Triumph of the Banal

Henry Percy
With his Back to School Event (text here), President Obama becomes the nation's Nanny-in-Chief, filling his speech with banalities at every turn, a speech as forgettable as any principal's remarks at the opening assembly of the year.

The triumph of the banal is complete as clichés cascade from the eloquent Obama lips: "But at the end of the day ... But at the end of the day ... Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up ... I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot ... [D]on't ever give up on yourself" ... There's no truism too shopworn for the telegenic presidential eloquence.

There's the gratuitous hip slang: "I get it." Cool, way cool, man. And the not-so-subtle political exhortation, the appeal to the moppets to fix a country that's "just downright mean," to use his wife's felicitous phrase: "You'll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free." All that's missing is a pitch for reparations.

Finally, the kids are given a dose of self-esteem, where everyone is above average, where everyone can become a Stephen Hawking or Barack Obama if they but will it: "Every single one of you has something you're good at ... If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying." Imagine the bitterness when, inevitably, some of his listeners discover that neither of those propositions is true for them.

And so, with the nation's schoolchildren transformed, our Rhetorician-in-Chief can turn to Congress tomorrow night and wash their ears with more timeworn clichés, with stale chestnuts about a country that's rich enough to put a man on the moon can surely grant free health insurance to every man, woman and child, etc. Prepare to be inspired.
With his Back to School Event (text here), President Obama becomes the nation's Nanny-in-Chief, filling his speech with banalities at every turn, a speech as forgettable as any principal's remarks at the opening assembly of the year.

The triumph of the banal is complete as clichés cascade from the eloquent Obama lips: "But at the end of the day ... But at the end of the day ... Where you are right now doesn't have to determine where you'll end up ... I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot ... [D]on't ever give up on yourself" ... There's no truism too shopworn for the telegenic presidential eloquence.

There's the gratuitous hip slang: "I get it." Cool, way cool, man. And the not-so-subtle political exhortation, the appeal to the moppets to fix a country that's "just downright mean," to use his wife's felicitous phrase: "You'll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free." All that's missing is a pitch for reparations.

Finally, the kids are given a dose of self-esteem, where everyone is above average, where everyone can become a Stephen Hawking or Barack Obama if they but will it: "Every single one of you has something you're good at ... If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying." Imagine the bitterness when, inevitably, some of his listeners discover that neither of those propositions is true for them.

And so, with the nation's schoolchildren transformed, our Rhetorician-in-Chief can turn to Congress tomorrow night and wash their ears with more timeworn clichés, with stale chestnuts about a country that's rich enough to put a man on the moon can surely grant free health insurance to every man, woman and child, etc. Prepare to be inspired.