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June 2, 2016

PBS NewsHour hosts town hall with President Obama

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The PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill hosted a special event, ‘Questions for President Obama,’ on June 1 in Elkart, Indiana. Elkart was the first city Obama visited after he was elected president in 2008.

Here are three clips from the special, including questions about Donald Trump, the recession and transgender ‘bathroom bills.’

Essential question

How would you summarize President Obama’s eight years in office?


Gwen Ifill asked President Obama why he didn’t say Donald Trump’s name in response to one of her questions. Obama said that he’d let Trump do his own advertising. He then went on to say that Trump’s rhetoric about America being in decline is factually incorrect. He said such campaigning plays off of people’s insecurities, which doesn’t help the country.

Marianne Neufeldt asked the President what’s the one thing that he’d do differently looking back at his presidency. On domestic policy, Obama said he would have tried to describe earlier to the American people how serious the recession was going to be, which may have allowed the government to have an even bigger response than it did. A clearer explanation may have allowed monies from the Recovery Act to be spread out over time and lead to a quicker recovery.

One Indiana resident asked Obama why the federal government in Washington, D.C. sent a directive to school districts across the country regarding which bathrooms transgender children should use. Obama said schools had asked the Department of Education for guidance. The President said he needs to uphold federal law which states that schools need to accommodate all students to create an environment of “dignity and kindness.’


Key terms

recession— a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced

Recovery Act—officially the American Recovery And Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the ‘stimulus’; signed by President Obama in 2009, to set into motion a government response to the weak economic state facing the country

New Deal—a series of government programs in the 1930s to help the U.S. out of the Great Depression, passed by Congress as well as presidential executive orders President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Warm up questions (before watching the video)

1. If you were President Obama, how would you feel about the 2016 presidential election?
2. What are three words you would use to describe Obama’s presidency?
3. Where is Indiana? What do you know about this state?

Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)

1. Obama stated that “the arguments [Trump supporters] are making are just not borne out by the facts.” How do you think Trump supporters view Obama’s presidency?
2. Why do you think Obama has chosen to comment so little on the 2016 presidential candidates?
3. What would you change about Obama’s presidency? Why?

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