President Barack Obama will hold a town-hall meeting Friday with Benedict College students and Columbia-area youth leaders about the importance of community involvement, the White House said Thursday.
The discussion comes on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Selma voting-rights marches.
During his first visit to South Carolina since being elected president in 2008, Obama will spend an hour taking questions from a group of a few hundred members of youth community groups, including City Year and Youthbuild, said Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House’s domestic policy council.
“You’ll hear him talk about the importance of engaging in your community and being a part of the effort to make sure that we are lifting everybody up,” Munoz said, describing the town-hall format as “a conversation.”
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“He’s going to be doing a lot of listening, and he really enjoys hearing from young people.”
The president held a similar town-hall meeting at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana last month, the White House said.
Obama goes to Alabama Saturday, where he will take part in a commemoration of the Selma civil-rights march.
The town-hall meeting at Benedict College, a historically black private college, is a “lovely launching point” for the Selma anniversary, Munoz said.
“(Young people) were very much part of the movement that identified a very serious problem and went about changing it,” she said. “That’s the spirit that he’s really seeking to invoke.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a North Charleston Republican, also is headed to Selma Saturday. Scott said he hopes Obama has an encouraging message Friday for young leaders about how they can contribute to the future.
“The question is what ... people need to do to make the next 50 years as constructive as the last 50 years,” Scott said. “Education is a very important part of that. A quality education is the primary dividing line in (getting a good) family household income.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., invited the president to speak at Benedict, Munoz said.
Clyburn said he selected the college as the site of the town-hall meeting because Vice President Joe Biden visited two other Columbia schools, the University of South Carolina and Allen University, last year.
In his remarks at Benedict, the president will mention how historically black colleges help diversify the talent pool for high-skilled jobs, The White House said.
He also will acknowledge the one-year anniversary of My Brother’s Keeper, a program that encourages communities to aid African-American youth in setting college and career paths. The city of Columbia is one of the program’s first participants.
Obama is not expected to address issues specific to South Carolina.
“He’s not there to give a policy speech,” Munoz said. “He will be talking to students about his vision for where this country is going to go in the 21st century, and how they can engage in that.”