Obama’s Classroom Speech and a Hello Kitty Radio


obamaJust to make things clear, this is not a political post and comments of a purely political nature will not be cleared.

There has been a lot of furor over President Obama’s speech to school children this week. Every time I log in online, I see scads of articles on the subject from just about every perspective imaginable. In the end, some classrooms showed it and some did not. This is about one that did: Koreatown’s Commonwealth Avenue Elementary in Los Angeles.

Technical difficulties is a phrase that elicits groans no matter what the situation is, and the staff at Commonwealth Avenue Elementary experienced a  wealth of them. Of course the media was out there in force, the lure of a high poverty school with dramatic improvements in its test scores being a great setting for reporters.

It seems, according to The Los Angeles Times, that the line of vans containing broadcast equipment interfered with the TV signal. The reporters were impeding the very event they were sent to cover.

Rather than wringing hands though, the staff turned to a technology that rarely ever goes out:

At 8:50 a.m., 10 minutes before the speech, L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines glanced at his watch.

“Has anybody got a radio?”

As students watched the TV image flicker in and out, a pink and white Hello Kitty radio was found and brought to the classroom. A bit of fiddling with the radio knobs and the voice of the President filled the classroom. Victory!

It’s worth noting that they only listened to part of the speech on the air. Not because of broadcast strength, which was excellent, but because school officials had to change the station when the radio host came on the air and began to add his own political commentary.  The technology of radio was more than sufficient to the task, it was the rightfully thorny issue of exposing children to either party’s political analysis that made them turn off the radio.

I’ve often written about radio’s importance in times when other lines of media and communication are down. Being from the Gulf Coast, those posts are usually couched in terms of natural disasters. Little did I think to fund an example in a classroom high and dry in Los Angeles. It just goes to show that radio is still important and often in ways we cannot conceive of until they occur.

In the end, school officials read a transcript of the speech to students. Even so, it bears remembering that radio was the only tech that worked. Hello, Kitty!

Images: marcn / CC BY 2.0

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