Obama's School Speech Defuses Controversy

Conservatives' fears of Obama "indoctrinating" children proved unfounded.

ByABC News
September 8, 2009, 6:52 PM

Sept. 8, 2009— -- President Obama's back-to-school message to the nation's students, which drew so much criticism from those on the right before anyone knew what he would say, turned out to be little more than a pep talk on the importance of staying in school.

"We need every single one of you to develop your talents and your skills and your intellect so you can help us old folks solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that, if you quit on school, you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country," Obama said.

The back-to-school speech to children Tuesday afternoon did not contain the political views some parents said they feared it would.

James Noack spent last week handing out fliers at his son Maverick's school north of Houston that called the speech "socialist indoctrination of children" and had his son taken out of class during the speech. However, today, after hearing the speech, he had a different reaction.

"I think the only indoctrination was to stay in school," Noack said. "And that's a good message."

Yet in the days before his speech, a controversy had erupted, with some conservatives claiming the president would indoctrinate children with his political views, and urging parents to keep their children at home.

When previous American presidents, including Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, gave speeches to students, there was no similar furor, but in those days the reach of the media was not what it is today.

On Aug. 26, the White House officially announced Obama would be addressing students.

The next day, a conservative Web site criticized the speech, without even knowing what the president intended to say.

Just days later, on Sept. 1, Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer slammed the speech as "indoctrination." By the next day, conservative talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck had picked up the rallying cry.