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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Reagan vs. Obama in the Classroom

As the controversy over Obama’s speech to schoolchildren moves to the back burner – but not so quickly that the usual suspects are given an opportunity to burn a few witches – it’s been commented on that Obama was not the first President to go to a school and give a speech. Here’s a link to one that Ronald Reagan gave.

It’s interesting that Reagan gave a speech in which he praises America. As he leaves office he points with pride to America’s history, to its exceptionalism:

Over these 200 years, country after country has followed our path, and I believe that ultimately all nations will do so. It's no exaggeration to say that the political vision of our Founding Fathers has become the model for the world. This is true not just in the many countries that have turned from despotism to democracy these last years, it's also true even where it's least apparent. It's remarkable to realize that in this century even brutal totalitarian dictatorships kneel at the feet of our Founding Fathers when they try to counterfeit the practices and institutions of democracy in order to claim legitimacy for their ruling their people. Dictators today from Afghanistan to Nicaragua do not want to be called Czar or Commissar; they want to be called Mr. President and to pretend that they rule in the people's name, even if they don't. Yes, even Communist dictators holding power through force, against the will of the people, acknowledge the triumph of the American idea when they go through the motions of holding phony elections, forming rubberstamp legislatures to ratify constitutions that will not be honored, and then using our words to call their regimes democracies or republics.

As a wise Frenchman one wrote: ``Hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue.'' But when dictators, even in this fraudulent way, acknowledge the basic truth that the right to rule comes from the consent of the governed, the door to freedom begins to crack open, and it can't very easily be closed again. John Adams said that long before the opening shots of America's war for independence -- he was one of our Founding Fathers, as you know -- our revolution had already occurred ``in the hearts and minds of the people.'' And today from Asia to Africa to Latin America and behind the Iron Curtain, the world is in the midst of a democratic revolution that was foretold by the creation of the United States.

From the beginning, the American vision was that our country would be the cradle of freedom for all mankind. Two hundred and thirteen years ago, in Philadelphia, James Allen wrote in this diary that: ``If we fail, liberty no longer continues an inhabitant of this globe.'' But our Founding Fathers didn't fail. And now it's our duty to bring the values of the American Revolution to all the peoples of the world, and this is happening. Today, to a degree never before seen in human history, one nation, the United States, has become the model to be followed and imitated by the rest of the world.

Read the entire speech: Reagan was a President who celebrated America before America’s children, reminding them – teaching them – why they should be proud of their country, that “Shining city on a hill.”

Contrast that with Obama and the message he left: study hard so that you can re-structure a broken country. Here's Obama:

What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free.

Obama’s America is one of broken homes without fathers, a nation of drop-outs, druggies and bullies.

A nation whose students believe

…that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.

A nation that needs an Obama to fix up its schoolrooms, buy books and computers because that’s what Presidents do.

I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too.

In his own inimitable way, Barack Obama continued his apology tour – this time apologizing for America to its school children.

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