Monday, June 8, 2009

Teen Culture Takes Cues From Obama

By Kathy Baird, Director of Communications at Kirwan Institute

“No Drama Obama” may be our new President’s popular moniker, but he is a role model for a different type of drama in the social world of young African Americans and other teens.

It seems “Obamaisms” have crept into the popular youth vernacular. The Albany Times Union reports new usages and phrases in teens’ speech, such as “Barack you” (following a sneeze); and “What’s up my Obama?” (a greeting).

While youth culture is known for forging distinctive traditions, teens have elevated our first African American president to the level of pop culture icon, imbuing him with an aura of “cool” teens rarely attribute to the “over 30” crowd.

If imitation equates to admiration, it’s especially telling when a group of teenage friends selects Election Day to forego a long tradition of “casual cool” youth fashion to begin sporting tailored pants, button-down shirts and dress shoes. When is the last time a political figure generated such popular hype among youth?

Of course, our president was elected with a groundswell of support from young people; and it’s also understandable that young African Americans hold a special kind of pride in his leadership.

If President Obama can breach the cultural divide to win over hard-to-please teenagers, he’s also a good bet to win favor for our nation.

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