Your Interview with the President 2011

Your Interview with the President 2011


♪ (music playing) ♪ Mr. Boyd:
My name is Ed Boyd, and
I’m a Tea Party patriot local coordinator. Ms. Wong:
My name is Amanda Wong and
I’m a public health student at UC Berkeley. Speaker:
My name is Brian. I’m from Dayton, Ohio. Mr. Booken:
My name is Josh Booken, and I’m
speaking to you from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Mr. Lovett:
My name is Don Lovett. I live in a homeless
shelter in Glendale. Ms. DeLuca:
My name is Jessie DeLuca
from Bloomington, Indiana. Ms. Sangerly:
My name is Carrie Sangerly. Speaker:
My name is Vicky, and I’m
from Pembroke Pines, Florida. ♪ (music playing) ♪ Mr. Grove:
Hello, everyone, and
welcome to the White House. My name is Steve Grove, and I’m the
head of news and politics at YouTube. And we’re delighted that
President Obama has once again invited us to the White House to
answer your top voted questions in the first exclusive interview
after the State of the Union speech. Welcome back to
YouTube, Mr. President. President Obama:
It’s great to be here, Steve. Thank you so much
for doing this. Mr. Grove:
Well, I should tell you, Mr.
President, that over 140,000 questions were submitted on
YouTube over the past few days. Over a million votes cast, you
can see some of these videos here flying over the —
over half of the U.S. We’re going to try to get to as
many of these as you possibly can today. And let’s just
get right into it. President Obama:
Let’s dive in. Mr. Grove:
The first question is
from America’s heartland. Mr. Louke:
I’m Richard Louke
from Akron, Ohio. Mr. President, I just got out of
the Marine Corps Infantry after serving two tours
in Afghanistan. And now I’m unemployed. How are you going to
help people like me? President Obama:
Well, this is a great question. As you know, we have over a
million people who now have served other in
Iraq or Afghanistan. All of them have done
extraordinary work. And it is our moral obligation
to make sure that we are serving them as well as
they’ve served us. And so there are a couple of
things that we’re doing right away. Number one, the Department of
Defense and the VA are working together to make sure that we’ve got a
career counseling program available. The minute folks are getting
out of the armed services, we are helping them to make sure
that they know where to land, what kinds of skills are
transferable to what industries. We’re trying to gather up
companies who are willing to hire folks who have come out of
the military and we are making a big push with employers to
say, these folks have shown leadership, they
have been trained, they have performed at high
levels in very difficult situations. They’re going to be great assets
to help rebuild the country. But beyond Department of
Defense and Veterans Affairs, I’ve given a presidential
directive to every agency to make sure that they are
looking to hire veterans, that job training programs,
social service programs, anything that we’ve got in
any of the agencies, housing, education, you name it, that
they are directed specially to making sure that these
veterans are served. Mr. Grove:
What about job creation overall? You know, Wayne from Artesia,
California asked, you know, he’s a recent college graduate. He says: How are you going to
help recent college graduates like myself when there are fewer
highly competitive points of entry? We’ve done everything by the
book with little success and we find ourselves in huge debt. President Obama:
Well, a couple of points here. First of all, the reason they’re
in huge debt is because the cost of college educations are so
high and that’s why we’ve put such a big emphasis on
eliminating unwarranted subsidies to banks, shifting
billions of dollars into our student loan programs. We’ve now made it so that
young people when they get out shouldn’t have to pay more than
10% of their income to repaying their student debt, which
alleviates a big burden on them. We were talking about
veterans earlier. Obviously the post 9/11 G.I.
