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11-year-old Reporter Lands an Interview with Obama

August 14, 2009 at 2:09 PM EDT
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After waiting a year for a response from the White House, 11-year-old Damon Weaver landed an interview with President Obama.

JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, a very young journalist lands a major interview. Eleven-year-old Damon Weaver of Pahokee in South Florida is a reporter for his elementary school’s television station. During the 2008 election, he interviewed then-Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Yesterday at the White House, he interviewed the man who was at the top of the ticket then, now-President Barack Obama. Here are some excerpts.

DAMON WEAVER, Elementary School Reporter: All across America, money is being cut from education. How can education be improved with all these cuts?

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, we’ve, actually, here in the administration, tried to put more money into schools. And there are a lot of schools all across the country that are getting new buildings and new facilities. We’re now putting more money into training good teachers and giving them more support.

And so we think it’s important to put more money into the schools, but money alone is not going to make the difference. We’ve also got to improve how the schools are operating. And we have really been trying to focus on, how do you find the best schools, and figure out what it is that they’re doing well, and then trying to get other schools that aren’t doing so well to do the same kinds of things that the schools that are doing well are doing?

So I hope that we can really see some improvement, not just with money, but also reforming how the schools work.

Improving schools

DAMON WEAVER: I live in Pahokee, Fla., which is a kind of poor town. What can be done to improve education for students that live in towns like mine?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, unfortunately, a lot of times, if you've got a community that is lower income, they don't have as much money in their schools. A lot of that is state funding, and I want to see states be more fair in terms of how they give money to various schools around their communities.

But I do think that it's important to make sure that we can find help from the federal government, from here in Washington, D.C., for those schools that need the most help.

You know, there are certain programs, like dropout prevention programs, for example, that local school districts might not be able to afford, but maybe we can make sure that the federal government is giving help to those local districts so that they can improve their educational system.

DAMON WEAVER: Do you have the power to make the school lunches better?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, I remember, when I used to get school lunches, sometimes they didn't taste so good, I've got to admit. We are actually seeing if we can work to at least make school lunches healthier, because a lot of school lunches, you know, there's a lot of French fries, and pizza, and tater tots, and all kinds of stuff that, you know, isn't a well-balanced meal.

And so we want to make sure that there are more fruits and more vegetables in the schools. Now, kids may not end up liking that, but it's actually better for them, it'll be healthier for them, and those are some of the changes that we're trying to make.

DAMON WEAVER: I suggest that we have French fries and mangoes every day for lunch.

I notice, as president, you get bullied a lot. How do you handle it?

BARACK OBAMA: As president I get what?

DAMON WEAVER: Bullied a lot.

BARACK OBAMA: I get bullied? You mean people say mean things about me? Well, you know, I think that, you know, when you're president, you're responsible for a lot of things, and a lot of people are having a tough time, and they're hurting out there.

And, you know, the main thing I just try to do is stay focused on trying to do a good job and try to be understanding that sometimes people are going to be mad about things. But if I'm doing a good job, I'm doing my best, and I'm trying to always help people, then that keeps me going.

DAMON WEAVER: Were you ever bullied in school?

BARACK OBAMA: You know, I wasn't bullied too much in school. I was pretty big for my age. But, obviously, you know, it's a terrible thing, bullying. And I hope all young people out there understand that they should treat each other with respect.

DAMON WEAVER: When I interviewed Vice President Joe Biden, he became my homeboy. Now that I interviewed you, would you like to become my homeboy?

BARACK OBAMA: Absolutely. Thank you, man.

DAMON WEAVER: Thank you.

BARACK OBAMA: Great job.