Networks Tout Obama's 'Personal,' 'Emotional' Address to Teens

All three networks boosted President Obama's image on Thursday evening by touting his new program for young minorities and his "personal and emotional" testimony at its launch.

"A personal and emotional event at the White House for the President today, as he spoke before a star-studded East Room audience and launched a program aimed at giving young men of color a shot at success," NBC's Brian Williams reported on the Nightly News.

CBS's Norah O'Donnell noted the President's confession to past drug use as a "life lesson":

"Finally, tonight, it's not often that you hear the President of the United States stand in the East Room of the White House and admit to using drugs. But today he did, to impart a life lesson while announcing a new initiative to put minority boys and men on the road to success."

"It's a side of the President we rarely see," said ABC's White House correspondent Jonathan Karl who said that the audience, a group of Chicago teenagers, "is clearly a group that he has established a close, personal connection with, the President."

Brian Williams touted that "One participant at today's event said he has never seen the President lay himself bare like this before publicly." CBS's Major Garrett praised Obama's program: "High standards and up-close motivation personify Mr. Obama's 'My Brother's Keeper' ethic."

Below is a transcript of the segments:

ABC
WORLD NEWS
2/27/14
[6:36 p.m. EST]

DIANE SAWYER: And today, in Washington, the President talked about something very personal, his father. And other fathers who walk out on their children. And he offered a plan to help kids succeed, even when they're angry and have made mistakes. Here's ABC's chief White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl.

(Video Clip)

JONATHAN KARL: Flanked by young men struggling to grow up in some of Chicago's roughest neighborhoods, President Obama opened up about his own troubles as a teenager.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I didn't have a dad in the house. and I was angry about it, even though I didn't necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high, without always thinking about the harm that it could do.

KARL: It's a side of the President we rarely see.

OBAMA: I could see myself in these young men. And the only difference is, that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving. So, when I made a mistake, the consequences were not as severe.

KARL: The teens from Chicago saw themselves in the President, as well.

CHRISTIAN CHAMPAGNE, Chicago Youth Mentoring Program member: To my surprise, he was just like me. Growing up without a father. And sometimes, not too concerned with school.

KARL: Today's event was to launch My Brother's Keeper, a mentoring program for at-risk youth.

OBAMA: Part of our message in this initiative is, no excuses. It will take courage. But you will have to tune out the naysayers who say the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up. Or settle into the stereotype.

(End Video Clip)

KARL: This is the third time the President has met with this group of teens from Chicago. The last time was on Father's Day. And you can expect, he'll meet with them again. This, Diane, is clearly a group that he has established a close, personal connection with, the President.

SAWYER: A very different kind of speech today. Thank you so much, Jonathan Karl.

(...)

NBC
NIGHTLY NEWS
2/27/14
[7:09 p.m. EST]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: A personal and emotional event at the White House for the President today, as he spoke before a star-studded East Room audience and launched a program aimed at giving young men of color a shot at success. It is called "My Brother's Keeper" and it combines political parties and government along with private philanthropy like the Bloomberg and Ford Foundations. The President said bluntly today what so many already know, some groups in society have the odds stacked against them, none more so than young men of color. He repeated today what he told a group of young men in Chicago recently, and how they were surprised to hear aspects of his own life story.

(Video Clip)

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I explained to them when I was their age I was a lot like them. I didn't have a dad in the house, and I was angry about it even though I didn't necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn't always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short. And I remember when I was saying this – Christian, you may remember this – after I was finished the guy sitting next to me said are you talking about you? I said yeah. And the point was I could see myself in these young men.

(End Video Clip)

WILLIAMS: Well, a big part of the message from the man who grew up to be president was there can be no excuses. Young men have to make the effort and meet the challenge, and they cannot blame the circumstances of their birth, which he warned will take courage. One participant at today's event said he has never seen the President lay himself bare like this before publicly, or speak so candidly about his anger at not having a father himself. But he said he is using the power of his office to make this happen.

(...)

CBS
EVENING NEWS
2/27/14
[6:56 p.m. EST]

NORAH O'DONNELL: Finally, tonight, it's not often that you hear the President of the United States stand in the East Room of the White House and admit to using drugs. But today he did, to impart a life lesson while announcing a new initiative to put minority boys and men on the road to success. Here's Major Garrett.

(Video Clip)

MAJOR GARRETT: President Obama talked about growing up angry and alienated, without a father, a story that resonates with at-risk youth.

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn't always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses.

And the only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving so when I made a mistake, the consequences were not as severe. I had people who encouraged me, not just my mom and grandparents but wonderful teachers and community leaders. They never gave up on me. And so I didn't give up on myself.

GARRETT: After five years in office, the plight of black and Latino men and boys has the President's attention. His new initiative hopes to build on the successes of programs like Kipp high school in the Bronx. This year, 100 percent of its seniors have applied to college.

RAMON DE JESUS: I think that young men of color face a stacked deck.

GARRETT: Ramon de Jesus is a Kipp counselor. A kid from the neighborhood, he was the first in his family to graduate from high school and then college. Mr. Obama, he said, cuts through.

DE JESUS: His appearance, that's all the kids need. He doesn't have to say a word. "I am the President of the United States. Don't I kind of look like you?"

GARRETT: Adrian Portela is one of De Jesus' mentees. Four colleges have already accepted him, and he's waiting for more.

PORTELA: I really want to go away and I want to see the world for what it is and not just be trapped by where I live now.

GARRETT: High standards and up-close motivation personify Mr. Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" ethic.

PORTELA: Everybody knows that you're going to college or you're going to do something besides work for the rest of your life if you come straight of high school. Everybody believes that you will get a diploma. Everybody believes that if you want to try and go to Harvard, why not?

GARRETT: It's a question the President is asking, too. Major Garrett, CBS News, the White House.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014