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President Obama Engages Youth Vote In Town Hall Meeting

Braden Holly |
October 14, 2010 | 2:56 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

President Obama (Creative Commons)
President Obama (Creative Commons)
President Obama held a special town hall meeting Thursday afternoon at BET headquarters in Washington, D.C., attempting to connect with the youth voters of America. 

The meeting was broadcast live by BET, MTV and CMT.  During the hour-long broadcast, young people from around the country asked the President about the issues that most mattered to them.  Questions ranged from education, to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to bullying and the economy.

The round of questions opened with an innocuous inquiry about the 33 Chilean miners that were recently rescued after spending over two months trapped underground after a cave-in.  Obama responded by mentioning how American technology and ingenuity had helped contribute the miner’s rescue.  He also cited the rescue as an example of the world can come together in trying times.

The next question the President received was, perhaps, more challenging: a young woman who professed to be a Republican asked him about health care. She said that she was under the impression that Republican concerns and ideas were not sufficiently addressed when health care reforms were being drafted.  The President responded by saying that his administration had spent months in meetings with Republican in the hopes that they would be met halfway.  Obama said that he wanted people to be able to keep their private insurance if they wanted, but he also wanted to create solutions to other problems such as skyrocketing health care costs.  One of the results of his health care reform package would be that young people without health insurance could remain on their parent’s policies until the age of 26.

“My hope was that we could come together, Democrats and Republicans, to find common sense solutions,” Obama said. “I do think that there are a lot of good Republican ideas out there.”

President Obama then fielded a question about the economy and unemployment.  He stressed that most of the jobs lost in this country were lost before his economic policies were even in place.  He said that his administration had managed the recession in a way that had prevented the second Great Depression.  President Obama then spoke up in support of small businesses, citing how many jobs they create in this country.

Another means of economic stimulus proposed by President Obama is more spending on infrastructure.  The President expressed the opinion that spending on infrastructure creates jobs in the immediate sense and would lay the foundation for long term economic and job growth.

The President also took the opportunity to respond to the current debate revolving around the expiration of Bush era tax cuts, stating, “We’ll give tax cuts to 98 percent of Americans.”  

He said that for those Americans in the top 2 percent of earners, taxes would return to the rates they were at under former President Bill Clinton.  The President likely wants people to associate the expiration of tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans with the economic prosperity of the Clinton presidency.

Education was the next topic of discussion when a young woman told the President that she had been admitted to “the college of her dreams” but couldn’t afford to attend. The President said that there is no reason anyone should be unable to afford to go to college.  He went on to say that America’s educational advantages in the past were what allowed us to succeed in the global marketplace.  He feels that raising our educational standards is the only way to maintain that success.  He hopes to do that by attracting more well educated and talented people to teaching by improving quality of education nationwide and seeing that teachers who perform well are rewarded.

The President also addressed the DREAM Act later in the eeting.  The DREAM act would allow young people who were brought to America illegally to become legal citizens if they attend college or serve in the military and meet a certain series of standards.

Obama said he believes that the DREAM Act “is a concept that is central to the American story.”

The President also weighed in on the Tea Party.  President Obama supported their right - even calling it an obligation - to participate in national politics.  He did, however, express his concerns over the non-disclosure of candidate’s sources of campaign funding.   President Obama said that he feels that people have a right to that information because it might affect their decisions when they vote.

While President Obama was quick to blame economic problems on the failures and policies of the previous administration, he did pay the Bush administration one compliment.  When asked about the impending referendum that would allow the southern portion of Sudan to secede and form an independent nation, the President said that he approved of the way the Bush administration had handled the situation there.  He said that the referendum in Sudan should be of concern to all Americans. The President said that an escalation of violence there could be a national security threat to America if terrorist groups were to move into the area.

The President also addressed the issues of racial discrimination, bullying in schools, federal drug enforcement, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” clean energy and even fielded questions posted on the social networking site Twitter during the event.

The President seemed to be trying to reinforce among the youth of America the idea that he is their candidate, a man that cares about the issues that matter to them.  He spoke out very strongly against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and expressed his own concerns about bullying and discrimination.  He called upon the youth of America to affect positive change, saying that, “this audience didn’t exist twenty years ago.”

Reach Reporter Braden Holly here.



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