As President Obama begins his final year in office, he took one last opportunity to sit down with leading YouTube stars and speak directly to their young audiences.
For his seventh YouTube interview, Obama selected sWooZie, “Smarter Every Day” and Ingrid Nilsen to address some of the top issues that Millennials are concerned with in 2016.
Here are the highlights:
Gaming YouTuber Adande Thorne aka sWooZie is getting a lot of buzz for quizzing Obama on the “if dogs wore pants” meme, but he started with the tough issues when he talked about being racially profiled. “I feel like law enforcement, they’re just bullies with badges at this point. They get caught on camera, they are killing people, and they go to the court of law and they get off without a lot of consequences. […] I think they’re developing a Superman complex.”
While the president said it was important not to over-generalize, he acknowledged police misconduct and listed a number of reforms, like body cams, to reduce such incidents. “I can’t order all these reforms to be implemented. What we’re trying to do is incentivize all these cities and counties to adopt these practices.”
Asked if the government should do something to keep the media from giving mass shooters attention, Obama replied:
“That’s something that’s probably more up to folks like you, young people who are in media right now, particularly new media. How are you going to work together with others who have a lot of viewers to try to educate them about how they think about their world?”
Other topics included fighting online propaganda from terrorist groups, and a lightning round featuring “Star Wars” and Kendrick Lamar vs Drake.
Destin Sandlin from the “Smarter Every Day” channel was focused on NASA, deep space exploration and science, but first he wanted to know how President Obama gets smarter every day dealing with difficult problems in the Situation Room.
“The most important thing that I find, whether it’s on the defense/military side, whether it’s on social issues, domestic policy, is I’ve learned to be pretty good at listening carefully to people who know a lot more than I do about a topic, and making sure that any dissenting voices are in the room at the same time.”
Sandlin also asked if Obama still believed that “there is not a liberal America and a conservative America, there is a United States of America,” as he famously said when he first campaigned for president.
The president admitted that the 2016 presidential race was putting his beliefs to the test. “As I said during my State of the Union, one of my biggest regrets is I haven’t been able to reflect here in Washington, what I see every day when I travel around the country.”
Lifestyle vlogger Ingrid Nilsen lives pretty close to San Bernardino, so her opening question was about terrorism. “Do we all have to accept that living with the threat of terror attacks on our own soil is going to become the new normal for us?”
Obama replied that since 9/11, the government has made enormous strides in national security. He pointed out that people are more likely to die in car accidents than terrorist attacks. “We take it seriously, we focus on it, but I don’t want people to feel that every day that somehow the likelihood of a terrorist attack is something that they should change how they live.”
Ingrid also asked if recent advances for LGBT people are in danger of being taken away. “This is something that’s really personal to me, because in June I came out in a YouTube video as a lesbian. After that my world got a whole lot bigger, and I realized that there’s still a lot of discrimination happening.”
President Obama assured her that same-sex marriage was here to stay and setbacks were only temporary.
“I think that the process of changing people’s attitudes, the process of people treating the LGBT community with full equality and respect, making sure they’re not discriminated on the job or in housing or things like that, those are areas where we’ve still got some significant work to do.”
They also discussed feminine hygiene products being taxed as “luxury items” in 40 states, the effort to find a cure for cancer, and some of the good luck charms people have given President Obama as he traveled the country.