September 14, 2010

President Obama's back to school speech contained blatant lies...

... and if there were any students not bright enough to notice that they were hearing lies, the lies, in their particular cases, were, ironically, bigger lies. Check it out:
Nobody gets to write your destiny but you. Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is beyond your reach, so long as you’re willing to dream big, so long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education, there is not a single thing that any of you cannot accomplish, not a single thing. I believe that.
If you believe that, you are so dumb that your chances of controlling your own destiny are especially small. But it's absurd to tell kids that if only they dream big, work hard, and get an education, they can have anything they want. Do you know what kind of dream job kids today have?  A recent Marist poll showed that 32% would like to be an actor/actress. 29% want to be a professional athlete.  13% want to be President of the United States.  That's not going to happen.

Even young people with more modest dreams — like getting a decent law job after getting good grades at an excellent law school — are not getting what they want. To say "nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is beyond your reach" is a blatant lie, and Barack Obama knows that very well. The assertion "I believe that" is on the level of Tommy Flanagan, the Pathological Liar, adding "Yeahhh! That's the ticket!"

And even if economic times were not so miserable, Barack Obama's political philosophy would not be "Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it." That's the sort of thing Rush Limbaugh likes to say. If Obama believed that, he'd be all about reducing the role of government and unleashing private enterprise. He'd be a big right winger. Does he look at a poor person and say, his life is what he made it? Of course not.

116 comments:

garage mahal said...

WTF.

elliot said...

You really don't sound like someone who voted for the man ;)

John Lynch said...

We will convert you to pessimism yet.

Jason (the commenter) said...

He's already admitted, in public, on the record, that everything he said during the campaign was a lie. What added sin is there in lying to children? And I'm sure a lot of children disapprove of the President, like their parents, so isn't giving them bad advice good? They're likely to believe the opposite and distrust others who say the same sort of thing.

Royal Tenenbaum said...

Ouch, a little rough on Obama there. It merely sounds like the same platitudes that Breyer was spewing. =)

But it's a valid point on whether his policies match his rhetoric. (A typical problem for politicians, I think.)

traditionalguy said...

Lies for the propagandized is Standard Obama Operating Procedure. And when the cartoon plots crash, then he blames the dream killing capitalists that steal everything from everybody. Obama is a metastasizing disease. Palin is the antidote because she speaks the truth to liars.

Bruce Hayden said...

Yet, yet, I don't think that you want to convert school kids to pessimism yet. There is time enough for that later.

I was just a little too old to really want to be an astronaut, but younger brothers, sure. And that was more out of touch than the dream about being a professional athlete or actor.

Of course, the President doesn't mention the advantages he got from being officially Black and attending the best schools, at least partially based on that fact.

Nena's 99 Luftballons Song said...

A political parent reinforcing positive thinking is a lot better than parents at home who consider their kids idiots and call them so. A favorite teacher can make all the difference in a child's destiny, and so our president reinforces the educational value of cheerleading for our kids. Great job Mr. President.

Kathy said...

I could see my dd, who is 9, falling for that. She's bright, but she's only 9 and she's naive. I don't discourage my kids from any expressed career interest (well, I did veto professional singer), but I do gently clarify the trade-offs and difficulties, which the young have a hard time seeing.

Pastafarian said...

I don't think that Obama is consciously lying here -- rather, he's honestly mistaken.

His life has been a series of falling ass-backward into big piles of money and power, and he honestly thinks that he's earned everything he's been given, and that all anyone has to do to achieve literally anything is put forth the meager amount of effort that he has.

pm317 said...

Didn't Obama supporters call this BS 'inspirational'? May be he is training the next generation of bots ready for his campaign in 2012.

El Pollo Real said...

This post lacks resonance. It's liking kicking a dog when it's down.

Jason (the commenter) said...

If you believe that, you are so dumb that your chances of controlling your own destiny are especially small.

What's even more dumb: Obama probably didn't even write the speech. He had someone else do it, and took all the credit for himself.

But I prefer what he did say to what he could have said:

"If you work really hard, children, some day you can work for a large organization where your contribution will barely be noticed, if it's acknowledged at all. And people like me, will benefit. So thanks, suckers! And don't forget--I'll be out of office before any of you can vote! (Have fun paying down that national debt!)"

garage mahal said...

what this post lacks in resonance more than makes up for it in anger at DE Republicans.

SteveR said...

I stopped listed to Carter at about this point because I couldn't stand his accent/voice plus I thought he was full of crap. I'm OK with the president's speaking voice.

Calypso Facto said...

Maybe he could have told them to shoot for being one of the newly minted poor.

wv: heerpor. No shit.

El Pollo Real said...

what this post lacks in resonance more than makes up for it in anger at DE Republicans.

Huh? Who's pissed about O'Donnell winning?

Freeman Hunt said...

Wow! That was great.

But who slipped the conservative pod person plant into Althouse's bedroom?

...

Meade, shame!

Jason (the commenter) said...

