The Department Of Education has sent out some sample lesson plans centered around the speech. The plans include these gems:
*What do you think the president wants us to do?
*Does the speech make you want to do anything?
*Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
*What would you like to tell the president?
The unfortunate business about How You Can Help The President With His Plans has already been purged from the Department Of Education website, and for good reason.
"What would you like to tell the president?"
Do they really want to ask 10th graders that question???? I don't know about you, but after listening to 30 minutes of earnest BigBrotherisms from Obama, followed by another half hour of earnest, wholesome NewSpeak from the teacher, I'd be tempted to contribute to the United States' record drop-out rate.
But when I got back from work tonight, I remembered something. Other teachers of mine have encouraged letters to the president. And since I'm a compulsive pack rat, I was able to dig into my scrapbook for copies of those letters.
Here's one that Mrs. Norwood, my first grade teacher at A.W. James Elementary School in Drew, Mississippi, encouraged me to write way back in 1967:
DEAR PRESDnT JONSON,
WE HERD YOU ON TV LAST NIGHt.
THEN WE SAW FUNNY LOKING PEEPL CALLeD hiPPIES SAyING "HAY HAY LBJ, HOW MaNY KIDS DID YOU KILL tODAY?"
PLEASE DON'T KiLL ME. YOU CAn HAVE bOTH of MY SISTeRS.
Even then I had a natural fear of government. Several years went by before another teacher thought we needed to write letters to the president. In 1971, Mrs. Cash, my math teacher at North Sunflower Academy, made us watch a 16mm movie of President Nixon in class. Here's what followed:
Dear Mr. President Nixon,
We watched a movie of you in math today. You said nobody could raise prices or get pay raises any more. You said we have to stop Inflation.
Wouldn't it be better to stop printing any more money?
I'm in the 4th grade. A girl named Brenda Kay Sullivan that I like is in 3rd grade, but she doesnt like me.
Please try not making new money for a while. If that idea works, can you invite me to The White House for a party? And can I invite Brenda Kay Sullivan? She might like me then.
The Whited Sepulchre,
I had forgotten about that one. I don't think our phone ever rang with calls from Washington.
Here's another one from when I was about 15. Inflation was running rampant, and Gerald Ford tried to fight it by encouraging everyone to wear a W.I.N. button. (It stood for "Whip Inflation Now". With God As My Witness, that's how Gerald Ford tried to stop inflation. Giving people buttons.) Coach Johnny Nichols, our history teacher, told us to watch the news one night and then write a letter of encouragement to President Ford. This was the best I could do because my mind was elsewhere:
Prices are going up on everything. My father says it's because when you suddenly dump a lot more of a valuable thing into a place, the amount its worth goes down. That's what you're doing with money. But if the valuable thing suddenly becomes more scarce, the value of it goes up even higher. Maybe you should start burning money instead of printing it.
Let me put it this way. I want Brenda Kay Sullivan to be my girlfriend and she isn't interested in me. But if I was the only boy in our school, she probably would be interested, because I would be rare. I'd be the only one.
Mary Lynn Godfrey said she wouldn't go out with me if I was the last boy on earth, but I bet she would if all the other guys were dead. Or gay.
That's why I don't think your W.I.N. buttons are going to work.
P.S., the only reason I'm writing this is for the grade.
A few years later, the great Ruby Sue Issa, History-Social Studies teacher extraordinaire, showed us one of the first videotapes we'd ever seen. It was one of President Carter's fireside chats. Mrs. Issa insisted that we write a letter to Mr. Carter about the video.
What do you mean, we're suffering from "Malaise" ????
I'm 18 and I have my whole life ahead of me, my father is paying me minimum wage for 40 hour weeks on the farm, and I've got a girlfriend ! ! I've got a car ! !
Speak for yourself, Mr. Peanut.
Also, my girlfriend, Brenda Kay Sullivan, thinks you look like a nerd giving speeches in those cardigan sweaters. You have the same job that George Washington held. Please put on a suit.
The Whited Sepulchre
P.S. - I read that interview you did, the one where you confessed that you sometimes have lust in your heart? The interview wasn't very interesting, but the pictures in that magazine were GREAT !
After that, I was out of high school and didn't have to write any more letters for grades. That doesn't mean the letters stopped, though. Here's a masterpiece of honesty from the early 80's. I have no idea why I have a copy. Maybe the Tri-Delts didn't mail mine with everyone else's:
Dear President Reagan,
My girlfriend at Delta State University is a Tri-Delt, and politically they're all somewhere off to the right of Barry Goldwater. A lot of them have bumperstickers that say "voTe", and the "T" looks like a Christian cross. As if Jesus taught that we should always try to get government involved.
The Tri-Delts are insisting that their pledges and their boyfriends write you a get-well-soon card. Brenda Kay Sullivan, my girlfriend, is hell-bent on being a Tri-Delt, and she's insisted that I write this.
Well, I'm sorry you got shot, and I hope you get well soon. Otherwise, George Bush will be president, and I can't imagine that working out well.
The Whited Sepulchre
I was out of school soon after that. No more letters. But guess what we found while cleaning out The Aggie's room after she went back to college a couple of weeks ago? Yep, a letter to the President, written in 1999:
Dear President Clinton,
Mr. Graham is my teacher at St. Paul Lutheran and he says we need to ask you a question in a letter. Here is my question. Whenever you are on TV my Dad starts saying WAS SHE WORTH IT, BILL? WAS SHE WORTH IT, BILL??
What is my Dad talking about? He won't tell me.
The Future Aggie
P.S. When I grow up, I want to go to Texas A&M for college because that's where Michael is going. My Dad says a boyfriend is not a good enough reason to go there. I think he had a girlfriend in school that didn't work out. He says it's something called Buyer's Remorse.
Do people ever feel that way after they vote for a President?
Thanks to Stephen Smith at "A Beginner's Guide To Freedom" for the picture of the W.I.N. button. Stephen is the only person I've ever met who remembers WIN buttons
And to mis-quote Jimmy Durante, "Good Night, Brenda Kay Sullivan, wherever you are...."