Fourth Grader Asks Obama: "Why Do People Hate You?"

While much of America had its eyes skyward, tracking what was thought to be a boy in a run-away balloon, President Obama was dealing with another boy very much on the ground.

"Why do people hate you?" asked 4th-grader Terence Scott, posing the final question at the president's Town Hall Meeting this afternoon at the University of New Orleans.

The youngster seemed earnest and genuinely distressed about harsh words he's heard people direct at the 44th President.

"They supposed to love you," said the youngster, "and God is love."

"That's what I'm talking about," said the president, grateful for words of kindness and support. He was on a trip to explain why it took him nine months to make his first visit as president to a city still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Mr. Obama tried to reassure the kid that it's not as bad as he thinks.

"First of all, I did get elected president, so not everybody hates me now," he told the 4th grader. But he conceded that "if you're watching TV lately, it seems like everybody's just getting mad all the time."

"You've got to take it with a grain of salt," the president explained. "Some of it is just what's called politics."

How do you explain hardball politics to a 4th grader?

"Once one party wins," said the president, struggling to find the right words, "then the other party kind of gets – feels like it needs to poke you a little bit to keep you on your toes."

Poke you a little bit? Is that what his political critics and opponents are doing?

"You shouldn't take it too seriously," was Mr. Obama's bottom line advice to the youngster.

He said a lot of people are losing their jobs or health care or homes to foreclosure. "They're feeling frustrated," he said, sounding as though he could forgive them for their bitter words and criticism.

And as president, he conceded he gets some credit when things go well and some of the blame when they don't. "That part of the job," he explained.

"So you've just got to keep on going even when folks are criticizing you," he said.

And after all, said the president, "I'm a pretty tough guy."

"Are you a tough guy?" he asked his 4th grade questioner. The kid seemed to accept the explanation as he got another hug from the president.

If nothing else, the youngster got a great story to write about in his next composition.

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: