What President Obama Can Teach America's Kids

Hard knocks early in life prepare a child for both defeat and victory

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What President Obama Can Teach America's Kids
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We need to apprehend what is good about America, but without self-inflation; and what is evil in America, but without self-flagellation. The great wisdom whispers to us from ancient times of another kind of confrontation with what is good and what is evil in ourselves; another kind of hope, compared to which that we call optimism is dangerously naive and childish; and another kind of remorse, compared to which that which we call guilt is impotent and self-deceitful.

Jacob Needleman. The American Soul

Obama Family Official Portrait
Obama Family Official White House Portrait - Christmas 2011
The girls have gotten so big :: Uh Oh, more gray than ever in Dad's hair

Bill O'Reilly praises a political adversary:

What President Obama Can Teach America's Kids
by Bill O'Reilly
published: 08/09/2009
Parade Magazine

Bill O'Reilly with schoolkids These are tough times for American children for a couple of reasons. The rise of the machines means that kids can now be exposed to material on computers or cellphones that is far beyond their emotional IQ. While high-tech can be a tremendous educational tool, explicit images and conversation easily found in cyberspace can rob children of their innocence and, in some cases, put them in actual danger. Even if parents are vigilant in monitoring the machines, kids can still get the bad stuff at school and on the playgrounds, as computer access is just about everywhere.

The disruption of the traditional American family is also adversely affecting millions of children. Right now, almost 22 million American kids are living with one parent; more than 80% of those are being raised primarily by Mom. Just 50 years ago, a child living without a father was somewhat of a rarity. Now it's an epidemic.
(Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous warning comes to mind.)

Thus, our modern age presents vast challenges to children, and they need to learn lessons quickly in order to prosper. And who better to teach them than the President of the United States?

Barack Obama's Letter to His Daughters

As has been widely chronicled, Barack Obama had a tough childhood filled with instability and loneliness. However, that did not stop him from rising to become the most powerful man in the world. His breathtaking achievement presents five important lessons for all children.

w Lesson One: Forgiveness
President Obama was just 2 when his father abandoned him and his mother in Hawaii. Four years later, his mother took her little son to Indonesia after she remarried. However, the home was somewhat chaotic as they tried to adjust to their new surroundings. So when Barry, as he was called, turned 10, he was sent back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents while his mother stayed abroad.

That kind of situation could ruin a child. But President Obama betrays no bitterness. In his books and speeches, he speaks lovingly of his mom. He admits she was somewhat "reckless" but also says he felt he was "the center of her universe."

As for his absent father, the President says the void he left motivated him to succeed. So, it is obvious that he is not wallowing in past pain. He does not harbor bitterness toward his parents. Instead, he accepted his situation and saw it as a challenge. He forgave his folks and embraced a positive outlook.

Barack Obama: 'We Need Fathers To Step Up'

w Lesson Two: Respect
Even though his mom and dad apparently put their needs ahead of his, he speaks of them in mostly affectionate terms. He finds a way not to demean them.

Patricia Saunders, a clinical psychologist who works with children in New York City, says: "Barack Obama dealt with his family situation by understanding it. He put his own ego aside and made a decision to act respectfully toward his folks. That maturity has served him very well throughout his life."

w Lesson Three: Persistence
Barack Obama had few advantages as a child but decided to fight the good fight. That is, he got up when he was knocked down.

For example, in 2000, he lost his run for Congress in Illinois. He could have given up and gone into the private sector where high-salaried jobs awaited him. But he preferred public service. So, just four years later, he ran again, this time winning a U.S. Senate seat.

Psychologist Ruth Peters, who counsels children in Clearwater, Fla., believes that all the hard knocks Obama took in his young life prepared him for both defeat and victory.

"Some people shrink when they are faced with adversity," she told me. "Others seem to gain momentum and are challenged when they fail. The President did not use his difficulties as an excuse to quit. He used them as motivators to persevere. "

But determination must be coupled with a very specific discipline in order to succeed in life. And that is the fourth lesson from the President.

