During “A Conversation With President Obama” on Thursday (October 14), the nation’s leader addressed a range of concerns, directly from the country’s young people. He elaborated on his administration’s plans to curb illegal immigration while streamlining the process of entering the country legally. He discussed plans to improve resources for teachers and keep guns out the hands of kids. And while he addressed viewers’ apprehensions about the future of the United States during the broadcast — thanks to their #mygreatesthope and #mygreatestfear tweets — he also divulged his personal hopes and fears after the show.
For a politician saddled with responsibilities of unparalleled gravity, President Obama told forum attendees he is concerned about the level of political engagement of America’s youth. After personally greeting audience members, Obama took the mic one last time before heading out and urged everyone in the room to vote, maintaining that the efforts of enthusiastic citizens will drive change.
“Regardless of who you vote for, regardless if you found anything I said persuasive, I need you to vote on November 2,” he insisted. “One of the things that happened in the last election is that young people got involved in ways that they had never gotten involved in before and that has to sustain itself, that has to maintain itself. Because the only way we’re gonna solve these problems is if everyone is seriously engaged.”
Then Obama, who won his historic 2008 presidential campaign on the tenets of hope and change, quipped, “Nobody [today] asked me what gave me hope,” and explained what still inspires him.
“What gives me hope is all of you,” he said. “What makes me afraid is the possibility that because these problems are hard, because it takes time to solve energy or education or build a good infrastructure or deal with immigration, because these are big complicated issues, that people get discouraged when they don’t get solved right away.”
The president reminded the attendees that change is often realized through long-term commitment to reaching a specific goal.
“This is a process. It’s always been that way, and that’s how we’ve overcome challenges in the past,” he continued. “I have no doubt that America will remain the best, greatest country on earth as long as all of you are a part of building it. As long as you keep your eye on the prize and recognize that a change doesn’t happen just because of one election, it doesn’t happen just because you wish it, it happens because of hard work and sustained persistence and involvement.”
The leader of the free world added that, ultimately, making a difference is not just in the hands of politicians, but also the work of dedicated citizens.
“I hope that all of you stay inspired,” he said. “Don’t just look to some elected official for that inspiration. Look to each other, look to yourselves.”
What do you think about President Obama’s hopes and fears? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.