YouTube Meets The President

Three famous YouTubers interview President Obama and while their professionalism was questionable, the publicity stunt was effective.

Lauren Bander, Columnist

On Jan. 22, The White House YouTube channel released an interview with President Obama with YouTube creators asking the questions. Vlogger Hank Green, beauty guru Bethany Mota, and comedic personality GloZell Green asked their viewers to come up with questions for the president. In the first thirty seconds of the video, the YouTubers previewed some of the questions they would be asking him. They all started out pretty strong, with genuine, important questions that people are asking. But in the little preview, GloZell ended with “Peanut butter or jelly?” which cut to a shot of Hank laughing. And finally, Mota asks, “Who’s your favorite YouTuber?” As a person with such an important, busy job, I assume Mr. President doesn’t watch much YouTube, especially considering its key audiences are teenagers and young adults. But is that a question people really care about or was it just to lighten the mood and distract from the big issues at hand?

I don’t know much about GloZell and Mota, but I do subscribe to Hank Green’s Vlogbrothers, a channel he shares with his brother, renowned author and historian John Green. I know that before the interview, he was very nervous about the questions he would ask, and I’m sad to say that that came out throughout his interview. He stumbled on his words and was very focused on not saying the wrong thing, but that’s understandable. He was dealing with the most powerful man in the country. However, as a person who promotes knowledge and awareness to the real world, I assumed he would have some really hard-hitting questions that would take a while to answer. But instead, he said, “We’re going to jump around a lot here because I have a lot of topics. It’s just crazy that I have to do this so quickly.”

“I’m going to keep my answers as short as possible,” Obama answered. “I appreciate you doing that,” Hank replied. Really, Hank? You don’t want to know the President’s deep thoughts on issues that you care about? I, personally, would prefer quality over quantity. Green connected to an issue that he cared a lot about: health care. At the end of his portion of the interview, he even had Obama sign a picture of Green holding a receipt for medicine that cost him $5 instead of $1,100. But he kind of just scratched the surface on this topic. I guess I expected more from him, considering the hard-hitting information and opinions he gives through his videos.

Next up was GloZell. I was nervous for this portion because the comedic creator is known for not having a filter and being pretty far outside of society’s norms. That’s fine for a regular YouTube video, but for an interview with the President? I’m not so sure.

I was pleasantly surprised, however. She talked about cyber security, racial profiling, Cuban immigrants and their families, and same-sex marriage. She related all of her questions to herself or people she knows, and that really made me feel like she cared. The only issue I had with her professionalism was when she said that Fidel Castro “puts the d!@% in dictator.” Using profanity when speaking with such an important person kind of unnerves me. Wouldn’t you want to present your best self? Luckily, the president just laughed it off. Another flub was when she accidently called the First Lady Obama’s “first wife,” but she realized her mistake and the President was not offended. I thought that GloZell did pretty well for a professional interview, considering what her content normally is.

Lastly, it was Bethany Mota’s time to interview. She started right when the President sat down with questions about paying for a college education, bullying, the Boko Haram kidnappings, using the internet in foreign countries, and young people’s interest (or lack thereof) in politics. Mota presented herself as if she were a professional interviewer and was very straightforward, although I wish she had follow-up questions. The President’s answers were very interesting and I wish she would’ve gone deeper, but what she did do was very pleasing to watch. I was surprised, however, that she was the one who had the fluffy get-to-know-you questions as opposed to GloZell. She had a “lightning round” with Obama, asking questions like, “If you have any free time, what TV shows and movies do you watch?” “If you had any superpower, what would it be?” and “Will you take a selfie with me?” Come on, Bethany! You were doing so well!  But I guess when I look back on the interview, it was pretty well-done, considering these are people with little to no experience in interviewing.

This was a publicity stunt, but a pretty well-done one, I think. Supporters of these YouTubers who don’t really follow politics were given a chance to learn about issues that are currently going on in the USA. I certainly learned about things that I didn’t even know were issues, and that was the point. I don’t know if I am going to actively follow politics, but I am probably going to look into these issues a bit more. Using popular people who are relatable to raise awareness for big issues seems to be pretty effective.