's the official text of Bush's speech from his Presidential Library.  I've only skimmed it, mostly because it was clearly as innocuous as I expect Obama's speech to be.



Much ado about nothing. When you don't have anything substantive, find something petty and use that to distract people from the important issues of the day. Gotta love the GOP...irrelevance is all but assured.

Golf11, NYC
Vero Possumus

  We had dinner last night w/ friends -- a couple who are dearest to us, and who have school-aged childrens, and who both voted Republican.  The husband asked us our thoughts about Obama's speech to school kids, of course he knew what our opinions were going to be when he opened the topic.

The wife, while she's not an Obama fan, was extremely supportive of the speech, though she said she's quite sure her kids' schools won't air the speech (extremely conservative neighborhood).

The husband expressed his outrage at the speech.  When my hubby pressed him for his reasoning, all he did was to spout conservative talking points.  My hubby then asked him what his sources were, and he kept saying "the news."  When hubby continued, "which news source," there was no specific response ('cuz he knew what reaction he would get from us when he specified Fox, 'cuz we've had this discussion before).  The only reason he could list was "giving up freedoms." We tried to get him to specify, but he couldn't say anything more specific than that.

The good news in this -- if there is any -- is that he said the transcript of the planned speech is on the Internet, and he intends to read it.  I asked him if the speech turns out to just be about wholesome, stay-in-school stuff, would he change his tune... He said yes, but I won't hold my breath.  He's STILL going to get the spin from his regular sources.

My hubby has tried desperately to get him to listen to NPR rather than Fox, et al, but don't think that's taking.  I will admit, though, that I truly don't think his opinion of Obama comes out of racism.  We've known the guy for 15 years+ and I know that's not what's in his heart.  


That is so sad.  I don't wish for all Fox viewers to switch over to NPR; I just wish they would listen to both every once in a while (and vice-versa, of course). 

I have family that watch Fox News exclusively.  Whenever we're in a lopsided argument/conversation/debate, I always "call them out" by saying "I bet you heard that on Fox News!"  They're always mystified by how I somehow know what TV channels they've been watching.

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