Perhaps the point is to lie to children on purpose. Yes, their dreams will die, but hopefully they will have acquired skills along the way they can use to pick themselves up with afterwards. Skills they never would have acquired otherwise.

If Obama is guilty of anything it may be of using this technique on some children who are too old, and thus coddling them. Small children can put up with almost anything and turn out just fine.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Freeman Hunt: But who slipped the conservative pod person plant into Althouse's bedroom?

Thank goodness. Now I can finally stop pointing at the screen and shrieking every time I load the page.

garage mahal said...

Huh? Who's pissed about O'Donnell winning?

Heh. This post is whack. Every single word of it. Take a guess.

El Pollo Real said...

Perhaps the point is to lie to children on purpose.

In my opinion it's never appropriate to lie to children on purpose, but often times it is useful to simplify the truth, or in other words to cut the nuance.

Synova said...

Okay, you know... I'm going to defend President Obama. That's boilerplate, everyone says it, and everyone knows what it means, even kids.

And besides... technically... "within your reach" doesn't mean you'll get it, even if you do all of those things. It just means that if you do all of those things, what you want to do will be "in your reach."

An actor? Sure, why not. Maybe not the glamour lead, but lots of ugly people do well in Hollywood. Deciding before you even try that you can't do that is stupid. But maybe you'll have to work at it and take acting classes.

Someone is getting the top law jobs. Someone gets to be an astronaut. Someone flies planes and does underwater photography on tropical reefs.

Someone does all of those things and what each of them has in common is that they didn't decide that they couldn't.

AJ Lynch said...

Would have been funny if all the teachers asked why am I wasting my life as a teacher [when I can be an astronaut, NBA star, replace Oprah, etc] and walked out.

Jason (the commenter) said...

El Pollo Real: In my opinion it's never appropriate to lie to children on purpose...

Well, Obama's speechwriter disagrees, but think on this: if you thought what Obama said here was bad, imagine what he tells his own children.

Joe said...

The problem with these lies is that they've greatly contributed to the absolute belief by my teens and twenty-somethings that they are owed things simply because they desire them.

Joe said...

Also note that Obama isn't talking about kids aspiring to be plumbers, carpenters, welders or, heaven forbid, soldiers.

Paddy O said...

I'm with Synova.

Hope is an amazing thing. Work hard and you will reach your dream? Maybe, some will.

But work hard, and you will definitely be a better person. You will learn how to fight for what you want. You will learn to provide for your family. You will learn that the naysaying of the gatekeepers do not determine reality.

I think we see what happens when entire cultures give into the "I can't" or "someone is blocking my way" mentality. They start believing in, and then set themselves against those who don't believe it.

But, reaching for the dream, whatever that dream may be, is always fruitful for society. Because learning you can't reach some youthful dream isn't something anyone else should say. It's something that you have to realize on your own, but by that point your dreams have adapted to what you know is attainable. And what is attainable is significantly more because of the dream than if there never was the dream.

If you hope for what is now impossible you will reach the limits of your own possibilities. If you see only impossibility, you won't take steps, won't find more, and will settle into an angst filled rage against those who don't listen to their supposed betters who said there's no reason to believe.

And it's especially important not to listen to the older people who have positions of importance and want to protect their own legacy or position.

Dream. Fight. Truly live. That is the American Way, and Obama was right to say it.

WV: Carie. Yeah, let Carie dream for freedom too!

William said...

I was a klutzy kid who attained mediocrity in some sports. You never know how high you're going to climb when you're climbing. Most tweeners feel that with just a little more practice they will have a breakthrough and then go on to fame and fortune in the major leagues....Kids have a rich imaginative life in order to shield them against the surrounding squalor and oncoming dreariness of ordinary life.

Paddy O said...

"that they are owed things simply because they desire them."

But that seems precisely what Obama is not saying.

"so long as you’re willing to dream big, so long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education"

Your teens and twenty-somethings apparently like the first bit but don't read on.

Work hard. Focus on education.

This may not fit with the dreams of being an actor, athlete or president. But the words will stay when they find a dream of having a healthy family and a nice home and a job they might even enjoy.

Work hard. Focus on your education. This can open up all kinds of really amazing possibilities for people and for this country.

Don't just think big. Fight for it. Let your hope be matured by your actions, and let your actions be empowered by your hope.

MayBee said...

I just think it's goofy that he feels he needs to give an annual address to school children.
I wonder if he imagines it's something the kids look forward to.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Paddy O: I'm with Synova.

But what you both missed is that this has to be age appropriate. What helps young children grow, turns older ones into monsters.

Freeman Hunt said...

Work hard. Focus on education.

This may not fit with the dreams of being an actor, athlete or president.


Well, maybe not with the president one anyway.

Freeman Hunt said...

For the other two, you'd better be ready to work like hell.

Sixty Grit said...

Aw crap, now I am going to give up on my dream to play in the NBA. DAMN YOU, OBAMA!

ricpic said...

How do they look themselves in the mirror, the platitude platoon? Because there's no there there. They can't be ashamed of what's not there. That's their trick. Clinton. Obama. Ersatz men.

Jason (the commenter) said...

