Obama discusses discrimination, social change with students at town hall

GREENSBORO, N.C., Oct. 11 (UPI) — President Barack Obama told college students at a town hall event that social movements and activist activity is more likely to be successful if they know exactly what they are working for.

Obama appeared at a town hall at North Carolina AT University Tuesday, speaking to students at the nation’s oldest historically black college about doing more effective work in their communities and working to help all minorities, not just African-Americans.

The town hall, recorded Tuesday afternoon before Obama spoke at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was interviewed in front of 250 African-American college students, most of whom are athletes.

During the event, Obama spoke about his experience growing up, time spent playing basketball in high school and the influence of athletes who doubled as activists on his thinking, such as Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe.

What is important, Obama said, is to be involved in issues, whether through protest or by working with children in the community who need little more than someone to pay attention to them.

“The ability for you to mentor some 8-year-old or 10-year-old kid who lives right around here. Maybe he doesn’t have a dad, doesn’t have a lot,” Obama said. “You paying attention to him and you’re a star guard on your team, you taking him to a ballgame and asking him how he is doing in school — that is revolutionary.”

Not all the questions posed to Obama were positive, as some think his administration has not done enough to increase federal funding to historically black colleges and universities.

Obama was also criticized for tightening criteria for the Parent Plus loan program, which he said was meant to prevent families from taking on too much debt for student loans, instead increasing direct funding to black colleges and universities and making Pell Grants more widely available for low- and middle-income students who attend them.

Students who attended the town hall said they came away inspired to do more to speak out for people black people and other minorities, and to get more involved with their communities because of the effects they can have.

“The experience was surreal. It was an honor,” said Nhawndie Smith, a senior political science student at North Carolina AT. “One of the major points that he made that really touched me was him talking about divesting from prisons and things that are harmful to our communities. But actually investing more into our actual communities, to rid some of the problems that are going on, like violence and other negative things that have held us back.”

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