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W&M students participate in town hall with Obama

  • Town hall T-shirtGloria Oh '11 (second from left) was one of at least five William & Mary students and one alumnus who participated in a town hall meeting with President Barack Obama Oct. 14. Daniel Vivas '11 (gray sweater, far right) also participated in the event.

    Town hall T-shirt

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 was finally able meet “the man himself” – and she did so with her Tribe pride in plain sight.

Oh was one of at least nine William & Mary students and alumni who participated in a town hall meeting with President Barack Obama Oct. 14 in Washington, D.C. The live event, titled “A Conversation with President Obama," was shown on MTV, MTVu, BET, Centric, TR3s and CMT and streamed live on MTV.com, BET.com and CMT.com.

Viewers could often see Oh in the audience as the camera followed the president around the circular room. She was sitting in one of the front rows and wearing a tie-dyed William & Mary T-shirt.

During the event, the president answered questions from a handful of the approximately 250 young people in the room and from viewers who submitted questions via Twitter.

A William & Mary alumnus, Kishor Nagula ’05, was one of the few who were able to ask the president a question in person.

Nagula, now a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, queried the president on the country’s racial climate.

Obama noted that progress in race relations often happens in fits and starts and is usually worse during hard economic times. However, he said to keep the state of progress in perspective, adding, “this audience didn’t exist 20 years ago.”

“The amount of interaction, the amount of understanding that exists in your generation among people of different races and different creeds and different colors is unprecedented,” he said.

The president went on to say that the amount of cultural exposure the current generation receives is a good thing and something that gives him confidence in the country’s continued ability to compete in the world. Obama encouraged Nagula and his peers to be leaders in race relations.

“You guys are going to be the messengers of this continued strengthening of the diversity of this country,” Obama said.

Along with race relations, Obama also answered questions on the recession, unemployment, immigration, education, online bullying, Sudan and "don’t ask, don’t tell," among other topics. Obama also heard from viewers and audience members about their greatest hopes and fears during the hour-long event.

Organizers of the town hall meeting contacted schools in the D.C. region last week to find students to participate in the town hall meeting. Along with Oh, at least six other William & Mary students were selected to participate, including three law students: Tiffany Webb, Stephanie Swift and Isabella Demougeot.

Earlier this week, Webb said she was also looking forward to the event.

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

Danny Greene, a junior who also also attended the town hall, said she was interested in hearing what the president had 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.