This may not fit with the dreams of being an actor, athlete or president.

Now I get it! The actor, athlete, and President all get their power from the same thing nowadays, people with broken dreams living their lives vicariously through them. That's why Presidents, actors, and athletes always tell children they can be anything they want.

They plant the seeds of disappointment in the minds of the young, and then enslave them into being passive spectators when they are older.

jimspice said...

So you'd prefer him to tell them Santa is dead?

Synova said...

My daughter wants to be an artist.

If I tell her that no one can really *do* that, then she won't do it.

She's certainly talented. Why would I take away the one thing that would actually make it possible? Why would I sabotage the *drive* that is going to be necessary in order for her to succeed?

I did suggest she take business courses. Not as a fall back! I told her to take business courses because *she's planning to be self-employed* and she's going to need to be able to manage her "business" and it's far easier to go through a structured course teaching what you're least interested in, than trying to self-learn an unpleasant subject later.

Alex said...

garage mahal said...
WTF.

Yes WTF indeed. How dare Althouse call your god a liar.

former law student said...

And even if economic times were not so miserable, Barack Obama's political philosophy would not be "Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it."

My Depression-born parents were young adults during the great booms of the 20th Century. And their destiny was largely limited by their own expectations for themselves. So I don't see a contradiction here.

Remember Obama admired the Purpose-Driven Life Pastor. From there it's just a short step to Schuller's "Tough Times Don't Last But Tough People Do," and "The only real failure is the failure to try."

But some people are going to fail. Their reach will exceed their grasp, and those people will need help.

Alex said...

In principle it's good not to imbue pessimism in kids. But Obama is the fucking devil incarnate, so anything he says is suspect.

former law student said...

it's far easier to go through a structured course teaching what you're least interested in, than trying to self-learn an unpleasant subject later.


But the easiest is to take a structured course when you know you need the skills you can get from it. Suggest that she start a business now.

Alex said...

What I want to know is if Althouse's parents didn't tell her she could be anything she wanted to be.

Alex said...

I think we're all in agreement that parents need to tell their kids to reach for their dreams, BUT Obama is such a loathsome figure that we can't stand it when he says the same thing because there are ulterior motives behind it. He's trying to gather up another core of supporters for the socialist state.

gk1 said...

I love the stridency of Ann's post, it reminds me of everything the left said about Bush from 2004-2008. Every rhetorical point you disagree with is a "LIE!"

Alex said...

The upshot of this post is I can tell that Althouse is now filled with Obama Derangement Syndrome which is a GOOD thing. We have Althouse's vote for the 2012 GOP.

blake said...

The political angle of this post is persiflage.

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Ah, Ann. You speak the truth and it's refreshing.

"There's nothing you can't do, once you pay off your student loans . . . except win the Nobel Prize (because I already won it) or become President or 'too cool for school'."

David said...

El Pollo Real said...

"In my opinion it's never appropriate to lie to children on purpose, but often times it is useful to simplify the truth, or in other words to cut the nuance."

Spent any time with actual children lately, Pollo? They love nuance. Tell them the truth and they will nuance it with fantasy and imagination. The problem with Obama's statement is that it was all fantasy and no truth. He's getting good at that.

David said...

Obama is putting out a new book--for children.

I suspect, by the way, it's part of a smarmy financial deal he made with Random House just before inauguration. Here's my (educated) speculation on what they did.

in January 2009, he and Random House modified their author's agreement. He agreed to write three more books. This ghost written fluffy children's book is one of them.

The book will sell like mad. Obama has agreed that "author proceeds" will go to charity. That sounds nice, but Random House gets to keep their part of the split.

A few questions:

Are Obama's author proceeds on the new book standard, or lower than usual, thus benefitting Random House?

Did the January 2009 agreement increase Obama's split on his two previous books? Is this perhaps why he made $5,000,000 in royalties last year--much more than he ever did in the past.

To put it bluntly, is Obama using the marketing power of the Presidency to compensate Random House for a sweetheart deal that allowed him to keep a far greater portion of the proceeds of his previous books?

Something stinks in the vicinity of Obama's book deals. Perhaps a little more "transparency" is called for?

sunsong said...

Have you not heard of these folks, and so many more?:

Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, James Allen, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Branden, Jim Rohn, Leo Busgaglia.

Without a dream you are already dying. From Alfred Loyd Tennyson in 1850:

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.


It is better to have dreamed – to have reached – to have sought – to have tried. It is in the dreaming, the reaching, the seeking, the trying, that we become more. We become more than we would have. We accomplish more than we would have. What a dreary world to live in where no one believes that they can create their own destiny or that dreams can come true:

~~ Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night. ~ Edgar Allan Poe


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. --Henry David Thoreau

“The poorest man is not he who is without a cent, but he who is without a dream” - Anonymous

rhhardin said...

Maldoror's speech to schoolchildren. (Lautreamont)

jamboree said...

Wow, that was unexpectedly harsh.

