I'm sure that Barack Obama's speech tomorrow to the nation's schoolchildren will be the typical sort of pablum poured out over the heads of young people in the hopes that some of it will stick to them without in any way offending them, their parents, or major party donors. The president, acting in his unofficial capacity as Principal-in-Chief, will go electronically into our nation's federal schools (oh, not yet, but who are we kidding with our continued pretense that education isn't a homogenized national product instead of something small, local, old and particular)? and remind the kiddies to study hard, get good grades, and become productive members of society. Because people who don't necessarily study hard or get good grades, people who abuse various substances and can't hold down a private sector job--end up in Congress, and Lord knows we have enough of them.
But if the president were fearless enough to be honest, and honest enough to say what a lot of us think he would say, I think his speech to schoolchildren would go something like this:
Good afternoon, boys and girls and gay and lesbian and transgendered and questioning youth of America, and of other countries who are enjoying American education free of charge. I'm glad that I can be here with you today, because as your president I particularly enjoy that I can say the word "I" a lot in speeches--it's so easy to read on the teleprompter.
As you know, I believe in the value of a good education. I myself received an excellent education as a child. I attended a Catholic school in Indonesia through the third grade, went to an Indonesian public school in the fourth grade, and then from fifth grade through high school I attended an exclusive private school in Hawaii. My one year in a foreign public school qualifies me to talk to all of you about how to make the most of your public school education.
And I know that most of you find school really, really boring. All I can say to that is: wait until you get to Congress. I found it helped a lot to arrive to meetings late. Now, I can't condone that as an educational strategy, but if you show up on time for school and for your classes, one day you, too, will be able to be important enough to be late for all your meetings and jobs.
You need to study hard in school. Most rich people are pretty smart, and if you want to surround yourself with rich people and maybe have some of them become friends or even donors to your political action committees, you're going to have to fit in. If someone references Greek philosophy or Shakespeare in some witty way, and you're the guy who doesn't laugh, you get pegged as not rich and not smart. There was this one guy in the Illinois State Senate...well, never mind. But study hard, so you can move in the right circles.
You need to do your homework, too. I can tell you that it's important to do your homework. Otherwise, when someone asks you, say, why you voted for partial birth abortion you might say you didn't. And then someone else will prove that you did. And then you have to make something up, about how you were for it before you were against it, or something. I know from experience that that is embarrassing. So when I tell you to do your homework, take it from me, I know what I'm talking about.
Speaking of abortion, I'd like to remind you to pay attention in health class. You're young. Every adult knows, I know, your parents know, that the whole idea of abstinence is pretty silly from where you sit. But learn all about pills and condoms and the phone number of the nearest abortion clinic. Nothing will ruin your chances of success like being punished with a baby.
And success is hard to come by. There are only so many government jobs we can hand out to people like you. Now, I'm working on changing that. One day, some of you will be government employees called "doctors" or "nurses" or "hospital administrators" or "insurance agents." If I can just get health care reform passed, there will be plenty of government jobs to go around. I know in this tough global economy you will be grateful to study for eight years in college to become a doctor and make at least $40,000 a year. Guaranteed. I know--sounds good, doesn't it? But those evil greedy Republicans don't want health care reform to pass. They don't want you to be rewarded for all your hard years of work and study with a good job working for Uncle Sam.
I know you all have goals. Maybe you want to be a government doctor, or a government lawyer, or a government Native American casino operator. Maybe you want to be a government educator, or a government wealth re-distributor. Maybe you have dreams of being a government scientist or government military leader. Or maybe, like me, you dream of being a government legislator and quickly jumping to the job of Government Chief Executive.
Whatever your goals and dreams, I know you'll find a way for the America you know and love to finish educating you, to employ you, to reward you for your employment, and to keep making you promises of hope and change through people like me. If you stay in school, if you finish school, if you direct your government-given talents in a way that works for the good of all, maybe you, too, will one day become president.
And don't worry. Like me, you'll be able to keep your grades a secret.