From: Jen Bendery [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, August 03, 2015 12:38 PM
To: Velz, Peter T. EOP
Subject: Pool report #2 -- townhall Q&A
Here in the ballroom at the Omni, POTUS walked out at 11:15 after being introduced by human rights advocate Grace Jerry of Nigeria. 750 young African leaders greeted him with cheers, a standing ovation, and an unexpected round of "happy birthday." His birthday is Aug. 4.
"Thank you so much," POTUS said, followed by his usual shout-out to the First Lady.
"Following Grace is a little bit like following Michelle," he said. "She's so good that you've gotta feel bad when you're walking out, because you're thinking, 'I'm not going to be that good.'"
POTUS used his typical "boy-girl-boy-girl" process of calling on people with questions. He took 8 questions.
He started with a young Kenyan woman, who asked how he keeps his work-life balance and about being married to the First Lady, who is "powerful and amazing."
"I wouldn't be who I was without Michelle," POTUS said. "That's true professionally, but that's true in terms of my character and who I am."
He said his work/life balance "isn't always perfect," and that he and the First Lady sacrifice things for each other so they can both succeed as parents and as professionals. Ultimately, he said, it's about making sure everyone feels respected and fulfilled.
"You do not lift yourself up by holding somebody else down."
Next question was about climate change. POTUS said it's one of the "critical issues" young people must confront. He pointed out that poor countries are most likely to be adversely affected by it "because they have less margin for error." He talked about changing weather patterns potentially decimating crops in India and Africa.
Next question was about the fate of the YALI program. POTUS said he wants to institutionalize it and expand it to other regions of the world. He said one of his priorities after leaving office will be to keep creating platforms for young leaders to network with each other across the globe. After some rest, that is.
"The first thing I'm probably going to do is catch up on my sleep," he said to laughs. "I'll probably do that for a couple of months."
Next question was about U.S. commitment to young entrepreneurs. POTUS said he's pledging $1 billion for entrepreneurship, half of which is directed at women and young people.
"They've been underrepresented in terms of access to capital.
Next question was about securing an African role on the UN Security Council. POTUS said it's "complicated" how countries land a role on the council, but as a "matter of principle," he thinks at least one African country should be on it.
Next question was about combating terrorism. POTUS said the U.S. has been working with countries around the world to go after groups like Boko Haram and al Qaeda. It can't just be a military response though, he said, and leaders need to reach into communities that feel marginalized and make sure they feel heard.
It's crucial to partner with civil society organizations because they can "reach young people before ISIL reaches them."
POTUS got pretty fired up about the next question. A young Kenyan woman asked him to press African leaders to combat racial discrimination and violence against women.
"The notion that any African would discriminate against anybody because of the color of their skin, after what black people around the world have gone through, is crazy," said POTUS. "It is infuriating. And I have no patience for it."
POTUS also rejected the practice of genital mutilation and bride abduction, which drew applause. "I don't care that that used to be how things were done."
He added that it's not acceptable to discriminate based sexual orientation. He said he made that point on his recent trip to Africa, where "everybody's like, uh oh, we don't want to hear that." That drew some laughs in the crowd.
"If you're treating people differently just because of who they love and who they are, then there's a connection between that mindset and the mindset that led to racism," he said.
Last question was about education investments and the "brain drain" in Africa. POTUS turned the question on the crowd, asking them why so many young, talented Africans leave their country for work instead of staying. He urged them to fight against corruption in their communities and help rebuild their countries, which would then turn the tide.
"Some of the brain drain is economic, but some of it has to do with people's assessments of, if I stay in my country, am I going to have the ability to succeed?" he said.
POTUS wrapped up at about 12:20. He worked the rope line for several minutes. Screams of joy could be heard from the people meeting him, and your pooler spotted a couple people dancing and waving their hands in the air to celebrate.
Rolling back to the WH at 12:30.
Sent from my iPhone.