Oh wait, you were an Art Major, first, huh? Okay. :-)

Love @Jason's comments on the famous feeding off the broken dreams of others. That theme has been around since Day of the Locust and yet famous people still seem to bitch about the people with no lives living vicariously through them - hiring ever more security. Do they not realize that is exactly what fuels their superstardom and nothing else? Not their acting or musical skills or good looks? That that is the actual "deal with the devil" they made?

Kirk Parker said...

William,

"...oncoming dreariness of ordinary life."

Dude. Ordinary life is anything but dreary. Please seek out some help...

el polacko said...

one sees the results of this 'i can have anything i want' b.s. on all of the televised contest shows. the contestants sob with grief because not winning does not jibe with the fact that "i really WANT this..it's my dream". it's inconceivable to them that they may not walk away with fame and fortune after going to all the bother of showing up.

mrs whatsit said...

Oh, goodness. I am no fan of Obama's by any means, did not vote for him, did my best to talk you out of voting for him, and couldn't begin to add up the lies he's told us all -- but to label this a lie is too much. Who wants a nation of kids who have already given up on dreaming before they're out of elementary school? Would you really prefer it if he'd kicked off the school year by saying, "Forget it kids, there's nothing for you out there, might as well start shooting up now!"

There's a big difference between telling kids that anything they want will come to them simply because they deserve it and telling them that if they work hard and dream big, there's no limit to what they can accomplish. That message is actually this little thing called the American Dream -- and while I highly doubt that Obama actually believes in the A.D. himself, I have no problem at all if he wants to encourage kids to believe in it. On this one, possibly for the only time in my life, I am with Obama.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

-Langston Hughes

Bob_R said...

One of the drawbacks of being female is that you probably never have heard a football halftime speech. If so, you have never seen a halftime speech work, or realized with dismay that it worked on YOU. Of course, in that case it only has to work for about an hour, whereas Obama's rhetoric has to work for years.

The thing that gets me is how various social groups look down on the silly, meaningless social noises made by other social groups, but don't recognize their own meaningless noises. I'm sure Obama thought no more of the "truth" of these noises than I think about the truth of the words "hello" "how are you" "good to see you" "have a nice day."

Paul Zrimsek said...

"It is good to dream. But be sure to wake up." --Freeman Dyson

Paul Zrimsek said...

The words of Elwood Blues have never been more apposite: "It wasn't lies, it was... bullshit."

TRO said...

Dr. Suess said it better when he said, "Oh! The places you'll go."

Then again, Dr. Who makes more sense than Barry.

The Ghost said...

The last 2 lines are the gold in this post ...

"Does he look at a poor person and say, his life is what he made it? Of course not."

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynne said...

Well, I'm glad no one in my family ever met Althouse.
I likely wouldn't be here.
My grandfather(mother's father) was the last of 11 kids, and forced to drop out of school at age 14 and go to work in the mines to help the family out.
But he dreamed big, worked hard, and after a few years made it out of the mines, out of coal country altogether, and took his wife and kids to a bigger, better town.
My father lost his father when he was a teenager, and signed up to go to WW2 in part to support his chronically ill mother. When the war was over, he took a factory job- and studied and worked so hard that by the end of his career he was helping to design and set up new factories in South Korea and Mexico, even though he had given up the GI Bill chance to go to college so he could earn money to support his family.
But he dreamed big and worked hard and wound up putting the first generation of his family through college- my and my sister.

I don't care for Obama, but these aren't lies. People live these ideas and make them work.

Pogo said...

Obama is Bob The Builder: “You can do it!

I'm with Paul; them ain't lies, that's jes' bullshit.

Public schools are full of this uplifting crap. The student diet is one Oprahfied moment after another. They mention 'working hard', but they focus mostly on dreaming. It doesn't seem to have created a nation of hard workers, much as I can tell.

Anyway, by now, all but the youngest are inured to this kind of BS speech. It says nothing. Obama's just phoning it in. Is this the best his speechwriters could do? It's cut-and-pasted from a million others. Meaningless and uninspiring.

There's a young black man that has an iffy home life who likes to come by our house on and off. Mostly to eat. Nice kid. People keep pushing him to go to med school, and he asked me about it. I told him it's good to aim high, but that it ain't nirvana, and it's hard work. I told him not to borrow much to go. Etc. Etc.

I'm not sure he has the mental horsepower to pull it off, but I could be wrong. If he does make it, it won't be any thanks to the public school system that left him without the most rudimentary knowledge. (He's a senior and didn't know what a virus was.)

I'm all for encouraging kids to dream big. But if it isn't accompanied by a staunch work effort designed to get them there, yer jes' shinin' 'em.

And that's a terrible lie.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred4Pres said...

Ann, you are becoming a bitter clinger? Did Meade turn you on to religion and guns too (in addition to beer, do it yourself landscaping, and mushroom hunting).

I am no fan of the President. But to tell kids it is all fatalistic is terribly destructive too. The truth is we do not know what the future brings, but when opportunity does come you had better be ready.

Kids should be optomistic. Yes (having a 12 year old who is into theater) I am quite aware that her chances of being a broadway star are slim. But she said her back up plan is to be a pediatrician. Which is okay with me.

