tv Former President Obama Makes First Public Remarks Since Leaving Office CSPAN April 30, 2017 6:34pm-8:01pm EDT
americans want clear rules. we are concerned he could go down a path to repeal the summer rules. internet was free and open. dystopianno controlled internet with anybody else interfering with anyone's content or the applications or the content of their choice. >> watch the communicators, monday night at eight eastern on c-span two. presidentweek former barack obama made his first public appearance since leaving office. about civic engagement and community organizing with young adults at the university of chicago. he also talked about his post-presidency plans. this is just under an hour and a
what i want to do is maybe speak very briefly at the top about why we are here and then i want to spend most of the time we are together hearing from these remarkable young people who are representative for some amazing young people in the audience as well. i was telling these guys that it was a little over 30 years ago that i came to chicago. i was 25 years old, and i had gotten out of college filled with idealism and absolutely certain that somehow i was going to change the world. i have no idea how, or where or what i was going to be doing.
i worked first two payoffs and student loans, and then i went to work at the city college of new york on their harlem campus with some student organizing. then there were a group of churches on the south side who tried to deal with the steel plant that had closed in the area. the economic station that had been taking place but also the racial tensions and turnover that was happening in these communities. so they formed an organization. they hired me as what was called a community organizer. i did not really know what that meant. or how to do it. but i accepted the job and for the next three years i lived right here in hyde park but i worked further south in communities like roseland and west pullman.
working class neighborhoods. many of which had changed rapidly from white to black in the late 1960's, 1970's. and full of wonderful people who were proud of their communities, proud of the steps they had taken to try to move into the middle class, but were also worried about their futures because in some cases their kids weren't doing as well as they had. in some cases these communities had been badly neglected for a very long time. the distribution of city services were unequal. schools were underfunded. there was a lack of opportunity. and for three years i tried to do something about it. i am the first to acknowledge that i did not set the world on fire.
nor did i transform these communities in any significant way, although we did some good things. but it did change me. this community gave me a lot more than i was able to give in return. because this community taught me that ordinary people, when working together, can do extraordinary things. this community taught me that everybody has a story to tell. that is important. this experience taught me that beneath the surface differences of people that there were common hopes and common dreams and common aspirations, common values that stitched us together as americans. even though i after three years
left for law school, the lessons that had been taught to me here as an organizer are ones that stayed with me. and effectively gave me the foundation for my subsequent political career and the themes that i would talk about and as a state legislator and as a u.s. senator and ultimately as president of the united states. i tell you that history because on the back end of my presidency, now that it's completed, i'm spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing i can do
for my next job? and what i'm convinced of is that although there are all kinds of issues that i care about, and all kinds of issues that i intend to work on, the single most important thing i can do is to help in any way i can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world. as because the one thing that i'm absolutely convinced of is that, yes, we confront a whole range of challenges from economic inequality and lack of opportunity to a criminal justice system that too often is skewed in ways that are unproductive, to climate change,
to issues related to violence. all those problems are serious, they are daunting, but they are not insoluble. in the him what is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life. it has to do with the fact that because of things like political gerrymandering our parties have moved further and further apart and it's harder and harder to find common ground. because of money and politics, special interests dominate the debates in washington in ways that don't match up with what the majority of americans feel. because of changes in the media, we now have a situation in which everybody's listening to people
who already agree with them. and are further and further reinforcing their own realities to the neglect of a common reality that allows us to have a healthy debate and then try to find common ground and actually move solutions forward. so when i said in 2004 that there were no red states or blue states, there are united states of america, that was an aspirational comment, but i think it's -- it's one, by the way, i still believe in the sense that when you talk to individuals one-on-one, people -- there's a lot more that people have in common than
divides them. but obviously it's not true when it comes to our politics and our civic life. and maybe more pernicious is the fact that people just aren't involved. they get cynical. and they give up. and as a consequence we have some of the lowest voting rates of any advanced democracy and low participation rates than translate into further gap between who is governing us and what we believe. the only folks who are going to be able to solve that problem are going to be young people. the next generation. and i have been encouraged everywhere i go in the united states, but also everywhere around the world to see how
sharp and astute and tolerant will and thoughtful our young people are. will a lot more sophisticated than i was at their age. so the question then becomes what are the ways in which we can create pathways for them to take leadership, for them to get involved, are there ways which we can knock down some of the barriers that are discouraging young people about a life of service? and if there are, i want to work with them to knock down those barriers and to get this next generation to accelerate their move towards leadership. because if that happens, i think we are going to be just fine. i end up being incredibly optimistic. so with that what i'd like to do
is to have our panelists here today each tell us a little bit about themselves and what i'd ask them ahead of time, i did give them the question ahead of time, i asked them to describe for me what it is that they see among their peers that they think discourages voting participation, paying attention to some of the issues, getting involved, do they have some immediate suggestions the kinds of things that would get young people more involved and engaged and discover their voices. once we have gone through the entire panel, then we are just going to open it up and see how it works. and hopefully it will be interesting. i'll find it interesting. hopefully you'll find it interesting. all right. we are going to start with kelsey. kelsey: thank you, mr. president. good morning, everyone.
