Students Phone Barack Obama, Chat Politics
On April 19, Students for Barack Obama gathered nationwide for a phone conference with Illinois senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama. All national chapters, more than 200 in all, submitted questions, and members of the Oberlin chapter listened while Obama answered them.
Bear Kittay, College senior and chapter director of Oberlin Students for Barack Obama was impressed by Obama’s accessibility. “What a world where a bunch of students can gather around a telephone with a microphone attached to a guitar amplifier and listen to their future president talk to them,” he said.
In response to a question on race relations, Obama said, “It’s always important to remind ourselves that we can make a difference; it’s not inevitable that we have racial conflict. We still have a long way to go and the [radio shock jockey Don] Imus incident reveals that. We still have a lot of stereotypes in our culture…I’m not into PC where anyone who says the wrong word should immediately be ostracized, but it’s not funny and not acceptable. Young people are willing and able to stand up to that stuff, even when it’s your friend or it’s uncomfortable.”
Obama continued, “Imagine if everybody in this country who is African-American was basically at the same level economically as the whites were. A lot of our racial conflict would go away because people would be more likely to live in the same neighborhoods, go in the same schools. There might still be some sort of conflicts but it would be drastically reduced from where it is now. Part of it is attitudinal, but we have to work on making sure we’re changing the structures.”
Students also presented the candidate with a question about health insurance, a topic that Obama noted is relevant to college-age people. “The fact of the matter is that lack of health insurance affects everybody but it disproportionately affects the young.”
Obama briefly outlined his solution, saying, “What I have proposed is if you’re getting health insurance from your employer, then that’s fine and you can continue to get it. If you’re not, if you work for a small company or a student working temporarily or part-time jobs and don’t qualify, then you need to be able to buy into a pool, and if you don’t have enough, income subsidies are provided, so you can buy into a system like Medicare and get basic coverage so that you’re protected. The only way that we’re able to afford [it] is to make sure that we make the healthcare system that we have more efficient because it will be expensive.”
Oberlin for Obama’s future plans include get-out-the-vote work in collaboration with a peer school. Andrew Watiker, College first-year and next year’s chapter director said, “Next year we are going to partner with a school in Iowa as a sister school, and during the primary season we’ll head out to Iowa and help the campaigning out there, knocking on doors and making phone calls.”
Obama, as the first post-boom candidate, stands to draw heavily on youth support, a fact he made sure to point out. “If we can get young people activated in this election, not only will we be able to celebrate a new chapter in this country’s history but all of you will be able to know that you helped,” he said.