THE BLOG

Three Young Minds Changed By President's Oil Speech

06/16/2010 07:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
By: William Nelligan

When FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," nobody seemed to ask him for additional details. When John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," nobody seemed to wonder in that instant what specific service programs he had in mind. But with President Obama, it's apparently different. If he's not sitting behind the Resolute Desk explaining his exact operational strategy for cleaning up the oil spill, he's "short on details." What's the point of even having a cabinet? President Obama should be out there on a skiff scooping oil himself.

Or, so the pundits say. I'm still left wondering about what the public at large is really thinking.

I turn on the radio, and it sounds like people universally disliked the speech; I turn on the TV, and they are split Republican vs. Democrat; I read an article citing David Binder Research and it seems that the speech was well received by independent voters. Alright, so maybe "public at large" is a demographic too massive to analyze. What about people my age? What about the 18 and 19 and 20 year olds who spent countless hours phone banking and canvassing for a leader they found truly inspirational? Were they inspired once again last night?

My friend BJ McCollister is one of the most politically involved people I know. He's worked on several campaigns, and in a major political advocacy organization. He left me a message earlier today with some feedback for President Obama: "Generally speaking, I was impressed." (If only this guy were on MSNBC, or NBC, or CNN where the pundits were panning the speech.) He went on to say "I would like to see [President Obama] become a little more aggressive and use this as an opportunity to pass clean energy reform. Hopefully [he'll] take a little more leadership than he did on health care reform because there isn't a better case for energy independence than the BP oil spill."

Curtis Adams is an independent-minded student at Southside High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who I met at the national American Legion Oratorical Contest last year. He texted me early this morning to say that, "after seeing the speech last night...I am convinced that things are going to get done, and that those in the Gulf will get the help they need very soon." Not only did Curtis like the speech, but it actually helped to convince him of the President's leadership on the issue. Two for three so far.

Adam Kelly spoke with me earlier today as he was driving through Western Massachusetts. He worked on Jeanne Shaheen's campaign for the United States Senate, and has been deeply involved in New Hampshire politics since starting high school. He rejected the very premise of my question: "I've never questioned the fact that he was fully in control. The speech reaffirmed my trust in him, and my belief that he's handling the situation. The Republicans will complain and chide regardless of what he says or does: I try to give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves to me otherwise."

Home run. Three distinct voices of my generation, with different experiences, from vastly different parts of the country. The common trend: they believe in our president, and his ability to lead.

In today's Politico Playbook, Mike Allen offered up a "West Wing Mindmeld":

"Whenever we do something like this, our focus is always on communicating directly with the American people, in an unfiltered way. We don't waste those opportunities to throw bones to the pundits."

That's good because right now it would be a monumental waste of time, especially in trying to reach young voters. According to the Pew Research Center, the 32-point lead Democrats held over Republicans among young voters in 2008 has shrunk to just 14 points in 2010. Over the past two years, more and more youth voters have lost confidence in a Democratic Party that they saw veer away from them and back to the cautious political ruling class. Now, as the White House turns its attention away from the pundits and back to the people, younger minds are starting to change. Last night, as President Obama addressed the American people for the very first time from behind that great old desk, he changed at least three minds himself.

Now if only he can change millions more.

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