it's an absolute honor to be here with you-all. my name is kelsey, a senior at loyola university of chicago where i spent the last four years studying marketing with leadership studies. i had the pleasure of being very involved on loyola's campus. i have a number of different things going on and looking forward to graduating in less than two weeks and pursuing my masters in higher education and students affairs. i think to answer your question, my passion for working with college students does stem from the ability to work with activists and work with community engagement and understanding that college students during that transformative time is the opportunity for students to learn about these important issues and really find their voice. understanding we can't just get discouraged when something doesn't go our way immediately, but being able to work towards that end common goal. president obama: fantastic. ok. [applause] >> good morning, everyone. i grew up in milwaukee, wisconsin.
i'm a u.s. army veteran. i major in sociology with a minor in legal studies at roosevelt university. yeah. i worked -- currently i'm a research assistant at roosevelt university focusing on community based collaborative research projects. we have worked on projects ranging from landlord-tenant issues to leadership programs currently working on the project about the day labor market in chicago. pleasure to be here. president obama: thank you. >> good morning. i'm tiffany. i was raised on the south side of chicago in a low-income household. i graduated valedictorian from burnside school scholastic academy. graduated number one from chicago state university with my bachelor's in chemistry. [applause] and graduate interested chicago
state a second time with my doctorate in pharmacy. i currently have been a community pharmacy manager on the south side of chicago and -- for the past three years and also author of 10 tactics to tackle studying. the guide to elementary school, high school, and undergraduate success. [applause] >> i'm max. you can see what they have made me follow now. i have -- been involved in civic engagement and civic life here at the university of chicago to the institute of politics, which has been an absolute blessing and fantastic resource to all of us. the summer after my first year here he they gave stipends so that -- i think 16 of us could go to des moines for the summer of 2015 to work with certain press agencies and campaigns. how far you can move by moving one vote in the caucus. more time on this later.
i have also been involved on campus with student government and college republicans. ayanna: hello, everyone. my name is ayanna watkins, the baby of the panel. i'm currently a senior at kenwood academy high school. [applause] >> throughout my high school career i have been involved in numerous student-led organizations. multiple sport teams, etc. outside of high school i have been involved in a lot of commune-based organizations to volunteer my time with the youth as well. in the fall i will be attending queens college in dallas, texas, with multiple scholarships in my name and i'm also a entrepreneur. i would say, with my own
clothing line. [applause] harish: my name is harish and i live on the north side of chicago. i arrived as a proud immigrant around the age of 1 with my mom and sister from india. attended public schools and went to the university of luna chicago both for undergraduate studies and my masters in urban planning policy. after graduating, i did become an organizer. with somebody in the audience i want to point out, a mentor of mine. that led me to run for office and most recently now i work for new america. new america chicago. i'm the deputy director here in
chicago. where we did what we are doing today. we infuse new ideas, new voices in public policy conversations. i'm looking forward to this. president obama: fantastic. all right. as can see we have an extraordinary group here of sharp young people. but you also notice they have avoided my question. that's good because it tees us the next segment. in look, in the presidential election you have maybe half of your peers voting. in midterm elections, about a third of your peers vote. i suspect that if you ask a will the of young people about a wide range of issues, regardless of where they sit ideologically, they would say, yeah, i'm very concerned about the economy.
i'm very concerned about foreign policy. i'm very concerned about this or that or the other. but a lot of them feel as if their involvement would not make an a difference. it's not worth their time. and in fact they are discouraged but feel disempowered. all of you have already shown yourselves to be willing to get out there and be involved. and to make a difference. and i'm curious as to what is it you think that prompted you to get involved in some fashion? and also when you talk to your friends, what is it that you think is preventing them from doing so? that might make a difference? we don't have to go in order. if anybody wants to start. i like that in you.
ayanna: although i am in high school, a lot of my peer, i'm a senior, some of my peers were able to vote this year, but overall i'm grateful that i have the opportunity to take courses at kenwood academy high school that involve political science. we take african-american studies, etc. where not a lot of schools have that opportunity. i would say awareness is something that holds a lot of our youth back from getting involved because i -- i'm privileged. in so therefore i step up and i encourage others to get involved and to have a voice, but i think the youth, feel like they don't have a voice. that plays a huge factor as to why the results are the way they are. if that makes sense. president obama: it makes a lot of sense. do you think as you were coming up social studies, civic education, what kids are getting in the classroom would make a
difference? do you think that it would make more of a difference if young people had the opportunities to volunteer with organizations, to engage in community service? him what is it you think that would make the biggest difference in young people seeing, you know what, if i volunteer for this organization, i might make a difference in my community. or if i participate on this issue. somebody might hear my voice and might actually make a difference. what do you think would be most effective? in encouraging people? ayanna: in order to encourage the youth, it involves to have a strong support system behind it to bring the youth up. so, for instance, in school, we are taught social studies, but we tend to focus on mathematics, science, english because that's what -- we are always brought up on because test exams, etc. so social studies and civics,
education tends to be pushed to the side. i feel like it should be encouraged in the school systems because the majority of our youth are in school. and from there build outside programs. from there-- >> i agree because since i went to kenwood, too, that was kind of the start of me getting my foot in the door to want to expand and do outside things. and also funding after school programs and summer programs because i had two to three jobs ever since eighth grade every summer. tiffany: because, one, you make money. also help my resume. help me get my feet wet to allow me to see different opportunities. to see if i liked being a counselor. if i wanted to be a cheerleading coach. if i wanted to be a tutor. just trying different things every summer helped me to kind of hone in as to what i want to do with the rest of my life. and then after school programs,
too. the funding for that, it helps keep the kids off the streets. hopefully in chicago we'll have less violence since they'll have something to do. and also enriching their lives in school and after school and also in the summer. president obama: ok. i'm sorry. kelsey, didn't you work -- was it the bronx that you worked during the summer? what prompted you to first of all describe what the experience was, and then give us a sense of what inspired you to do something like that. kelsey: alternative break immersion program which is a program that sends students over spring break and winter break.
