On January 22nd, two days after delivering an epic State of the Union address, President Obama participated in an interview called #YouTubeAsksObama with three of social platform’s most popular vloggers GloZell Green, Bethany Mota and Hank Green. It was another chance for the President to reconnect with the concerns of the youth, as he’s done before with MTV sit-downs with Sway and across college campuses.
Originally aired as a live stream event, held at The White House, questions ranged from drones, relations with Cuba and lobbyists, as the vloggers accepted submissions from their online followers. But we knew what you really wanted to hear, which are the President’s thoughts on topics like education, gay marriage, police brutality and Boko Haram. Thankfully, those topics were touched on as well. We would say that the only subject missing from the 3-part Q&A was a question on women in the job market and women’s rights.
Below are highlights of President Obama’s quotes from each vlogger!
Hank Green’s Segment:
Green is one half of VlogBrothers, a social and political commentary platform that has 2 million subscribers on YouTube. He was keen on asking more of the technical questions like the U.S.’s influence on world relations, and sanctions. We liked how he got Obama to briefly discuss the maltreatment of North Korea’s citizens and in a tone that was sympathetic to their situation, despite the country’s animosity towards the U.S. Green also got him to open up about the positive effects that can come from legalizing marijuana.
On North Korea:
President Obama said, “North Korea is the most isolated. Most sanctioned. The Most cut-off nation on earth. The kind of Totalitarianism that exists out there, you almost can duplicate anywhere else. It’s brutal, it’s oppressive, and as a consequence, the country can’t even really feed its own people. There aren’t that many sanctions left.”
On legalizing marijuana and the treatment of non-violent offenders:
President Obama said, “What I am doing at the federal level…how are we treating non-violent drug offenders? Because I think you’re right. Instead on focusing on treatment–the same way you can say we focused on tobacco–or drunk driving, or problems where we treated it as a public health problem, we’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. And I think that’s been counter-productive and it’s been devastating in a lot of minority communities. It presents the possibility of at least of unequal application law and that has to be changed. The good news is that we’re starting to get some interest amongst Republicans, as well as Democrats in reforming the criminal justice system, we’ve been able to initiate some changes administratively, and last year, you had the first time in 40 years where the crime rate and the incarceration rate went down at the same time. I hope we can continue with those trends because there is just a smarter of dealing with these issues.”
Afterwards, Green asked Obama to sign a receipt that showed how his medicine for an undisclosed chronic disease only cost $5 and not $11,000 thanks to Obamacare. #passthekleenex
GloZell Green’s Segment:
Self-labeled as the “Queen of YouTube,” Green is the anomaly of the three vloggers as she is in her 50s. But she has a 3 million subscribers that eat up her comedic videos on life, food and pop culture. It’s also not uncommon of her to rocking sparkling green lipstick, which she proudly wore while interviewing the 44th President. She even gave him tubes for himself and the First Family. She kept it real with her Southern twang and got right down to what was going on in the White House when the Sony’s emails were hacked and police brutality.
On the Sony hacking and U.S. protection of social media:
President Obama said, “Cyber security is a huge issue. We’ve been working on since I came into office and in fairness to the administration before me, probably were starting to work on it, but the changes in the media, that happen so fast, and so much stuff is going online today, that is becomes that much more important. The challenge we’ve got is that most of the Internet, and the infrastructure that allows you to be posting on YouTube, and people accessing your stuff, most of that stuff is in private hands, it’s not in public hands. So what we’ve got to do is work with private companies, telling them here’s what we’re seeing, here’s how you can protect yourself, here’s how you should share information with other companies that start seeing hackers getting into their stuff so that everybody can pool in information and we can all protect each other together. And it’s moves every fast. These hackers…you don’t have to have a lot of equipment in order to do this hacking. In fact the hacking against Sony, which we believe was done by North Korea, it wasn’t even that sophisticated but it just goes to show how vulnerable we are.”
On bridging the peace gap between Black men and White cops:
President Obama said, “We always have to just remind ourselves that the overwhelming majority of police officers, they are doing a really tough job and they are doing it well. And they are doing it professionally. What we also know is that they are still biases in our society that in split-second situations–where people have to make quick decisions–studies have shown African-American males are seen as more threatening, which puts them in more vulnerable positions. Young African-Americans are typically seen as older than they are! So a lot of the ways to solve this is to improve training so people can be aware of their biases ahead of time.