Pogo said...

"...there is not a single thing that any of you cannot accomplish, not a single thing. I believe that."

C'mon, Lynne. It simply ain't true, much less inspiring.

And hell, I went to med school in part because someone told me I wouldn't make it. In fact, all my dreams were internally generated -just like your family. My parents never said a damn thing about dreams, they were busy raising 13 kids. No President or teacher ever told me dream big or dream small or don't dream.

It's the human condition to want better for yourself. Platitudes like Obama's are a waste of time. And it was during school when they should have been working hard instead of watching a bland rah rah speech.

Pogo said...

"But to tell kids it is all fatalistic is terribly destructive too."

Is it? I dunno.
I'm realistic with my kids. Aim high. Plan for reality. Work your ass off. Life is hard and painful, but can be joyous and beautiful. Have fun, but don't be lazy.

The Prez is being a small town mayor, bloviating on my dime. It's a goddamned waste of time. Do the nation's public schoolkids need our fearless leader telling them anything at all?
No.

Michael Barone covered this in Hard America, Soft America.
Public school is all soft. Obama is a fluffy pillow, speaking soothing reassurances to its wards.

Lynne said...

Sorry, Pogo, but my parents told us many of the same things Obama said in that speech. I'm not going to spit on 'em now, just because a president I don't care for repeated some of them.

Your mileage, obviously, has varied. Which I'm willing to respect.

Pogo said...

"...my parents told us many of the same things Obama said in that speech. I'm not going to spit on 'em now"

It is a parent's job to decide that. You had good parents. Mine knew me, and saw I would do whatever I wanted whether they said 'dream' or not.

My argument is that at most a teacher can speak this way for her pupils.
Once the principal or superintendent or city councilman or mayor or governor or senator budges in to take time out of schoolwork so they can be heard saying **Uplifting Things**, pardon me but that is complete bullshit.

It ain't about Obama. I don't want Reagan or Nixon or Kennedy talking to my kids.

Mostly because they're dead, and that would be really creepy.

Michael said...

I am with Pogo on this one. And there is no need for the President to be "fatalistic" as an alternative. How about saying nothing as an alternative?

My parents never gave me the "you can be what you want to be" speech because, in fact, you usually cannot. You usually have to measure your own skills and your own ambition, the latter have a greater importance in many respects.

Case in point. I wanted to be a writer. I worked at it and was able to go to a famous school for writers. I was reasonably good at it. But I had no real passion for it. I had talent but not ambition and that made all the difference.

Coming to this realization was important and life changing for me. I went on to become very successful at business where I developed a passion and built a talent around it.

Clyde said...

@ Pastafarian

Obama was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.

Pogo said...

And this ain't an 'Althouse is conservative' moment.

I can just picture her in the back of class in 6th grade with some politician on the radio saying this junk and her muttering 'That's a lie'.

She's just a realist about some things.
I'm guessing,of course. Whaddoeyeknow?

DADvocate said...

Spot on analysis. This is the same crap being spouted by motivational speakers, etc for decades now. You can be a lot of things but not anything.

You have to realistically assess your potential and go from there. It would behoove our society to teach our kids that being a mechanic, plumber or other blue collar career is honorable and good.

We need mechanics and plumbers and many make more than I do in my white collar job. Hell, the guy that owns and runs a 4 bay body shop in little ole Maysville, KY has a very nice 3,000 - 4,000 sq ft house on several acres with a private lake. He is known for his excellent work and has prospered.

But, some people will never attain that nor need they. We can't all be leaders because you can't lead when there is no one who follows. We just need to make sure the doors are open so that those who will lead and excel in whatever field can, and, generally, we all will benefit.

Doug said...

I am not an Obama fan, but there is a time to bash the guy and a time to let him be. There was nothing in his speech that I do not tell my own children. Sure kids want to be athletes and actresses. That has always been. He is right. A person will always be better off if they are educated. Whether they are an athlete, dr. or plumber.

Drew said...

I think the key here is Ann's final point:

. . . Barack Obama's political philosophy would not be "Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it." . . . If Obama believed that, he'd be all about reducing the role of government and unleashing private enterprise. He'd be a big right winger. Does he look at a poor person and say, his life is what he made it? Of course not.


This isn't so much lying as it is another instance of the president mouthing empty platitudes he doesn't actually believe. (cf. Every word that ushered from his mouth during the health care bill fiasco.)

Let us go behind the scenes to the pre-speech pep talk when someone on staff told Obama "this is what you say when you want to sound like you care and like you're sincere, which we all know is difficult for you due to your acute case of apathy."

And that's one reason why it sounds even emptier than usual coming from an empty person like the President. Apathy. Bill Clinton famously felt our various pains, with an almost pathological need for us to love him back. Obama is cool and distant and makes even GHW Bush ("Message: I care") seem cuddly.

Obama is famous for being able to give voice to two opposing views and not suffer some sort of psychological breakdown. (At least, not publicly. Not yet. Though sometimes I feel like it's coming.) And that's probably why people just ignore him now. Why he can't fill a room when speechifying at some college campus. Why nobody "lines the streets" when the limo rolls past.

