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President Obama and the big scary education speech - and other fairy tales

September 8, 2009 |  8:39 pm

How about that Marxist/socialist/fascist/radical/mind-control speech President Obama delivered to those defenseless schoolkids, huh?

The most that the off-their-rockers right-wingers can salvage from the president’s remarkable speech is their claim now that it was their hue and cry that made him jettison his original speech and substitute a simple, inspiring one.

Sure, sure. Now, you go have a nice lie-down and rest a bit.

Let’s compare what the president had to say with, say, what Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the new graduates of USC back in the spring:

Obama:

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.  And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Schwarzenegger: 

Work your butt off. You never want to fail because you didn't work hard enough. I never wanted to lose a competition or lose an election because I didn't work hard enough. I always believed leaving no stone unturned.  Muhammad Ali, one of my great heroes, had a great line in the '70s when he was asked, 'How many sit-ups do you do?' He said, 'I don't count my sit-ups. I only start counting when it starts hurting. When I feel pain, that's when I start counting, because that's when it really counts.'  That's what makes you a champion. And that's the way it is with everything. No pain, no gain. So many of those lessons that I apply in life I have learned from sports, let me tell you, and especially that one. And let me tell you, it is important to have fun in life, of course. But when you're out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that. Now, if you want to coast through life, don't pay attention to any of those rules.  But if you want to win, there is absolutely no way around hard, hard work.

Obama:

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- 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.  But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.  That’s OK.  Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected 12 times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, 'I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.' These people succeed because they understand that you can't let your failures define you -- you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying. No one's born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work.

Schwarzenegger:  

So, like I said, I decided to run, I didn't pay attention to the rules. And I made it and the rest is history. Which, of course, brings me to rule number three: Don't be afraid to fail. Anything I've ever attempted, I was always willing to fail. In the movie business, I remember, that you pick scripts. Many times you think this is a wining script, but then, of course, you find out later on, when you do the movie, that it didn't work and the movie goes in the toilet.  Now, we have seen my movies; I mean, 'Red Sonja,' 'Hercules in New York,' 'Last Action Hero.' Those movies went in the toilet. But that's OK, because at the same time I made movies like 'Terminator' and 'Conan' and 'True Lies' and 'Predator' and 'Twins' that went through the roof. So you can't always win, but don't afraid of making decisions.  You can't be paralyzed by fear of failure or you will never push yourself. You keep pushing because you believe in yourself and in your vision and you know that it is the right thing to do, and success will come. So don't be afraid to fail. Which brings me to rule number four, which is: Don’t listen to the naysayers. How many times have you heard that you can't do this and you can't do that and it's never been done before? Just imagine if Bill Gates had quit when people said it can't be done.

Obama: 

But at 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. And even when you're struggling, 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.

Schwarzenegger: 

I recognized very quickly that inside my head and heart were a burning desire to leave my small village in Austria -- not that there was anything wrong with Austria, it's a beautiful country. But I wanted to leave that little place and I wanted to be part of something big, the United States of America, a powerful nation, the place where dreams can come true. I knew when I came over here I could realize my dreams. And I decided that the best way for me to come to America was to become a bodybuilding champion. ... And I went home and I said to my family, 'I want to be a bodybuilding champion.'  Now, you can imagine how that went over in my home in Austria, they couldn't believe it. They would have been just happy if I would have become a police officer like my father, or married someone like Heidi, had a bunch of kids and run around like the von Trapp family in '[The] Sound of Music.' That's what my family had in mind for me, but something else burned inside me. Something burned inside me. I wanted to be different; I was determined to be unique. I was driven to think big and to dream big. Everyone else thought that I was crazy. … But I didn't care. I wanted to be a bodybuilding champion and use that to come to America, and use that to go into the movies and make millions of dollars. … I wanted to become a champion; I was on a mission. So rule number one is, of course, trust yourself, no matter how and what anyone else thinks.

You get the idea. Now, perhaps the rockers will too. This is a speech a Republican president could have given. Laura Bush, who was married to one, thought it was a good idea. Newt Gingrich, who’d like to be one, gave it his endorsement.

Right, move along now, nothing to see.

-- Patt Morrison

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