Our media-savvy White House hosted a webinar to give students a nuts-and-bolts backgrounder on 9/11, Bin Laden, and the raid.
Perhaps recognizing that talking about Osama bin Laden's death with school age kids can be tricky for teachers, the White House hosted a unique 30-minute webinar on Thursday specifically for middle and high school students. More than 2,000 teens listened to Ben Rhodes, deputy assistant to the President and deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting, explain the nuts and bolts of 9/11, the 10-year search for bin Laden, and the raid that ended with his death. Rhodes then spent 15 minutes taking questions.
Here are some of the questions:
Q. Why not capture bin Laden and put him on trial, like was done with Saddam Hussein?
A. He did not surrender, and the U.S. servicemen were met with "resistance".
Q. Why was he buried at sea?
A. "Best and simplest thing to do," given the 24-hour burial requirements of his religion, Islam, Rhodes said.
Q. What DNA do we have to compare his with, to make sure we really got him?
A. The DNA from multiple family members, Rhodes said, plus the CIA confirmed bin Laden's identity through photographs taken at the scene, and his wives also positively identified him.
Q. Why aren't you showing pictures of his body?
A. "The photos were somewhat unpleasant, and we did not want to offend people," Rhodes said.
The students also smartly asked what the White House is doing to prevent retaliation, the impact on what's happening in Libya, and whether the threat of terrorism in general is still the concern its been over the past few decade. Rhodes' answers are pretty cut and dried, and with such limited time, the webinar didn't get into deeper, more controversial issues surrounding Bin Laden's death. Undoubtedly, there are some students who want to know more, which (hopefully) might get them reading up on current events.
It's also great to see how media savvy the Obama Administration continues to be. Even a few years ago connecting with students like this would've been impossible. Just imagine, in the future, when major historic events happen, webinars like this might be easily available to every school. In the meantime, kudos to the White House for recognizing student interest.