October 14th, 2010
07:23 PM ET
11 years ago

Obama faces tough questions from students

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama heard young people speaking their minds Thursday at a respectful but challenging town hall-style event where he was asked tough questions by students who support and oppose him.

"Oh, no!" Obama responded when told one of the more than 15,000 tweets submitted to the event said the greatest fear was his re-election.

Other topics challenged him on the lack of bipartisanship in Washington since he came to power, illegal immigrants, high unemployment and racism.

Obama's answers generally matched his previous statements on major issues. He emphasized the economic crisis in place when his term started in January 2009 and the steps taken to stabilize the situation, as well as the benefits of health care reform and education policies.

The president was forced to address a sensitive topic when asked directly if he believed homosexuality is a choice. Obama responded he was no expert, then added: "I don't think it's a choice. I think people are born with a certain make-up."

"We're all children of God," Obama said. "We don't make determinations about who we love. That's why I think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong."

Unlike recent similar events in which the questions come from supporters only, the event by Viacom's BET, CMT and MTV networks started with a question by a Texas student who identified herself as a Republican and asked what happened to the bipartisanship Obama promised in this 2008 election campaign, particularly on the issue of health care reform.

Obama, standing in the center of the live audience and using a microphone, calmly responded that his administration and Democratic leaders held numerous meetings with Republicans to try to reach agreement on a bipartisan plan.

"We just couldn't get there," he said, then added that some Republicans made the political decision to oppose any bill instead of working for a solution.

"I do think that there are a lot of good Republican ideas out there," he said. "There are a number of them that were incorporated in the health care bill."

Obama called the bitter debate and legislative battle of the bill "past history," and expressed hope for more cooperation after the upcoming congressional elections on November 2.

Asked why the government mounted a legal challenge to Arizona's controversial immigration law, Obama said a comprehensive approach was needed and that his administration put more resources toward border security than the Bush administration.

He also challenged a questioner who asked about higher taxes, saying: "Taxes are not higher since I took office. Taxes are generally lower since I
took office."

When a young man told him that racism in America seems to have worsened, Obama responded by pointing out that usually happens in tough economic times.

Looking around at the diverse group in the room, Obama said progress has been made over the decades.

"This audience just didn't exist 20 years ago," he said. "The amount of interaction, the amount of understanding that exists in your generation among people of different races or different creeds or different colors is unprecedented."

The key, he said, is for the nation to "work together," and he called the students and other young people the potential leaders in that effort.

"If all of you lead, then your parents and your grandparents tend to follow," Obama said, pointing to himself and joking that "as you get older, you know, your mind gets a little more set."

He added: "It needs the poking and prodding and breaking through of stereotypes that young people provide."

Filed under: issues • President Obama
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. NameLinda

    Every word out of his mouth is hogwash or shifting blame

    October 14, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  2. Four and The Door

    These students are smart enough to have recognized, especially based on the results, that the "bipartisan effort" of the Democrats was half-hearted and insincere. The Democrats were running high and mighty with control of The House, The Senate and The Administration. Even a bunch of Democrats couldn't swallow that poor excuse for reform they came up with until a flurry of backroom deals made them all cave to it.

    Obama made no progress with the young vote by lying to the students. People do pay attention and remember.

    October 14, 2010 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  3. MarkieBee

    My God what a great president. Bravo Mr. President. Bush and his cronies wouldn't have allowed any questions unless they had signed a loyalty oath first, and then the question would have been pre-screened and they still would have fumbled with the English language.

    October 14, 2010 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  4. barry

    He has lost the young voter just like he's lost the majority of Americans. He did a great job in '08 with his Snake Oil Salesmsan act. Now American's realize that they elected a man in far over his head. We should have elected Hillary. Life was very good when the Clintons were in the White House. I believe with Hillary they could be again. Summer of Recovery was a sick joke. That ended the love affair.

    October 14, 2010 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  5. George of the jungle

    One class act. One of the best presidents ever. The repos are doing everything they can to distroy this man. He has helped this counrty move forward through one of the worst recessions. Vote the repos out. You can see by the comments made by the repos about him how unpatriotic and nasty they really are.

    October 14, 2010 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  6. George of the jungle

    Thank you Mr. president for your brave comments on homosexuality. People are who they are . Tired of all the gay bashing . you are doing a great job.

    October 14, 2010 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  7. southern cousin

    Did he gloss over or even mention the new job loss report. You can't create jobs by giving taxpayer money to corrupt union bosses and left wing nut organizations like the NEA. Of course a trillion dollars can by a lot of VIagara for the teachers union.

    October 14, 2010 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  8. Doe

    It's a shame that a President that is so intelligent,well spoken and in tuned with the issues of regular middle class Americans, has been so disrespected and so unfairly treated by so many small minded and hateful people. I hope the next generation is more tolerant and respectful. The Tea Party Movement is just a smoke screen for people to show their true racist feelings under the banner of less Government and lower taxes. If it were a true movement, we would have had the biggest Tea Party in the world for George W. Bush!!! Bush's name should be LIPTON!

    October 14, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |