Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Understanding History

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.
President Obama's School Speech, Sept. 2009

When did we become a country afraid of our own founding principles? Democracy flourishes when citizens talk with each other; with their neighbors who have different political ideals, with their colleagues who attend a different synagogue, and with their children about the sacrifice it takes to be a public servant in this age of instant gratification. Somewhere down the line, it became OK to vilify a political opponent, to refer to him or her as a Communist/Socialist/Facist/Redneck/Etc. This occurs on both the left and right but President Obama has become a lightening rod for the fear we all carry about where our country is heading.

Last week, our school superintendent sent out a notice informing parents that our children would not be watching the President's speech to school children. Our children would have the opportunity to view the speech later in the week. My simple question was and is why? How do we teach our children to honor the office of the president of the United States when we imply that what he has to say is so subversive, it needs to be censored? We also missed an opportunity to join in community-building on a national level. My son could have talked to his cousin in Texas about what the president was saying to both of them.

As the day went on, and the school I work for in a different city made the same decision, I felt a sense of hopelessness about how polarized our country has become. When did we become so fearful of our politicians? How could school district after school district make a decision that goes against what has saved this country time and time again? Open and honest dialogue...especially when you don't agree with what your leaders are saying.

Our family watched the speech that night and I was proud of our President. I have always honored the office and will teach my children the same. No matter what one's politics are, it is a supreme sacrifice to serve in this day and age. An age where the media wants to know what kind of underwear you wear, where you are accused of destroying the country by suggesting that health care is a right, not a privilege, and where our communities are so divided, we stop trusting one another. History has taught us that censorship is never the answer. I hope the students bring that up when they are allowed to watch 5 minutes of the president's speech on Friday.

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