Through the circuitous route of checking in on Julian Sanchez and following him to his new digs, I came across a link to a supposedly "terrific" explanation of why people might object to the POTUS addressing the nation's school children. I don't know if "terrific" is the word I would use. "Knuckle-headed" seems more apt. Writes Don Boudreaux:
For the record, I oppose all such “Great Leader” poses, regardless of the party affiliation of the Great Leader du jour. The idea that we should be ‘inspired’ by winners of political elections — the notion that successful politicians have some special wisdom to impart — the stupid consensus that high political office renders its holders unusually trustworthy when delivering clusters of cliches — is intolerable to men and women who value freedom and individuality.
I shall try to use very small words, in order that my point is communicated effectively. I do not think the sitting President of the United States is a "Great Leader." I think he (or she, one fine day) is, simply, the leader. An address from the nation's leader (which, yes, is likely to be rife with cliches) is not the same as "indoctrination," as some of the more unhinged critics claimed. It is an address to a group of people by the leader of the nation. Students are citizens (as a general rule) and listening to what the leader of one's country has to say is an integral part of informed citizenship.

Does this equate with being "render[ed]... unusually trustworthy"? No. I think the last President had as much of a right to address our nation's pupils and expect their respectful attention as our current one, and I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him with a broken arm. Indeed, part of good civics education is attending to what elected leaders have to say, and offering reasoned criticism of those parts one does not agree with. But hyperventilating about indoctrination and recommending that kids opt out of watching the address inculcates the idea that the best way of confronting one's ideological or political opponents is to refuse to engage in dialogue and to accuse them of intentions that have no actual bearing on reality. In other words, to behave like the GOP as currently iterated.

Boudreaux also loses major points for (in a letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he reprints elsewhere in the post) referencing the most trite, obvious Pink Floyd song ever written in a misbegotten effort to infuse his rhetoric with cool.


  1. Two points. First, I agree with you that the President of the US is not a Great Leader, regardless of who holds the office. But I'm concerned that the current occupant doesn't share that view. Anyone who feels the need to design and use a seal for the "Office of the President-Elect" has a serious ego problem. Preening before the nations schoolchildren that one is singlehandedly (the pronoun was "I") working for better facilities is unseemly and best.

    Second, while I agree that part of our civics education ought to be attending to what elected officials say and offering reasoned criticism thereof, the K-5 cohort is simply not equipped in the art of reasoned criticism. Older students would benefit from a gentle intro to a citizen's responsibilities. I asked my children about the speech; they laughed and said the teachers were essentially saying BEST. PRESIDENT. EVAH. in the after-speech discussion. That's not a lesson I think appropriate for any age group in school.

  2. John, I would be delighted if you could convince me that any occupant of the Oval Office ever did not have an ego problem. (Well... maybe Carter.) As I recall, a certain recent occupant apparently believed he was there because God had ordained it. "The President is an egotist" is not a valid reason to ignore what he says, though you are free to dislike him as much as you care to.

    And, while the K-5 cohort may not be equipped in the art of reasoned criticism, that's why they have teachers who can help guide the discussion and get them to learn how to discuss what the nation's leaders have to say. While I agree that "BEST. PRESIDENT. EVAH." may not be the most nuanced discussion point I've ever seen, that's:

    1) Perhaps an indication that your kids simply don't like the President any more than you do, which is their right as citizens,

    2) Not a reason to skip the speech itself.

  3. Dan, this is all part of the balderdash that no one needs role models, that it is anti-egalitarian to have any. I doubt any school would turn down an invitation from Michael Jordon to give a speech about staying in school and avoiding drugs, and he is just a retired basketball player.
    Years ago there was a Little Rascals short about some child who when asked what he wanted to be, instead of saying the requisite "I want to be President" said "I want to be a streetcar conductor" which drove all the adults batty. Of course at the time that could only be asked about white children, it is only now that any child, black, white, male, female (and I believe gay or straight) can say they want to be President. Back then people knew the President was our collective role model. Now when aspirating have never been higher, we knock down what it means to be President.


  4. aspirations not aspirating, hah.

  5. If you read Washington's speeches and letters, I'd bet you would conclude he had no ego problem, Dan. Maybe Lincoln, but I don't really know enough about his life (and someday, I'd like to remedy that).

    Otherwise, from at least 1900 on, you had to have an ego that few possess to make it to the WH. Pres. Barry O[1] has an ego that surpasses mythic proportions. In a collection of Presidents, he will stand out. In fact, if you could buy him for what he's worth and sell him for what he thinks he's worth, we could pay off the national debt and fund free medical care for the next century at a minimum. Alas, the pool of buyers grows smaller every day.