the spring break of my junior year of college i was in the south bronx working with an incredible group out there. a group of 10 students and we are there like a lot of what you were saying, to enrich the students' lives we were there. what's so unique from loyola, we understand the privilege we have to be welcomed into these communities. we are not there -- we are supporting them. we are there to learn from them. understand the experiences these students are having. to understand just how wonderful so many of these young elementary school kids are. i remember the principal at immaculate conception the school we were at coming up to us at the end of the day i hope you-all realize this is the only week out of the year the children get to finger paint. because it is too messy. a very simple thing. but really goes to show the impact that young people can have in these communities. president obama: you were going
to say something and obviously your service in the military is an example of public service that thankfully everybody now appreciates. that wasn't always the case. but what i discovered obviously was that once our veterans take off the uniform, they leave service, sometimes people forget how much talent is there and the need to tap into the amazing young people that have served in our military so that they can work in the community. and continue the leadership that they have shown while they were in the military. you have been able to make that transition, but talk a little bit about your mindset both when you went into the military and after you left, how did that change your perception in terms of your responsibilities to your community and how you might be able to make a difference.
ramuel: when i joined the military i joined six months out of high school. i was working full-time -- i was in school, in college where i come from, being in college is a big deal. graduating is a bigger deal. it's all about graduating high school, get a job. and i was in the military and realized there's more to that. and that i am being afforded this wonderful opportunity to engage with so many different people from all over the country, so many different views, but we all share the same goal. i realize if i wanted to make a larger contribution, i would have to did to school. so that's what i did. i served my initial contract. i received an honorable discharge march, 2014. you i moved to chicago june, 2014. i was in roosevelt, august of 2014. and i didn't do it by myself. when i got out of the military i was part of this program called veterans upper bound, and it's a precollege readiness program for
veterans that need a refresher on their academic skills before they enter college. being a part of that literally saved me taking extra courses, remedial courses. so i benefited immensely from that. i was fortunate enough to get a research assistant position at roosevelt and that really -- that really got me going because i was working with different projects, youth, landlords. it was amazing because these are regular folks. that's something i definitely wanted to get involved in. to answer your question about what i think is preventing the youth, i believe -- what we need to do, i believe we need to connect personal issues -- personal problems, like public issues.
i feel like sometimes you are working two jobs and you can't afford daycare, it's not because you are lazy. if we can establish a sort of connection, demonstrate a connection. i'm really big on collecting data and numbers and listen 80% of people are experiencing this in your community. you just don't know it yet. you don't see it, but here's the numbers, here are the facts. i believe that is a huge thing we can do to help them. president obama: you are making a terrific point. one of the things i learned when i was organizing -- this is true for i think a lot of young would-be do-gooders, you show up in the neighborhood and your initial instinct is to tell people what they should be interested in. instead of spending the first six months listening and finding
out what they actually are interested in. and then connecting -- [applause] president obama: connecting their immediate needs to the policies that are having influence on those areas of concern. the more that you can make concrete for people, the fact that the reason there aren't enough afterschool programs is not just because they are impossible to set up, but have to do with budgets and here are the people making decisions about the budgets. the reason there's a lack of childcare is not because you're the only single mom who needs childcare, everybody needs childcare, but there aren't
enough facilities in place with trained childcare providers and this is what a change in public policy could do to provide everybody support. that's when you start bringing people together and their voices are amplified. what's certainly true is one voice by itself rarely changes something. two voices have a better shot. 20 voices, we are getting somewhere. but it begins with that listening process that you are talking about so that people feel like they are being heard at the outset. i think that's a great point. were you somebody who was always interested in politics generally? or is this something that kind of came to you? and since you have been active in college republicans, two questions around that, number
one, do you feel as if on college campuses sometimes you're not heard as much as you like to be? i think there's certainly a perception sometimes among young people who are on the more conservative end of the spectrum that colleges are a bastion of political correctness and how do you sort of sort through that, but also have you found ways in which you can connect and have a conversation with the college democrat and the person who has a different points of view so that we can encourage better conversations and better understanding and hopefully more progress? max: i think being interested in politics, i don't know that i came from a particularly politically active family.
