Journalism students weigh in on Obama’s presidency


Just three days short of the general election, an event held by the Florida A&M School of Journalism and Graphic Communication in conjunction with public relations firm Prodigy, offered a look back into the 2008 election.

SJGC and Prodigy held a community symposium to discuss President Barack Obama and his impact on America during the last four years. 

The community gathered for two sessions – one featuring community leaders and the other featuring student leaders. Two award-winning student-produced documentaries were shown per session.

Award-winning journalist Margie Menzel was a professor at Florida A&M in 2008. She remembers her students being excited and emotional about someone they could relate to being the president of the U.S. 

“The first assignment I gave my class was to write about how they felt,” Menzel said. 

The documentaries, like the paper Menzel assigned to her students, were reactions to a historical moment in American history. 

When it came to documentaries, she said, “It’s clear that critical thinking was applied.”

“ObamaCare,” produced by Brandon McMullen, and “Dream Again,” produced by Brent Hatchett and Tsopie D. Trottie,  were shown at the morning session. “ObamaCare”  focused on Obama’s health care reform. Former state representative and FAMU Board of Trustees member Marjorie Turnbull said health care reform will be the president’s lasting legacy. 

“That’s something that we’ve worked toward since (former President Harry) Truman,” Turnbull said. 

“Dream Again” was a parallel between Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech and Obama becoming that reality. 2008 marked the 45th anniversary of the speech, which is the same night that Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president. 

“He alluded to the speech, but he never mentioned his name,” said Patrick Mason, director of Florida State University’s African-American Studies program. 

Mason considers Obama a “political descendant” of King. He wowed the mixed generational audience by naming other African-Americans, such as Shirley Chisolm, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

The group reconvened for another session featuring FAMU students LaCandria Churchill, Ashli Doss and Angie Meus. Two more documentaries, “The Aftermath,” produced by A’sia Horne Smith and Oldine Monestime, and “Prayer for Change,” produced by Maria Osler and Markita Andrews, were shown. 

Both documentaries highlighted students’ reactions to the first African-American president-elect. 

Churchill, who is also the director of student lobbying, believes students in 2008 had a reason to be so excited and overwhelmed. 

“People were able to relate to him,” Churchill said. 

The anticipation surrounding the president’s re-election is not as intense as it was in 2008. Churchill said it is because the current generation “loves anything that is new and to be honest, Barack Obama is not new.” 

Although the president has been highly praised and criticized on his performance during the past four years, Meus, a senior print journalism student, credits him with reaching out to the people in a way that no previous president has. 

“He’s the first to get down to our level and communicate with us in a way that we know – through social media,” said Meus, who wants the country to remember “he’s only served four years and is expected to clean up eight years worth of damage.”