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News » EGA Students meet President Obama

Published: 16/05/2016

On Saturday the 23rd of April, a group of five Year 11 students got the chance to meet the President of the United States, Barack Obama, in a ‘town hall’ event, where young people could ask him questions and hear his opinions on current issues.

As a group we travelled down there on time, only to find that the lines to get in through the airport- like security checks were 2 streets long!  We waited nervously as numerous tinted police cars and dogs walked by, officers constantly on alert for any potential threat and looking at us critically in our ‘smart but casual’ attire.

When we finally got in after the passport and security checks and took our seats, it was a bit of a wait before the President actually arrived, so the buzz and excitement was almost tangible.  People were talking animatedly as cameras behind us were adjusted, all of us looking towards the door where we knew he would enter.

Finally, we saw him. Everyone shot out of their seats - phone cameras clicking, people exclaiming his name, the deafening applause of hundreds of people all for this one man. But not just any old man - the President of one of the biggest superpowers of the world.  He climbed onto the stage and in front of the podium smiled graciously at our applause and told us we could sit.

The President opened up the session by talking about why he was here, the ‘special relationship’ the UK and America have, which has led to such a long period of peace and prosperity, and where it would lead us in the future.  An avid and persuasive speaker, Mr Obama covered a wide range of controversial topics such as the imminent threat of Islamophobia, the lack of human rights globally that we still aspire to change, and how much we can learn from history – he instilled in us the need for the next generation to be optimistic about the future and to reject pessimism and cynicism.

A variety of questions were asked, ranging from the personal to those on a global scale, with the President answering honestly and in detail, giving advice and listening in turn.  Humorous and considerate, Barack Obama talked about the problems he had faced in trying to bring about the changes he wanted to see, the way his experiences shaped him, and the legacy he wanted to leave behind.  When referring to the methods that we as the young generation can use to bring attention to problems, he said “Sometimes you have to make noise and do something crazy to shine light on the issue”.

It occurred to me how much of what he said about worldwide concerns in general related to us in our everyday lives – the lesson that we should always have a “North Star” and a “general direction and ambition we should be heading towards”; how compromise isn’t surrendering, but in fact a way of helping each other, if only we could stop being so self-centered.  He also defended Muslim Americans by saying “They protect us every day by being in the army and the police force, so how can we accuse them of trying to hurt us?”

As a whole, I think the President was a positive and influential reminder of the change that we can bring about, if only we do what is right and think about others and not just our own problems.  It was a once in a lifetime experience to meet such an inspirational and constructive person as Barack Obama, the first black President of the United States of America,  and the memory is one that I will treasure and I know the others who met him will too.

Marjana Ahmed 11T

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