my mother was involved in the p.t.a. when i was a child. president obama: it is a lot of work. max: in connecticut it is a blood sport. i think the message that something like that would send -- she didn't need to do that. she did that because the educational system and more broadly the community that was fostered in the town was important to her and something worth giving her time to and something worth going out and -- no one pays you to do this. you take a great deal of flak. i certainly honor that commitment. i think in eighth grade, which was your first election, we in social studies were told -- president obama: could i just
say -- i'm old. [laughter] but please continue. in eighth grade. max: in eighth grade we were -- i'll pick a different age. each of the beginning of the year picked the campaign to follow sort of through to fruition and each week we can a report for our teacher on how the candidate had been featured in the news and any polling information that we had accumulated. we never got them back. it was an interesting process in that it taught us to care about the news at a time when maybe that wasn't something that you went home and watched. it was something that made you more cognizant of the issues. i was fortunate enough to go to high school in new hampshire where we are pandered to immensely heavily.
it's just part of the -- that every four years they care. or that people care about what new hampshire has to say. i think that one of the things that is a shame in that process that there is a group that is active every fours years because they are influential. but you said don't vote. you have a lot of these people who engage with the process only every four years and then are sort of gone for the in between period. then you have some if you are brought up that way and brought up to believe your opinion will account for something, then go on to do big things. i had a friend whom i went to high school with, she's been
from new hampshire her whole from new hampshire her whole life, she's 20 now, and a state rep. because she ran for an open seat. that's just how it goes up there. there's a commitment. in terms of being involved in politics, i was fortunate enough to take a year between high school and college and i worked in washington, d.c., in the senate. and that's an eye opening experience because it forces you to confront in a real way what you believe and why. you gain a lot of information very, very quickly. i'm immensely grateful to kelly ayotte for that. after coming here that changed. i thought i would come here and be an economist like every first year. that coupled with my time at the institute for politics which was a good structure to show there were many, many venues for us to engage civically, let me explore things like campaigning in iowa. i'm for being a republican on a college campus, yesterday nbc ran an article about this on their website, and it didn't say who we were just the composition was one republican. the rest were democrats or progressives. maybe three people sent me the
article and say is it you? and it is if you're watching. i would say it depends on the setting whether it's something i'm particularly forthcoming with. at the institute of politics itself, i think most people know at this point and certainly in the beginning of 2016 in the caucus season, those of us who had been in iowa and could do caucus math, which is as you know not real math, the major hot commodity in the room when you watch the votes tally, but there were venues certainly where i wouldn't have brought it up or wouldn't have been
particularly forthcoming with it. i think people suspected it. but i know i didn't -- i'll leave that to the other student government people in the room to confirm it on. i don't necessarily know what i was afraid of, but i think that there is a sense that if you harbor a view that doesn't jive with the majority view, that you can expect some level of ostricization from certain people or expect people to assume the worst aspect of you based on beliefs you may or may not hold. i don't think anyone sitting in this room agrees with their party on 100% of issues 100% of the tame for 100% of the people in their party -- of the time for 100% of the people in their party. so i think that being republican on a college campus is in and of itself a sort of honor because most people don't agree with you. when you engage in the dorms and dining halls and with those people who are able to see you, the person, and then you the person with the political views,
you are forced to know yourself well and do soul-searching well and to understand why it is that you think we should think and what parts of your past impacts you believe now and my belief tomorrow. i think the other thing is there is a significant gap -- not just here but everywhere. i think most people haven't had in their homes for dinner in a real way somebody who is significantly different from them, either politically or racially or for whatever reason we have cloistered ourselves. so i think that the liberal bastion aspect of college campuses certainly can be true. i have been lucky here. the school's certainly committed to accepting our thoughts. i think a broader societal problem is that as we -- if you look at the county map of 2016, you had a lot of counties where secretary clinton won over 80%
of the vote and the inverse was true for the president. it's not just that we are reading different news. we don't talk to each other anymore. it would be good -- civic engagement at some point would require a level of civility. there are a lot of problems -- [applause] max: there's a lot of problems with our politics that begin at home. i think we blame politicians a lot for the failure of us, each of us, to grasp each other well. so your mentor when you were a new senator, dick lugar. ultimately lost his primary for that reason. president obama: because he talked to me. max: because people couldn't stand to see their member bridge a gap on a human level. i think that's sad. i think there's both an apathy.
and a lot of people see politics especially in this generation, this is ugly, this is mean, this is something that you have pretty experienced people doing and if the country shifts and politicians were sailors maybe a boat moved a degree either way. i think the lack of results stems from a lack of us understanding each other well. marco rubio said it well a couple months ago, you can't really run a country when half of it hates the other. somehow we are going to have to find ways to bridge that and meet people who aren't like us. president obama: good. [applause] president obama: on this stage, other than me, i guess you are the other guy who's run for office. i wasn't going to say you're the oldest. you are the other guy who ran for office. and i know you lost, but i did, too, once.
