The flap over President Obama’s address to students has raised some interesting questions. Perhaps most significantly, it causes us to ask, “Can we honor and respect our elected officials?” It seems that the response is, “Yes, if we voted for them.” When President George H. W. Bush spoke to students in 1991, Democrats complained that it was paid political propaganda. When President Obama announced a speech to students Republicans cried foul. Bush’s speech can be found among his presidential library papers online at www.bushlibrary.tamu.edu. Obama’s speech can be found at www.whitehouse.gov. Both President Bush on October 1, 1991 and President Obama this week focused on the need for students to stay in school, be responsible, get an education and have a future.
We need to step back and think about what we are teaching our children by our attitudes and actions. Our youth and children need to see us as adults demonstrating respect for elected officials and one another, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent. Too often we have been disappointed by elected officials who manipulate the system, seek their own self interest and disappoint us with their private moral behavior. Of course, we have a remedy, which is not to elect them back to office. But, respect for one another and for those we elect to serve our cities, our state and our nation is important. The way we conduct ourselves toward one another and our elected officials teaches something to our youth that cannot be duplicated in the classroom.
Speaking about attitudes toward government officials, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Romans 13:1 NAS). “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3 the Message). If Paul could give these instructions to Christians living in a corrupt Roman Empire during the first century, how much more do they apply to us living in our American democracy.
We need to demonstrate to our youth how to disagree with one another with respect. We need to show them how to rise above name calling and derision. We need to pull together to encourage our youth to stay in school, pursue an education and have a future. They need to know that we believe in them. That this is one thing we agree on. The days when mere muscle was enough to get someone by are gone. More than any other era in history, the increasingly technological world of the twenty-first century demands an education.