the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Scared Straight


When I attended public school back in Flushing, there would be a special assembly once a year called "Scared Straight," where former convicts would come to ‘scare’ us from becoming juvenile delinquents by telling us about life in "the slammer."  I hated these assemblies, not because I was as far from a juvenile delinquent as could be, but because these talks always inspired the school thugs into action — and "Scared Straight day" was the day when you were most likely to be mugged for your lunch money.  One time, after school, I even saw the "Scared Straight" ex-convict who just lectured us —  beating up Mr. Molnia, our history teacher, and stealing his new Toyota Corona.  That was the last year our school had this program.  

Recently a new type of "Scared Straight" has begun, one dealing with a 21st century problem — childhood obesity.   The leader of this new program is none other than former U.S. president Bill Clinton.  For the next five years, he will tour our nation’s schools along with the American Heart Association, promoting healthy eating habits and encouraging kids to exercise. 

Some cynical people might think this is all a gimmick to help Hillary in her upcoming campaign.  I think Bill Clinton has a genuine interest in working with our young.  Clinton was obese as a child and understands the hardships of fat children. 

He’s going to start by talking to the kids, visiting schools around the country and telling his story. He was overweight as a child–by age 15, he weighed 210 lbs.–a problem he attributes partly to genetics and partly to a diet rich in barbecue, fried chicken, ice cream and pie.

But what exactly is he going to tell these kids that is going to help them change their habits?

His first school assembly, at the Harry S. Truman School in Kansas City, was less than successful, and shows that President Clinton still needs to refine his lecture:

I was a fat kid.   Then I went to Yale and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.  Then I became the governor of Arkansas.   After that I was elected as President of the United States.   That was the best.  I had some girl half my age give me a couple of blowjobs.  And a  Jewish girl!  Children, do you know how hard it is to get a Jewish woman to do that?  I must have tried at least six times with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before she threw that gavel at my head.  

Do you all know what branch of government the Supreme Court belongs to?  The Judicial.  Ha Ha, the Jew-dicial. 

Man, that Ginsburg is hot!  I wonder if she wears anything under that robe?   Brazilian or not?  What do you think, kids?

Maybe if I wasn’t a fat kid, things might have been different with her.  

So, don’t get fat, kids.  Take it from me, former two-time President of the United States William Jefferson Clinton.


  1. Lauren

    What are they calling this assembly? Scared Thin…

  2. Brooke

    I see a rise in childhood obesity sweeping the nation.

  3. Leese

    There’s just something about Clinton. I saw him once and when he looked my way, I swear our eyes met. At that moment I understood why Monica did it. I would’ve done anything for him too.

  4. kristine

    i’m not sure if you’re kidding or not, leese, but my aunt feels the same way about this man. they live in the same town and she typically has a run-in story to share monthly. these stories always involve her trembling knees and inability to speak. and she’s a REPUBLICAN!

  5. Jack

    Neil I don’t want to talk out of turn but someone has been dealing with the wrong Jewish women. There are plenty that will, well let’s focus on something else shall we.

    On a serious note I swear that I see more fat kids now than when I was young. It is a problem.

  6. amanda

    not unlike neil, that man has charisma and something the women just can’t resist. it’s true. just a side note – during pledging, we had to memorize all the famous A E Phi’s that ever existed, and ruth bader ginsburg was up there right next to charlotte rae (mrs. garrett)…and in those years, monica lewinsky lived down the street from me…in the watergate…everything comes full circle…(and i am sure there is some BJ joke in there somewhere, jewish sorority, watergate, etc, but work is sucking the creativity right out of me…and i just used the words come and suck in the last two sentences…)

  7. introspectre

    “Kids, I used to be chubby, and the kids made fun of me. Now I’m thinner and older and I’m constantly having women comment on my chubby, but it doesn’t mean the same thing anymore. Oh yah. I get a chubby every morning, and it’s great.”

  8. M.A.

    When schools cut programs like P.E. and don’t serve decent food in the cafeteria they will gain weight. When their parents have to work super hard to make ends meet and can’t afford healthy food, they will gain weight.

