August 13th, 2012
10:58 PM ET
9 years ago

Protester shares stage with president

Boone, Iowa (CNN) – President Barack Obama addressed an enthusiastic crowd of more than 2,000 supporters in Boone, Iowa, Monday, but even among the most diehard of fans it wasn't hard to find a critic.

Krishna Prabhu, a recent college graduate from Ames, Iowa, stood just over the president's left shoulder throughout his remarks at the Herman Park pavilion. A few minutes after Obama took the stage, Prabhu quietly unfolded a regular piece of white printer paper with the words "FUND PEPFAR" printed on it in big black letters. He held it silently for about five minutes in full view of the audience and all the television cameras aimed at the president's remarks, and then just as quietly, he refolded the paper and put it away.

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PEPFAR – or the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief – was started by President George W. Bush in 2003 and is widely viewed as one of the great successes of his administration. The program was renewed by Congress in 2008 with a $48 billion commitment for fiscal years 2009 to 2013.

But some critics argue that after taking into account inflation in Africa and increased global demand for treatment, funding has effectively flat lined or even decreased under Obama. Prabhu is one of those critics.

"My message was, look if you're going to promise an AIDS-free generation you've got to at least maintain funding because there are millions of people who still need treatment," Prabhu told CNN after the event. "The U.S. is one of the most generous donors and so a cut like that especially in an economic crisis can be devastating in terms of human health."

Prabhu is an otherwise vocal supporter of the president. He caucused for Obama as a young college student in 2008 and has volunteered for his campaign in Iowa since graduating from Harvard last spring. Set to begin medical school in the fall, Prabhu became passionate about global health after taking a service trip to Uganda and seeing entire communities ravaged by AIDS.

His quiet protest at Monday's event was meant as a harmless way to get the "wonks" in the Obama Administration to pay more attention to the importance of funding PEPFAR, Prabhu said, but not to harm the president's chances in this key swing state.

"There's no question that between the two sides I choose President Obama, but it is hard to kind of nuance a message and hold the president accountable for his promises," Prabhu said. "He came into office promising huge increases in AIDS funding, about $50 billion over five years and it's just been met with flatlining and now actual cuts. So in terms of fulfilling a promise and maintaining funding that a lot of vulnerable people are depending on he hasn't done his job."

Monday's demonstration was "kind of tame" for Prabhu, who said he has protested much more vocally at political rallies in the past. But as a supporter of the president, he didn't want to cause too big of a scene.

"[The campaign] kind of told me to take it down," Prabhu said, referring to his sign. "And I did because I didn't want to cause a ruckus. At the end of the day, [Obama's] vulnerable in Iowa and you don't want to mess anything up."

Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • President Obama
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Alex in Wisconsin

    My respect to a civilized protester. Props to Prabhu.

    August 13, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  2. Common sense!

    Obama the Father Christmas, fundPEPFAR, Fund Komen, Fund Unions, Fund HomeOwners, Fund Fishermen, Fund as all! go print more money debts doesn't matter after all you gonna print some more!!!

    August 13, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  3. NameBob Fettkether

    I'm an Iowa boy in Ca. My
    Lifelong Rep. Mom voted for you and will again!

    August 13, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  4. enuff

    Oh my gosh! A president is allowing a protester space to have freedom of speech DURING his speech? What happened to the good ol' days when people like Cheney had them arrested for just looking at him funny? Or Romney/Ryan insulting them and having them arrested? All I can say is ... wow. THAT is great.

    August 13, 2012 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  5. Winston Smith

    It is totally awesome to know that even supporters can disagree with the person they are supporting...republicans should take some cues from this guy!!!

    August 14, 2012 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  6. gmonpolitics

    To put the PEPFAR funding in perspective, it may help to stick to units of Billions of dollars. The annual US budget is approximately 3,800 Billion dollars. The entire annual foreign aid budget (not counting funding of the two wars) is 38 Billion dollars, or ONE percent of the annual US budget. Three-tenths of this one percent is 11.4 Billion dollars per YEAR. Over five years this is roughly 57 Billion dollars. The number of millions of lives saved by less than three-tenths of one percent of the annual US budget should factor into our moral priorities as Christians. In contrast, the amount that was spent in the two wars was more than $2 Billion per WEEK. As a supporter of the President and a volunteer, I also think It is good to remind the President about some of his promises, and hope that he finds a way to keep them in his next term.

    August 14, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  7. Ant

    Does she know GOP has the House plus they block anything that goes to the senate floor since the beggining.

    August 14, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  8. Thomas

    He wouldn't even been abel to get in the same room if Romney was speaking .

    He has the right to say what he feels.

    August 14, 2012 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  9. T'sah From Virginia

    CNN – You failed to show the person holding up the piece of paper but yet you state it was in full view of the cameras???????????? Jeez, full story please!!!

    I am sure if President Obama was aware of the sign, he would have engaged with the protester and not BULLY him (like Christie, ginGRINCH, etc.).

    Obama/Biden 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    August 14, 2012 04:21 am at 4:21 am |
  10. Hindsight 20/20

    While this is an important cause I believe there are too many in country issues that need the peesident's attention right now.

    August 14, 2012 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
  11. Fred

    America is indeed a land of freedom.If only gun violence would wane! I love your understanding.

    August 14, 2012 05:45 am at 5:45 am |
  12. n

    Don't lose hope, my friend, we see you and have not forgotten about the poor, the unserved, the uninspired out there in the trenches. Obstacles by the red party of "NO" have been put in place to obstruct, dismantle, undermined and abandon the needs and will of the people. We must continue to trust, hope and have faith in the unseen. For it is God who appoints our leaders to govern for His Glory, perfect will and purpose. God has not forgotten the sick and the impoverish. Obama, is trying his best but is yet, still just a man, Let's continue to lift him up in prayer and God will hear and remember us. Have faith, stay the course and In November, we shall prevail victorious. Obama 2012

    August 14, 2012 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  13. Gaz

    This is how protesters should behave. Not armed with guns and calling for the death of people. I actually laugh every time I saw a sign saying "keep your government hands off my medicare!" the person has to be republican because medicare is ironically government initiated, run and funded. They are actually calling to privatise medicare but will fox tell them that. Hahahaha now you see why I laugh. They always vote against their own interest. Like welfare. Hahahaha

    August 14, 2012 06:06 am at 6:06 am |
  14. onlyfacts61

    Good for you, young man!

    August 14, 2012 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  15. Jerry

    Krishna Prabhu, "[The campaign] kind? of told me to take it down." Actually, what the campaign really told you was that they would use your sign as your own suppository if you did did not get rid of it. And like numerous others, you capitulated.

    You must have forgotten that with Mr. Obamaloney there is absolutely no room for dissent.

    You DO need to be congratulated for taking such a visible stand on the AIDS epidemic, THOUGH.

    Mr. Prabhu, ¬°Adelante".

    August 14, 2012 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  16. Are you kidding me?

    Next time show up at a Romney event. He would have a hard time explaining why the GOP and congress will agree to do this if there is support from our president.

    Folks need to remember that there is an insurgency of epic proportions to stall and halt any sign of progress. Hold those people accountable.

    August 14, 2012 07:43 am at 7:43 am |