Obama to press students on personal responsibility

OBAMA TO PRESS STUDENTS ON PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY…. The irony is, if our political discourse was mature and functioned as it should, President Obama’s speech to school kids today would probably be an afterthought. The remarks would have likely garnered a few paragraphs in an AP story, and maybe 30 seconds on the evening news.

But that’s not American politics in 2009, and the decision of the president to encourage young people to do well in school is grounds for a national “controversy,” due entirely to the fact that conservatives’ threshold for hysteria has become comically low.

To help ease the concerns of the paranoid, the White House publicly released the text of the president’s speech yesterday, and it’s quite good. In fact, it touches on themes conservatives would ordinarily love — Obama touts the values of hard work, personal responsibility, and not making excuses.

“[A]t the end of the day, the circumstances of your life — what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home — that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

“Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future. […]

“[E]ven when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you — don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.

“The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

“It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.

“So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?”

Socialist indoctrination it isn’t.

Jim Greer, the Florida Republican party chairman whose apoplexy helped create this “controversy,” told CNN yesterday that the president’s speech to students is “different” as a result of the hysteria Greer generated. Asked if he has any proof to bolster the claim that the White House changed course to accommodate right-wing critics, Greer said, “No, I don’t.”

I remember visiting a friend’s house years ago, and seeing a dog who would bark furiously at strangers at the street. When the strangers passed the house and kept walking, the dog felt a sense of self-satisfaction — as if it was his barking that convinced the stranger to keep going.

Jim Greer and that dog have a lot in common.