On 24 April 2012, President Barack Obama appeared on NBC TV’s ’Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’.
His objective - galvanise public support to pressure Congress into not doubling the interest rate on student loans on 1 July 2012.
‘Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people,’ said the President. The issue of student debt burden, now approaching $US 1 trillion, has become a major political debate in the US, with the Occupy movement targeting it as a key arena for action.
But it was not what he said, but how and where he said it, that will give this issue the best opportunity to capture the public support the President needs to keep college affordable:
‘Slow jammin’ the news’ was a clever approach to both use comedy, and make a policy point in simple language.
This stunt had its critics of course, but it certainly grabbed the public’s attention - how many more people would have seen and grasped this message than if it had been buried in the day’s ‘political’ news?
Well, we know it’s impact in terms of outreach - aside from the broadcast media exposure, the ‘slow jam’ has clocked up almost 1.4 million views on YouTube in less than 48 hours. This is no doubt because it involves the POTUS, but it’s also because it’s about someone in a position of leadership delivering a message in an unexpected, extraordinary and amusing way.
It will be interesting to see if this phenomenon garners popular support for not increasing the student loan debt, and translates into change within the halls of political power in the United States.
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