bill is a huge asset for making sure our veterans and their
spouses are able to get the training they need. But the overall jobs picture is
still really tough out there. We created 1.3 million jobs
last year in the private sector, which is a lot better
than we had been doing. But it’s still not enough. And so that’s why
accelerating economic growth, the tax package that we passed
during the lame duck session that is providing incentives
to business to, you know, invest in business and
equipment this year, making sure that there’s a
payroll tax cut that can spur more consumer spending
and economic growth, all those things are going
to be absolutely critical. But, you know, obviously if you
don’t have a job right now, it’s tough. And we’ve got to make sure that
we’re focused exclusively on economic growth over
these next 12 months. Mr. Grove:
A lot of these job creation
programs cost money and a lot of Americans are worried
about the debt. President Obama:
Right. Mr. Grove:
Let’s go to Charles Wagster,
who writes: Mr. President, you have all these plans to help the
nation’s businesses create new jobs. All these programs that you
plan on making will cost money. What cuts and what programs do
you plan to cut in order to start reducing our debt? President Obama:
Well, as I announced at
the State of the Union, what we’re going to be doing is
freezing domestic discretionary spending for the
next five years. Now, keep in mind that a freeze
actually ends up being a cut, because the population
is going up. You end up having
some slight inflation. And when you combine both
increased population and inflation, just keeping things
stable actually means we have to cut programs. Mr. Grove:
And what sorts of programs do
you think are going to get cut? President Obama:
You know, we’re going to
be announcing our budget, so I don’t want to
give too much details, because then nobody pays
attention when we actually put the numbers out. But there are going to be
programs like community action grants, for example, that
really help cities and local communities to spur
economic development. But frankly, we’re just going to
have to trim some of these programs. And these are not going
to be across the board. We want to cut with a scalpel,
as opposed to a chainsaw. There are going to be some areas
where we actually increase spending. Education is one. Research and development
and innovation. We need to make sure that we’re
staying on the cutting edge of new technologies. But we’re going to have to
make some serious decisions. I can tell you that the budget
is going to end up saving $400 billion or so. And it will mean that domestic
discretionary spending goes down to the lowest level
since Dwight Eisenhower, since the lowest level
since I was born, certainly since you were born. Mr. Grove:
Well, you mentioned education is
an area that would not get cut. Let’s go to the
category of education. This question comes from a
charter school in California. Speaker:
— speech on race, you said that
many of the social and economic disparities that exist in
African-American community can be, and I quote, “Directly
traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that
suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.” Speaker:
How do you plan upon addressing
these social and economic disparities that currently
exist in minority communities? In particular, what is your
plan to close the pervasive achievement gap in education
for American minorities today? President Obama:
Well, the first thing that
we’ve got to remember, and I said this at the
State of the Union, is that nothing government does
replaces the importance of parents in education. And so all of us, regardless
of our station, our race, what region of the country we’re
coming from, if we’re parents, we’ve got to step up our game in
working with our kids to learn. Reading to them,
turning off the TV, making sure they’re
doing their homework. Building a culture around the
love of learning is critical. But our schools have a special
role to play, obviously. And the single most important
thing that we can do in closing the achievement gap is making
sure that we’ve got good teachers in the classroom that
are setting high expectations for our kids. And you know, one of the
challenges we have is a lot of times in poor neighborhoods,
higher minority student populations, oftentimes the
teachers don’t have as much experience in the subject
matter that they’re teaching. You know, in a lot of
communities we need to provide more incentives for the best
teachers to teach in the hardest to teach schools, as opposed to
a lot of times their impulse, particularly if they have
seniority is to go to suburban schools — Mr. Grove:
Yes, of course. President Obama:
— or in wealthier communities
where the kids are better prepared. And that’s understandable, but
we’ve got to put a special focus on making sure that those
schools that really need help are getting the best
