Obama's School Speech and Health Care Push Highlights Challenges of Presidency

Summer is officially over for members of Congress and President Obama, who returned to the spotlight today to deliver a much-debated speech to school students, followed by a highly anticipated speech on health care Wednesday.

This could be a make or break week for the president, some say, as he kicks off what could be a very challenging fall.

Today, Obama delivered his back-to-school address to nearly 56 million children nationwide, a speech that became surprisingly controversial in certain school districts and highly politicized in Washington, well before its delivery.

Some Republicans claimed that the president's speech was designed as liberal propaganda to indoctrinate students. A lesson plan drawn up by the Department of Education drew heat for its language, which suggested that students, after watching the president's speech, write a letter about how they could "help the president."

The White House released the full remarks of Obama's speech Monday to assuage concerns, and the pre-released text indicated none of the leftist indoctrination some alleged. The president, in his speech, will mainly urge students to work hard, stay in school and take responsibility.

Former first lady Laura Bush expressed her support for the speech, saying that it's "really important for everyone to respect the president of the United States."

"I think there is a place for the president of the United States to talk to school children and encourage school children, and I think there are a lot of people that should do the same," Bush said in an interview with CNN's Zain Verjee. "And that is encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dream that they have."

Obama's speech is part of a full-day effort to promote education. The president will also be part of a 30-minute documentary -- that also features singer Kelly Clarkson and sports star LeBron James -- called "Get Schooled: You Have The Right," that airs tonight.

Today's speech is of relatively little consequence compared with Obama's speech to the joint session of Congress about health care reform, an address that could redefine the debate, which could in turn redefine his presidency.

"The stakes are huge. I think his presidency will be judged on whether he can succeed where many other presidents have failed," said John Podesta, president and chief executive of liberal think tank Center for American Progress.

Other say this is the president's opportunity to rally the American people.

"This is make or break time for President Obama on health care because the public has turned so sour and he has a divided Congress," said political analyst David Gergen. "He needs to first rally the Congress but more importantly he needs to turn the tide of public opinion."

High Stakes Speech on Health Care

The president resurrected some of his fiery campaign rhetoric at the AFL-CIO picnic Monday, where he previewed his big speech.

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