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Obama addresses students

Laura Myers | Tuesday, September 28, 2010

President Barack Obama urged young people to stay involved in the political process Monday during a conference call with student journalists.

“You’ve got to take the time to find out where does your congressional candidate stand on various issues, where does your Senate candidate stand on various issues and make an educated decision and participate in this process — because democracy is never a one-and-done proposition,” Obama said. “It’s something that requires sustained engagement and sustained involvement. And I just want to remind everybody of that.”

The Observer was one of many student publications to participate in the conference call, which Obama called in order to discuss issues facing students and other young Americans.

Obama began by outlining his administration’s plans to improve higher education. He listed three goals, which are to make college more affordable, to ensure higher education prepares students to enter the workforce and to encourage students to finish college.

“The key here is that we want to open the doors of our colleges and universities to more people so they can learn, they can graduate and they can succeed in life,” Obama said.

Obama’s message was one of optimism, and he expressed confidence that students would be able to find jobs upon graduation.

“Things are real tough for young people right now,” he said. “But having said that, if you are getting a college degree, if you’ve got skills in math and science or good, sound communication skills, there are still jobs out there even in a tough environment.”

And while improving the economy should help stop the inflation of college costs, a certain amount of the burden lies on universities themselves, Obama said.

“You guys have to be good consumers, and your parents have to be good consumers, and we’ve got to offer you more information,” he said. “You should know where your tuition is going. There should be a pie chart at every university that says, out of every dollar you spend in tuition, here’s where your money is going.”

The conference call was part of a whole day in which the administration addressed the issue of education at different levels.

Monday morning, Obama appeared on NBC’s “Today” show to talk about public education reform in elementary and secondary schools. Monday afternoon, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, spoke at NBC’s “Education Nation” summit in New York City, where she emphasized the importance of community colleges in higher education.

The conference call also came at the beginning of a national tour of colleges for Obama and Biden. Obama is scheduled to speak at a rally at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Tuesday, and Biden is scheduled to speak at Penn State Tuesday.

Obama said the goal of those visits is to underscore the importance of young voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

“You can’t sit it out,” Obama said. “You can’t suddenly just check in once every 10 years or so, on an exciting presidential election, and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”