possible resources. One of the things we’re doing
with what’s called Race to the Top, the program that Secretary
Duncan and myself have been promoting is, we’re
saying to states, you get some additional money if
you’ve got a real good game plan for those lowest
performing schools. And we don’t want any child
out there not having the best possible chance at succeeding. And one of the reasons it’s
so important to close the achievement gap is the
population is going to be increasingly Hispanic,
increasingly African-American. Those are fast growing
populations, increasingly Asian. And so if we’re not doing a
great job educating those kids in closing some of
these achievement gaps, we’re going to have
problems as a country. Mr. Grove:
Right. You mentioned Race to the Top. And a lot (inaudible)
about Race to the Top. Wondering what’s going
to happen this year, political environment is
a little bit different. Padma from Jericho, New
York, wrote: Mr. President, where are you going to get the
money to fund Race to the Top? And how do you expect schools
with depleted resources to actually compete
for this funding? President Obama:
Well, keep in mind, Race to the
Top only costs 1% of what we spend overall on education. Mr. Grove:
Right. President Obama:
That’s the wonderful thing about
the program is schools are still getting general support
that’s formula based, meaning that each state,
depending on its population, and the number of children it
has that are in low income categories, are getting a
certain amount of federal money. All we’re saying is let’s carve
out a little bit of this money and create a contest
among states saying, if you’ve got the best plan
to improve teacher quality, make sure that you’re
setting high performance, you’re setting up a way of
tracking whether or not the kids are doing well, if you do that,
then we’ll give you a little bit of extra. Mr. Grove:
Is that contest going to
have money this year to — as Padma asks? President Obama:
It certainly will
be in my budget. And I think that given that
we’ve had 40 states that have reformed their school systems
just because of Race to the Top, and it’s got widespread support
from both Democrats and Republicans, I see no reason why
we shouldn’t be able to get it done again this year. Mr. Grove:
Mr. President, this
is the Internet. And on the Internet, people
love to have a more personal relationship with their
elected officials. So let’s move into sort
of a YouTube rapid round. We’ll call it “Get to
Know Your President.” President Obama:
All right. Mr. Grove:
Let me flip to it here. There we go. These are some personal
questions people submitted. First one, maybe just one or two
sentences on each if you can. President Obama:
Sure. Mr. Grove:
What’s the best part about
being a President and what’s the worst part? President Obama:
The best part of being President
is every once in a while, you do something that you know
has a direct impact on somebody. So when we passed health care
and I met a woman who was not going to lose her house because
she was able to get her cancer treatments and she comes
up and says thank you, nothing is more
satisfying than that. Toughest thing about being
President is the bubble. I can’t go for a walk. I can’t go to the
corner coffee shop. I can’t leave the house and not
shave and have my sweats on. Mr. Grove:
Like the President. President Obama:
Right. So that is something that I
don’t think I’ll ever get used to. Mr. Grove:
Next question, Mr. President,
what was your favorite class in college? President Obama:
Favorite class in college. I had a wonderful
political science class. I still remember the name of
the professor, Roger Boesche, at Occidental College. And it sparked my general
interest in politics. And he still teaches there and
was just a wonderful professor. Mr. Grove:
Let’s move to a critical
question this week, and over the next few weeks. Mr. President, who is
winning the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh or Green Bay? This user, D.C. Gorman,
picks the packers 31-28. I’m sure you’re still stinging
from the loss the other night. But who do you pick to win? President Obama:
Now that the Bears have lost,
I’ve got to stay neutral. I already took a hard
time from Charles Woodson. I don’t know if you saw
— this is on YouTube, his speech after they won, where
he says, “The President doesn’t want to see us in Dallas! We’re going to see him
in the White House.” (laughter) Then they all said, “One,
two, three, White House!” Mr. Grove:
Really? That was their call? I didn’t see that. President Obama:
So I just came back
from Wisconsin. The first thing I get as I
get off the plane is a signed Woodson jersey, “See
you in the White House.” No, Woodson is a great player,
and one of my favorite players in the NFL. So — but — Mr. Grove:
But no picks? President Obama:
No picks. I’ve got to stay absolutely
neutral on this one and may the best team win. Mr. Grove:
