Charlotte Catholic school officials chose to skip Obama's speech

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For a moment, let’s get back to President Obama’s first speech of the week, the one on Tuesday to schoolchildren, encouraging them to study hard and take responsibility for their own lives. I couldn’t understand all the fuss, I wrote in a column for PoliticsDaily.com.

And indeed, in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, most students listened without incident as Obama told them: “What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. The future of America depends on you.” Many were inspired. Unless you attend a parochial school, that is.

Linda L. Cherry, the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Charlotte, sent out a letter to parents (dated Sept. 4) that said: “Because we do not, as a rule, show live TV to our students and due to the short notice in realigning our schedules for that day, we will not be airing the program in our schools.” (An image of the letter is embedded under this post. You can also download the letter in PDF form.)

I spoke with one parent with two children in Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools who was OK with the decision. She said she was skeptical of anything Obama was going to say to students because “if you look at his record, he’s for abortion and against school vouchers.” However, she said that, after looking at the transcript, she thought “it was a motivating and uplifting speech,” and she would let her children watch. Another parent I talked to was quite upset that the system did not show the president’s speech in the school.

David Hains, director of communications for the diocese, said the president’s message was not something directed to students in Charlotte’s Catholic schools because they are successful already. As Cherry’s letter said: “We have a 99.9 percent graduation rate and over 99 percent of our graduates go on to 2 or 4-year college programs.”

Because of this, Obama’s speech “wasn’t really on point,” Hains said. He said he was not involved with the system at the time of addresses by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to schoolchildren and did not know how they were handled. Cherry has not returned my call and e-mail.

In the 2008 presidential election, Catholics, by a small margin, voted for Barack Obama. Catholic groups that emphasize issues of social justice criticized the alliance of some Catholics with conservative Christian groups over the issue of abortion when there is disagreement in other areas, from the war to capital punishment.

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