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YouSpeak: Grading the President

Students weigh in on Obama’s performance


Three years ago, Barack Obama captured the White House with much help from college-age students, who came out to the polls in record numbers.

But with unemployment for 18-to-29-year-olds stuck at about 13 percent and young voters facing record-high student loan debt, youthful enthusiasm for the president is significantly softer this time around. In November 2008, more than 80 percent of 18-to-29-year-old voters said Obama made them feel hopeful. Today, according to a recent survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, that number is 48 percent.

On November 29, BU Today presented Hope and Change? A Conversation on the Obama Presidency, a town hall–style discussion moderated by Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), joined by Thomas Fiedler (COM’71), dean of the College of Communication, former ABC News journalist Robert Zelnick, a COM journalism professor, and students Anthony Priestas (GRS’12) and Tabitha Watson (COM’12, CAS’12).

So with just under a year to go until the election, this week’s “YouSpeak” asks: “What grade would you give President Obama?”

YouSpeak” typically appears each Monday.

If you have a suggestion for a question we should ask, post it in the comments section below.

John Fichera (COM’12) contributed to this video.

Hope and Change? A Conversation on the Obama Presidency was held last night, November 29,  in the George Sherman Conference Auditorium, 775 Commonwealth Ave.

Nicolae Ciorogan

Nicolae Ciorogan can be reached at ciorogan@bu.edu.

29 Comments on YouSpeak: Grading the President

  • bob (you know who) on 11.28.2011 at 8:07 am

    On a governing scale of A+ (Sarah Palin) to D (William Henry Harrison), I would give him a C+/B-… he can pull it up to a B/B+ though. Wait – are we grading on a curve?

    • Sigh on 11.28.2011 at 10:06 am

      Your grading scale is flawed.

      • Overlord of the Underclassmen on 11.28.2011 at 1:04 pm

        You clearly didn’t get the joke.

    • Kay on 11.28.2011 at 1:22 pm

      Sarah Palin A? Seriously?

  • David on 11.28.2011 at 7:38 am


    Mr. Obama, via name-calling and finger-pointing, has excelled only at creating further division among government and citizens rather than being a uniter. His policies of increased regulation, oversight, and intrusion are unprecedented and the results stifling to job creation and growth.

    He will not receive my vote as he did last time.

  • Chris L on 11.28.2011 at 8:29 am

    He promised change, and he changed as best he could. Scale from 1-10, I’d give him a solid 7.

    There is always room for improvement, but the Country is arguably better off than it was three years ago.

    Bush was like a baby playing with a puzzle…he kept screwing up and ended up throwing all the pieces all over the room. Instead of having all he pieces in the box, Mr. Obama has to search for the pieces and then put them into place. Give the guy a break…

    Full Disclosure – I consider myself relatively liberal, but when it comes voting time, I’ve voted either way: Republican and Democrat.

    • John on 11.28.2011 at 12:03 pm

      Obama’s civil rights record is abysmal. The country is certainly not better off.

  • Linda at the Other Washington on 11.28.2011 at 9:28 am

    President Obama’s first 4 years in office has been exactly what I predicted they would be – a round-the-clock rescue mission for our nation. It will take his first term in office just to correct the mess Bush and Cheney made in their 8 years running of war making and deregulating running amok. It will take a second term before President Obama can even begin to address his 2008 campaign/platform pledges.

    • John on 11.28.2011 at 12:03 pm

      You are deluded! Obama is doing exactly what Bush is doing, if not more.

  • Annie on 11.28.2011 at 11:36 am

    I will be voting for Obama. But A question I would like to hear answered is: “Obama has been very successful in terms of foreign policy, from the killing of Bin Laden to other matters such as U.S. involvement in the removal of Gadaffi in Libya. In another term, what actions would he take to continue to strengthen America militarily but also restore the reputation of the U.S. in the world?

  • liz on 11.28.2011 at 12:40 pm


    Not only did Obama fail to live up to his promises, he actually moved in the completely opposite direction. Instead of extricating the U.S. from it’s many wars abroad he’s escalated the Afghan War, ordered more drone strikes in Pakistan than Bush ever did, and actually legitimately broke the law by going into Libya.

    Here at home the economy is still shit and now when people are speaking up as part of the Occupy Movement they’re getting beaten down with police batons. The last few years have seen a rise in FBI crack downs on radical activists all across the country. Not only that, but his whole record on human, civil rights has been freaking abominable . Anybody remember Bradley Manning?

    I could go on and on, and if you say Obama isn’t responsible for this, that he’s got an uncooperative House wah-wah, then I’ve got one question. Who do you think is at the tippy top of this heap of a nation with all the strings in his hand? Obama.

