“This is a different kind of election,” answered Bill Burton, the National Press Secretary for the Obama for America campaign, to a question about voter apathy among young people.
Described as a “trial-run” with more to follow, Barack Obama’s Press Secretary engaged in a conference call on Thursday, March 1, with 25-30 reporters from collegiate newspapers across the nation. The Minaret joined counterparts from schools such as UNC-Chapel Hill, Yale and UCLA in indulging Obama’s wish to “introduce himself to the American people.”
Explaining that Obama’s decision to run for president stemmed from his conviction that “to change our country we need to change our politics,” Burton opened the floor for questions on any and all subjects. Not surprisingly, given the demographic, the questions immediately turned to issues and challenges facing young people.
Burton quickly dismissed the pessimistic notion that the youth aren’t going to be politically active. It is Obama’s belief, he stated, that “at every important juncture in our history, it was young folks who stepped up . . . [and] put their shoulders to the wheel of history.”
It was intimated that Obama is seriously counting on young people as a support base for votes and political involvement, since “the real desire for change is a galvanizing force.” The relationship seems to be reciprocal, which is perhaps why Burton stressed Barack’s dedication to “making sure that college is affordable and accessible to everyone who wants to go.”
As might be expected, it wasn’t long before some student reporters broached the subject of race. Burton did not shy away, as he assured everyone that Obama, who is “proud to be rooted in the African-American community,” is just as open on the matter.
Burton related that race is “not the only part of the discussion, but it’s an important one.” That said, he challenged notions such as “the black vote” by explicating that Obama does not expect blacks to vote monolithically, and will simply be trying to reach as many Americans as he can.
In this spirit, Burton noted a few key issues of Obama’s which were “at the top of his agenda” before the conference’s cessation. The highlights of the platform include getting out of Iraq, giving healthcare to those in need, combating the “nastiness in Washington” and developing renewable energy sources to create jobs and lessen dependence on foreign energy.
Press assistant Katie Hogan was pleased with the result of this “trial-run” and assured us that the college conference call will continue on a twice a month, biweekly basis. The Minaret will stay involved in this exciting new forum for student-official discourse, and will continue reporting developments as they transpire.