WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday evening, you could (almost) hear a pin drop outside the towering Romanesque revival walls of Healey Hall on the campus of Georgetown University as 50 students gathered to listen to President Obama answer their questions on "Ask Obama Live: An MTV Interview With the President."
In a half-hour sit-down interview with MTV News' Sway Calloway, the president covered a variety of topics on the minds of young voters this year, from the skyrocketing cost of student loans to guaranteeing equality for same-sex couples and protecting women's reproductive rights.
During the pre-show, the students, sitting on park benches, picnic tables, blankets and tree trunks, asked questions covering many of the same topics the president faced in the interview, including the problem of rising student debt, LGBT rights and whether America is still the land of opportunity for immigrants. Then, they sat in rapt attention as the president took on their questions and explored his vision for the next four years.
And when MTV News' Power of 12 caught up with some of the students afterward, they said they were satisfied with some of the answers but still had some more things on their mind.
One of the first questions in the show was one about giving young Americans the tools to become entrepreneurs, which was dead-on for Audrey Morris of New City, New York, a 20-year-old junior in the business school at Georgetown with a major in management, leadership and innovation and a sociology minor.
"The president's answer on entrepreneurship definitely hit home for me, because I'm interested in opening up my own business," said Morris, who is planning to launch an after-school leadership program for at-risk middle and high school students.
Because it wasn't explored on the show, Diana Escalante, 18, a government major at Georgetown College, said she's eager to get more from Obama on his plans to push for a comprehensive immigration policy.
"As a first-generation American, first-generation college student and first-time voter, this election is pivotal to me," she said, noting that her father came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico. "I was hoping to hear more about immigration. The bipartisan approach hasn't helped solve any of our nation's problems, and I was looking to hear about how he plans to approach the issue of immigration."
With family members who suffer from chronic conditions, Raquel Caldwell, 18, an economics and American Musical Culture double major from St. Louis, Missouri, said she was happy to hear Obama tout his Affordable Care Act. "[I would like to hear more] about what he can do for people with pre-existing conditions, because that problem does exist in my family," she said.
Perhaps no one in the Georgetown audience was more excited to hear the president talk about his signature health initiative than Evan Monod, 20, of Waybridge, Vermont. "The way he touched on health care was really important to me," said Monod, noting that the Affordable Care Act has been a huge deal for him, not just as a young American, but also as a person with cerebral palsy.
"Before the Affordable Care Act, I would be treated essentially as a walking, talking pre-existing condition. An insurance company could deny me coverage for the sole basis that I have a disability. That law was incredibly important to me. ... Also that he mentioned that a lot of young people can stay on their parents' insurance plans until they're 26. A lot of people might not know that, and just getting that message out there is incredibly important."
With nearly 500 homicides in his hometown of Chicago so far this year, Obama also took on the issue of gun control, which caught the ear of Joseph Lanzilla. The undeclared freshman tutors elementary school children through the D.C. Reads program, and he's seen firsthand the importance of reaching out to underprivileged kids to help them avoid the violence trap. "I go to Ward 7 and Ward 8, which suffer a lot from poverty and crime ... and I've seen a lot of that firsthand," he said. "[I really liked it] when he was talking about gun control and really laying out a vision for our American youth to have hope and a better future."
MTV also invited Obama's opponent, Mitt Romney, to participate in a similar live special and hopes to conduct an interview with him in advance of Election Day on November 6.
Check back for up-to-the-minute coverage of the debates and stick with Power of 12 throughout the 2012 presidential election season.