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I remember back in 2009 when my son was starting third grade at Friendship Elementary School and he came home with a permission slip to allow him to watch the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, welcome students back to school via telecast from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia.

I thought it was ridiculous that I needed to give him permission to participate in something I considered a part of civics education, and that year was especially historic with Obama the first African American POTUS. What could he possibly say to our young citizens that might be concerning and require my consent?

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any votes .… With the terrorists you have to take out their families.… I would bomb the sh-t out of them. … When Mexico sends its people, they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, and they’re rapists. … In the good old days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast … (he’d) be carried out on a stretcher. … And, you can go tell them to f - - k themselves.”

Sorry, I digressed. Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, was squawking on the TV and I was reminded of some of his famous one-liners at rallies in a community near you.

Anticipating Obama’s speech Sept. 8, 2009, some Republicans said schoolchildren should not be required to listen to the Democratic president’s address, that it would “indoctrinate them with socialist ideology” as he would be justifying his plans for government-run healthcare, banks and automobile companies, increasing taxes on job creators, and racking up more debt. The kind of pep talk that gets every K-12 student psyched for a new school year.

Fueling the fear of indoctrination were some conservative parents in the country insisting schools seek permission for such a viewing.

Regine Gordon of Tampa, Florida, told Fox News in an online story Sept. 3, 2009, that she did not want her 6-year-old to hear from the president. “Children are very vulnerable and excited. I mean this is the president.”

Michelle Moore, mother of two high-schoolers in St. Louis, said she felt “blindsided” with the prospect of what the president might say: "I have to sign permission slips for my kids to watch R-rated movies in school."

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media writes about you as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. … You can see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever. … My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.… If (she) weren’t my daughter I’d be dating her ...”

Oops, distracted again by Trump tirades.

Wow, I see Gordon and Moore’s concerns for their children. Gordon was specifically worried about suggested lesson plan activities that encouraged students to write about what they can do to help the president. I guess Obama should not have drawn from his inner JFK, asking not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

The president challenged students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning. He told them what they were learning in school today would determine whether we as a nation could meet our greatest challenges in the future.

Inspiring 21st century leaders, he said: “We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that, if you quit on school, you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.” Read the speech here. 

Obama was not the first president to give a back-to-school talk. President George H.W. Bush gave an address to schools nationwide in 1991 from a junior high school in Washington, D.C. Among the excerpts, Bush said: “When it comes to your own education, what I'm saying is take control. Don't say school is boring and blame it on your teachers. Make your teachers work hard. Tell them you want a first-class education. Tell them that you're here to learn. Block out the kids who think it's not cool to be smart. I can't understand for the life of me what's so great about being stupid.” Read Bush's speech here.

To be fair, Politifact noted that Democrats at the time criticized Poppy Bush for giving the speech, but not because of fears he would indoctrinate students to be fascists, rather egging on the president to do more for education than lights, camera, action. Republicans defended the right of the president to address students. "Why is it political for the president of the United States to discuss education?" asked then House Republican whip Newt Gingrich. "It was done at a nonpolitical site and was beamed to a nonpolitical audience."

I guess it all depends on if your guy is in office. And, what if the Republican guy makes it into office? Shudder to think.

“Welcome back to school. It’s going to be great, really great. We’re going to be cutting tremendous amounts of money from education, may cut the Department of Education, and I want you to know I think Common Core is a very bad thing, a total disaster. A shout out to the babies in the room, and you know I love babies, believe me, except when they’re crying. No pre-K for you! Now get out here! I’m not going to take a lot of your time, because I have no policies on education. But what I can say is learn to write good. And, don’t be blinded by science, climate change for instance is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Remember that when it snows and you get the day off. Sorry to scare you, but our schools are not safe. Don’t worry though we’re going to arm everyone, even you, with a gun. No one will mess with you then, but if they do, just knock the hell out of them; I’ll pay your legal fees. In the end, if you make it through, you can come to Trump University and learn the art of the deal. I love the poorly educated!”

Of course, I made this word salad up using quotes from Trump’s word salads. But I have to ask: Will moms like the ones in Tampa and St. Louis feel good about their impressionable kids hearing from Trump? How about the parents of the 2,084 students who did not receive consent at Southern York County School District to listen to Obama (as reported by The York Dispatch Sept. 9, 2009)?

My son was among the 1,155 students who did. And, God forbid, if Trump becomes president I will allow him to listen to this chump to help him be a critical thinker and understand how important it is for him to have a voice in our government and to fight for what he believes in. Fortunately, there are plenty of articles out there already advising: “How to talk with your kids about Donald Trump”.

— Deborah Yonick is a professional writer and columnist who lives in Codorus Township and is a member of the editorial advisory board for The York Dispatch.

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