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Obama Holds Live Town Hall Meeting On Facebook

Jenny Chen |
April 20, 2011 | 3:56 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor


Obama & Zuckerberg meeting in February (Creative Commons)
Obama & Zuckerberg meeting in February (Creative Commons)
President Barack Obama paid a visit to Facebook Headquarters in Silicon Valley, California on Wednesday to hold a live broadcast town hall meeting. 

The meeting was broadcast through the Facebook website and Obama answered questions selected by Facebook representatives from audience members and online submissions. 

Obama focused on the fiscal problems currently affecting the nation, but also addressed issues such as health care, education reform, immigration, and energy costs. 

The president repeatedly called upon his supporters to work together with him as they did when he first campaigned to become president, saying resolving these issues required cooperation and help. 

 “Just remember we’ve been through tougher times before and we’ve always come out on top,” Obama said, addressing those he said might be frustrated by the continuous “bickering” in Congress. “I can’t do it by myself. The only way it happens is if all of you get involved and get engaged.” 

Obama said it was important to get the deficits and debts under control in a balanced way and that he hoped to resolve the fiscal, immigration, and energy problems while he was still in office. 

The event was one of three town halls Obama is hosting this week to answer questions about the economy and deficit-reduction proposals. The first was held in Virginia on Tuesday and the third will be in Reno, Nevada on Thursday. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg moderated the town hall. Obama and Zuckerberg first met in Silicon Valley at a dinner in February and Obama has previously praised Zuckerberg for his innovation. 

Use of Facebook by politicians to reach out to citizens is nothing new, although this was the first town hall broadcast. Previous speakers include Texas Governor Rick Perry and former President George W. Bush. 

“What Facebook allows you to do is make sure this isn’t a one-way conversation,” Obama said, which is just want the afternoon’s event was meant to do. 

Obama continued to attack the Republican’s budget proposal, although he said Congressman Paul Ryan was sincere in his efforts to resolve the issue of long-term deficit. 

Yet, the philosophical debate between the two opposing sides has become clear in their different approaches to tackling Medicare and Medicaid. 

“The Republican budget that was put forward, I would say, is fairly radical,” Obama said. “I wouldn’t call it particularly courageous.” 

Zuckerberg praised the “Race to the Top” program that allocated money to schools that could show how they planned to reform education. Obama said even the schools that didn’t win the money made some of the most meaningful changes in the past generation. 

The president said that education was one area of “good partisan work” where Democrats and Republicans now agree that good education will require both money and reform. 

When asked about immigration and the Dream Act, Obama said he supported kids who had been brought into America by their parents, who may be illegal immigrants, at a young age. 

“If they are of good character and going to school or joining our military, they want to be part of the American family, why wouldn’t we want to embrace them? Why wouldn’t we want to make sure that they’re contributing to our future?” Obama asked. 

Still, the biggest issue at hand is the debt and deficit problems afflicting the nation. One audience member asked whether the conversation would return to that of job creation and economic recovery. Obama said his first job in office was to minimize layoffs and budget cuts, but it was important to avoid slashing spending too drastically. 

“If we don’t have a serious plan to tackle the debt and deficit, that could end up a bigger drag on the economy than anything else,” Obama said. 

The president made sure to address the successes of his administration so far too, including getting the economy recovering, getting a major health care bill passed, investing in clean energy, repeating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and getting two women on the Supreme Court. 

He also remained confident and expressed optimism that despite the numerous problems facing the nation, things could get done, if history proved correct. 

“At every juncture, we’ve always been able to adapt,” Obama said. “We’ve been able to change and get ahead of the curve.” 

Obama said he approves of investing in stem education, expanding programs that would allow more students to go to college, investing in high speed rail, ensuring easier access to use of the Internet and more, promising these things could still get done which dealing with the deficit. 

Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.
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