Damon Weaver, 11, Interviews President Obama

Transcript: Student journalist fulfills dream of interviewing the president.

ByABC News via via logo
August 14, 2009, 8:07 AM

Aug. 14, 2009— -- Student journalist Damon Weaver, 11, achieved the dream he told ABC News about on election night. He sat down for an interview at the White House with President Barack Obama.

CLICK HERE to watch the full interview and read the transcript below.

DAMON WEAVER: I've heard that you would like to make an announcement about education. Can you tell me about the announcement?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well on Sept. 8 when young people around the country have just started or are about to go back to school I'm going to be making a big speech to you people all across the country about the importance of education and the importance of staying in school, how we want to improve the education system and why it's so important for the country, so I hope everybody tunes in.

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

OBAMA:Well, we actually, here in the administration, trying 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 they're trying to get other schools that aren't doing so well to do the same kinds of things that the schools who are doing well are doing. So I hope that we can really see some improvement, not just with money, but also with reforming how the schools work.

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?

OBAMA: Well, 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 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. 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 they can improve their educational system.

Damon Weaver Interviews President Obama

WEAVER: I've learned that your mom always made sure that you were doing well at school. What should parents do to make sure their child's education is better?

OBAMA: Parents are the most important thing to any child's ability to do well in school, so making sure you're reading to your child, especially when they're young, even before they get to school so they start being used to reading, they know their alphabet, they know the basics, so even when they get to kindergarten they're already a leg up. I think it's important to make sure that kids are doing their homework and that they're not just turning on the TV all day or playing video games. I think talking to teachers and finding out from teachers directly what can be done to improve their child's performance, I think that's important, and setting a high standard, that's important. Saying if you get a B, you can do better, you can get an A. Making sure we have high expectations for all children because I think all children can do well as long as they have the support that they need.

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

OBAMA: Well, I remember that when I used to get school lunches they didn't taste so good, I got to admit. We are seeing if we can work to at least make school lunches healthier, cause a lot of school lunches, there's a lot of french fries, pizza, tater tots, all kinds of stuff that isn't a well balanced meal, so we want to make sure there are more fruits and vegetables in the schools, now, kids may not end up liking that, but it's better for them, it'll be healthier for them, and those are some of the changes we're trying to make.

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

OBAMA: See, and if you were planning the lunch program it'd probably taste good to you but it might not make you big and strong like you need to be and so we want to make sure that food tastes good in school lunches but that they're also healthy for you too.

WEAVER: I looooove mangoes.

OBAMA: I love mangoes too, but I'm not sure we can get mangoes in every school. They only grow in hot temperatures and there are a lot of schools up north where they don't have mango trees.

Damon Weaver Interviews President Obama

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

OBAMA: You mean people say mean things about me? I think that when you're president you're responsible for a lot of things and people are having a tough time, they're hurting out there, and the main thing I try to do is just 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, I'm helping people, that keeps me going.

WEAVER: Were you ever bullied in school?

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

WEAVER: What can kids to do make our country better?

OBAMA: I think the things that kids can do best is just work really hard in school and succeed. If young people like yourself are reading at high levels, doing their homework, doing math and science and ending up going to college, that makes everyone better off, so the most important thing young people can do is just do well at school, but also when they have some spare time, try to help out people, your church or your religious community, or out in the neighborhood, or helping an elderly person carry their grocery bags or being helping out a younger person with their schoolwork, those kind of things that's also really helpful to the country.

WEAVER: Everybody knows that you love basketball. I think it would be cool to have a president who could dunk. Can you dunk?

OBAMA: Not anymore. I used to when I was young, but I'm almost 50 now so, your legs are the first thing to go.

WEAVER: My buddy Dwayne Wade promised me if you gave me the interview he would play you in a one on one basketball game, but he's not sure if he would let you score. Would you be willing to play him in a one-on-one basketball game?

OBAMA: I would play Dwayne Wade, and if Dwayne was here, I'm sorry to hear that he was trash talking about his game. I've got to admit though Dwayne Wade is a little bit better at basketball than I am, so I might rather have him on my team playing against someone else than playing against him.

Damon Weaver Interviews President Obama

WEAVER: What is it like to be President of the United States?

OBAMA: Well, it's very exciting, it's a lot of work, and there are times where you get a little worn down, but every day you have the possibility, the ability of helping other people, and if you can do that, it's a great, great thing.

WEAVER: In my town, Pahokee, I've seen a lot of shootings and fights. What are you going to do about violence and to keep me safe?

OBAMA: Well, I think that we have to make sure that all schools have resources to keep kids safe, but also that parents and community members participate in training their young people to resolve arguments and disagreements without resorting to violence. Too many of our young people, they get frustrated or angry with each other, they start acting out in violence, and we need to make sure that we're teaching young people to deal with the issues that they may have in a better way, in a more constructive way.

WEAVER: I know that you're busy being the president, but I would like to invite you to my school, Canal Point Elementary School because there's a lot of good things going on there that I would like you to see.

OBAMA: Well I hope that at some point I get a chance to visit your school because you did just a great job on this interview, so somebody must be doing something right down at that school.

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

OBAMA: Absolutely, thank you man. Great job.

WEAVER: Thanks for making my dream come true, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Well I appreciate it. You did an outstanding job. I look forward to seeing you in the future.

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