right here in this community. what prompted you to run for office, which is a different kind of engagement, and what did you take from the experience? did you feel discourage the by it? did you feel like, ok, this was -- discouraged by it? did you feel like, ok, this was fun. you would encourage other young people to take their shot? tell me more about your thought process there. harish: for me i want to start with the first time i ever did something that was considered civically engaged. i was an immigrant so i couldn't vote until after the war already started. the first thing i ever thought of doing for this country was actually protesting the iraq war. that fell passionately on the wrong side of history there. think -- i think you were also
-- president obama: i agreed with you at the time. harish: i couldn't vote but i felt like a lot of the times civic engagement in the sense gets stuck in the dynamic of voting or electoral engagement. and doesn't always expand. i think we have to expand it, too, maybe what your mother did or being a border for nonprofit. tough positions to have. i think i would hope moving forward we sort of think about civic engagement beyond voting. but to directly answer the question around why i went from protesting to working at a nonprofit and organizing to think, oh, electoral politics is one of the many routes that i'm going to engage in. and that happened for me actually happened in 2010. it was after i had done organizing that i saw a lot of the jargon that was used against us as young people at the time, i didn't understand. that's why i went back to college.
when i ran it was too -- i don't have -- there's a lot patel's in office. president obama: there are a lot more patels than obamas. harish: agreed. i had a hussein joke but -- at some point both are -- don't want to get stuck in this two-party language, but there's a lot of different culture and - cold of politics -- cult of politics young people get drawn to and they can't go beyond the questions
they are allowed to ask within. so i wanted to be able to protest and be able to run for office and run a small business and do the organizing. being able to figure out which is the most effective way that i want to, one, live my life and be happy, but also sort of inspire a whole generation of folks that maybe look like me or come from a similar background or south asian immigrants. i want most young people of color to feel they can literally do anything. that was one of the major reasons. also we have an establishment in politics that's very old in thinking. this is a monopoly of power, money, ideas that only come from a few families or sometime a few -- i wanted to say that's not how we should move forward. [applause] president obama: i think that's good. a couple of thoughts based on some of the things that folks have said. first of all what you said, harish, there are a lot of different ways to engage i think is important.
because sometimes people think if you're not running for office or it's not election day, there's no other way of getting involved. the p.t.a. is a perfect example. the kind of thing that we want to encourage. there are a bunch of writers outs there and social scientists and thinkers that would argue one of the problems we have with our politics right now is that the mediating institutions, the unions, the churches, the p.t.a. groups, the rotary club, a lot of the voluntary organizations that used to exist, like sororities and fraternities that used to bring people in together to then work on issues, that those have declined. and the statistics show that
people are less likely to be involved with various organizations in their community than they used to be. and what that means is then people don't have some of the same habits of being together on a common project that they used to. we have become a more individualistic society. and that, i think, has some spillover effects when it comes to both political participation but also in terms of empathy because you are interacting with fewer people on a regular basis. the second thing, though, has to do with how we get information. i want to throw this out and see what people think. i think a lot of us who have been in politics for a while do see a change from 20 years ago, certainly 30 years ago, where it used to be everybody kind of had the same information and we had
different opinions about it, but there were a common base line of facts, and that the internet in some ways has accelerated the sense of people having entirely separate conversations and if this generation is getting all of its information through its phones, that you really don't have to confront people who have different opinions or have a different experience or different outlook. if you are liberal, then you're on msnbc. conservative you're on fox news. you are reading "wall street journal" or reading "the new york times." or whatever your choices are. maybe you're just looking at cat videos, which is fine. [laughter]
one question i have for all of you is how do you guys get your information about the news and what's happening out there, and are there ways in which you think we could do a better job of creating a common conversation now that you've got 600 cable stations and you've got all these different news outlets that basically are offering one set of opinions, and if there are two sets of opinions, then they are just yelling at each other so you don't get a sense that there is actual conversation going on. and the internet's worse, right? it's become more and more polarized. how much do you think that affects how people think about issues?
are there ways that that could be changed given that most of your information and certainly for the younger people coming up behind you, even more, they are getting their information primarily off their phones. ayanna? ayanna: i think social media has its pros and cons in situations like this. for instance, when it comes to gaining information about what's going on in the world, it's way faster on social media than it is on a newscast. but on the other hand it can be a downfall because what if you're passing the wrong information? or the information isn't presented in a way it should be? that causes a crash in our generation. and i think it should go back to the old school. i think phones, social media him should be eliminated because done the younger -- wait, wait, wait. in i think i should rephrase myself.
