Obama 2012 Youth Outreach Effort Kicks Off at UPenn

By Ali Carey, Contributing WriterAs the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” blasted over the loud speakers, hundreds of high school and college democrats packed into the University of Pennsylvania’s Houston Hall to see for themselves what the Young Americans for Obama 2012 campaign is all about.

The National Student Summit was the kick-off event to the Obama campaign’s “Greater Together” initiative, which specifically targets voters ages 18 to 29.  The campaign just launched its website last week and it will be holding similar summits at colleges and universities across the country.

Featured guests were Philadelphia Mayor and 1977 Wharton graduate Michael Nutter, Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Melody Barnes.

The majority of the event was a panel discussion in which the featured guests and students from universities throughout the state answered questions from audience members.  The panelists also answered questions submitted via twitter.

The “Greater Together” movement is centered around the nation’s youngest voters.  In 2008, Obama was able to mobilized the youth vote with impressive success.  However in recent months, numerous headlines and cable news pundits have declared that Obama has lost the magic with younger voters.

UPenn Democrats President Isabel Friedman told the Daily Pennsylvanian, the 2012 Obama campaign on campus has “a different kind of energy” compared to 2008. “The challenge will be reminding students what he’s accomplished for them — and he has accomplished a tremendous amount,” she said.

The formation and launch of this organization – replete with sleek social media campaign tools – is an effort by the campaign to combat the slide.

Nutter described seeing enthusiastic and engaged young voters as “tremendously exciting,” and he called the students in the crowd to register to vote in order to make a difference and have their voices heard.

“It is about your future.  The nonsense that we see in Congress must come to an end.”

The panelists discussed issues of jobs, health care and education, and the conversation was particularly targeted to the young audience.

Soon to be Temple University graduate Elliot Griffin, expressed her strong support for the Affordable Care Act which allows young adults to be on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.  Griffin says that without the Affordable Care Act she could not afford to think about law school or starting her own business.

Students were also particularly interested in Obama’s position on preventative care and reproductive rights.

“Preventative care is the smartest thing you can do to reduce health care costs,” said Barnes.

Barnes said that Obama is a staunch supporter of programs like Planned Parenthood and he supports making contraception available as a part of preventative care.

Barnes empathized with the students in the crowed burdened with the ever rising cost of tuition and daunting task of finding a job in such a tough economy.  She touted Obama’s Pay as You Earn program as a way for young Americans to save money in the first years of their careers.

Although most of the students attend schools in PA, they come from all over the country. Their questions reflected an interest in federal and local issues.  A UPenn student from New Hampshire asked about the implications of the No Child Left Behind program which raises the standard for public education, causing many public schools in her home state to be considered failing.

About half of the crowd raised their hands when asked if they would be voting in their first presidential election.

The Obama campaign is also initiating “Barack Stars,” an organized group for high school students not old enough to vote in the 2012 election.

Messina emphasized the numerous ways that students can get involved, including applying for what they are calling a “winnternship” for the Obama campaign.

“You all are organizers and ambassadors for the president,” said Nutter.

November 3rd, 2011 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Presidential, Top Stories | No Comments