    And yeah, there must be something about Clinton…

  9. Neil

    I voted for Clinton twice and I like him. But are elementary school kids really going to be inspired by him? Since I know there are teachers out there, do you have any better ideas for reaching kids? And is it the responsibility of the schools to teach this?

    Maybe it would be better to have other overweight kids talking about their problems (asthma, diabetes, etc). This might have more impact than Clinton. Sometimes, I think these “programs” are more for the adults than the kids themselves.

    And please excuse the Jewish jokes. Remember, it was Bill Clinton talking, not me.

  10. kristine

    high school kids would not be impressed, but maybe little kids are. but it all goes back to horrific parenting, which is the sole reason why i’m going to quit this teaching gig.

  11. ubermilf

    But combatting the actual cause of obesity is too hard, and potentially damaging to some large corporations.

    Let’s just pretend we care, and send someone famous to say something catch-phrasey that fits well on a t-shirt.

  12. modigli

    Oh, Neilochka!
    This is a subject near and dear to my heart! I was a fat kid, and now I’m a teacher. I’m also a bit of a health nut. Do you really want to get me started on this?

    I do think it’s the school’s responsibility. (should I go into reasons Horace Mann would approve of Bill’s crusade?! LOL!)

    We take on the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic; but American Education is rooted in also developing our nation’s culture, attitudes, morals, and values. What is our culture about if we’re all a bunch of fat *sses with heart disease as the #1 killer? What kind of contributing members of society and future leaders are we growing if they don’t know how to respect their own health and bodies?

    I told you not to get me started! Oh boy!

    I could go on. and on. and on. … but I won’t.

    I’ll just say that as an educator, my students have always responded best when I lead by example. They always saw me eating healthy lunches and snacks, and exercising and staying active, too.

  13. modigli

    PS. I love Bill Clinton, and I’d probably “do him” too! He’s so smart, charismatic, and powerful. What better qualities of seduction are there?

  14. Jack

    Pledging- now there is something that I haven’t thought about in years. Getting older hurts sometimes.

  15. Charlie

    What is it with Arkansas governors and obesity? The current one, Mike Huckabee, lost over 100 lbs. and has gone on a national tour promoting healthy lifestyles as well. Maybe he can team up with Clinton and open a bipartisan line of low-carb fried chicken shacks.

  16. Tatyana

    Smart? Powerful? Willy?
    Gimme Carl Rove any sec.

    I don’t think letting fat kids with health problems to lead similar programs (instead of successful adults who overcame the stigma) is a good idea. Check out this book for extended explanation as to “why”. In short: they suffer enough as it is, have some mercy.
    [via La Coquette]

  17. Susan

    Yeah, I’ve got to agree with Tatyana on that second point. Kids are cruel.

  18. Leese

    Kristine — not kidding.

  19. jenny

    We had burgers and fake mashed potatoes and tacos and pizza for lunch at my school. Luckily my parents sent me to school with turkey sandwiches, carrot sticks, fig bars and juice. I ate healthy, but still struggled with weight. I think it is about eating right and exercise. What they need to do is focus on activities/sports that kids enjoy and can excel in. Not every kid was great at running “the mile” (which we all had to do and I sucked), so if they had other options… I was great at street hockey and softball, but we rarely got to do that stuff. Too bad they didn’t have Pilates for kids then :).

  20. Peggy Nature

    Why not focus on the health behaviours, leave weight out of the equation? The weight will take care of itself, and if someone is healthy, why does it matter what they weigh? Especially when they’re a kid who is still growing? (Check out the term ‘adiposity rebound.’)

    I’m totally convinced Bill Clinton lecturing at bored schoolchildren will single-handedly solve THE CRISIS OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY.

    ‘Scared Thin’ probably is a pretty good description of most of the tactics used currently to address childhood obesity. And I think in the long run, it’s probably going to only be really successful at encouraging eating disorders. Fun!

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