Reading between lines of Obama school speech

The White House has posted the prepared remarks President Obama is to give in his school speech. It's what any rational person would have expected from Obama - a return to his basic theme of personal responsibility. Here is a typical passage:

Im calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education and to do everything you can to meet them.Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book.Maybe youll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community.Maybe youll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn.

I imagine that critics of the president are at this moment searching between the lines for a conspiracy to radicalize the nation's youth and seeing something like this:

I'm calling on each of you to ignore what your parents, clergy and teachers say and set your own goals, no matter how low. It's up to you to decide something as simple as if you'll do your homework, pay attention in class, read the Bible or refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Maybe you'll decide to volunteer for ACORN and register voters. Maybe you'll decide to stand up for kids who are being discriminated against by serving as the plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against your school district, because you believe, like I do, that kids need to throw off their chains and act in solidarity.

Paul Moses is the author, most recently, of The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia (NYU Press, 2023). He is a contributing writer. Twitter: @PaulBMoses.

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