President Barack Obama delivered his promised speech to students on September 8th, 2009, and various Utah media outlets report mostly favorable reaction by students of all political stripes, with very few choosing to opt out. Media stories published by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, KSL Channel 5, KUTV Channel 2, and KSTU Channel 13.
According to a separate Deseret News story, in a pep talk that kept clear of politics, President Barack Obama on challenged the nation's students to take pride in their education — and stick with it even if they don't like every class or must overcome tough circumstances at home. "Every single one of you has something that you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer," Obama told students at Wakefield High School in suburban Arlington, Va., and children watching his speech on television in schools across the country. "And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is."
The school he chose as the setting for his talk — Wakefield — is the most economically and racially diverse school in Arlington County, according to the Department of Education. Nearly 40 percent of graduating seniors pass an Advanced Placement test. That's more than twice the national average.
CNN video of the full speech (13:57) embedded below; transcript of speech HERE:
Some examples of student reaction:
Brighton High School: KSL Channel 5 actually sent a news crew to record reaction. Out of around 1,700 students total, only 20 opted out. Most students believe the apprehension about the speech was overblown. KSL news video embedded below:
Bingham High School: Not to be outdone by the "Gray Lady" on Social Hall Road, KSTU Channel 13 also sent a news crew out to Bingham High School, where they reported a positive reaction from several students and parents in an American Government class. Kudos to those parents who chose to visit the school and participate in the education process itself. KSTU news video embedded below:
Elk Ridge Middle School (South Jordan) and Fort Herriman Middle School (Herriman): KUTV Channel 2 sent a news crew to both locations. Elk Ridge showed the sppech in seven different social studies classes, while Fort Herriman chose not to show it. There was no particularly unfavorable reaction recorded.
Alta High School: Students who did watch, including 64 predominantly white and mostly conservative AP history students, say what resonated most was Obama's personal narrative of rising from underprivileged roots to the White House. On the political spectrum, 16-year-old Joseph Gibbons and most of his peers consider themselves conservative. But most came to class Tuesday with open minds and walked away thinking Obama's message was appropriate and right on point. No one chose to opt out. And 15-year-old Nicole Moody of Draper detected no hidden agenda. However, another student, 16-year-old Travis Skene, disagreed, suggesting the speech was a political stunt meant to improve Obama's popularity.
Hillside Middle School: None of the students at Hillside opted out. The speech brought mixed reviews, but for the most part the students appeared to interested in the president's message. Some called the speech inspirational. Teachers at the school decided for themselves whether to show the live broadcast in their class. History teacher Mark Ellis said no parents called him regarding showing the speech and it fit well with his class curriculum, so he showed it.
Opposition to the speech in Utah apparently softened after Utah Governor Gary Herbert indirectly "endorsed" the speech by saying publicly that he found no fault with it, and that he wouldn't object to his grandchildren watching it. The number of parents who held their children out of school has not been reported, but apparently must have been negligible along the Wasatch Front.
And there's been no reports of anyone kissing his biceps and pledging to become a "Slave to Obama".