Fireside Chat of the 21st Century

By Benjamin Myer, Special for  USDR

“We are going to have sort of 21st Century fireside chats where I speak directly to the American people through video streams.” This is what senator Barack Obama said back in 2007 prior to becoming President. Since being in office he has had a total of four of these fireside chats. The last two have both received millions of views, demonstrating how far reaching media can be. This year was President Obama’s fourth fireside chat featuring 3 of YouTube’s most prominent figures: Swoozie, Destin Sandlin from Smarter Every Day, and Ingrid Nilson. Each person was given the opportunity to ask President Obama questions ranging from issues like racism to Star Wars. As a millennial a few questions and resulting answers stood out to me more than  others.

One of the major social issues of the last year has been racial profiling. Being a black male Swoozie talks about being racially profiled, and even tells a recent story about it. Swoozie goes as far as saying police officers are just “bullies with badges.” President Obama responds very appropriately when he said, “The overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are doing a really tough job and they are doing it well. They are respectful and they are doing it the right way.” This speaks volumes about where the White House stands on the issue of law enforcement. That statement is one of the major things that stood out to me during the fireside  chat.

Another moment that stood out to me was when Swoozie brought up the issue of gun violence. What made it unique was that he did not focus on the gun debate, but rather how the media makes the shooters into notorious figures. The President responded by (of course) bringing up gun control. He did get back to the question and said, “We have to do a better job as a culture and as a society, not sensationalizing violence as a way of getting attention.” Being a millennial I see this “violence” every day. Being involved in the 21st century means sensationalized violence is in media. I play video games, watch movies/TV, listen to music and violence is a major theme in all these mediums. So, as a culture we have to stop sensationalizing it and glorifying  it.

The President’s aging has been the crux of many memes and political cartoons. Destin Sandlin brought it up as well when he showed the President a clip from the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and yes President Obama looked much younger. This was not the point however. Destin made the observation that the speech then senator Obama gave was similar in content but different in tone to that of the most recent state of the union address. President Obama responds by saying that today we are extremely divided politically. He brings up the issue of how splintered the media is. As a millennial this is incredibly obvious to me. Fox, CNN, CBS, and NBC are all so biased in their presentation of the news it does cause division among society. The President ends by saying, “That’s why it’s important for people to vote, participate, and pay attention to what’s going on.” It is our job to be involved and we cannot rely on media to tell us what to  believe.

This last year saw a spike in concern with “lone wolf” terror attacks, and Ingrid Nilson confronts this head on by asking the President if terror attacks on our own soil will become the new normal. This is incredibly important as ISIS has promoted these types of attacks on America. President Obama attempts to calm those fears by talking about how there has not been a major attack since 9/11 and that people should not alter their lives or be overly concerned with this issue. I am still not sure how convincing he was but I will let you be the judge of  that.

Ingrid does bring up the challenges facing the LGBT community which is an extremely controversial topic as a millennial. President Obama even mentions younger people when he says, “The idea that you discriminate based on sexuality is so out of sync with what young people believe.” As a millennial I completely agree. Whether conservative or progressive young people do not care about this issue the same as older generations. They look at the LGBT community as people who need to be treated and respected as such. That does not mean everyone has to agree with the choices they make, just that they are people who should be respected as  such.

These are the things that stood out to me during this modern fireside chat. As a millennial many issues are facing our nation and culture that need to be addressed. These fireside chats are a great way of addressing issues in today’s society. President Obama may have started a trend for future presidents, but only time will  tell.

Link to the video

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