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President Obama Conducts Online Town Hall

On March 26, President Barack Obama conducted his first online town hall. Some 92,933 Internet users submitted 104,076 questions via White House’s Web site, and the president answered several questions that were voted most popular. “One of my priorities as president is opening up the White House to the American people,” Obama said in a short video encouraging people to submit questions. The online town hall was the first experiment of this kind for a U.S. president.

Popular questions ranged from legalizing marijuana to regulating financial markets. In a briefing on Thursday, Obama ended up answering several of these questions. “No, I don’t think [legalizing marijuana] is a good strategy to grow our economy,” he said, earning a laugh from an audience of 100 or so gathered at the White House.

Jobs proved to be the category where the most people submitted questions. Many participants wanted to know how Obama plans to retain jobs in the U.S. “Are you still planning on penalizing the big business execs who take US jobs out of the country?” asked Bart from Virginia. Job creation has been a painful topic as the nation’s unemployment continues to climb.

Obama said that losing some jobs is all right, and that the U.S.’s future lies in high-skilled jobs. Many positions that will be created in the coming months will require education and technical skills, and will be in fast-growing areas like clean energy technology. “That’s why it’s so important to train our folks more effectively, and that’s why it’s so important for us to find new industries, building solar panels or wind turbines or the new biofuel that involve these higher-value, higher-skill, higher-paying jobs,” he said.

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