He was never going to be a perennial superstar. He was always going to end up last year's pop star, because there was never anything to build on. There's just a huge vacancy.

Scott M said...

This isn't so much lying as it is another instance of the president mouthing empty platitudes he doesn't actually believe.

Wait...I thought it took a village. Honestly, though, Anne's right about that last part. There's no way a liberal is going to tell a poor person their life is the result of their actions (ie, "in their hands").

Perhaps Obama should have said, "you can get away with just about anything at work as long as you're a member of a protected class. If you're a minority teen pregnant single mother amputee who's been denied health insurance because of your credit score, you really can do whatever the hell you want."

Scott M said...

Oh...and he should have added at the end,

"and don't worry. We'll never keep score at your soccer games so feelings don't get hurt. We'll also make sure we advance you to the next grade for the same reasons. Because, kids, that's the way the world really works."

MJ said...

Our President only has three flavors of speach:

1. Platitudes.

2. Woe-is-me.

3. Pie-in-the-sky hyperbole.

Scott M said...

Our President only has three flavors of speach:

1. Platitudes.

2. Woe-is-me.

3. Pie-in-the-sky hyperbole.


To be fair, I think all Presidents get 1 and 3 installed when they take office. 2 has been pretty rare in my lifetime though.

roesch-voltaire said...

You can become your dreams is a popular myth along with the one about how we are a classless society where anyone who works hard can become a millionaire--all designed to keep folks from seeing reality. These lies are now owned by Obama, but are part of our institutional discourse.

ALP said...

This reminds me of what has been found via "happiness" studies. Most seem to find that expectations are crucial to one's overall happiness. Raising expectations to unrealistic levels is a recipe for unhappiness and misery. Thus, he's creating a lot of future unhappy adults.

The speech was also very "Oprah" - the "Oprahfication" of the presidency is now complete. That "you can do anything" stance is nauseating to me. If that were true, I could be the world's first middle-aged, 59 inch tall pro basketball player.

rsb said...

Give me a break - that is the standard speech that has been given
for eons. What do you want him to say. Give up? Don't bother? You have no future? How about drop out.

Ezra said...

I agree!!! We shouldn't assume that working hard towards dreams, goals, ideals will pay-off. We should understand that destiny and god(s) and the system will shape, mold and determine our place in society and the world for us. Finally I can stop all this futility and ride the wave.

Pogo said...

"What do you want him to say."

Nothing.
What the hell is he doing giving an annual televised speech to kids for anyway?

It's a waste of time, and too much cult of personality bullshit.

Korla said...

"If you work really hard, if you do all your homework, if you study after hours long into the night, and pass all your tests, and never miss a day of school, and even go in on holidays (except Martin Luther King's birthday), and graduate at the top of your class, and go to the most expensive university in the world, you MIGHT... you MIGHT... get a job at Denny's cleaning the toilets for the night shift. Might!

"Now if you have Marxist academic connections and a blurry past and lots of financial backing and no paper trail and all your transcripts and papers are locked away, you can be appointed to the White Hosue, like me."

former law student said...

What the hell is he doing giving an annual televised speech to kids for anyway?

It's a waste of time, and too much cult of personality bullshit.


Again Obama follows in Reagan's footsteps. From his 1988televised (CNN and the Instructional Television Network) inspirational speech to school children, in the State Dining Room:

Here in the White House there's a famous painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And it shows many of the great men of that time assembled in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. But when you look closely at the painting, you see that some of the figures in the hall are just outlines, waiting to be filled in, the faces have not yet been drawn. You see, this great painting isn't finished. But what the people who gathered in Philadelphia two centuries ago set out to do is not yet finished, either. And that, I suppose, is why the painting is the way it is. America is not yet complete, and it's up to each one of us to help complete it. And each one of you can place yourself in that painting. You can become one of the those immortal figures by helping to build and renew America.

And we're entering one of the most exciting times in history, a time of unlimited possibilities, bounded only by the size of your imagination, the depth of your heart, and the character of your courage. More than two centuries of American history -- the contributions of the millions of people who have come before us have been given to us as our birthright. All we can do to earn what we've received is to dream large dreams, to live lives of kindness, and to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America.


http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/07/reagan.1988.speech.pdf

Michelle said...

The real problem with telling kids they can achieve anything they want through hard work is that our schools and our society don't teach hard work. They teach that participation is what counts, not achievement. This is exactly what's happening with the younger adults today. They participated in college, even graduate school. They didn't work hard and they didn't learn all that much, but now they believe they deserve to have their dreams rewarded.

Pogo said...

As I wrote above, fls, I don't want any President doing this.

But I figger you couldn't resist re-posting that fun fact. I expect it's among your cut-n-paste chestnuts to bring out when needed.

Lynne said...

Pogo:

Once the principal or superintendent or city councilman or mayor or governor or senator budges in to take time out of schoolwork so they can be heard saying **Uplifting Things**, pardon me but that is complete bullshit.

