It looks like the criticism over presidential speeches to school children is nothing new. It turns out that Democrats criticized the first President Bush for making such a speech back in 1991.
I found this Associated Press report through a Nexis search. The main focus of the criticism was on the cost of the televised speech, but some critics also viewed it as a political move. Sounds eerily familiar to the criticism voiced against President Obama’s recent speech to school kids, doesn’t it? Except, actual Congressional hearings took place over the Bush speech.
The then-Secretary of Education, Lamar Alexander, defended the speech in a hearing by noting that to let the president “go to a seventh grade classroom and speak to the children of America about the value of education … unless I’m missing something … seems to be exactly what the president ought to be doing.” That also sounds like a familiar defense.
Also of note is that the National Education Association (NEA) criticized Bush for the speech. In another article I found through Nexis, the then-president of the NEA was reported to have said the following:
… the NEA could not endorse a president who spent $ 26,000 of taxpayer money to televise a speech he recently gave at a Washington D.C. high school “while cutting school lunch funds for the neediest youngsters.”
No criticism of Obama’s speech has come from the NEA. In fact, they have covered it favorably on their site.
Those accusing Obama critics of overly hyping the significance of his speech should remember the way Bush’s critics reacted to a similar speech. Politics is politics. There really is nothing new under the sun.