President Barack Obama steered clear of politics in a pep talk to students that sparked controversy among conservatives, who accused him of trying to indoctrinate America’s children.
Presidents often visit schools, and Obama was not the first one to offer a back-to-school address aimed at millions of students in every grade.
Yet several conservative organisations and many concerned parents warned Obama was trying to sell his political agenda through his speech to children last night.
That concern was caused in part by an accompanying administration lesson plan encouraging students to “help the president,” which the White House later revised.
In his speech, Obama challenged the nation’s students to take pride and ownership in their education – and stick with it even if they don’t like every class or must overcome tough circumstances at home.
“Every single one of you has something that you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer,” Obama told students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, and children watching his speech on television in schools across the country.
“And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is.”
Obama, accompanied by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, met 40 students gathered in a school library before the speech carried on the C-SPAN cable channel and on the White House website.
The uproar over his speech followed Obama to Virginia, near Washington, as his motorcade was greeted by a small band of protesters. One carried a sign exclaiming: “Mr President, stay away from our kids.”
During his meeting inside, one student asked why the country doesn’t have universal health insurance. “I think we need it. I think we can do it,” Obama replied.
The president said the country can afford to insure all Americans and that doing so will save money in the long run.
Obama is giving a speech to Congress and the nation on health care today.