From: Eilperin, Juliet [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2016 5:10 PM
To: Allen, Jessica L. EOP/WHO
Subject: In-town pool report #2: POTUS talks to college reporters
At 3:52 pm, President Obama came out as White House press secretary Josh Earnest was doing a special briefing for college reporters who were visiting the White House for the day. (More details on the “White House College Reporter Day” below.) The president’s appearance was open press, and lasted for more than 38 minutes, so this will be just a brief synopsis of Obama’s extended press conference with college students.
The briefing room was packed, with college students seated in the usual spots occupied by members of the White House press corps, several of whom stood in the back to listen to the session. There were also a few children of full-time White House reporters in attendance, since it was “Take Your Son and Daughter to Work Day.” A murmur rippled through the room when Obama entered, as Earnest left the podium and the president began with one of his traditional openers, “How’s it going everybody?”
The president said he wanted to share “a bit of breaking news” (about expanding one of the administration’s student loan initiatives) and also touted the importance of confirming his Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Referring to Senate Republicans’ refusal to hold a hearing and vote on Garland’s nomination, he emphasized the idea that even when politicians have “big disagreements” they need to demonstrate “there’s still a willingness to follow the rules and treat people fairly.”
He also singled out the White House press corps for praise, saying in contrast to many other countries, “we’ve got this incredible free press” and “some of the best journalists in the country operate here.” He added that he doesn’t make a practice of “saying nice things” about the reporters who cover him when they’re present.
Obama then took a slew of questions from the student reporters, on issues that included water contamination in Flint, what accomplishments he’s proud of, the escalating cost of college, his refugee policy, immigration and the importance of civic involvement.
While he mentioned some policies he’s pleased to have enacted he concluded that answer by saying that when it came to what he’s most proud of, it was the fact that “mainly, as the assistant to Michelle Obama, I’ve raised two daughters who are amazing” and that being able to do that while also being focused “on my job is something that I work hard on.”
The editor-in-chief of the University of North Carolina’s Daily Tar Heel, who asked the first question, took the opportunity to ask if Obama would be willing to grant an interview with his paper, which is one of the oldest college papers in the country. While the president would not commit on the spot, he indicated he would likely do it, saying, “I am favorably disposed.” But he warned, “It will not be a really long interview.”
Obama concluded the session by talking at length about how young people needed to work to change the current political system through voting. ‘There’s not dispute that our democracy’s not working as well as it should be,” he said, adding later, “The people in power don’t want things to change.”
“You can’t just complain. You’ve gotta vote,” he told the group. “Don’t give away your power.”
“You got me started. I went on a rant, didn’t I?” he observed.
At 4:31 pm, the president wrapped up his remarks. The student reporters applauded, and he left the room.
Background, per the White House, on the event:
Today, the White House is hosting the first-ever White House College Reporter Day with 50 student reporters from dozens of colleges and universities around the nation. College Reporter Day will provides student reporters the opportunity to engage with Senior Administration Officials on a range of issues. Earlier today, After a welcome from Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, the students heard from White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett to discuss the "It's On Us" campaign to help put an end to sexual assault on college campuses; White House Senior Advisor Brian Deese and White House Counsel Neil Eggleston on the President's nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court; Secretary of Education John King, Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative Eric Waldo, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education Policy Roberto Rodriguez, and Special Assistant to the President for Higher Education Ajita Menon on college access and affordability; and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Paulette Aniskoff and CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer to talk about civic engagement and the importance of ensuring that all Americans have an equal voice in our democracy and how everybody can come together to solve our nation’s challenges. The students also had the opportunity to meet with members of the White House Correspondents’ Association. Finally, the students are participating in a press briefing with Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
White House Bureau Chief