Alrighty. Next one, what are you going to
get Michelle for Valentine’s Day? President Obama:
Well, I will tell you that
the more I’m campaigning, the more I’m President, each
Valentine’s Day seems to get more expensive. Mr. Grove:
Oh, really? President Obama:
I’ve got more to make up for. Mr. Grove:
Uh-huh. President Obama:
You know, used to be I could
just get away with flowers. Now — Mr. Grove:
So something expensive. (laughter) President Obama:
Actually, the thing that
she wants usually most of all is time. So we always try to get a date
night out on Valentine’s Day. Mr. Grove:
Two more quick ones, and
then we’ll go back to some issue questions. There someone is: Most people
know your favorite sports teams and all that kind of stuff. But who is your favorite
mathematician or scientist? President Obama:
You know, I will
tell you that lately, my favorite mathematicians and
scientists are actually folks that are not very well known. I get a chance to meet them on
a pretty regular basis through what’s called PCST, it’s the
President’s Council on Science and Technology, essentially. John Holdren, my chief science
advisor, is the lead on it. But there’s a guy, for example,
Eric Lander, out of Harvard, who is the chair, who is just
a terrific mathematician, world class mathematician. Has done extraordinary
work on genetics, helped on the human
genome project. But what I love
about him is he’s — he can explain
things in English. So people who are not as
mathematically savvy as me can actually follow him. But what’s also great is he
has this wonderful passion for translating highly theoretical
science into very practical terms? You know, how does this help
solve problems in energy? How does this help us solve
problems when it comes to health care? How can we improve
biotechnical research. So one of the things I love
about being President is actually having access
to math and science. And part of what we’re trying
to do in this White House is to really ramp up the emphasis
on math and science, especially among kids. That’s why we had the first
science fair in quite some time here at the White House
and met some kids. There was one young woman from
Dallas, I think it was, who — she was only a junior
in high school, and had one an international
science contest creating a new cancer drug. She had taught herself chemistry
between her freshman and sophomore years in high school
because she was interested in it. And now you’ve got companies
calling her up wanting to work with her. She hasn’t graduated
from high school yet. Mr. Grove:
Wow. President Obama:
So there’s some serious
brain power out there. We just have to tap it. Mr. Grove:
Let’s get to the last
quick question here. A lot of people want to know what
your favorite YouTube video is. Do you have a favorite
YouTube video? President Obama:
You know, I have to say
that I don’t have a favorite YouTube video. Usually what happens is, Malia
or Sasha will show me some YouTube video that
they’ve discovered, and — Mr. Grove:
So you watch it with your kids? President Obama:
I watch it with my kids. The main thing I use YouTube
for, I have to confess, is highlights that
I haven’t seen. Mr. Grove:
Sports stuff? President Obama:
Sports stuff. Mr. Grove:
Okay. Well, let’s play you a few
YouTube videos actually that have come in from
across the world, people actually documenting
their experiences, in relatively
serious situations. In fact, very
serious situations. Here are some clips just over
the past year that citizens have taken from the scenes of
protests documenting what’s taking place. And you see Tunisia
and Thailand. And of course, most
recently, Mr. President, over the past few
days, in Egypt, people have taken to the streets in
Cairo and been filming their experiences. A lot of people wrote in, you
can see here from the streets of Cairo, wondering your reaction to
the events that are taking place there. Kam Hawy wrote in saying:
Dear President Obama, regarding the current situation
in the Middle East and Egypt over the past two days, what
do you think of the Egyptian government blocking social
networks and preventing people from expressing
their opinions? President Obama:
Well, let me say, first of all,
that Egypt has been an ally of ours on a lot of
critical issues. They made peace with Israel. President Mubarak has been very
helpful on a range of tough issues in the Middle East. But I’ve always said to him that
making sure that they are moving forward on reform, political
reform, economic reform, is absolutely critical to the
long term well-being of Egypt. And you can see these pent-up
frustrations that are being displayed on the streets. My main hope right now is that
violence is not the answer in solving these problems in Egypt. So the government has to be
careful about not resorting to violence. And the people on the streets
have to be careful about not resorting to violence. And I think that it is very
