Parents must ensure students have open minds about presidents, politics

I have been following the health care hassle with interest and even some amusement. At first the Republican far-right protests seemed just silly, But then they got more and more vicious.

I watched the town hall meetings, with yelling and screaming and name-calling and occasional guns. There wasn’t anything funny about them.

I certainly don’t understand the details of the attempt to achieve universal health care. But I understand even less how a man who was elected president of the United States by 60 percent of Americans on a platform of change has suddenly been turned by the right wing into something akin to Hitler. He looks the same and his voice is the same and I have not once heard him say “Heil.” But some on the far right are trying to convince the rest of us that it is true.

They say the Democrats are trying to take over the country, to make us a socialist nation.

I was even willing to give them credit again for just being silly and ignorant for their not knowing the difference between fascism, communism, socialism and democracy.

Then they dropped health care for a few days and rushed to protect their children from a speech to be broadcast by the president, which urged the children to study hard and stay in school.

Then I received a copy of a letter my son, Dave, sent to the Houston Chronicle. It made me realize that if my little kid (well, he is a little past 60) would speak out, his mother should do it too.

This is part of his letter:

“I am dumbfounded. The president of the United States wants to speak directly to the youth of America on the importance of education in their lives. This is a message that goes to the heart of preparing this nation for all perils it has to face. It is only an educated population that will be able to defend us against all the currently unknown hazards that the future is going to throw our way.

“I weep for our future.”

The whole political situation today is enough to make us all weep. We have a serious two-party health care fight going on, we’re involved in two wars and have a deficit nearing $1.6 trillion. Yet we have time to worry about letting the president urge our kids to stay in school? 

He spoke directly to students Tuesday about the need to work hard and stay in school. His address was shown live from the White House. But before the speech was presented, some Republican critics were calling it an effort to foist a political agenda on children, creating yet another confrontation with the White House.

Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush both spoke to the school children early in their administrations. The nation did not fall apart.

Probably not many students stayed in school simply as a result of the Reagan and Bush speeches, nor will they necessarily follow Mr. Obama’s advice. But all three were efforts to make contact with the youth of the country.

I would venture the opinion that lots of the kids whose parents did not want them contaminated know Rush Limbaugh fairly well.

School Districts in states such as Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin decided not to show the speech to students. Others let parents decide whether to have their children opt out.

Most schools in School District 51 gave parents an option. Many schools sent notes home for parents to sign if they wished their children to see it.

I think of some of these children years from now. They will know that in their most sensitive years they were denied a chance to listen to their president because their parents thought it would damage them. What will they think of the office of the president of the United States? Will they be able to understand that their government has its good points and its bad points — and that they need to understand both? Will they want to learn or will they be restricted by prejudice? 

Come on, kids, open your minds.

Henrietta Hay can be reached by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and on the Web at


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