Obama’s First Decision

There is always a surprise issue when a new president takes office, one not debated during the campaign, and which says much about the tone and style and character of the White House.

Of course, President-elect Barack Obama must not wait to turn his attentions and estimable skills to dealing with the economic woes he will inherit from his predecessor and ending the war in Iraq as he promised. No doubt, he will.

But less obvious is a critical decision he and his wife will face that will say a great deal about the image of the new presidency: where to send their daughters to school — public or private. Like Bill Clinton’s early decision about gays in the military, which got him off on the wrong presidential foot, the Obamas' decision where to school their girls will broadcast an important value commitment. The Carters sent their daughter to public school; the Clintons opted for private.

As a public school product and advocate, I see this opportunity for the Obamas to make an influential impact on the democratic desirability of public schools. In Washington and all over the United States, focusing on the improvement of public schools is a profoundly important subject. The Obamas could start a renaissance by becoming supporters of the public schools, and focusing the country on the values of making them work for everyone.


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