important that people have mechanisms in order to express
legitimate grievances. As I said in my State
of the Union speech, there are certain core values
that we believe in as Americans that we believe are
universal, freedom of speech, freedom of expression. People being able to use
social networking or any other mechanisms to communicate with
each other and express their concerns. And that, I think, is no less
true in the Arab world than it is here in the United States. Mr. Grove:
Let’s stay in the Middle
East for a second, go from Egypt to Afghanistan. I’m going to play you two
questions back to back about the way forward in Afghanistan. President Obama:
Um-hmm. Ms. Heneman:
My name is Sheila Heneman. I’m from Brunswick, Ohio. And Mr. President, I have
a son in the military. And I was just
wondering what your — if you really feel that it is
still important for our young men and women to be dying
over in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Grove:
Just one more after
this and then we’ll — I’m sorry, I actually
need to push the button. Here we go. Mr. Trainor:
Mr. President, disrupting,
dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda and preventing its
capacity to threaten the United States and our allies in the
future is how you have defined our objective in Afghanistan. How do preventative wars costing
the lives of innocent civilians in countries that have not
attacked us distance your foreign policy from the Bush
doctrine or disprove the assertion of Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr.’s — that the United States is the
greatest purveyor of violence in the world? President Obama:
Well, Dennis’s question I’m not
sure I buy into the premise. Our work in Afghanistan is
precisely because that was the launching pad from which
9/11 happened, and 3,000 Americans were killed. So we’re not over
there by accident. Obviously, I disagreed
with us going into Iraq. But I will say that we are
bringing the war in Iraq to a honorable conclusion because of
the extraordinary service of our men and women, both military
and civilian in Iraq. We’ve still got work to
do in this transition. But by the end of this year
we’ll have all our troops out. And the Iraqi people now have
a government that they will be looking to for governance
and development. In Afghanistan, we have
Al Qaeda and its allies. We have them along the border
region in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And it is my job as President to
make sure that they can’t launch another 9/11 against us. Over the next couple of years,
we are going to be transitioning so that we are
bringing troops back, Afghans are taking
a greater lead. The situation’s not going
to be perfect there, but what we have been able to
do is to continually shrink the ability of Al Qaeda
to launch operations. And we expect to dismantle their
operational capacity over the next several years. That is our goal and
we’re going to keep on it. Mr. Grove:
And maybe just real
briefly to Sheila, the mother of the soldier
who wants to know. President Obama:
Well, as I said, we will be
out of Afghanistan by the end of this year. I mean, we’ll have a
relationship with Iraq the same way we have relationships with
many countries around the world. Mr. Grove:
So Afghanistan isn’t — President Obama:
But combat operations in
Afghanistan have ended, and under the strategic
framework agreement that we signed with Iraq, we’re not
going to be having large contingents of troops there. Afghanistan is a
tougher situation. But what I’ve said is, is that
starting in July of this year, we’re going to begin to
phase down our troop levels. And we’ve agreed with
our allies that by 2014, this is going to be
an Afghan effort. Mr. Grove:
Let’s move to energy. You just got back from Wisconsin
yesterday where you were looking at some solar wind plants. Here’s Alexis from Florida. Speaker:
Dear Mr. President, in 2009
you said that you would reduce independence on foreign oil and
boost our renewable energy efforts. Well, since 1974, several
Presidents before you said the exact same thing and
yet still here we are. So like — so what will you do
different in order to remove us from foreign oil and put us on
the path towards renewable and clean burning energy? President Obama:
This is why we’ve made such a
big emphasis on this in my State of the Union speech, and I
talked about it yesterday. My first appearance coming out
of the State of the Union was at a plant, a company called Orion,
that specializes in creating energy efficient lighting,
saving companies as much as 50% on their electricity bill. Then we went to a aluminum plant
where they’re recycling aluminum. Then we went to a place where
they’re making wind turbines. This whole clean energy space is
one where we can put people to work, save energy, save people
here in the United States a lot of money, and free ourselves
from dependence on foreign oil. But we’re going to have to make
