Reporter Olivia Sandom comes to us from WHYY’s education programs. Sandom asked teens what they thought of President Barack Obama’s speech at this week’s Democratic National Convention and if he made the case for a Hillary Clinton Presidency. Here’s what she learned.
Zaynab Sanogo, 15
Zaynab shared “I think that his advocacy for Hillary was well founded. I also think that he spoke to a lot of social issues, but didn’t really give an opinion more than he just said what he thinks people wanted to hear… because he’s a politician and a lawyer he’s good at manipulating facts to support his agenda.”
When asked how she felt about his support of Clinton she was unsure: “I don’t know I guess he has to because she’s the running member of his party, and the other option is Trump.”
She believes his support is less about her as a candidate, and motivated more by the need of a Democrat in office. “He did pick her to be secretary of state so theres at least some genuine advocacy.”
Zaynab concluded by admitting “Honestly, I hate to say it but having one of the more liberal Republican candidates for one term felt like the best bet.”
Santana Outlaw, 16
“I knew he supports Hillary Clinton but I didn’t hear a lot about her in his speech last night. Yeah, he was supporting her and saying she’s good at what she does, but other people have said the same thing. Him saying the same thing was kind of like another push of ‘Hey, please don’t make the wrong choice, just listen to me.’ Since Hillary was officially chosen to represent the Democratic party in this election, I wish he talked about that a little more. Then again, he is indeed ending his final term so I understand why his speech was directed more towards him and his time in office.”
Despite this, Santana was enamored with the president’s more personal points.
“I really like how he mentioned how he kept his motivation. He talked about people that spoke to him and a drawing he received from a girl’s parents after the girl was killed in Newtown shootings. It kind of showed how he had times that made him feel weak and stressed out but had small things that would give him another push.
While Obama’s Wednesday speech was to garner support for the Democratic nominee, it undeniably doubled as a farewell.
“Oh my God, I’m really gonna miss him. He did a recap of the things he accomplished while in office and…just, wow. I remember my grandma coming over to pick me up for school and it was the morning after he won the election. She was waiting for me and crying on the couch and I asked why and she answered with, ‘Because, it’s finally a black leader, the first black president.’ She had to live through so much, I’m glad she got to see this happen before she passed.”
Just like her grandmother had been with Obama, young Santana will be moved if Clinton is elected.
“I think it’s another milestone. One legend after another — first black president then followed-up with the first woman president. That’d be pretty cool, honestly.”
Chaz Wattley, 17
Chaz felt satisfied with the president’s oration: “Obama did what he had to do to protect his party. I think that the speech was a masterful move. He recognized that in this time of intra-party turmoil, the responsibility of party unity really falls of his shoulders. And he delivered with that speech. The goal of the speech was to expend the remainder of his own political capital in order to promote Hillary Clinton. It was also a self-defense speech. He had to defend his record and his actions to the party in order to establish the ethos needed to bring the party together for Hillary.”
Chaz continues, “I have to say that he is definitely attuned to the political realities that dictate what he can and can’t say”, #blacklivesmatter being one of those controversial topics. As for the Bernie supporters who are throwing their support elsewhere, “They are entitled to their vote. I mean, some people are simply too passionate to compromise. I certainly understand where they are coming from.”
Tyler Wilson, 16,
Tyler shared, “I was really excited the president came out because he’s a great figure to unite the party, because some of the Bernie supporters are starting to split it. Also, I’m glad he spoke out against Trump because he’s an idiot and some butt-hurt Bernie supporters are planning to vote for him, and I think it’s important Obama speak up about it.”
Concerning Obama’s jabs at Trump, Tyler claims, “They’re totally appropriate. Donald Trump has given no legitimate plans and he’s a terrible businessman which is what he’s mostly basing his qualifications on. And his policies are totally asinine and go against the ideals America was founded on (I mean except the racism, it was kind of founded based upon that…). He walks away still a one percenter while his employees — well, ex-employees — are still worrying about making ends meet, kids, college funds, etc.”
Tyler has been a Hillary supporter since the very start of the election.
“Hillary is the only candidate who can continue his legacy… She’s been on his administration, also she’s actually qualified unlike some others. Sure she may have lied a bit but overall she’s actually really great.”
From the president’s speech, Tyler gets that Hillary “despite Benghazi and what not, is actually incredibly qualified and that her knowledge of foreign affairs is unparalleled in this election. Also, that people overseas actually would respect Hillary and think that she, and the American army, under her control, would be ideal for the next 4 years… I mean, he even compared Trump to jihadists. I think it’s too early to tell if the speech was successful because I think it will only be considered successful if all, if not a majority of the Bernie supporters who would rather vote for Trump over Hillary, will realize that Hillary is the obvious choice and join her side.”
To those refusing to vote for her, he believes that “not voting isn’t protesting, it’s submitting. Trump’s only down by a few points which means the tides could easily change, so every single vote counts.”
Iman Acharya, 14
“My whole family and friend group are super into politics and this year I became really interested too. I’ve been following the election since November and so I’ve been watching all the DNC speeches. I was especially interested in Obama’s because I think he’s been an amazing president and is just an amazing guy overall.”
After watching the speech, Iman revealed, “Generally I thought he did a good job. He definitely tried to unite his and Hillary’s supporters by bridging their campaigns together.”
Iman was hesitant about this statement, however, and soon explained her disappointment: “I think that he fell short on endorsing Hillary. He definitely focused a lot more on how great America and Americans are, what he personally accomplished, and how awful Trump was. I understand his point in doing that but I think he could have talked about Hillary’s background and campaign slightly more. I also wish he could have focused more on how his gender may have impacted his winning the election in 2008. I know that would be out of line for him but Iwish he could have said more about it.”
When asked to explain, she elaborated: “I think that a big reason people don’t support Hillary has to do with reasons that have underlying sexist themes, even for people who believe in gender equality. I think that coming from someone people trust as much as Obama, him mentioning this could really open people’s eyes as to why they don’t support her. I honestly think that it has to do with underlying sexism. I’m not calling all Bernie supporters sexist, but the media — oh, God I hate blaming the media for things, but in this case it’s really at fault — makes us see women in a certain type of way. most people don’t like Hillary because she’s either ‘too much like my mom’ or ‘too much of a bitch.’ It’s like there is no possible way to be a strong woman in politics and be everything people are asking you to be. If Hillary was a man, with decades of incredible experience and amazing qualifications, people would vote for her without a doubt. If Bernie was a woman, who had all these wild ideas and wild hair, people would call him crazy.”
The message Iman received the most was that Clinton is qualified.
“I’ve been a Hillary supporter from the beginning, but this gave me an even larger appreciation for how experienced she is. I love when he said she’s more qualified than anyone else who has run for president, including himself and Bill, because it’s so true! She’s so incredibly qualified. It should be a no-brainer that she win this election.”
However, she recognized a deeper significance in the president’s oration. “I think he is trying to support other people who often have issues getting into powerful roles in government. I like to imagine that he is trying to make sure he will not be an outlier, a single black man in an ongoing streak of white men. He is trying to pass down the torch to someone else who deserves this role, but will have trouble getting it because of something as insignificant as her gender.”
When asked if she would miss Obama, she voiced, “definitely, but if there’s anyone I want to see be president next, it’s Hillary.”
Olivia’s work is part of Youth Radio’s special coverage of the 2016 political conventions.