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W&M students to participate in town hall with Obama

  • Gloria Oh '11The William & Mary senior is one of at least five William & Mary students who will participate in a town hall meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday.

    Photo by Joel Pattison

    Gloria Oh '11
  • Danny Greene '12The William & Mary junior is one of at least five William & Mary students who will participate in the town hall meeting.

    Photo by Erin Zagursky

    Danny Greene '12
  • Tiffany WebbThe law student is one of several William & Mary students who will participate in a forum with President Barack Obama on Thursday.

    Photo by Jaime Welch-Donahue

    Tiffany Webb
As a student in the W&M in Washington program, Gloria Oh ’11 has toured the White House and even met the first family’s dog. On Thursday, she will finally meet “the man himself.”

“I think it’s about time,” she said in an e-mail. “I know he’s a busy man, so to see the President of the United States during my semester in D.C. – that means a lot to me.”

Oh is one of at least five William & Mary students who have been selected to participate in a televised town hall meeting with President Barack Obama on Oct. 14. The interactive, one-hour event titled "A Conversation with President Obama" will air live and commercial-free on MTV, MTVu, BET, Centric, TR3s and CMT at 4 p.m. (ET) and stream live on MTV.com, BET.com and CMT.com.

During the town hall meeting, the president will talk with a group of about 250 young people, answering their questions as well as questions submitted by viewers via Twitter. Organizers of the show contacted William & Mary last week, seeking student participants.

Danny Greene, a junior majoring in English and minoring in history, is another one of the William & Mary students participating in the event. She said she is interested in hearing what the president has to say on topics such as the mid-term elections and the state of education.

“It’s a great opportunity to just ask questions,” she said.

William & Mary viewers may find Greene easy to spot in the audience. She plans to wear green and gold, the school colors of both William & Mary and J.L. Francis Elementary School in Richmond, where her mother serves as principal.

Law student Tiffany Webb is also participating in the town hall. She said she is looking forward to the event.

“This is an amazing opportunity, one that I am very grateful and blessed to have been chosen for,” Webb said.

Like Greene, she is also looking forward to hearing what the president has to say about issues and concerns that her peers are passionate about.

“I absolutely love being in open-forum type situation where people, especially young people, are free to speak their minds, rather than reading off of a script,” she said. “In the realm of politics, young American voices are often diminished. This opportunity presents a platform for us to be heard on a national and global level. As a future attorney, I am expecting to hear conversations that will grow, challenge, and propel me into the future with a greater understanding of the needs of young people. I have no doubt that I am in for a treat.”

Oh, an English major, is already familiar with the nation’s capital and national politics. She joined thousands on the national mall for Obama’s inauguration in 2009. As a participant in the W&M in Washington program, she is currently working as an intern with NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell. That experience has brought certain topics to Oh’s attention, some of which she hopes will be addressed during the town hall meeting.

“When you work for a host of an all political news hour show, you inevitably become interested in the issues you help research,” she said. “For me that was Obama's war in Afghanistan (especially in light of the European terror plot) and his education policy -- both issues that I've been working on while at NBC. I was actually in the process of reading Bob Woodward's latest book, ‘Obama's Wars,’ when I received the tip about this event, and it was just so fitting -- because I was reading this book, and there were questions that came up which I would've liked to ask the president myself, or at least hear the president address.”

Oh, whose father is in the U.S. Army, said she is interested in how Obama’s young voting base is reacting to his decision to end the war in Iraq and refocus the country’s efforts in Afghanistan.

“War is always unpopular among young voters, and if Obama plans on rerunning for the 2012 election, as I suspect he will, he’s going to be entrenched in the middle of this war, which Woodward parallels to Vietnam,” Oh said. “How is Obama going to revitalize his young voting base that helped put him in D.C. in light of this decision to escalate resources in Afghanistan, which as he acknowledges will take time away from other pressing issues that directly affect me, such as jobs and the economy?”

During the town hall meeting, Oh hopes to “gauge the level of disillusionment in the crowds during this mid-term election season.”

“I mean he’s obviously trying to rally young voters to the Democratic base through this event,” she said. “What I find fascinating about Obama is that, to a certain extent, he transcends the role of a political figure. I feel that he does enjoy a bit of celebrity that cushions him from bad policies or failed policies he’s made in the past. I’m curious to see how young voters will interact with him.”