See photos of Obama and his daughters, Sasha and Malia

w Lesson Four: Hard Work
A child does not go from taking English lessons in Indonesia to editing the Harvard Law Review without doing some tough work. The President earned his present job by performing in school and, later, in his various jobs. He was smart enough to lay a foundation for success. Early on as a kid, he understood the big picture.

"Barack Obama loves his work," Saunders says. "And this is a great example for children. They must understand that work is very important and will ultimately define their lives."

w Lesson Five --perhaps the greatest lesson the President can teach children: In America, anything is possible
This is something of a cliché but never has it been more vividly illustrated. Barack Obama, a youngster in Hawaii without his parents around, has toughed it out and become one of history's great stories, no matter what happens going forward. What he has achieved in his 48 years is simply astounding.

Consider the odds. The United States is a nation of more than 300 million citizens. Only one person is currently the Commander in Chief. That man had no fatherly guidance, is of mixed race, and had no family connections to guide him into the world of national politics.

That adds up to one simple truth that every American child should be told: "If Barack Obama can become the President of the United States, then whatever dream you may have can happen in your life."

It all depends on lessons learned.

From Parade's Editor: The Softer Side of Bill O'Reilly

PARADE Contributing Editor Bill O'Reilly is the author of the best-seller "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity" and anchor of "The O'Reilly Factor" on the Fox News Channel.

Photo by Erin Patrice O'Brien For PARADE

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Columbia University SealPresident Barack Obama is of course an alumnus of Columbia University (NYC). President Dwight D. Eisenhower served as Columbia's president before his election to the White House. Shown to the left, Columbia's seal was designed by [then Kings College] President Samuel Johnson and approved by the Governors of the College on June 3, 1755. According to Johnson's original description, the college is represented by a lady sitting on a throne, with several children (her pupils) at her knees. Beneath them is a reference to 1 Peter 2:1-2, expressing the way in which the children should recieve instruction: "laying aside all malice and guile and as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby." The lady has her left hand on one child and holds an open Bible in her right hand, and the words LOGIA ZONTA, an allusion to St. Stephen's words in Acts 7:38 meaning roughly "the Living Word" (or in Johnson's time the "Lively Oracles") are written in Greek. The Hebrew Tetragrammaton -- yod heh vav heh -- (the ineffable YHVH or 'Jehovah'), appears within a radiant triangle. The school's motto in lvmine tvo videbimvs lvmen, meaning "In thy light we shall see light" Psalms 36:9, arcs across the top. Out of the ladies mouth is a label with the Hebrew words "Uri El", "God is my Light", alluding to Psalms 27:1 ("The Lord is my light and my salvation"). In the background is a rising sun, alluding to Malachi 4:2, a prophecy of Christ that "The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings." Lastly, all this is surrounded by the Latin text sigillvm collegii colvmbia novi eboraci, "Seal of Columbia College, New York."

In a Parade feature by David Baldacci (published: 12/13/2009), former President George H.W. Bush (the first Pres. Bush) gave his views on contemporary politics.

What advice would Bush give to leaders today? "Politics can be civil and not personal. It doesn't have to be shouting and questioning the other guy's motives. Try to see the other person's view. That means you have to listen and not talk all the time."

He was deeply offended by Rep. Joe Wilson's (R., S.C.) outcry during President Barack Obama's September speech to Congress. "There has to be a certain decorum and civility. And that was just smashed. I thought, 'How low have we gotten here?'"

While he said he does not agree with some of Obama's policies, Bush insists that all Americans should want the President to succeed. On the state of the world: "We need to get ourselves out of this financial mess and help Americans get back on their feet. Globally, China and Russia remain critically important. And I think we've got to be careful that we don't fall into the trap of being against Islam because of the excesses of the few."

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