WASHINGTON - Conservative activists had blasted it as socialist. Worried parents called for boycotts and school administrators struggled with whether to let students hear it.
But the "back to school" speech that President Barack Obama plans to give Tuesday to students does what American presidents have done before: It urges students to work hard, stay in school and follow their dreams.
"If you quit on school - you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country," Obama says in the speech loaded with such exhortations.
The White House released a transcript of the president's prepared remarks Monday in response to conservative critics who charged that the president was promoting a political agenda in his speech to the nation's school children.
The reaction was heightened by the current political polarization over health care and economic issues and by the fact that the speech announcement originally was accompanied by a lesson plan from the Department of Education that suggested schoolchildren write about how they could "help the president."
The speech, to be given at noon Eastern time from a high school in Arlington, Va., will be shown on the White House Web site and on C-Span.
According to the prepared remarks, Obama will talk of the challenges faced by young people in a media culture that seems to offer opportunities to get rich quick.
"I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work - that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you're not going to be any of those things.
"But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject you study. You won't click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won't necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try."
Obama draws on his own experience - and that of his wife, Michelle - to support the notion that education is the key to personal success, and to the success of the nation.
The speech has proved to be yet another distraction for the White House in what is emerging as a critical period for Obama.
With his poll numbers sagging, Obama had hoped this week to jump-start public support for his top priority: overhauling the health care system. But other Obama priorities languish in the face of embarrassments and controversies, including the brief dust-up over the school speech.
In advance of the speech, Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer released a statement that he was "absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology." Greer could not be reached for comment early Monday.
Other Republicans were less upset. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for instance, told local reporters that, although he understood the controversy, he would not discourage students from going to school and listening to Obama. "Hearing the president is always a memorable experience," he said.