i think when it comes to politics and important information that can influence younger generations, it should be organic. so politicians should actually reach out and actually physically talk to the community. so it can't be any misconceptions on the information being passed. because social media is going to twitter or facebook, anybody can hack your social media page. that causes problems. and to actually go out to the community, the community will feel more welcomed. i think that goes back to actually getting involved because to have somebody shake your hand and to actually look at you and talk to you is a more heartfelt feeling to actually listen to what that person has to say. president obama: that's interesting. kelsey? kelsey: one of the other things you bring up you said almost exactly what i was thinking. going back to the basics and
having those in person conversations. i think one of the things that i see the most important is people being able to listen to understand rather than to listen to respond. there does not always have to be an immediate response. let's understand where both viewpoints are coming from? president obama: that works in marriage, by the way. just for you young people. understand rather than listening to respond. that will save you a lot of heartache and grief. sorry. kelsey: it's just something our generation, we find it easier to hide behind facebook screens, twitter, instagram posts, but being able to have those in-person conversations and listen to the other side is the only way at the end of the day we are going to get anything done. president obama: ramuel. ramuel: i think it's important to engage with the leaders of that communities and instead of going in there and -- because it affects you and another city doesn't mean it's going to be
the same dynamics in this neighborhood. and i think it's important to understand that. i want to help, but i also need to be humble and listen to people that have lived through it and under -- have more of a clear understanding what's needed. dialogue is important. deliberation is important. you need to critically analyze people's views. and then you can create a plan off of that. i definitely think -- as far as where you get your news from, not every news station that leans republican is horrible. it's nice to -- you need to understand how the other side thinks. but i really believe that not shunning other people that have different views than you, recognizing that as you do want to help but respect the fact
that there are people that have been here longer than you that have lived through the issues and you need to work with them instead of outsourcing their help and stuff. president obama: any other thoughts? max, you got something to say? max: i think it's -- there was an interesting -- either in "the journal" or "the times" shortly before the election that they made a generic republican facebook page and democratic facebook page and they showed you the news articles that would be on their -- in their news feed they could see. the facts of the case we now live -- there's -- i'm in a linguistics class now called truth. the first class they played a documentary with a man who was a defense attorney in the bronx during the 1970's. he'll tell you that if you ask her somebody what shape a table him him is, you can get three
answers. if you're sitting at the table it's probably a rectangle. if you're underneath it, who knows, it's the ceiling. if you're looking at that time from the side it's a rounded edge, so clearly it's a semicircle. i think that's basically where we are with the news. i don't know if the coverage were the same issues that people would find factual difference anyway. i think part of the problem is we don't agree what the issues are that are pressing and facing the country. i don't know how you get there, but i don't think that a national dialogue necessarily starts online or starts in the press. i think it starts door-to-door. maybe that's then how people go about campaigning in that right now it's easy to sort of know you have numbers if you can only get them to show up. and there is no onus to work to get somebody else to turn out
for you to persuade them that your point of view is correct. instead there is a broad incentive to spend millions of dollars in advertisements saying that if my opponent is elected the apocalypse will occur, rivers will run red and hawaii will sink. again if the ship only moves one degree, got to be one degree to make all those things happen. i think that all levels are the conversation and people have to be willing to talk to each other again. i don't know if that starts -- maybe it does start in middle school where you see in a class who has differing views and then commit part of social studies time to have people talk through issues of the day and why they think what they think. we have to get back to a place where people can talk to each other again. president obama: that's been a running theme. i will say -- the reason i was able to run for the united states senate was because in addition to my base here in
chicago, i had spent a lot of time traveling around the state. and over time i got to know people in parts of illinois that would today be considered red. and i lucked out, effectively, that i was kind of under the radar screen so political ads didn't characterize me. and people would meet me even though i'm this chicago lawyer from a liberal district with an arab sounding name, but i would show up. and then you'd have a conversation. you talk about their kids and basketball and what was happening on their jobs and people got a sense that my frames of reference and my values were not so different from theirs.
and that gave me the ability to break through some of the assumptions that people might have otherwise had. in some ways, iowa was the same way. it is retail politics. you are just talking to people. we didn't have a huge amount of money initially for tv ads, so it was just meeting people. change people's assumptions. when they get a chance to miss somebody directly. part of what we are going to have to figure out is, how do we create greater opportunities? that is true between red parts of the state and blue parts. it is true even it was in the city of chicago.
ofas yesterday with a group young men who are part of a program designed to give them opportunities and pathways away from violence and crime. and these are some young people .rom 18 to 24 all were african-american, except one latino. already had had prison records. and had done some pretty rough stuff. several of whom had already been shot, and some places -- in some cases multiple times. none had grown up with fathers. many had effectively been orphaned when they were very young. be the would stereotypical profile of
has a goodo likelihood of getting shot here in chicago. it is part of the violence. striking when you sat down with these guys was, they are young people. if you had listened to them talking, you would recognize them as not that different from to 24.er young man 18 what was different was their circumstances. they had grown up, in some cases, in foster care, or their mother was a drug addict, and they had been neglected.
