A teacher gave her class an assignment.
They were to write a speech. They were to write a speech, but do so in a conciliatory manner. They should use Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural as a model. They were not to gloat, and were not to have a hostile tone.
One little girl apparently wrote a speech on “Obama’s Lies”. The teacher was distressed. The student had not gotten the assignment right. The teacher produced a “model speech’ which shows what she wanted. Here it is: (the bolding etc is mine)
There’s an oxymoron every student knows, and it’s not “jumbo shrimp.” Instead, it is the foreboding first line of Charles Dickens’ A TALE OF TWO CITIES: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Such apt words, such a universal, timeless statement.
I wish I could say that this line also applies to now, but it doesn’t—not quite. And that is not because we aren’t (yet) living in a worse dystopia than was seen during the French Revolution, but rather, because I don’t believe “the best of times” is a correct representation of the year 2010.
This is a pretty bad year. We’ve had bad years for the past ten years, in fact.
When did these bad times start? When you were small, innocent children.
I can’t blame you for not remembering the good years, when our politicians aimed to help us, when America had honor, when our dollar was strong and foreigners didn’t want to blow us up.
All you’ve ever really known is America at war—and then, as a result of inept or corrupt political decisions, the resulting financial crisis, with people losing jobs, and worse, losing their homes.
But even though you were too young to understand the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision in the contested 2000 race for the U.S. presidency, you may have had friends or relatives who cheered this.
We think the way we are taught, so can you be faulted for not knowing the entire, sordid story?
I also realize that we are now a deeply divided, highly partisan nation. Half of us think one way; half of us believe those people are utterly wrong.
But it’s useless to point fingers now, to blame. That is not my intent.
I see no good, no purpose in doing that. Atonement will be required at a later date, I expect. Universal law decrees that those who hurt others eventually have to realize the error of their ways.
What I seek now, all I ask, is to see you open your minds and consider all the sides of this gray present, and the bleak, seemingly-hopeless future that we share. Consider it, and then vote to change it, to make things better.
Life is not black and white; it is much more complicated than that, and our current problems—which grow more severe every day—have been a long time coming. They cannot be fixed in thirteen months, especially when our Congress has so many obstructionist members, when misinformation and nasty rumors are going around, when so-called “patriots” openly tote assault rifles to Presidential speeches, quietly threatening violence.
What we need at this point is to move toward change, to enact positive reforms that may not do much to fix things right now but at least will protect the lives and livelihood of you as adults and also our future generations.
You are, of course, part of this future. Your livelihood is at stake, as is my children’s, so I hope you educate yourselves on how we got here, and how we can move forward toward better days.
I think you are old enough now to know that one of President Bush’s very first actions was, as most new leaders understandably decide, to undo what his predecessor had wrought. He chose to begin by substantially weakening environmental reforms that protect our air and our water.
Then, he launched our nation into protracted war in the Middle East—a war that may have seemed on the surface to have noble intentions, but was later denounced as a sham, as a scheme to either avenge his Poppy or make money for his best friends, Dick Cheney and the Arab Sheiks.
Why did Bush do this? Because his political party believes that environmental protections limit the amount of money that certain companies can make. And also, because nothing boosts certain businesses like war (or ensures re-election quite as well).
Then again, nothing costs money like war.
Goodbye, economic surplus engineered by President Clinton. Hello, historically high deficits…you’ll be paying those off for your entire lives, so I hope they seem like they were worth it.
What I want you to understand now is that this party is not actually the pro-life party, even though it has assumed the reversal of Roe v. Wade as one of its pet projects. It is, more significantly, the pro-money party, the party that is almost wholly concerned with Big Business.
This may not sound so bad on the surface—after all, business makes the world go ‘round. Money is essential to life.
But I ask you: when your babies (if you can even conceive babies thanks to the level of contaminants you’ve consumed via food and water) have terrible asthma as a result of air pollution; when you or your children die in the hospital from antibiotic resistant cholera or tuberculosis that comes from tainted reservoirs and unsanitary, overcrowded cities or public transportation, will you appreciate that more pollution has been allowed to fester since the year 2000, that fewer regulations are in place?
