Simplistic speech draws attention

It seems that inspiration was the reason for President Obama‘s speech made to students across the nation on Sept. 8 from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. Schools across the country tuned in to listen to this speech, also known as Obama’s “Back to School Event,” in which the leader of our nation spoke directly to the future of America: the students.

Although FHC was not amongst those schools who participated in this event, it was still a hot topic among students and staff on Tuesday. It was also the reason for discussion in many classes, such as Mr. Tom Whelan‘s Contemporary Issues classes.

“We watched and discussed the speech in class,” said Mr. Whelan. “We not only discussed the speech, but the lesson plans that were sent out regarding the speech as well.”

And how does the teacher who led this discussion feel about the message the speech delivers?

“My main comment is that the speech surely did not have the overtones that the Conservatives had accused it of having,” said Mr. Whelan. “However, the delivery was poor. He is a great speaker, and I have seen him at his best, and this time he just looked tired.”

Some people enjoyed the speech, though, and approved of the the ideas it promoted.

“It was awesome. It supports schools, students, parents and the community,” said principal Sonny Arnel. “I am definitely in support of the president encouraging kids to come to school. I like how he is teaching kids to strive to grow and learn through school. That’s my message 100 percent. And the speech fits with our mission statement here at FHC as well. Education should be valued and emphasized.”

Students also had some opinions about the speech, and some common opinions were brought up in Mr. Brian Ricker‘s AP US History classes. Some students felt that it was right not to make it mandatory, but should have been made available. Some felt that the preparation put into lesson plans for the speech was excessive. A few even raised their hands when asked if they thought the speech definitely should not have been shown at school.

However, some students didn’t think it was worth all the hype, and the uproar surrounding it was just ridiculous.

“I don’t see why some people made such a big deal out of it,” said junior Kelsey Nagel. “He was just encouraging kids to stay in school.”

What exactly is in this speech that sparked so much conversation? When hearing or reading the speech, which can be found on, it is clear to see its key points, which include responsibility, self-confidence and inspiration.

The speech stressed both the “teachers’ responsibility for inspiring students and pushing [them] to learn” as well as the students’ responsibility to “show up to those schools,” “pay attention to those teachers,” and “put in the hard work it takes to succeed.” Responsibility wasn’t the only important point that was stressed, however.

Obama also promoted self-confidence and tried to inspire students to work hard in school so they can succeed at whatever path they want to follow in life. He stated that no matter what students want to do with their lives, they are going to need an education to do it. He also told inspiring stories about himself, his wife, and students who worked hard, overcame struggles and believed in themselves to prove that any student, from any background or environment, can excel both in school and in life.

It is easy to tell that the main goal Obama hoped to accomplish through his address was to inspire and motivate the students of the nation to work hard in school now so they can attain success in the future. Although the intended purpose of the delivery of this speech was clear, it was plain to see that the responses that derived from it were not.

“I did receive a lot of phone calls from parents,” said Dr. Arnel. “They didn’t want their kids watching it in school because it didn’t fit in with their personal philosophies.”

Parents were not the only ones who had a negative opinion of the speech.

“It was actually quite uninspiring,” said Mr. Whelan. “It was anything a parent, teacher or administrator would say. There wasn’t much to it. It did get me to question how quickly people see the president though, based on where they are on the political spectrum and how they took a stance without even knowing what the speech was about. It was on both sides too, right and left, and it led to a lot of emotional responses. I never really noticed this kind of response with past presidents.”