some investments in innovation in order for us to be at the
cutting edge of this clean energy race. Frankly, we’ve lost
some lead to China. Just a few years ago, we were
the leader in solar panels. China made a much
bigger investment. They are rapidly
taking over that lead. And so we’ve got to
invest in innovation, invest in research
and development. And the last thing we have to do
is to create a energy standard in this country where a certain
proportion of our energy by law comes from clean energy sources. That creates a market so that — Mr. Grove:
You said 80% by 2035. President Obama:
If we get to that stage, then I
am absolutely confident that not only will consumers save money,
but we’re going to be able to clean up the environment in the
process and we’ll stop sending billions of dollars every day to
foreign countries because of our oil purchases. Mr. Grove:
You mentioned solar power. And there’s a lot of individual
entrepreneurs out there working in this space. R. Hail from Texas writes: I can
build large solar panels with parts from eBay in my
garage for under $1 a watt. Why can’t our nation’s solar
industries mass produce solar panels cheaper than
some guy in his garage? President Obama:
Well, I tell you what. He should go into business if
he can do it cheaper than — Mr. Grove:
But how do you harness
somebody like that? President Obama:
A lot of — a lot of this may
have to do with making sure that small businesses are getting the
loans and the capital they need. You know, it may be that
Mr. Hail in Houston has some capacity to scale up, but he may
just not have financing or the inclination to go into business. But as I said, part of it
is just creating a market. In every new technology,
initially it’s very expensive because it’s new and not
enough people are buying it. And if you have to make it one
at a time, then it’s expensive. But if you start being able to
make 100,000 of them or 200,000 of them, then the unit
costs of each one go down. The same is true
with clean energy. So what we’ve got to do is make
sure that there’s a market for entrepreneurs out there. And that’s why something like a
clean energy standard is so important. Mr. Grove:
You know, it wasn’t one of
our official categories, I’ll be honest with you, but we
got a lot of questions on drug policy. President Obama:
I think we did last year, too. Mr. Grove:
You know, there are a lot of
folks online who want to know your thoughts on it. And I think with the Prop 19 in
California last fall it’s even more on people’s minds. Here’s the top-voted
question in that area. Mr. Allen:
Good evening, Mr. President. My name is Mackenzie Allen. I’m a retired law enforcement
officer and member of LEAP, Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition. The so-called war on drugs has
been waged for 40 years at a cost of $1 trillion and
thousands of lives with nothing to show for it but
increased supplies, cheaper drugs and a dramatic
increase in violence associated with the underworld drug market. Sir, do you think there will or
should come a time for us to discuss the possibility
of legalization, regulation and
control of all drugs, thereby doing away with the
violent criminal market as well as a major source of funding
for international terrorism? Thank you so much for
your time, Mr. President. President Obama:
Well, I think this is an
entirely legitimate topic for debate. I am not in favor
of legalization. I am a strong believer that we
have to think more about drugs as a public health problem. When you think about other
damaging activities in our society, smoking, drunk driving,
making sure you are wearing seat belts, typically we’ve made
huge strides over the last 20, 30 years by changing
people’s attitudes. And on drugs, I think that a lot
of times we have been so focused on arrests, incarceration,
interdiction, that we don’t spend as
much time thinking about, how do we shrink demand? And this is something that, you
know, within the White House, we are looking at
very carefully. Mr. Grove:
Any ideas? President Obama:
Well, some of this requires
shifting resources, being strategic, where does it
make sense for us to really focus on interdiction. We have to go after drug cartels
that not only are selling drugs but also creating
havoc, for example, along the U.S./Mexican border. But are there ways that we can
also shrink demand and in some cities, for example, it may take
six months for you to get into a drug treatment program. Mr. Grove:
Right. President Obama:
Well, if you’re trying to kick a
habit and somebody says to you, well, come back in six months,
that’s pretty discouraging. And so we’ve got to do more in
figuring out how can we get some resources on that end of
it and make sure that — and also look at what we’re
doing when we have nonviolent first time drug offenders, are
there ways that we can make sure that we’re steering them into
the straight and narrow without automatically resorting to
