Obama speech may play out in different scenarios

Published 11:04 pm Saturday, September 5, 2009

The speech that’s been touted as historic may make unintended history before the first word is spoken.

That’s because protests before the fact could change the size of the audience it was written for.

In an interview last month with an 11-year-old student reporter, President Barack Obama said he would make a speech to young people stressing the importance of staying in school.

Email newsletter signup

It would be broadcast live from the White House to schools across the country.

However that announcement has sparked protests from parents and conservatives alike that there will be more politics than pep in the talk scheduled for Tuesday at noon.

To respond many schools nationwide say they will offer alternative activities for students who don’t want to hear the president.

It’s a response Randy Layne of South Point appreciates. His daughter is a student at the village’s high school.

“I don’t believe the kids should be watching it,” he said because of the possible political aspect of the event.

About a week ago Ohio State School Superintendent Deborah Delisle sent an email out to area schools informing them of the upcoming speech and that watching it would be an option to be decided on the district level. A random sampling of county schools shows a variety of responses to the question on whether or how the president’s speech will reach their students.

Mike Whitley, principal of Fairland Middle School, said his school’s media center will probably tape the speech for possible replay at a later date.

“Then we will have it available for students or teachers and the teachers would review it to determine if there is relevance to our curriculum,” Whitley said.

When Dr. Scott Howard, superintendent of Chesapeake schools, got the Delisle email he forwarded it to the principals at the district’s schools, then met with them Friday to hear their thoughts on the option of broadcasting the speech.

“If we choose to air the president’s address, if there are parents who don’t want their children to hear the address, we would provide alternative activities,” Howard said.

By the time Obama gets ready to speak, the students at South Point High will be well into the lunch hour.

“It will be made available in some of the rooms. We have TVs scattered out in the building so that students can go watch it,” South Point High principal John Maynard said. “It is not forced participation. Some may not watch, but it is not a protest, they’re just eating lunch.”

If the broadcast was coverage of a historic event, as the moonwalk was when Shayne Barnes of Ironton was in school he would have no objection to it. However, he doesn’t want his 8-year-old granddaughter watching the Obama speech on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t want that if it going to be broadcast for politics,” Barnes said.

“I think that is something adults should be watching. I don’t think it should be televised in schools. If it was something historical, I would support that, but if it is political ‘No.’”