And when I was in the state legislature, back in Illinois, for example, I passed a racial profiling bill. It essentially said ‘how are we going to tackle this problem?’ Let’s make sure we’re keeping track of the race of everybody that was being stopped. And just by the small fix of keeping track, suddenly each cop when they were about to make a traffic stop, they had to stop and think, ‘Am I stopping this person because I should be stopping them, or is some bias at work?’ And just that kind of mindfulness about it resulted in better data, better policing, more trust by the communities that are affected and we can do some of that same stuff and same tools by putting together a Task Force with police and community activists–including some of the young people who were actively involved with the Ferguson protest–to make sure that we come up with the best training practices, what are the best tools, more body cameras on police officers so they know they are being watched and how they’re operating. We’re going to take some of those recommendations and put federal muscle behind them to see if we can that communities across the country are being implemented.
You get better policing when communities have confidence that the police are protecting and servicing and not in any way showing bias.”
On legalizing gay marriage across all 50 states:
President Obama, “We’ve done a lot to push it along. I announced my belief that same-sex marriage should be legal. People should be treated the same. We argued against, as an administration, before the Supreme Court, we argued against the defense marriage act that was treating married couples, same-sex couples differently in terms of federal benefits. The Supreme court now is going to be taking on a case. My hope is that they go and recognize what now the majority of people in America recognize which is, two people who love each other and are treating each other with respect, and aren’t bothering anyone else, why would the law treat them differently?
As far as me personally, just to see all the loving gay and lesbian couples that I know, who are great parents, great partners, the idea that we wouldn’t treat them like the brothers and sisters that they are doesn’t make any sense to me.”
When her time was done, Green was about to hand over three lipstick pens in the same audacious green she was rocking so Obama can give them to Michelle, Malia, and Sasha. But she let a major verbal faux pas slip when instead of referring to Michelle as “the First Lady” she said “your First wife.” The President had a good laugh while Green reacted mortified at herself!
Bethany Mota’s segment:
Mota is a movement on YouTube, having started her channel in 2009 as way to connect with girls like her with an interest in beauty, living a fuller life and persevering against bullying (which she also experienced). With 8 million subscribers, the aspiring pop singer is asked the President about college, and the kidnapped Nigerian girls
On making college more affordable:
President Obama said, “College remains the best investment you can make. If you want to do anything right now in this 21st century economy, you’re going to be measured by how much knowledge you have, and how adaptable you are to changing circumstances. College, it’s not just that it gives you a particular skill, it teaches you how to learn for your whole life. It’s the key to the future. One of the things we’ve done is that more young people have access to pell grants, more people have access to students loans which are of low-interest rate. Now I’ve proposed to make community college for the first two years. And then what we’ve also done is once you [graduate], if you’ve got some debt, we want to be able to cap how much you pay back to 10% of your income so that if you decide to become a teacher, a social worker, or some helping profession that doesn’t pay a lot, you don’t feel like I can’t do that job because my debt burden is too high.
But you’ve also got to be a smart shopper. You’ve got to know ahead of time how much does this school cost. If they tell you they’re going to help you with your finances and not worry, you’ve got to understand you’re going to be taking on some debt and what is it going to look like once you’re finished. See if you can get some in-state tuition versus going out of the state because there may be a big difference in cost.”
President Obama, “I’ve got to say that this is one area in which your voice is more powerful than the President of the United States because peers are going to have more influence than anybody. And when they see young people like you who are willing to speak out and say ‘that’s not right’ and protect people from cyber-bullying, or any kind of bullying, that’s what changes people’s minds. It has an impact on them. Suddenly it’s like, ‘that’s not so cool of me to do that’ because somebody that I respect or is like me is telling me to act differently. We had a big conference here at The White House about how to prevent bullying. And we had a bunch of organizations that came together and were in workshops and looking at various ways to deal with the issue. But really, the most powerful way came from testimonies from students and young people like you that came together by themselves and you were going from campus to online and explaining why that kind of bullying tactic we can guard against if everyone speaks against it. By using positive peer pressure.”
On Boko Haram and the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls:
President Obama said, “What we’ve tried to do is help the Nigerian government deal with the problem. The Nigerian government has not been as effective as it needs to be in not only finding the girls, but in also stopping this extremist organization from being on their territory. So what we’re trying to do is mobilize other countries to try to give the Nigerian government more resources, and not just military equipment, but better intelligence, so they can track where these troops are and try to stop them. And it’s hard but them are young people are engaged with this issue, speak out, and let their elective officials know that they care about it, the more attention is paid to it and ultimately, that’s how you solve these problems. ”
Her questions were the last of the #YouTubeAsksObama special and Mota, who also has 4 million followers on Instagram, asked if the President would take a selfie with her and her fellow vloggers. Here’s the pic!