so, even within the city boundaries, a lot of times, we will characterize our neighbors as something entirely different than us. that we can't understand and that we are afraid of and we can't communicate with them. political rhetoric reinforces that. and they need to be heard, too. because if the six of you had been in that conversation, you would have come away not saying, "these are some thugs or super predators that i can't relate to." you would actually say, "man, if i had gone through what they went through, i'm not sure how things would have worked out for me, either." and that creation of empathy then promises a different kind of civic response and political response than the one so often we have. so hearing other people, i think, is vital. the question is, are there ways in which we can create opportunities to do that for more young people earlier on,
before the lines of division start hardening. >> just to add on to this about you being in the community and what i said about meeting the officials, i actually met you before in high school. president obama: is this another story about how old i am? [laughter] >> no, no. no, i was singing with concert choir. we were at a breakfast downtown. i walked up to one official and tapped him because i recognized him from tv and he put his finger up to me and said, no, he can't talk to me right now. then, i saw you and and i said, hi, mr. obama, can i take a picture with you? and you said no, and i was like, what is going on? they say on tv they care about people. you said no, not until you tell me your name first. [applause]
>> you shook my hand and you talked to me a little bit and all of that inspired me that he is not just a face on tv. they may shake your hand in public, but that you don't feel connected. that helped me wanting to be involved and listening to what you wanted to say because i did feel like you cared about a little black girl from chicago like me. going back to what max is saying, in pharmacy school, they did show us different deals and we went for pharmacy week in and we went bills for pharmacy week and lobbied in springfield. chicago state actually did instill in us the fight for our right. they may take away that i cannot dispense drugs anymore and i had no say in it. so i do think, what max was saying, bringing it into the schools would be beneficial. president obama: excellent. i suspect -- i'm a little out of practice. we will have to find out how
long we were supposed to be here. [laughter] but i am having fun. how long are we supposed to be here? what i was thinking is, i have been asking a lot of questions. i should give you guys an opportunity to ask me a couple of questions before time is up. anybody want to take a shot? well no not you. ,[laughter] we are talking to young people but it's great to see you. , i didn't mean to imply that you're not young. [laughter] i am just saying. go ahead. >> i definitely have a question. i have been working on a project called latino youth. it's on the northwest side of chicago. we have been working on
surveying day laborers on the corners where they search for work. i started in september. initially, it was difficult because, again, i was never a day laborer. i went with an organizer, so it definitely helped, a nice icebreaker. you understood the dynamics. after november, it was extremely difficult to talk to these men. i had already almost conducted 20 up until then and it continued until march. between november and march, it was just the presence of me being out there with the clipboard -- president obama: made them nervous. ramuel: exactly. i was talking to them in spanish, explaining why i was there. but because of everything going on, it was like, you are only one person.
my question to you is, how could you bring these people, not like me, i want to engage with them and i'm doing what i can. but, how can i tell these men and women that -- to come out of the shadows? they are already in the shadows, and now they are in the shadows even further. how can i tell them it is ok to your working conditions and nothing is going to happen to you? president obama: in some ways, you already answered your own question. there is a matter of trust. so for you to finish your research project, you will need somebody that they trust to introduce you to them. one of the things that i learned as an organizer and then as a politician is your ability to create trust and relationships
is the thing that makes all the difference in being able to have an impact. that is hard to do in this current environment, but it is not impossible. it may be their priest, and maybe somebody who they worked with that you know, whose legal status is less at risk. i think, generally speaking, immigration is a good example of an issue that stirs up so much passion, and sometimes misinformation, that it is hard for us to have a good, healthy conversation about it. the interesting thing is,
historically, when you look at surveys, the overwhelming majority of americans believe that america is a nation of immigrants, and that immigration has contributed to the wealth and prosperity and dynamism of the country. the majority of americans also believe immigration should be lawful and orderly, that it shouldn't be haphazard. sometimes they feel frustrated if it is perceived that folks are breaking the rules or cutting the line, essentially. i think it's important for those who support, as i do, immigration reform and pathways to citizenship for folks who are here not to assume everybody who has trouble with the current immigration system is automatically racist. that's an example of us being
able to listen. i think, for those who are concerned about undocumented workers coming in, whether it is across the border or, typically these days, overstaying visas, it is important for them to appreciate the degree to which these are overwhelmingly families who are just looking for a better life for their children. i always used to say, sometimes in crowds where folks did not want to hear it, it's not like everybody at ellis island had all their papers straight. the truth is the history of our immigration system has always been a little bit haphazard, a little bit loose, a little bit determined by, did the country want more workers, economic
imperatives? sometimes it was driven by biases. if you look at what was said about irish when they were coming here in the wake of the potato famine, they talked about them the same way you hear people talking about immigrants today. this is an example of where everybody being able to see the realities of immigrants as people, not as some other, is important. but it also requires us who are advocates on behalf of immigrants to have some respect for people who you may be able to win over if you can argue that we are going to create an immigration system that is fair
, but still allows people to come here and achieve some sort of opportunity. the short-term problem, you have got to find somebody who trusts you, and you might want to put away the clipboard and get to know them a little bit before you start just surveying them. when i was an organizer, one of the things we used to always say is, don't knock on people's door with a clipboard. they do not know if you are the tax man. [laughter] they don't know how long this thing is going to take. [laughter] they are in the middle of a ballgame or, you know, watching reruns of "desperate housewives" or something and they are really , into it and suddenly, oh man, , a guy with a clipboard. i do not want to hear all that. we have got time for two or three more. >> as somebody who lost an
election, i would like to understand your perspective on failure or -- one of the things in media i see is that i am worried about young people who claim one thing in high school and then they get to college or get older and these claims stay with them, what they tweeted or instagram did or snapchatted, and they do not get to grow and ideas and thoughts and then people will bring that up. same happens with elected officials running for office, you might have said, not a feminist at 19, and then go yes, i'm a feminist, now i understand it. i read a book and i get it. so how do you sort of think about the concept from using technology with young people, but also as somebody who has a public facing life long-term? president obama: i have a couple of responses. with respect to failure, it is
terrible, but necessary. if you are going to try something hard, if you are putting yourself out there in some way, there will be times where you screw up or do not succeed. there are times where you do everything right and you still don't succeed. that is not just true of politics or running a not-for-profit. some of you talk about being entrepreneurial. if you are starting a clothing line, that is a cutthroat business. i have every confidence that you're going to succeed at some point, but you will go through some failures. i think the most important thing, and this is a little bit of a cliche, but sometimes they are true, is to learn from those failures and have a sense of
resilience and be able to examine, what is it that i did not succeed at? why did i not succeed, and what do i need to do better? the political race i lost was to congressman bobby rush. it is interesting. i'm writing a book right now about, sort of, my political journey, and as i was writing, when i thought about that race, what i was reminded of was the degree to which that was probably the sole time in my political career where i think i ran more just because it was the next thing rather than because i had a good theory of what it is i wanted to do. this is a mistake i think a lot of folks who get into politics make.
