Engaging America

YouTube interviews with President highlight peoples’ political questions, concerns

Alli Williams, co-editor in chief

“We’re going to serve 21st century fire-side chats where I am speaking directly to the American people through video streams,” said Senator Barack Obama in 2007 during an interview with Google. “It [will] allow me to interact in a way I think will enhance democracy and will enhance the government.”

Fulfilling his promise, three days following his final State of the Union address, now as President, Obama participated in his second YouTube Interview while in office. The video was livestreamed Jan. 12.

Three top YouTube creators Destin Sandlin, Ingrid Nilsen and Adande “Swoozie” Thorne were invited to interview the President with questions they came up with from both themselves and their viewers.

The video lasted just over 50 minutes and covered important topics such ISIL and gun control.

“The reason I emphasize common sense in gun safety is not so we can eliminate all this violence completely, but so we can reduce it,” Obama said. “The same way we’ve reduced traffic fatalities because we make people wear seat belts, and we’ve cracked down on drunk drivers. If we do a bunch of sensible things, we can do the same thing with guns. We have to do better as a culture and as a society not sensationalizing violence as a way of getting attention. That’s not something the government can do, because we have a First Amendment, but it is a thing all of us can contribute to.”

Obama said though satisfied with the accomplishments he’s made in the last eight years, he still has goals for the future, both during his presidency and after.

“We should be investing in creating a ‘SmartGrid,’” he said. “The way that we link energy is hugely inefficient in this country. We’ve made huge investments to make a broadband network. My goal has been that 98% of households are linked up to high-speed internet, but the basic electricity grid that we have wastes huge amounts of energy. We could fix that in a fairly short period of time.”

Throughout the interviews, Obama continually stressed the need for unity in America.

“We need to recognize there are some big things we can only do together,” he said. “The private sector can’t do them on their own. That requires some sort of political teamwork.” In order to achieve unity, Obama said America can’t be as divided by parties as it is.

“The belief that we’re all in this together is the thing that makes this country great,” Obama said. “We’re all Americans first. If you’re at your son’s Little League game, you’re not spending a whole lot of time talking to the dad next to you about ‘Are you a Republican or a Democrat?’  you’re talking about baseball, about how we make sure the kids are safe, how they’re doing. We’re all on the same team. The problem is when we get to our politics, for a whole host of reasons a lot of it having to do with the fact that our media is now splintered we have made this kind of polarization worse. The only way it really lessens is if the American people insist on it.”

During his interview with Thorne, Obama also answered some less serious questions such as who would win in a rap battle between Kendrick Lamar and Drake.

“Kendrick,” Obama said. “I think Drake is an outstanding entertainer, but Kendrick, his last album was outstanding the best album last year.”