incarceration, drug courts, mechanisms like that. So these are all issues
that are worth exploring, and worth a serious debate. Mr. Grove:
Want to get a health
care question in here. The number one voted health care
question came from Noah who asks: I have diabetes and some
of my medicine is very expensive. Why is the same medication that
I use cost so much less in Mexico or Canada, even though
it’s being made right here in the United States? We as a country need
to fix this problem. President Obama:
Well, the main reason is,
is that Canada, Mexico, their governments are bulk
purchasers of these drugs. And so they negotiate much
cheaper prices with the drug companies. We still don’t do that. And I actually think it’s
something we should do. It would save us money. Now, the drug companies, as part
of health care reform last year, did agree to essentially put
in more money for prescription drugs for seniors,
make them cheaper. But they’re probably not as
cheap as they should be or could be. That was the subject of
compromise through the legislative process. I think we could go further. Mr. Grove:
So nothing in the health
care plan will fix — right now will fix this — President Obama:
Well, actually, depending
on Noah’s circumstances, if he’s getting prescription
drugs through the Medicare program, then our laws — what
we’re doing is we’re closing the donut hole, which is that
portion of the law that said at a certain point you start paying
full price for your drugs. So we are making prescription
drugs cheaper for seniors and we’re going to be phasing out
that donut hole over the next several years. So Noah may be helped if he’s
getting these drugs through Medicare. If he’s getting them
through a private insurer, then we’ve still got to do more
work in the private health care plans to figure out how
we can cheapen drugs. And it may be that importation
is still something that we should look at in terms of
further lowering the price of drugs. Mr. Grove:
Another top voted health care
question had to do something that I know your wife is
very passionate about, it’s from Josh. Mr. Viertel:
My name is Josh Viertel. I live in Brooklyn, New York. Right now, we live in a country
where it’s cheaper to feed our kids Froot Loops than it
is to feed them fruit. I’d like to know, what are you
going to do to reverse that? (laughter) President Obama:
Well, the main thing I’ve
done is I have the First Lady, who is just driving this issue
in an incredible way all across the country. I don’t know if you read
recently, for example, that she was able to negotiate
something with Wal-Mart where for the first time they’re going
to start putting labels on their products, and also emphasize more
healthy choices for their customers. Mr. Grove:
What about cost,
though, I think is — President Obama:
Well, what happens is when
Wal-Mart ends up saying we’re going to buy healthier stuff,
then suddenly all the producers say, you know what, we better
start producing healthier stuff. And that can make it cheaper. The other thing that
we’re doing, for example, Josh there was just
eating an apple. One of the things that we’re
trying to do is to encourage linkages between local
supermarkets, local farmers, local producers, to figure out
how can we get fresh produce in communities that right now don’t
have access to fresh produce. That’s good for the farmer,
it’s good for retail stores in underserved communities, and
ultimately it’s good for the consumer. The child nutrition bill that we
just passed is similarly working with schools to figure out how
can we make sure that you’re not just serving Tater Tots
and pizza all day long. Are you able to get fresh fruits
and vegetables into the school lunch program? So all these things are geared
towards making local produce, fresh produce, much more
available and cheaper to every family and not just families who
can afford to go into high-end supermarkets. Mr. Grove:
Right. The last issue category
we haven’t got to yet is immigration, and I want
to show you this question. The audio is good, the
video is little jenky, but I think you should be able
to hear what Steven Lee is saying right here. Mr. Lee:
President Obama, my
name is Steve Lee, and I’m a Dreamer activist
currently studying to become a nurse at city college
in San Francisco. Last year my house was raided by
ICE and I was incarcerated for two months in a detention
center in Arizona awaiting my deportation to Peru. I was able to return to my
friends and family when Senator Feinstein agreed to introduce a
bill to stop my deportation to Peru. The Senate has failed to pass
the Dream Act because of partisan politics. Mr. President, will you help
us make sure that there is a moratorium to stop the
deportation of innocent students who qualify for the Dream Act? Thank you. President Obama:
Well, you know, Steve is an
example of what I talked about at the State of
