The Preezy of the United Steezy. The Barack Ness Monster. POTUS with the Mostess. Those are just a few of the new handles Barack Obama earned on last night’s “holy crap edition” of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Taped in front of a rowdy campus crowd at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, it was the first time the Prez has appeared on the former SNL star’s show and it capped off a pretty epic day for my alma mater.
Oh yeah, I totes went to Carolina and I bleed Tar Heel blue, so the fact that Obama chose my little piece of Southern heaven as the first stop on his college affordability tour (University of Colorado in Boulder is up next, then University of Iowa in Iowa City) AND he rolled up with my fav late night funnyman basically made every fiber of my being explode with collegiate pride.
Yup, Jimmy and Barack slow jammed the news and were able to hit the high (and low) notes of the President’s 35-minute official address on college affordability delivered earlier in the day to 8,000 stoked students at Carolina’s Carmichael Arena.
So how does this issue break down? On July 1, the interest rates on Stafford student loans are scheduled to double -- which could quickly kick many young people's hopes of a college education to the curb -- and Obama has asked Congress to stop this crazy hike. To put it in perspective, for each year that Congress doesn’t act, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt, affecting more than 7 million students across America. That's on top of the $25,000 debt that most graduates are saddled with these days. Shoot, the Prez and First Lady Michelle only paid off their own loans from college and law school 8 years ago! As Barack asked in his high energy call-and-response speech, "Can I get an amen?!"
According to yesterday's amped up auditorium of Millennial voters, yes you can. I got a chance to chat with some of those lucky kids who saw Obama speak on campus like my cousin Caroline Stroud, an 18-year-old frosh from Asheville, NC and her crew of hardcore Lady Heels. Nepotism at its finest!
“TO SEE A PRESIDENT IN OFFICE, duh!!! You really just can't pass up that opportunity. Definitely a story I'd probably tell my grandchildren,” Caroline explained. “The line was literally wrapped around campus and almost a mile long. We GPS'd it.”
Chloe Imus, a 18-year-old freshman from Westfield, NC was also loving the campus vibe, “I honestly haven’t seen this much school spirit on our campus since March Madness this year,” she said, “During the day, everyone had a little adrenaline because it was just surreal walking to class around all the news reporters and secret service.”
It was a strong move on Obama's part to make such a splash at a major public university given that a recent study from Georgetown University finds that only 61 percent of college-age Millennials are currently registered to vote, and only 46 percent say they are absolutely certain they will vote in November. In other words, it ain't 2008 anymore and Obama has some work cut out for him if he wants the youth vote to show up in force like it did four years ago.
But crossover moments like yesterday -- when DC finally seems to catch a clue and speak in YOUR language -- really make a big impression: "When you live in the bubble that is Chapel Hill, it’s easy for politics, or anything happening in the outside world, to seem extremely irrelevant. But with a personal visit, Obama popped that bubble, recognized our existence and made us seem really important to him and his campaign," said Megan Cassella, a freshman from Laurel, MD.
Whether you're going "Baracka flocka flame" after yesterday's epic college kick-off or not, we're guessing you aren't down with doubling student loan rates this summer. So what can YOU do? Call,write, and email your Congressman -- and then flex your social media muscles by tweeting "#dontdoublemyrate" to all those 2.0 politicos on Twitter. The Roots gave us some #realtalk last night when they backed up Jimmy and Barack by crooning that it's gonna take the right and the left joining together like Kim and Kanye -- so let both Democrats and Republicans know that you won't stand for more debt! And that's how YOU slow jam your future.