  • Kay on 11.28.2011 at 1:19 pm

    I will definitely vote for Obama again because what I see and hear right now from the right wing presidential hopefuls is just total ignorance of domestic and foreign policies, make the rich richer, a war against women’s right to decide for their own bodies (Mississippi ‘Personhood’ Law). I can go on on. The extremism that is evolving among Republicans is just too scary. Finally, no Republican presidential hopeful can be compared to Obama’s intellectual capability.

  • Mark on 11.28.2011 at 2:40 pm

    For most of us who remember our civics classes, Obama has had nothing but an uphill battle when Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Minority Leader, publicly proclaimed the day after the election he would work to make Obama a one-term President. Since that time, McConnell’s ability to filibuster even such benign benefits which used to be bipartisan, such as unemployment insurance, has made it all but impossible for Obama to govern in the worst economic recession since the 1930s. Sure, there’s not a lot going on in Washington, but the Republicans are playing the blame game while doing the 100% filibuster not moving the country forward in any legislation that will genuinely help the rest of us. They would rather the country tank than recover economically, seeking to capture the Presidency and then attempt to pass up to 0% corporate income tax and let middle class Americans continue to pay higher marginal tax rates than the rich (over $1M in income annually).

    BTW since when did the rich become known as ‘job creators’? Where are the jobs they are ‘creating’ with record low interest rates and tons of labor available at record low prices? Sounds like they’re hiding more money offshore every day.

    The rich won’t be happy until government for the rest of us goes away….no social security, no unemployment, no social services for the disabled, no low-cost loans for getting to that upper class…this is class warfare, and just the beginning of it!

    • David on 11.28.2011 at 2:54 pm

      Ummm… Obama had a super majority in Congress for two years. Blaming McConnell is silly.

      Obama’s policies were enacted in record time and they failed – as those who understand basic economics told us would happen.

      If you want to see the outcome of the European model that Obama is following just look at Europe. Worked out great for Greece. Entitlements,spending and out of control Unions with too much power are the problem – not people getting to keep more of their own money.

      Had Obama done nothing at all we would be in much better shape.

  • Joe on 11.28.2011 at 2:54 pm

    Obama expanded the wars from 2 countries to 3. Guantanamo bay, still open. Patriot Act spying on citizens, full blown. TSA still violating the 4th amendment. Sold out to big pharma requiring citizens to purchase insurance from private companies. Private pofits and socialized risk via bailouts. Eats with Wall St, pretends to support OWS. Promises not to waste resources on medical marijuana dispensaries and then raids and shuts them down. Sets up white house petition site, only to ignore the petitions. Black unemployment is at 17%.

    So, no, I won’t be voting for him.

  • Anon on 11.28.2011 at 7:11 pm

    A on foreign policy. C on economic policy. Domestic/social issues B-. Still leagues ahead of anybody running for the GOP nom.

  • Chris on 11.28.2011 at 7:44 pm

    I like obama. I think he’s more or less done all he can as a single person. But let’s say I was tired of him. Who would I vote for in the GOP? Cain? Perry? Gingrich? Romney would be the only one I’d consider, but who knows who will end up with the nomination.

    • Chris on 11.28.2011 at 7:48 pm

      I should probably include Huntsman in there too, but the fact that I remembered his name so long after I made my comment should say something in itself.

  • Jason on 11.29.2011 at 7:44 am

    Obama dispelled his liberal proclivities once he was elected. In governing, he has tried to be a centrist in a right skewed government. This lead him to capitulate on nearly every one of his campaign promises in some inane attempt of bi-partisanship with a party that has outwardly proclaimed having no interest in working with him, even on legislation that they have supported in the past, and want nothing more than to see the white house returned to their party’s control. This administration has only solidified the sentiments of the late George Carlin, that we do not have any real choice in our leaders. Any differences are superficial, having menial significance in the overall scheme of thinks like social issues of abortion rights or the like, or just a new facade on the same old structure. The salient point is that if not all most politicians are bought by lobbying interests. This idiotic notion that Obama is a socialist and the republicans represent free market capitalists is false. In essence they are all corporatist, representing not their constituents but whatever corporate entity pays them. So this idea of evaluating one politician seems to be rather inane. Any grade that one would ascribe to an individual is really a condemnation of the entire system. In the end I probably will not vote for Obama nor the GOP nominee. If anyone is to get my vote, it might be Ron Paul. I do not agree with him on everything, but I at least get the sense he is an honest politician that believes what he says and votes and not what he a corporation paid him to do.

