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September 20, 2009

He has a higher security clearance than the school bus driver. So shouldn't you be able to trust him with your kids?

Presidential%20seal Being in the the shadow of the capital, one might think every public school within 50 miles of the Beltway would be showing the speech President Obama delivered on the first day of school. A speech delivered in Arlington Virginia. Can't get much more local than that. Well, think again.

Last week my son's elementary school principal sent home a note to all of the parents informing us the president's speech to children will be shown in a couple of days. The note stated it was being sent home in response to several parental inquiries regarding the showing of President Obama's speech to school children in Arlington. It included information for parents who may wish to request an "Opt Out" for their child. The note shared that an alternate activity would be offered to those children who would not be watching the president's speech. I heard my grandmother's voice in my head, "What has gotten into these people?"

Indeed. Something is seriously amiss.

I remember in 1981 my mother was a delegate to the White House Conference On Aging. She brought me along with her and while she was spending her day caucusing and attending sessions, I was checking out the museums on the mall and coming back in time to meet her in the hotel ballroom for lunch and dinner. I even got to meet Ted Kennedy who hosted a reception for the New England Delegation in his own office. He clapped me on the shoulder so hard I swore he must have thought I was choking on a carrot stick. and said in a warm and booming voice, "Good to see you!" I also got to sit next to Christopher Dodd on the sofa and talk to him about how I was missing school to be in DC that week. He told me it was a really good reason and maybe I would be interested in working in DC one day. (Shut up. I can have a Senator as my psychic friend.)

One afternoon during the conference I showed up for lunch and there was an airport-style metal detector set up outside of the door to the ballroom. I sauntered through it and made my way into the ballroom for lunch oblivious to the man in the suit chasing me and yelling, "Miss! You can't go in there!" We didn't have the Secret Service routinely running around New Haven. I wasn't used to this sort of thing. So when I realized some big guy was running after me, I got scared and put my tush down in the first open chair I could find. It happened to be the table chock full of delegates from Ohio.

When the Secret Service caught up to me at the table, I was instructed, "Young lady, you will have to leave. The president will be speaking to the delegates and the delegates only. No guests. I am going to have to escort you out of the ballroom right now." Next thing I knew, I hear voices of dissent saying things like, "You are going to deny a child the opportunity of hearing her president speak?" and "Sir, what you are doing is un-American. All Americans have the right to hear their president address his citizens." and finally, "You stay right there dear, don't move. This man isn't taking you anywhere without a fight!" Seeing that he was outnumbered, the agent made a hasty retreat. Advantage goes to the octogenarians from Ohio!

Was Reagan the candidate my family supported during the election? Oh hell no. However he took the oath of office and became our nation's president. When my mother saw me sitting with my new Mid-Western friends at lunch, she did not haul me out of the room telling me, "Devra, we did not vote for this man, so you won't be hearing him. Here's 5 dollars, go get yourself a Happy Meal." She waved to me and pointed to where she would be sitting so I could find her later.

And there I sat, listening to a president I did not agree with politically yet understood that because he took that oath of office to be our president,the Office of the President should be respected. I was taught by my parents to do that regardless of any political affliliation I might have personally. It wasn't all about me, it was all about protocol.

But it was the last line of President Reagan's speech which gives insight into why the Ohio delegates went up against the Secret Service to secure my seat at the speech.

"We have much to offer, a great deal to offer. Let our children and our children's children one day say of us, the world that they live in is better because we were here before them."

My Ohio defenders were making sure I got my history lesson; The actions of those who came before me impact me now. Those who will come after me will be impacted by what I do at this present time.

Pithy lesson for a 14 year old but I still remember it over two decades later and at the risk of sounding like I am writing a middle school essay about the experience, I do believe that experience impacted me as a person as well as a parent. (Although this realization came much later).In 1981 I was merely a rebellious teen who, in my mind, was making fun of the president's shellacked hair and was blown away that a group of "old folks" were even more badass than I was.

So why on earth an "opt out" now for children to hear the president speak? What lesson does it teach our children? If we don't agree with a person we pretend that person doesn't exist. How disrespectful. This is the President of the United States of America. Why do we give the Sally Foster fundraising presentation more respect than the POTUS? I haven't been sent home an "opt out" for that craptastic waste of time held during school hours.

I suppose it could be argued parental involvement in education means parents should be able to preview the president's speech before it is shown to our children. Okay, but are parents reviewing every textbook and lesson plan the teacher is presenting to our children? Are we requiring invited guests for a school-wide assembly meet with concerned parents prior to performing or presenting to the student body? How about we don't let our kids check out school library books before we read the volumes ourselves? Do you have time for any of that? What if it were required of parents that we do all of that for every child we sent to school? Ridiculous, right?

Sadly we are living in a society where ridiculous currently rules. Kanye West at the VMA's? Ridiculous. Serena Williams at the US Open? Ridiculous. Joe Wilson on the Congressional floor? Ridiculous.

Again I hear my grandmother's voice asking, "What's gotten into these people?" We all know that question is meant as a rhetorical way to bring attention to a problem someone sees but may not be able to do anything about personally.

How about we change what we hear just a little? Ask a question in our own mind so the answer to it holds us personally accountable for our decisions and our actions? After all, parents are the primary role models for our children. It's important we be able to identify if we are in fact being ridiculous. Surely there is a question we can propose as a candidate to keep our own choices in check.

I nominate,"What's gotten into me?" Got another you want to nominate? I'll be happy to listen to whatever you have to say...regardless of whether I agree with it or not.

Original DC Metro Moms Post.  The Secret Service, and anyone else, can track down Devra over at Parentopia, Draft Day Suit and Loser Moms.

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