President Barack Obama on Friday continued a tradition he started years ago: to work with YouTube to answer questions from the American people.
This year, three of the platform’s most famous content creators were invited to the White House to interview the president.
These are the questions Adande “Swoozie” Thorne asked Obama.
Raising the Minimum Wage
SWOOZIE: So I saw your State of the Union. Quick question for you because you mentioned a few things. Minimum wage. My audience, youtube subscribers want to know: can you raise the minimum wage to like $500 an hour? I’ll take a yes or I’ll think about it.
OBAMA: No, that’ I can’t do. But what we can do is make sure that if you are working full time, you are not under the poverty line. And there has been a movement around the country to get the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A bunch of states, counties, cities have done it. If the federal government through Congress voted for it, then it would apply to everybody. Right now, there are a lot of communities where it’s happened but there are a lot of communities where it’s lower. And if you work full time you should be able to pay your bills.
Black Lives Matter
SWOOZIE: As a black male, who wears his hat backwards, from time to time, I get racially profiled. Okay, most recent story I have for you is driving, pulled over to send some text messages a cop pulled up behind me, called for backup. There are all over me hassling me for my ID, registration. Third cop is driving by, like you know. Okay? I get harassed often. I’ve learned to live with the harassment, but people are dying now. I can’t sit by and let that happen. So my question to you is, I feel like law enforcement: they are just bullies with badges at this point. They are caught on camera, they are killing people, and they go to the court of law and they get off. Not a lot of consequences. So what I really want to know is, accountability. What can you do with your time left, what can the government do with your time left, because these guys are going through and they are killing people — and it’s just like, I feel they are developing a superman complex.
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I am a black man who sometimes wears his hat backwards. And there have been time when I was younger when I was stopped for reasons I wasn’t always clear about. But I think it’s important for us to also not completely generalize. The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are doing a really tough job and they are doing it well. They are respectful and they are doing it the right way. It is absolutely true that there has always been pockets of police misconduct around the country. And we have to take that seriously. And what’s happened, it’s not like this is new, if you talk to anybody who is a little older and was African American in Chicago or New York or anyplace else, back in the 50s, 60s, 70s — I promise you it was a lot worse. So it’s not that the situation has gotten worse, it’s that our awareness has increased. And what we have to do, and I put together a task force that included police officers and police chiefs, but also folks who were organizing protests in Ferguson, come together, put together a task force to give specific recommendations on how we can really deal with this in a serious way. Better data collection, body cameras, better training — a whole package. The problem is that most police departments, sheriff’s departments — those are individual jurisdictions. They don’t fall just under federal control. So I can’t order all these reforms to be implemented. What we are trying to do is incentivize all these cities, counties to adopt these practices. Because when they do, not only is it good for the communities, who finally feel like they are being well-served and respected, but it’s also good for the police officers because they have an easier time doing their job if communities trust them.
SWOOZIE: Election 2016. Now our boy Donald Trump is doing his thing and the people want to know, especially my friends, they say they are watching the media and the stuff that he is saying is just — it’s a zoo. And my friends have wanted me to ask you: are you embarrassed for the American people? Because it’s just like pandemonium when you watch what’s going on in the headlines.
OBAMA: Well, I think it’s really early in the process. If you look at previous elections, this early in the contest, a lot of times you’ll have people who are seen as frontrunners because they are noisy. They get a lot of attention. Over time, voters take a closer look. The closer you get to deciding an election, everybody gets more sober. It’s less entertainment and it’s a little more, this is serious business. This person is going to have the nuclear code, this person is going to be making a bunch of decisions, we want to make sure that they are clear. So, we’ll see how the Republican primaries sort themselves out. Now what I said at the State of the Union, what is true, our politics has become so rankless and there are so few restraints that these days people can just make up facts, they can say one thing, say the complete opposite the next week. The kind of language that we see people labeling their political opponents. Calling them unpatriotic, saying they want to weaken America. That is, I think a result of a lot of forces in the media that is much more splintered. Sort of talk radio habits creep in to politics. A lot of times the times it’s like the comment section — trolling. Where people just feel like they can vent without really thinking about what they say ahead of time. And what I did talk about at the State of the Union is our need for us — if our democracy is going to work, we can have big arguments. We can disagree on a lot of stuff. But, we do have to have some basic boundaries where facts are facts, we don’t make stuff up, we don’t assume malice on the part of other people. The only way to enforce that are is ultimately for people to vote and reward politicians who are conducting themselves in a way we respect and punishing those who aren’t.