Will you applaud the drastic weakening of the EPA?
Will you care that certain companies earned larger profits for a few years because they weren’t restricted from polluting the rivers and the air?
Will you cheer the development of open land and increasing deforestation, the loss of millions more carbon dioxide-consuming trees?
Will you be happy that there are no more fields for your children to play in, that you can’t buy a tomato that tastes good, that a few corporations control all the media in the world?
Will it boost your spirits to know that you can’t ever live as well as your parents did, and that previous voters and lawmakers decided to do away with social programs that might have helped you?
Will you be pleased that health insurance costs $4,000 a month (if not more) –possibly more than half of your entire income?
Will you enjoy paying off your student loans until you are 60? Will you feel confident that you will even be able to get a job?
Will you think your children are getting a good education in schools with no gym, no art, hardly any music and months every year filled with fill-in-the-bubble standardized tests?
What is more important, I wonder—making money right now, or preserving the earth and what makes life worth living for later generations?
I don’t think that a reasonable, responsible person would ever answer that money is more important than life. Yes, money is essential to life, but when 1% of the population controls 99% of the wealth, how can the majority of people live?
How can a member of that 1% not feel a moral obligation to help those who have less?
How can any members of the richest groups in America not want to vote for programs that will ease the burdens on young adults, and make progress in all areas of American life possible? Don’t these people owe a debt to society for enabling them to be successful? And shouldn’t we all want our food and water to be clean? Don’t we all hope that our air is not filled with particulates, chemicals and smog?
We all hear that “what goes around comes around,” so does this also apply to money, and how we vote?
Maybe it also means that if you do good, if you think of others and try to help them, that you yourself will be helped.
Think about it.
I understand that it’s hard to think clearly because right now, televisions and talk radios blare with the cacophony of those who criticize our current president, Barack Obama, and somehow blame him for not being able to fix in a matter of months the years-long-in-the-making mess he inherited. There’s a tremendous amount of anger in the air, on both sides.
But how can President Obama fix anything when certain members of Congress, mostly members of the opposing party, simply vote NO en masse to ensure that he is impotent?
What do people expect from him, if they are willing to endure the sycophants and the hypocrites who don’t want to help others yet also blame this president for not doing more to help? How can we as Americans ever make any sort of progress?
I assume you care about all of this. I expect it keeps you up at night—as it does me.
And why should you care?
First, you should care because it is unpleasant—indeed, miserable—to live in a land where people yell at each other for “lying” when those same people make it impossible for the truth to be acknowledged.
I ask simply that you become informed, well-read citizens who care about the future.
You should care because it is not just your future that is at stake. It is also your childrens’.
I wish that those who came before me had worried more about my life and how things would be for my family.
I care about you—though it may be too late for my life to improve much given the political rumblings that started happening when I was a young adult, the debates that stagnate, the self-serving politicians who think only about re-election and not about making a difference.
We now live in world that is full of bests and worsts, as Dickens wrote. I can appreciate the “bests” around me—technology, mostly. The “worsts” are glaringly obvious: savage political divisions, financial disparities, increased pollution, rising costs of health insurance, overwhelming ignorance and materialism and wrong-headed laws such as “No Child Left Behind.”
You are also part of the “bests,” however—best as in our Best Hope.
Your task now is not to sell out your children.
Think of the future. There is more to consider than simply right now; there is more to life than party A or party B.
There is the good of humanity to consider.
How will you do your part to ensure a brighter future, to help not only yourselves but all those around you? The future is in your hands. Vote, when you have the vote, for the brightest, cleanest, safest, happiest possible future.
Now, what grade would you give that little girl? Probably not a very high grade. She seems to have missed the whole point of the assignment. All we got was blame, and a harsh, freaky tone.
Oh wait. That was the teacher’s model speech. This was the model of even handed, gracious tone.