Three William Smith students sat intently, listening to President Barack Obama – not on television or the radio, but over the telephone on Monday, Sept. 27. The President hosted an on-the-record conference call with college and university student-journalists to discuss the steps his administration has taken to target issues concerning young Americans.
The weekend before, Aaron Read, general manager of the Colleges’ radio stations, received an e-mail asking if the Colleges wanted to participate in the conference call, which included the chance to ask Obama a question. Read accepted the invitation, and selected first year newscasters Brittany Lopez ’14 and Natia Bueno ’14, and Student Program Director Vienna Farlow ’12 to participate.
The three formed questions over the weekend, and picked their favorite on Monday. All decided that Bueno’s question, which dealt with the mistrust of government that seems to be growing in American youth, best encompassed their mutual concerns.
“We felt this was the best question to represent our group because it fit our demographic of listeners. It’s also a question that’s not being addressed in the media at large,” remarked Lopez. “No one seems to be thinking about how the young people being raised not to trust their leaders are going to impact public policy and democracy in just a few years.”
Although they did not get to ask their question due to time limitations, all were thrilled to have had the one of a kind opportunity to listen to the President speak directly to fellow students. “Being ‘so close’ to the President was an amazing experience!” said an enthusiastic Bueno. Ever the persistent journalists, the three have e-mailed their question to the President and hope to hear a response.
During the conference call, Obama answered questions from students at UCLA, Penn State, and the University of Wisconsin. When asked the question, “Do you think there is truth to the labeling of our generation as the lost generation?” the President responded with optimism, while stressing that there is room for improvement.
Obama stated that the single most important step we, as a country, can take to keep the younger generation from being “lost,” is getting America’s young adults to college. Because monetary challenges present significant obstacles that need to be overcome in order to make this step a reality, Obama shared his plans to make college more affordable by creating loans that are more direct, raising the value of Pell Grants, and simplifying financial aid forms.
“It was absolutely unreal to be a phone line away from President Obama,” concluded Farlow.