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

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Comments () | Archives (17)

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foreign owned fox news is against America. they single handed caused 3/4 of our county school system to mis the presidents speach. ameican media should be 95% ameican owned


How soon you forget. When Bush 81 did them same the left wing was all over him for it. The Democrats held a hearing. As far as OB the initial speech was rewritten. So apparently there was cause for alarm.


Get real! It was not the orignal speech. There were last minute changes in the whole plan. Who do you think you all are fooling, yourself?


Neither was George HW Bush's speech, back in 1991, "scary" and yet they raked him over the coals for it. Was the author of this article equally enraged? Somehow, I think not. I guess "two-faced" would be a nice, accurate description. Anyway, it wasn't the speech that infuriated freedom loving Americans. it was the proposed "lesson plan". If you try and tell any thinking person that THIS wasn't manipulative you will get laughed at !


The truth is that BHO cannot be trusted. That is why parents wanted to review his speech before letting their children hear it.

Jimmy Lapham

Even before I read the actual text of the speech I was appalled at the knee-jerk reaction to it. It would be interesting to see which side of the Republican-Democrat fence these people are on. Some of the comments have been about how former President Bush made a speech about the importance of education and Democrats made a fuss about it. When are people going to wake the hell up and realize that this blind partisanism is contributing more to bringing this country down than anything Osama Bin Ladin can do? Cheers to ANY public official that treats education as something more than the least-politically-painful-place-to-cut-budgets. And jeers to the "technical difficulties" which are so ably avoided for so many stultifyingly sophmoric sitcoms and other drivel. And shame on the tunnel-visioned "parents" who prevented their children from seeing such an articulate, inspirational and motivational speech. Unless they are delivering such a message about the importance of education at home, they did their children a disservice.

Jimmy Lapham

You compare the Obama speech with a Schwarzeneger speech. While the comparison of articulateness is sharp, I would like to see a comparison between the Obama speech and the supposedly similar one by former President G.W. Bush referred to in some of the other comments. THAT should be interesting....


Have we really lowered the bar that much for Obama, that everyone sees a need to comment on his brilliant and beautiful speech which was directed a children. It's basically the same speech every President reads during their Administration. And those speeches don't work, nothing will change...Half the kids will continue to excel and the other half will continue to barely get by and many will drop out of school. Then education challenged community groups will come up with 1001 excuses why these underachivers do so poorly and the Government will dump a lot of money into Charter Schools for these poor performing students when it should go to the students who apply themselves...

Obama constituents are doing everything they can to make this failing President look viable again...tomorrow, someone will suggest erecting a monument in honor of Obama and the greatest speech ever...Too late, he's a sinking ship...


Just like the Armageddon that would befall us in the year 2000, the speech that was suppose to indoctrinate our youth. Now who was spreading the baseless lies…..hmm…..oh ya, “Fake News”. Is anyone real surprised? Too funny.

Ironman Carmichael

Most people of my generation will remember an annual classroom visit by a police officer or some other authority figure; if the authority figure was important enough, the whole school would be herded into the auditorium for assembly. Not only would the teachers warn us beforehand to be on our best behavior, the visitor would admonish us to be diligent, study hard, help the less fortunate, obey the laws, respect our elders, and work to make the world a better place. Afterward, we'd invariably be required to write a paper on what we learned from the visitor. Now I realize we were the victims of a radical socialist agenda. Whom do we sue?


If they do know that Hawaii was a US state when Obama was born there, what makes you think that they don't think this is part of "a socialist agenda"?



You do your readers a disservice by misrepresenting the context of the original concerns. The administration put out a curriculum component that clearly smacked up partisan politics. I wholeheartedly disagree with the 'indoctrination' argument. If your kid comes home and has a completely different set of standards because of a 20-minute speech, you've done a pretty lousy job as a parent.

But, again, the original release of information clearly came across as being particularly partisan. Okay, so maybe we give the POTUS a pass on this. Maybe we give him the benefit of the doubt that it was never intended to be more than an education pep talk. But if that's the case, those responsible for the original release of info should be taken to task (by YOU as well as the POTUS). Anyone reading the ORIGINAL press release on this issue would EASILY see how it would raise the eyebrows of some folks. Particularly at a time when there is such dissension among the American people about the direction of the country.

But you ignore this in your article. You pass on the whole 'investigative journalism' thing. You spend not a single calorie attempting to understand what actually happened. You seem pleased to live in the divide that the media fosters among Americans. Polarize folks. Paint anyone opposed to the POTUS on ANY issue as a conservative nut job.

It's really a shame that 'journalism' has been lost to 'op-ed'.

To the rest of the readers... remember, we all have a vested interest in America and each other. Our disagreements should be respected. And we should NEVER give our own party a pass on ANYTHING. In fact, we should question our own party more than we question the opposing party. Why? Because Dems don't care what Repubs thing (and vice-versa). We should be watching our own party like HAWKS. Questioning everything. And when the opposing party raises an issue, we should consider it carefully. Anyone who gives their own party a pass deserves what they get. This is the biggest mistake the R's made over the last 8 years. And I believe they have learned that lesson the hard way. The D's should learn from the R's mistakes on this one. Otherwise, 8 years from now, you'll be saying the same thing.



Selective outrage .... kinda like when the democRATs investigated Bush's speech back in the early 90's. You guys with your "agenda journalism" are a sad joke.


It's really sad it's almost 2010 and AMERICA is still battling such racist views. How can a country so divided continue to stand. We've lost our credibility with every nation because we don't practice what we preach. The nerve of parents teaching their children to not respect the leaders of our country by pulling them out of schools not because of what was said but because of the color of the man saying it. Shame on you. For years we have complained as a country about health-care and that something needs to be done well its enough tired old farts in congress (incidentally that need to be removed)to come up with a plan and get the job done. Enough already. The Limbaugh's and the likes have good health-care WE DON'T!


The office of the president, regardless of who is in that position deserves respect. President Barak Obama is the president of the United States of America, he deserves respect. Not broadcasting an uplifting speech given by the president is beyond the pale. Open your eyes, you blind ones and see OBAMA is the president, get over it.


Great article. We need to keep up our support for our wonderful president.

Dan Wickerd

'Pumping Irony'



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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