SWOOZIE: So I want to move on to gun control. Talk about it a little differently than you’ve been talking about it the last few weeks. Um, I feel like a lot of the people who are carrying out these mass shootings in public. They are doing it and they don’t have causes. They do it knowing if they go out and hurt four more people, I’m on the news. And it kind of makes them look notorious in what they are doing. I feel like it’s almost when the media is doing this they are talking about this for a week. And we all want recognition. I give shout outs at the end of all my videos because I know people just want recognition at the end of the day. So I feel like is there anything the government can do? Or maybe you can do with your time to not so much make these people doing these bad things notorious? I think there was one of the more recent school shootings where law enforcement was like, ‘We are not going to talk about this individual. We are not going to say his name.’ So you know ahead of time, when I do bad things I’m just throwing my life away. Is there anything you can do about that?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, people’s motives in these mass shootings are complicated. In my mind, by definition, if you are willing to do something like that you have a serious mental health problem and whatever their motivations, the reason I emphasized common sense gun safety measures is not that we can eliminate all this violence completely, but we can reduce it. The same reason we reduce traffic fatalities. Because we make people wear seat belts, we crack down on drunk drivers, we do a bunch of sensible things. It took 20 to 30 years, but there are a lot less traffic fatalities today than there were 30 to 40 years ago. We can do the sam thing with guns. Because we can’t always predict when somebody’s going to snap and they want to go shoot. But what is also true is that we have to do a better job as a culture and as a society not sensationalizing violence as a way of getting attention. That’s not something the government can do because we have the First Amendment, free speech. It is something that all of us can contribute to by saying, ‘Let’s not constantly harp on people who engage in mass violence. Let’s spend at least as much time on people who are doing good things in the community, who are helping people, who are building businesses.’ And that’s something that’s probably more up to folks like you. Young people who are in the 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 their world.
SWOOZIE: I want to talk to you also about the terrorism stuff going on. And I feel the same thing. These guys will hurt people to get their message out there. Because they know: I’m going to hurt somebody, I’m going to put them in a cage and then you do the rest. And I kind of use the parallel with a kid who he who is doing things to get attention: they’ll go into the kitchen and bang pots together and go, ‘Look at me mom!’ And the thing is when you ignore a kid that does that, sometimes they’ll take it to the next level to get your attention. So I’m kind of wondering what are you guys doing to prevent things like downplay. Because we are getting our butts kicked by the terrorists online.
OBAMA: You’re asking a complicated question. Number one, ISIL — there operations in Iraq and Syria are wrecking havoc in those countries. And part of that has to do with the chaos that exists there. They are going through a lot of changes, divisions between different sects of Islam, Shia and Sunni. Our top priority has to be to make sure we protect the homeland and you’ve seen in San Bernardino and other situations — because they had such a presence they had a capacity to potentially inspire people who are already troubled and suddenly they think that this is a way for them to become linked up with something larger. And that poses a danger. Now, as I said at the State of the Union. This is not an existential threat to the United States. This is not World War III. What we have to do is go after the core of these terrorists overseas, in countries like Iraq and Syria, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. You’re right though in that part of what we have to do in terms of keeping the homeland safe is not that they are going to come and invade. It’s more what are they about what they are doing online to persuade and inspire. I’ve been pushing the government generally to say we have to get up to speed. The old ways of communicating are not the ways that young people are receiving information. And if we are going to counter this violent narrative that twists and distorts Islam, one of the world’s largest religions, and justifies in the minds of these folks — we’ve got to have Islamic scholars and moderates and leaders on a platform where they can say, ‘What these folks are saying is crazy. That’s not who we are. That’s not what we are about.’ And we have to be as savvy and as nimble as an organization like ISIL is. So we’ve actually stood up what we call an inter-agency, meaning all the different departments and to come together and work with the private sector and content providers to think of how do we do that in a better way and faster way. And, you know, the government sometimes moves a little slower than I’d like, but I think we are starting to make progress on that front.
SWOOZIE: Have you seen the new ‘Star Wars’?
OBAMA: I have not.
SWOOZIE: So, my audience wants to know, we had the #YouTubeAsksObama hashtag. What is your favorite ‘Star Wars’ movie?
OBAMA: Number one (Episode IV).
SWOOZIE: If you had to pick from one of these ‘Star Wars’ characters, who would you be?
OBAMA: Well, I got to go with Han Solo. He’s a little bit of a rebel.
Pants for Dog
SWOOZIE: So the American people really want to know this one. I actually lied. This is a serious one. If you had to pick a pair of pants for your dog, A or B?
Drake or Kendrick Lamar?
SWOOZIE: So we had Drake versus Meek Mill. A lot of people were suggesting that to me. We kind of already know the outcome. But, if Drake and Kendrick Lamar got in a rap battle, who do you think would win?
OBAMA: I have got to go with Kendrick. I am just saying. I think Drake is an outstanding entertainer, but Kendrick, his lyrics. His last album was outstanding, best album I think of last year.
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