the Union address. We’ve got incredibly talented
young people that grow up as Americans, pledge
allegiance to our flag, and are now at risk
of deportation, not just of anything they did,
but because their parents brought them here
as young children, and they didn’t have
their legal papers. And so I’m a strong
supporter of the Dream Act. The reason I spoke about it
during the State of the Union is because I think we should still
be able to get Democrats and Republicans to work together
to solve this problem. I want somebody like Steve to
study to be a nurse and be able to contribute to our society. Mr. Grove:
Hopeful this year that the
Dream Act can get passed or something like it? President Obama:
I am hopeful that we should be
able to get this thing passed, in part because
in previous years, we’ve had Republican and
Democratic support for it. And this is one more problem
that we can solve if we’re not trying to score political
points off each other, but we’re just
looking at, you know, how do we create an environment
where this is a country of laws and a country of immigrants. And we can reconcile
those two values, but we’re going to
have to do it together. Mr. Grove:
Let’s move to our last question. This comes from Tom
in Syracuse, New York. Speaker:
Mr. President, after the
Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the young people in the nation
were challenged with learning maths and sciences so that
the country could compete. What does America need from my
generation to still be great when it’s time to
hand it to our kids? President Obama:
Well, I talked about
winning the future. I think that’s what every
American wants to see. Obviously, we’re concerned
about the immediate problems of unemployment, coming
out of the recession. But what we also want to feel
confident about is that 10 years from now, 15 years from
now, 20 years from now, America is still at the top
when it comes to technology, when it comes to innovation,
when it comes to a dynamic economy. And I’m absolutely convinced
that we can do it. But in order to accomplish
it, we’re going to have to out-build, out-educate,
out-innovate every other country. That’s what we’ve always done. We’re going to have to have a
government that is trimming its deficits, living
within its means. It’s got to be updated
for the 21st century. But the most important thing we
have to do is to make sure that young people like Tom are
getting the best education possible, that young
engineers and scientists, they have the resources to
create new products and new technologies, that we’ve got
a economy that’s dynamic and rewards success. But also a economy that
benefits from the best transportation systems,
the best Internet systems, the best roads and
bridges and airports. And so the goal over the next
couple of years is to make sure that even as we’re reducing our
deficit, dealing with our debt, that we’re still making some
core investments that are going to prepare us for the future. And I guess the last
point I’d make, though, is that as important
as government is, what’s most important is that
this generation of Americans feel that same sense of
confidence about the future that previous generations have felt. And that we’re willing to work
for that future the same way the previous generations
worked for that future. You know, I want our kids to be
understanding that to win the future, we’re going to
have to out work folks. We’re going to have
to be disciplined. You know, math and science
may not be subjects that come naturally to some kids, but you
need to learn them if you want to succeed in this next century. We need to reward engineers at
least as much if not more than we’re rewarding the lawyers and
investment bankers in this culture. So we’re going to have to
up our game as individuals. Government can help. And what I’ve tried
to do is to say, here’s how we can make some
investments in our future that will unleash what I know is the
inherent capabilities of the American people to create and
innovate that’s unmatched by any other country on earth. Mr. Grove:
I’m afraid we’re out
of time, Mr. President. Time often flies when you’re
watching YouTube videos. But really appreciate you taking
the time to bring the American people in here to
the White House. There’s an open and vibrant
discussion on the Internet about the future of the country. President Obama:
Absolutely. Mr. Grove:
And for the chance for anybody
across the country to just lean into a webcam or a video camera
and have a chance for the President of the United States
to answer their question, it’s just — it’s a great symbol
of how open and accessible government can be. So thanks for making it happen. President Obama:
Steve, I really enjoyed it. And I appreciate everybody
who sent in their questions. They were all outstanding. Mr. Grove:
Great. Thank you. President Obama:
All right. Appreciate it.

Danny Hutson

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