11-year-old interviewer finds a new 'homeboy'

Schoolboy reporter adds Obama to his list of powerful contacts
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The Independent US

Demon schoolboy reporter Damon Weaver already had one "homeboy" in the White House, in the person of Vice-President Joe Biden. Now, in a face-to-face interview, he's nailed down a second close friend at the very summit of American power: President Barack Obama himself.

Damon, an 11-year-old student at an elementary school in Pahokee, Florida, is the lead broadcaster at its in-house television station. He has already interviewed some big names, among them the former secretary of state Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey and Caroline Kennedy. But Mr Obama is his biggest "get" of all, and one on which he had been working for a good while.

Last December, a month after Mr Obama's election, Damon made his first pitch in a brief segment in which his request is supported by his teacher and – cunningly, given the President's well-known fondness for basketball – by Dwyane Wade, superstar of the NBA's Miami Heat.

But although the persistent young reporter even came to Washington in January for the inauguration, nothing happened. Then the summons suddenly came. "I couldn't believe it," Brian Zimmerman, Damon's broadcasting teacher, said. "From what I was told by them [the White House], Damon Weaver is the most famous student reporter in America."

The youngster confessed to being a little nervous as he waited for Mr Obama to enter the ornate White House Diplomatic Room where the interview was held. But during the nine- minute session, in which he asked a dozen questions, Damon was as composed as veteran news anchors 30 or 40 years his senior, and in his smart suit and tie, looked exactly like them too. Afterwards he pronounced the President to be "very tall and nice".

Most of the serious talk was about education; Damon asked about the reforms Mr Obama plans to announce next month. Skilled politician that he is, Mr Obama sidestepped the question, but declared that American schools must improve. "Find the best schools and figure out what it is that they're doing well, and then try to get other schools that aren't doing so well to do the same kinds of things."

He also urged parents to help reduce bullying and violence in local communities, including Damon's in southern Florida. So had Mr Obama been bullied at school? "No, I wasn't bullied too much," he replied, "I was pretty big for my age."

The President also weighed in on the vexed issue of school food. "There's a lot of french fries, pizza, tater tots, all kinds of stuff that, you know, isn't a well-balanced meal, being served in US schools," he said. But Mr Obama expressed doubt at Damon's suggestion that a healthy meal might consist of french fries and mangos. Mr Obama said he liked mangos, but they grew only in warm climates.

Then came Mr Obama's saddest admission. Keen basketball player that he is, age is taking its toll. " I can't dunk any more," he said. "I'm almost 50 years old, and the legs are the first things to go." At the end of the interview, Damon asked whether Mr Obama would be his "homeboy". "Absolutely," he said.