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Long Road students meet President Obama at ‘town hall’ event

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Four current (Maddy Crouchman, James Harrison, Jack Orme and Grace Savage) and one former Long Road student (Callum Fairhurst) were invited to attend President Barack Obama’s town hall event for young people in London during his visit to the UK.

This followed on from the visit to the College by US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun, and the recent invitation to five of our students to visit the Ambassador’s residence in London.

DSC_0594Our five lucky students joined an audience of around 500 young people who posed questions about a wide range of subjects. This what our students thought of the event:

Callum Fairhurst: “Big thank you for the incredible day!! We all kept throwing our hands in the air hoping to get a question in; unfortunately we didn’t – and no one asked on the EU! BUT being there was brilliant, seeing him in person – interacting with the crowd and well, just being Obama! ”

Obama’s town hall meeting – the Long Road video from Long Road Sixth Form College on Vimeo.

image2(Callum completed his A levels in Politics, History and Business Studies in 2014. he has just completed a round-the-world cycle ride to raise money for the Liam Fairhurst Foundation: He is working as a policy advisor in the Cabinet Office prior to going to university.)

Grace Savage (Politics, English Literature and Sociology A levels): “Going to see Obama yesterday was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m so glad I was given the chance to meet such an influential, yet kind leader.

“Although some of the questions were very focused, he talked not only about the specific issues, but then went on to expand on them and deliver a more general response which covered a variety of areas. I think I gained a lot more respect for Obama, as although he could be classed as one of the most powerful individuals in the world, he is still humble and very down to earth. The way he spoke to the audience was not patronising at all: he has the art of making people feel comfortable down to a T. His charisma is definitely one of his strong points, as even though he was speaking to a young crowd, it wasn’t preachy at all, and he respected what everyone had to say. He talks a lot about listening to people and what they believe in, which I agree is especially important when trying to solve problems, and I think that, as he said, he ‘has stayed true to himself’ throughout his campaign and presidency, which is refreshing to say the least.

“The main thing he focused on was staying positive, honest and true, and not letting the complexity and difficulty of implementing change stop you from campaigning for something you believe in. One thing that really resonated with me was when he said something along the lines of ‘Seek out people who don’t agree with you, and it will also help you to compromise.’

“Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, and Mr Obama far exceeded my expectations. His words have further inspired me to continue fighting for what I believe in.”

Maddy Crouchman (Politics, History and English Literature A levels): “Yesterday was absolutely outstanding and I was very impressed with Obama.

“Overall, despite already appreciating Obama’s incredible skills as a speaker, I was majorly impressed with how charismatic and smooth his speech was as well as his answers to the questions. Also, I really respected that he did not claim to know everything: for example, when questioned about Somali piracy and recent events involving it, he admitted not knowing very much detail about the issue. Also, I agree with his declaration in rejecting pessimism and that in order to achieve change we have to experience struggle, discipline and compromise. I was further impressed with how detailed his answers were to the questions (most answers were about 10 minutes long). After the event I got interviewed by a journalist who wanted to know what my impression was of Obama and she tried to get me to criticise his performance. However I had no criticism of the President whatsoever.

“Shame we didn’t get to hear his opinion of Donald Trump and his predictions for the coming election!!
Thank you for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Jack Orme (Politics, Mathematics and Sociology A levels): “On Saturday I was lucky enough to attend a ‘town hall’ meeting with the US President Barack Obama. The forever charismatic and charming character portrayed by Barack was in full swing with a confident and humorous Obama seeming relaxed and composed in front of a crowd of a few hundred eager sixth formers, members of the press and charity leaders.

“As expected the questions rolled in, and in equally unsurprising fashion the US President dodged adequately, instead relying on witty and distracting anecdotes to fool many into believing they got an answer. Obama did however excel when responding some of the more challenging questions to do with the seemingly-racist tactics of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and the anti-LGTB bill recently passed in states such as North Carolina, managing to persuade many onlookers that he himself does not approve of such hate-filled policies.

“My overall opinion on Barack Obama will always be one of upmost respect and admiration, and it would take a lot to change that. I would have to say that I was slightly disappointed with how he decided to pick and choose the questions he wanted to answer. However he was not afraid to admit when he didn’t know how to respond, and with honesty amongst the elite politicians in the US and UK fading fast I found him to be a breath of fresh air in a world of corruption, and with that I wish the best of luck to his successor in maintaining such honesty throughout (his or) her time in the White House. ”

Dave Evans, Politics course team leader at Long Road, says: “This was an amazing opportunity for our students, and we are extremely grateful to the US Embassy in London for making it possible. Our students will be able to talk for many years to come about the time that they met the President of the United States.”

Photo of students from left: James Harrison, Grace Savage, Jack Orme and Callum Fairhurst – Maddy Crouchman was sitting elsewhere in the auditorium