Damon Weaver made his name in journalism with a campaign-time interview of then-Vice Presidential wannabe Joe Biden. Now, a veteran reporter at the age of 11, the Florida boy sat down at the White House to pepper the President himself on issues important to American kids.
Weaver admitted to being a bit nervous as he waited for the nation's leader to enter the Diplomatic Room. However, for the remainder of the nine minute "dream" interview, which appeared Thursday night on YouTube, his nerves never betrayed him.
Weaver had been vying to interview Mr. Obama for eight months, he told CBS' "The Early Show" Friday. Of his experience, Weaver said, "The president is a normal person."
The reporter, who has doubtless become something more of a media star than his position at Kathryn E. Cunningham Canal Point Elementary's KEC-TV initially promised, first prodded the Commander in Chief to reveal details of his upcoming education reform plans.Mr. Obama, in typical adult fashion, answered the question by saying that, yes, in fact, he would answer the question, just not right now. The president urged Weaver and the rest of America to tune-in on Sept. 8 for his big announcement in a televised speech.
So Weaver pushed harder, asking the President how schools could improve as national, state and local governments look for ways to slash growing budgets.
Mr. Obama said his administration had increased funding for education, but he said "we've also got to improve how the schools are operating."
"Find the best schools and figure out what it is that they're doing well, and then try to get other schools that aren't doing so well to do the same kinds of things," he told Weaver.
"A lot of that is state funding," said Mr. Obama, "and I want to see states be more fair in terms of how they give money to various schools around their communities."
He said the federal government also needed to "make sure we can find" enough money to fund programs at the worst-off schools to help boost their efficacy.
Weaver wasn't able to leverage any further details on the coming reforms, but he did reveal three key "talking points" which likely will be heard again from Mr. Obama on Sept. 8; state's responsibilities and Washington's responsibilities, as mentioned above, and the third being parents' responsibility.
Mr. Obama stressed the importance of parental involvement in education, particularly early education. He said it was the job of parents and communities to ensure American kids enter school already armed with "the basics", such as a familiarity with the alphabet.
The President said it was also down to parents to help end the indiscriminate violence that plagues children in some communities, including Weaver's own in Pahokee, Florida.
"Schools need resources to keep kids safe," said the President, but parents and other figures of authority in local communities "need to make sure that we are teaching young people to deal with the issues that they may have in a better way, in a more constructive way."
There were a few specifics revealed, however, in the contentious area of school nutrition.
"There's a lot of French fries, pizza, tater tots, all kinds of stuff that, you know, isn't a well-balanced meal" being served in the nation's schools, Mr. Obama told Weaver.
The President vowed to make some changes to that menu which he admitted, "kids may not end up liking."
Weaver suggested the relatively-balanced meal plan of French fries and mangoes for all U.S. school children.
"I don't think we can get mangoes in every school," the President told him, citing agricultural geography and food transport efficiency concerns.
Despite this disappointment, and the President's admission that he can no longer slam-dunk a basketball due to old legs, Weaver gave his subject the sort of YouTube endorsement White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs could only dream of.
As he ended the interview, Weaver declared Mr. Obama his "homeboy".
"He's very tall and nice," added the young reporter in his closing remarks, outside the White House.
Before entering high school, Weaver has interviewed some of the biggest names in America, including Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, Caroline Kennedy, Samuel L. Jackson, and basketball player Dwyane Wade — not to mention his homeboys in the White House.