Your point is taken and I understand what you mean. In fact, I kind of agree with that statement.

Which brings me to my own "realist" statement:

90% of the kids probably weren't paying attention, anyway.

Drew said...

The real problem with telling kids they can achieve anything they want through hard work is that our schools and our society don't teach hard work. They teach that participation is what counts, not achievement.

Participation in the collective!

Gah! The new collectivism drives me nuts! Everything becomes a "group project" and therefore nobody has to take responsibility for it when the excrement hits the air conditioning.

Pogo said...

@lynne: "90% of the kids probably weren't paying attention, anyway."

Ha! Absolutely. Encouragement is entirely local. I find it hard to get all enthused by corporate messages to "excel" etc. But a mom and a teacher can do wonders for one's drive.

Trooper York said...

I think this new tradition of having to take time out from the begining of the school year for a Presidential address is just damn creepy!

Does this dude have to be everywhere all the time!

HEY....PREACHER...LEAVE THOSE KIDS ALONE!!!!!!!!!!

blake said...

Curious. FLS reposts Reagan. Do you really think that this:


And we're entering one of the most exciting times in history, a time of unlimited possibilities, bounded only by the size of your imagination, the depth of your heart, and the character of your courage. More than two centuries of American history -- the contributions of the millions of people who have come before us have been given to us as our birthright. All we can do to earn what we've received is to dream large dreams, to live lives of kindness, and to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America.

Is the same as what Obama said? You don't detect, say, a subtle difference in emphasis.

jamboree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jamboree said...

I have always took these otherwise creepy addresses as Obama probably trying to reach ghetto black kids with absentee fathers. Hence all the emphasis on education/hard work/dreams, etc. He's trying to be their substitute Good Male Influence and inspire them to Get Out.

DJ Drummond said...

My daughter heard the speech at her school. I asked her about it and briefly here's her review:

"He talked a lot. About himself and what we should do."

"Was it good advice?"

"Not really. We stopped listening when he got boring and started saying the same things in diffeernt ways"

"So you were bored by the President?"

"He talked too much but didn't really say anything that mattered".

Smart girl for 10, my daughter.

ZZMike said...

He wasn't that far off the mark. What he really meant was

"Your life is what you make of it. And nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is beyond your reach, so long as you’re willing to dream big, so long as you’re willing to work hard"

... and have lots of intelligence, drive, ambition, talent, and a bit of good luck.

Pick almost every CEO or president of any small- to medium-size business, and you'll find someone who dreamt big, worked hard, and used his talent, imagination, drive, and intelligence to get where he is.

Synova gets to the heart of the matter:

"Someone does all of those things and what each of them has in common is that they didn't decide that they couldn't."

From Henry Ford (the original Ford): Whether you think you can or you can't - you're right.

Senthil said...

Awesome. I am not supporting Obama here but kids need to hear good things. Go tell your kid in school that "you can try all you want but in reality you are not going to go anywhere. so just quit school and learn to loot instead".

jamboree said...

If his back to school speech contained blatant lies, what was his campaign?

@ZZMike That's true, but it doesn't work in reverse. There are a lot more people who dreamt big and worked hard etc. and aren't CEO or equivalent. Sometimes it helped them get farther than they would have otherwise (Hillary), and sometimes it probably just made them ferociously more bitter as they saw ppl who didn't really work any harder, weren't any more ambitious and were often less bright / talented take the prize (Hillary thinking about Obama ).

Clever Monkey said...

Good grief. If he repeats an old American Dream saw he loses. If he suggested you should limit your expectation of living the American Dream he'd be in hotter water.

Moving goal-posts; one way to keep the game alive.

Paddy O said...

FLS,

But Reagan was an actor, then a President. And if we see being paid for athletic ability the key bit of a professional athlete, then his early lifeguard job makes him the ultimate in what no child should ever even try to be.

Reagan lives on Mt. Olympus, where we mortals should no longer even dare to look, let alone dream about.

Tari said...

I can't stand the man, but I'm not going to tell my children (10 and 7) that he lied to them yesterday. Most of that stuff is what you say to kids, especially when you don't know them. It's like graduation speeches - what a load of hooey, but who wants to have your graduation ruined by having the speaker say "many of you will continue to live off your parents for at least several years, ya bums."

And sometimes it's helpful. The day Sandra Day O'Connor was put on the Court, my father made me watch the evening news with him, and he told me I could be anything - look, there is a woman who was once a little girl like you and see where she is now! Am I headed for the Supreme Court? Hell no. But my sweet dad (with a GED, btw, and no other education) motivated me enough in so many ways that I did get through a top 20 law school with damn good grades, and I've been practicing law for 12 years.

So tell kids they can be what they dream about. As long as you tie it to hard work, I won't mind.

Tim H said...

You probably didn't like this one either -
If you put your effort and concentration into playing to your potential, to be the best that you can be, I don't care what the scoreboard says. At the end of the game, in my book, we're gonna be winners.

former law student said...

