President Obama went to Strasbourg, France, to talk to French and German students, but nearly half of the questions that he fielded were from American audience members. In fact, the very first question that Mr. Obama found himself answering, dealing with his legacy, was from an American exchange student.
At one point the president pleaded with Americans in the audience to give their European counterparts a chance, promising that he would host another town hall for them on U.S. soil.
Mr. Obama even addressed an issue that has been quite prevalent in coverage of his first months in office – when is the White House puppy coming?
"We are getting a dog," Mr. Obama assured the audience. "It should be there soon."
But the president also found time to address weightier issues during his exchange with students. He touched upon nuclear proliferation, global poverty, the rising cost of health care and the importance of civic engagement.
Mr. Obama strode across the stage in a manner that was reminiscent of his campaign rallies. He exuded his usual confidence, but when asked about his goals in office, he admitted that there would be setbacks as he worked to right the faltering economy.
"After only two months, that's kind of a big question. You aim high knowing you'll make mistakes," Mr. Obama said.
| Map: Obama's Trip|
A day-by-day guide to one of the most closely watched presidential trips in recent memory.
Mr. Obama hit many of the same notes during the question and answer period that he had touched upon during his initial remarks. He reiterated the importance of international cooperation in addressing the global economic downturn and argued for continued investment in developing countries. The president said investing in these countries is not just an important step in maintaining and creating new markets for goods and services, it is also a way to ensure peace and stability
"We are most vulnerable to war and conflict when people are desperate economically," Mr. Obama said. "Nobody knows that history more than Europe."
With regard to nuclear arms reduction, Mr. Obama made it clear that he wanted the United States to be a leader in that effort. He stated that he was committed to working with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to scale back both nations' nuclear arsenals. Doing so, Mr. Obama argued, would make the United States more persuasive in its efforts to combat the spread of such weapons to regimes that are hostile to American interests.
"It will give us greater moral authority to say to Iran, 'don't develop a nuclear weapon,' to say to North Korea 'don't proliferate nuclear weapons,'" Mr. Obama said.
Asked by a student if he ever regretted running for president, Mr. Obama acknowledged that he missed the privacy and anonymity that comes with being a normal citizen. In keeping with his larger message that the next period of innovation and recovery would be driven by younger people, the president seized upon the question to urge his youthful audience to get involved in public life.
"At the end of your life hopefully you'll be able to look back and say, 'I made a difference,'" Mr. Obama said before exiting the stage to loud applause.