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  • Uebelhor

Mistrust unjust on student address


September 23, 2009
Public outcry prior to President Barack Obama's nationwide address to students was unfortunate. It is good anytime the president of the United States wants to encourage young people to study hard, make good grades and become productive members of society.

This is especially true for Obama, who, as the nation's first African-American president, has an opportunity none of his predecessors had. He can reach out to young blacks, particularly young black males, who many times fall between the cracks, and share with them the importance of education.

While inner-city school systems often fail those students, the students too many times fail themselves. Those who study hard and do what they can to excel educationally are told by their peers that they are acting "white."

The much-needed message of "It's not acting 'white' to make good grades; it's acting responsibly," as well as others, that the president — the ultimate role model for young people — can deliver to young people in addresses like the one recently are far too important to be tainted by unnecessary public outcries. That's why Obama has to be better at understanding those who disagree with him.

Like it or not, we live in an extremely partisan time. This country is still a center-right nation, and people — as is evident in a sharp drop in Obama's job approval rating — feel misled by the president, who ran as a moderate but hasn't governed as one. Unfortunately, that distrust has carried over into completely benign issues, like the student address.

This extreme partisanship isn't new. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush (Democrats held hearings after he addressed students) and Bill Clinton also had their detractors. Also, let's not forget the death threats to President George W. Bush and the constant sneers of "Bushitler" and the Senate majority leader referring to him as a "loser."

None of this is right, but that doesn't mean it can be dismissed as meaningless political drivel. Although unfortunate, it's the political reality we live in today.

The White House needs to understand this. It needs to understand that even the slightest misstep — such as asking students, after watching Obama's address, to write about "how they could help the president" instead of how they can help the country — can be a distraction.

However, in the end, it falls back on us. We're an untrusting electorate, as we should be; after all, elected officials answer to us. Still, no matter who the politician is, no matter what side of the political aisle they, or we, reside, we must pick our battles carefully. Otherwise, our fight will have no meaning.

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