Reagan lives on Mt. Olympus

Yes, but first he appeared in movies where the star was a talking mule. He worked his way up and dreamt big. I'm going to give a lot of credit to what his supportive wife saw in him. Where did the other hosts of "Death Valley Days" end up? Not in the White House.

Freeman Hunt said...

The choice is not between saying (a) And nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is beyond your reach, so long as you’re willing to dream big, so long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education, there is not a single thing that any of you cannot accomplish, not a single thing. and (b) Your destiny is loserville, get used to it.

You can encourage kids without saying things that are stupid.

Also, overemphasis on institutional education. I know a lot of successful people, and the common denominator does not seem to be "worked like hell in school." That only applies to doctors, lawyers, and professors. Develop your own passions and interests and work like hell on those whether they align with what your school wants you to do or not.

Paddy O said...

FLS,

But Althouse would tell that young Reagan just to quit. Not even worth the effort. He should have become an accountant. That's much more realistic.

Especially if Democrats are in power, apparently. Give up. It's not worth it. Just sit on the corner and get drunk. Screw the dream. It's the American realism that kids need to hear.

Lynne said...

But a mom and a teacher can do wonders for one's drive.

We are reaching common ground, Pogo.

My husband has spent most of his career teaching 'at risk' kids. He's had some pretty ugly, hard-luck cases. There was this one kid I'll call Frank. Frank came from a sketchy, poor family. They moved a lot to avoid paying the rent, that type of thing. By the time he was in my husband's class, Frank had the "too cool for school" schtick down pat. Everyone expected him to drop out at 16 and hit the streets.
But he was smart. He drove my husband completely nuts sometimes, but he was smart. So my husband kept after him. Got him to actually show up to school. Raise his grades. Up his game in general.
But then the year was over, and Frank disappeared into middle school.
Nearly ten years later, I'm cleaning the livingroom one evening when the phone rings and somebody- really polite- asks for my husband. I shrug, hand over the phone, and go to fetch laundry.

Several minutes later, I wander into the living room. My husband is staring out the window.

"Who was that?" I asked.
He looked stunned.
"That was Frank," he said. "He called to tell me he's just applied to business school. He's going to earn an MBA and then he has plans to open his own business."
I asked if he meant that Frank.
"Yes, that Frank." There was a long pause. He seemed to be collecting himself.
"What is it?" I asked.
"He called to say Thank You," he said.

Ritmo Brasileiro said...

Ok. So I get it.

Competition is good. Incentives are naive and bad.

Thank you for summing up today's conservative philosophy.

Julie said...

I agree that I'd rather he didn't do this (we don't watch his little speeches, and I homeschool, so my kids are and will remain unaware of this), and I am certain Althouse is correct that he doesn't tell poor people that they are poor because they didn't dream big enough or work hard enough.

And probably, to be realistic, he should have thrown something in there about luck and good looks.

But, geez. Is the idea to tell kids that it doesn't matter how hard they work or what they want to do, they're never likely to amount to much and the most they have to look forward to is ordinariness (and, incidentally, for some percentage of the kids you tell that to, it would also turn out to be a lie) or perhaps that quiet desperation we have heard so much about?

I can hear the literacy rates dropping already.

kyle p feeley said...

Oh don't be so Annal.

Greg said...

From an old blog post of mine:

Here's an important life lesson that should be communicated to children at all times. Your role in society will probably be something that no one will want to write a book about, or translate to film. Despite that, your life will be successful. You will have a job, good friends, a special someone, a home, a community, interests, and hobbies.

I know it sounds bad, but it's part of being an adult.

iconpt said...

This blog only provokes one to think, "If this were true, how did Ms. Althouse become a law professor?" If she didn't dream about becoming one, how did she obtain the position? By the tone of this posting, I imagine she was raised in a priveledged household, which there's nothing wrong with, but it sounds like she never really had to struggle with any overwhelming obstacles in her life; other than difficult study, of course. But what this posting truly is is a blatant misunderstanding of what the President is trying to teach these children: the power of the mind. Of course, 95% of people won't succeed at what they intend to do, but not because they cannot, but because they are not willing to progressively work towards their goals. They simply don't understand that persistance and purpose are what elevates someone to their dreams, their life-long goals. Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. Otherwise we simply wouldn't have actors/actresses, athletes, ore even politicians for that matter. For example if she claims that 13% of children want to eventually be President of the United States, and only 5% of that group eventually grow up to be a successful politician, of which only ONE ends up being President, why would we discourage children to pursue their dream? As long as there is a statistic demonstrating that there is still an opportunity to become president, why remove yourself from candidacy; if that's what you really want? If someone isn't where they truly want to be, it is their own responsibilty, whether they admit so or not.

SnipingMizzy said...

Better to dream big and aim high, than to sit on your ass, feeling mediocre and accepting govt handouts.

SnipingMizzy said...

@ Jason
What's even more dumb: Obama probably didn't even write the speech. He had someone else do it, and took all the credit for himself.

Dude... all Presidents use speech writers in a majority of their speeches! Don't make it sound like this is the first time this kind of thing has happened.