When an MTV viewer wanted to know what Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama thought of Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment on the 2008 California general-election ballot that would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, MTV News brought the question straight to the man himself.
"I think it's unnecessary," Obama told Sway, in response to a question sent in by Gangstagigz from San Leandro, California. "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage. But when you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that's not what America's about. Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don't contract them."
You sent us your questions, and on Saturday afternoon (November 1), Sway brought them directly to the Democratic party's choice for the nation's highest office. During a campaign stop in Henderson, Nevada, Senator Obama answered those questions in a very honest and candid discussion called "Ask Obama," which is set to air Monday (November 3) on MTV at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET, and on MTV Tr3s at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. ET.
(MTV News extended the same offer to Republican candidate John McCain, but he declined.)
In addition to expressing his opposition to Proposition 8, Obama said he believes and supports "strong civil unions ... that provide legal rights to same-sex couples [so] that they can visit each other in the hospital if they get sick, [so] they can transfer property to each other. If they've got benefits, they can make sure those benefits apply to their partners. I think that's the direction we need to go in. I think young people are ahead of the curve on this for the most part. Their attitude, generally, is that we should be respectful of all people, and that's the kind of politics I want to practice."
Senator Obama fielded a variety of questions, submitted by you, and gave his thoughts on a number of issues, ranging from gun violence and civil liberties to sagging-pants ordinances ("Any public official who is worrying about sagging pants needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there. Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants") and online rumors.
If he's elected Tuesday, Senator Obama said he'd work to create new programs — and overhaul existing ones — to help students pay for their college education, which he said was vital not only for young people, but for the overall future of the economy.
"Look, this is something I can relate to," he said, answering a question from Joy0294 of San Antonio, Texas. "I went to college having to take out student loans. I went to law school having to take out loans. Michelle took out student loans. When we got married, I think together, our total loan payments every month [were] more than our mortgage when we bought a house, and that lasted for about 10 years."
Obama said that the average student applies for between $25,000 and $30,000 in student loans, and "that's a huge burden, especially at a time when wages and incomes aren't going up." Obama said he'd like to increase the Federal Pell Grant Program for starters, but also "eliminate banks as middle men from the Direct Loan Program; they're taking out billions of dollars in profits. I want to take that money, apply that to increasing the number of loans that are out there and reducing the rate. And then, what I want to do is provide a $4,000 tuition credit to every student every year, in exchange for national service."
The credit would be available to students who volunteered with the Peace Corps, worked in their communities in some fashion or joined the military. "We're going to make sure they can afford their college tuition," Obama said. "In certain areas, like teaching, where we really need teachers, especially in math and science and nursing, where we really need nurses, we will potentially provide them even more than that, to get the high-quality teachers and nurses we need."
Those who already started incurring student loan debts won't be left out in the cold, either. Senator Obama said he'd work to find ways to consolidate some student loans. But, he admitted, "there's only so much we're going to be able to do going backwards."
Answering a question from Seb88 of Buffalo, New York, he said that we need to "focus on going forward. There are a lot of students out there who have already paid off their loans, and they may not be happy with it. They wouldn't mind getting some of their money back too.
"By the way, this isn't just four-year colleges and universities," he continued. "My attitude is, if young people are going for two years at the community-college level, for some technical training of some sort, or if they are returning to school after having worked for a while, all that is part of creating a knowledge-based workforce that's going to be the key to our competitiveness long-term. We're looking at potentially being able to consolidate some of these loans, and, if they are part of a broader pool, we may be able to lower interest rates on the debt they already owe. But the key is, going forward, making sure young people will be able to afford to go to college."
For all of Obama's answers — and your reactions — tune in on Monday.
"If you're satisfied with how the country's going right now, I'm probably not your best option," Obama said in closing. "But if you think we need fundamental change to make this country work the way it should and to give you a better future, I hope you go to the polls ... and make sure you are exercising your voice."
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