  • Renaldo on 11.29.2011 at 7:48 am

    Republicans made clear at the beginning of Obama’s term they would do anything to stop him, even if it meant taking down this country. There was a lot of racism mixed in with this Republican message, but in the end it is a strategy of power at all costs, regardless of morals, ethics, or the well-being of the country, something that comes very close to fascism.

    The Obama administration has done an incredible job, not only in keeping this country from falling into the brink of economic catastrophe because of the Bush disaster, but also in moderating Republican fascism. It’s a miracle that in spite of chronic failure of American democracy over the past three years, this country hasn’t collapsed into something far more dire and tragic.

    I would give Obama a solid A for his performance… and American democracy a resounding F.

  • Mobly on 11.29.2011 at 9:36 am

    O has to GO! His first 2 yrs where w a majority og Dems in the house and senate so no excuses. The made things a mess! He has managed to make CHANGE but not in the direction his voters hoped. He is not a leader, just a reader. We need someone who understands the economy and smaller govt spending. We need someone who thinks long term for this great country and isn’t reactive, but proactive. I am glad he finally stopped blaming Bush for his problems. He did that for at least his first year in office. It was cry babyish and very un presidential, and part of the reason we are in this mess.

  • Alyssa on 11.29.2011 at 10:45 am

    In reality we expect a lot out of our presidents when they really can’t do much. They go in blind expecting to change the world but relaize how hard it is to actually do anything in a government where people disagree and refuse to compromise only because they are apart of different parties. What can he do when he has to go through two different groups of people who recently refuse to acknowledge the other side even exists? We blame him for the failures of congress but that does not mean he is in the clear. He had the majority for two years and did very little and by the time he wanted to start making big changes he was out numbered. Congress on the other hand has to change we get nothing done and they get paid an extrodinary amount of money to argue with each other over things they could easily compromise. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s good to voice your opinion but only if you have the intention of actually listening to the other side with an open mind. Obama you may not be live up to our expectations but the rest of our government made you go down the crapper.

  • Mike G. class of 1970 on 11.29.2011 at 3:42 pm

    Obama will go down in history along with all the other one-term presidents who failed to get anything done. The list of non-accomplishments is daunting, beginning with failing to prosecute the miscreants who drained the economy and sold worthless “securities” to widows and orphans. Not one of them is in jail while 14,000,000 have lost jobs and homes and savings. HMO’s continue bilking subscribers while denying treatment. Where is the public option? End the war in Afghanistan? No. Instead, Obama sends 30,000 more troops into the grinder.

    • Afghanistan on 11.29.2011 at 5:57 pm

      To be fair, he did campaign on refocusing the GWoT to Afghanistan and winding down Iraq. And that’s what he’s done. I think if anything it will be the Congress that goes down in history as a failure. 9% approval rating is lower than the approval rating for communism.

  • David on 11.30.2011 at 9:09 am

    In three years he has spent more than every President from Washington to Bush combined. That should horrify everyone.

    • mark on 11.30.2011 at 12:00 pm

      This is not true. Please get the facts. The debt looks much higher under Obama because he returned spending on the wars to the budget. Bush took the wars “off budget” to hide the spending.

      Obama was handed a huge deficit, two wars, and an economy about to enter a depression. The only way a society has ever gotten out of a depression is to spend money. You can cut taxes to zero and it will have only a minor effect on the economy because the loss of public spending will offset the increase in private spending.

      • David on 11.30.2011 at 1:44 pm

        It actually is true. Obama increased the debt from $10.6 trillion to $14.2 trillion, a $3.6 trillion increase in 27 months. An increase of $1.6 trillion per year. Your war spending comment assumes that military spending was excluded prior to Obama when the numbers are analyzed. Simple not true. The bailouts (ARRA) was where the lions share came from, not military spending. If you took war spending out of the
        equation my statement would still be true.

        Actually we got out of the Great Depression by going to war. And Keynesian economics is a proven failure. It is akin to telling a person deep in debt to get more credit cards to fix their financial situation.

        Cutting taxes alone is not the answer but it is a part of it. Cutting wasteful government spending is key. Getting rid of entitlements is key.

        • Kay on 12.02.2011 at 1:38 pm

          David, you should be a Republican strategist because you don’t miss to reply to any message in favor of Obama!

  • James on 11.30.2011 at 8:52 pm

    It is amazing how EVERYONE seems to point the finger at President Obama. let’s get a couple of things straight. The President is the FACE of Congress people. It should be Congress people should be getting mad at and pointing fingers. Another thing, President Obama inherited a @@@@ load of a mess. Did people really think it was going to be fixed overnight? Finally, hasn’t anyone learned that politicians will say ANYTHING to get in office? This is the same song and dance we hear all the time.

    I give him an A because he has shown he wants to fix things in America but nobody wants to support him.

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