Basically a pep talk to encourage children to work hard and do their best in school, many were upset by the event, calling it indoctrination. Obama is not the first president to give such a school-opening talk, but his plans seemed to almost immediately get plunged in controversy. Critics accused him of overstepping his authority, and school districts in some areas decided not to provide their students access to his midday speech. Far be it for a Democrat to tell a Republican's kids to study.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged Tuesday that some of the prepared guidance for school officials included a suggestion that students could compose essays stating how they could help support Obama -- an idea the education secretary acknowledged was wrongheaded.
A handful of protesters gathered among the other bystanders outside Wakefield High School in Arlington as the president's motorcade was arriving for the midday speech. They held signs with messages such as "Mr. President, stay away from our kids" and "Children Serve God, Not Obama."
Inside, Obama and Duncan met with about 40 students in the school library. He told the young people that while his family didn't have money or connections, he still was able to get a good education.
While his speech broadcast to students across the county was about studying hard and doing your best in school, Obama did get a chance to talk about one of his pet issues in the library meeting, when a student asked why the United States lacked universal health care.
"I think we need it," the president said. "I think we can do it."
The country can afford to insure all Americans and that doing so will save money in the long run, Obama said.
Earlier Tuesday, federal D.C. school voucher program supporters staged a demonstration outside the Education Department headquarters, The Washington Post reported. With support of the Obama Administration, Democrats in Congress are phasing out the program that helps poor children attend private schools. Six voucher fans linked arms in front of the building to block the door, but they backed off after a 20-minute standoff with police, who refused to handcuff them.
Councilman Marion Barry also showed up to speak in support of the protesters efforts but left for another appoinment before the confrontation with police, The Post reported.