when i see white house interns or i talk to young people, i always tell them, worry less about what you want to be and worry more about what you want to do. [applause] president obama: when you are more concerned with "i want to be a congressman" or "i want to be a senator" or "i want to be rich," then some people may succeed in chasing that goal, but when they get there, they don't know what to do with it. if they don't get there, they don't have anything to show for it. if you are worrying about, i want to improve education in low-income neighborhoods, or i want to deal with climate change
and help save the planet, then whatever you are doing in pursuit of that goal is going to be worthwhile and it's going to teach you things and put you in a position to have an impact. and then, if it turns out as a result that you also end up being successful in politics or whatever thing you are pursuing, then so much the better. the most successful business people that i know -- and bill gates did not start off saying he wanted to be the richest man in the world. he started off saying, "i really think these computers are cool , and i want to write cool software." that is what he wanted to do and it worked out well for him. i think that is with respect to the failure issue. if you are focused on giving of
yourself to accomplish something, then even when you fail at a particular objective, you are still succeeding in learning about how you can accomplish those goals and it does not just become about you. in terms of how to deal with the fact that, as you grow up, you are going to learn and change and evolve in all kinds of ways, and that is healthy and normal, but the problem now is with the internet, that past is always there. one way to think about it is
just to own it. it is true that if you have pictures of everything i had done when i was in high school, i probably would not have been president of the united states. so i would advise all of you to be a little more circumspect about your selfies and what you take pictures of. just a suggestion. but it is a real problem that everything is searchable. this is one of the biggest challenges of being in public life, generally. i wrote a book about my early journey, "dreams from my father," a long time ago and because i had been pretty honest about the struggles i had went through as a young man, when i ran for office and there was some big reveal about, "oh, the
guy smoked pot," i was like, "yeah, it was in my book." [laughter] [applause] mr. obama: i learned from that. i did not sugarcoat it and i did not somehow suggest that it was something i recommend for everybody. but that is what teenage kids did at that age where i was growing up. not everybody. some were wiser than me. i was not that wise. i think the best you can do is to own your life and your mistakes and the changes that you go through. it does not mean it is always pleasant to have people all up in your business. i must've have had, at this point, six, seven biographies written about me.
i am sure more are coming out. generally speaking, one of the frustrations is my life was not that exciting until i guess i was president. [laughter] mr. obama: so i did not have these amazing experiences. i did not really accomplish all that much when i was in high school or in college. so folks then go around and they are looking for stuff and then they try to dramatize things that are kind of routine, and there is a part of you that kind of says, why would you care about this? it's not that interesting. but that is the nature of the
business, in some ways. that is for people who are running for office. that is not true for most of you in terms of wanting to get involved and participate. there is something unique about politics that is frustrating but i don't think there is much you can do about it other than own the fact that you are human and you make mistakes and you can grow. i think most people understand that. certainly most people of this generation who understand a lot of stuff ends up on the internet are probably more forgiving about those kind of issues. i have to say that there is a reason why i am always optimistic even when things look like they are sometimes not going the way i want, and that is because of young people like this.
it gives you a sense of what is possible for this country. my hope is that working with young leaders like this, the organizations and universities and high schools, nonprofit organizations, community groups that are getting them engaged, that my foundation and presidential center will be able to provide more and more pathways for young people getting involved so that when somebody like me 35 years ago decided that i've got something to contribute, we will have eased the path a little bit for them and maybe they will learn , from some of the mistakes i've made and others have made. but i really appreciate the outstanding contributions all of you have made. i am excited to see what all of
announcer: c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today i your cable or satellite provider. c-span,r: tonight on "q&a" with author and law professor brad snyder, followed by prime minister's questions at the british house of commons. later, high school teachers
offer advice to students prepping for the advanced placement u.s. government and politics exam later this week. ♪ "q&a,"er: this week on law professor and author brad snyder discusses his book "the house of truth, a washington political salon and the foundations of american ."beralism snyder, your book is ."lled "the house of truth where did you get the title? mr. snyder: the title is what the people who lived there called