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Bellevue School District blocks Obama speech, then promotes it

The Bellevue School District played it safe with President Barack Obama's speech to schoolchildren this morning, choosing not to air the national address.

Conservative critics and talk-show hosts had expressed leeriness about the speech, saying the president may be trying to indoctrinate children.

Parents flooded the school district on Thursday and Friday with phone calls demanding a boycott of the address.

"All we heard were messages from parents who thought the speech would be totally political, and they didn't want their kids to hear it," said district spokeswoman Ann Oxrieder.

Oxrieder said the tide of sentiment turned at approximately noon on Friday, as parents started calling to express outrage that the district wasn't going to air the address. But the district didn't reverse course.

"Once we saw it and saw how wonderful it was, it was too late to turn the machine around," she said.

The president's message never mentioned policy, instead encouraging students to take responsibility for their education.

"I'm calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them," Obama said in the address.

The district is now encouraging all teachers to include the speech in their instructional plans, and has provided a link to the White House media page for access.

A message on the district's web site said: "While we acknowledge that the process we put in place was one some of our school community members opposed, we felt the need to exercise caution in order to address all voices."

Obama's speech touched on universal themes related to learning, but it appeared to be directed toward struggling students.

The president talked about some of the challenges he faced while growing up: living without a father, feeling like an outsider, and dealing with financial difficulties. He encouraged students to overcome such hardships, saying "the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home – that's no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude."

The speech took place at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va.

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