BEACON FALLS — At Woodland Regional High School, President Barack Obama’s contentious address to schoolchildren Tuesday was met more with enthusiasm than with the vitriol propagated by right-wing pundits for days.
Though five students were allowed to pass the 20 minutes in the auditorium and out of earshot of the speech, in accordance with the wishes of their parents, most students watched Obama’s remarks on the value and importance of education with rapt attention.
The Obama administration fully disclosed the prepared remarks before Tuesday’s live address, but some parents were not assuaged by its seemingly apolitical nature.
The address largely consisted of encouragement to struggling students and entreaties that those tuned in would stay in school, pay attention to their teachers and “listen to their parents, grandparents, and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.”
“I expect you to get serious this year,” Obama said in the address. “I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down—don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.”
Dr. Arnold Frank, Woodland’s principal, said he doesn’t know “how anyone could argue” with Obama’s overarching message.
Though many of Obama’s policies have inspired sharp division, some Republicans, such as former First Lady Laura Bush, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and even Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer, who just last week lambasted Obama’s plan, calling it an attempt to “indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda,” have since commented publicly in support of the address.
Following the speech, Frank led a discussion in a classroom full of unpracticed freshmen about the ideas expounded in the address.
One student approved of Obama’s appeals to dedication and hard work, saying it was good for him to communicate that “you actually have to work to get something—you can’t just get it.”
Another student said that Obama’s imposition in the classroom was “inappropriate,” and another dismissed the idea that Obama could have had any discernable influence, saying “I still think a lot of kids are going to drop out of school.”
According to Frank, the national dropout rate stands somewhere around 30 percent and rises as high as 50 percent in urban areas.