DU professor connects with youth at DNC “OUTBURST!” event

While Peter Groff reminisced about talking politics over the dinner table with his father during a lecture, the young people in the audience were texting political questions and “clicking” their opinions on the most important issues of the day.

Their questions and answers appeared in real time on a screen behind Groff.

Groff, who is busy with his duties as state senate president, director of DU’sCenter for African American Politics, member of the Democratic National Convention Platform Committee and Obama state co-chair, spent Sunday afternoon on the DU campus trying to connect on a political and electronic level with about 50 young people.

“You have the ultimate power in this democracy,” he told them.

The Aug. 24 event was part of an interactive lecture tour called “OUTBURST!” sponsored by, a Web site founded by Groff and dedicated to African-American policies and politics. The tour, geared toward youth, started at DU and will continue at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., and at the sites of the major presidential debates.

As young people, ages 7–17, filed into DU’s Davis Auditorium, they were handed a “clicker,” a remote-control sized electronic device popular in college classrooms. With it, they were able to answer multiple-choice questions appearing on a screen behind Groff and watch as the results were instantly tabulated and displayed.

With their cell phones, they could text in questions that appeared on a separate screen and were answered by Groff, Denver City Council representative Michael Hancock or editor Charles Ellison.

What’s the most important issue to these tweens and teens? It’s the economy, stupid. Whether they’ve heard it from their parents or have seen it in the cost of their text messages, 59 percent of those present chose the economy as the political issue that matters most to them, followed by education and the war in Iraq.

Most young people rated their education as good or very good, said politics has a big impact on their lives and implored the presidential candidates to lay off the “trash talkin’.” By a margin of 88 percent to 12 percent, they favored Barack Obama to win the presidency.

“I want to see him make history,” said Anthony Grays, a 32-year-old African-American who is a delegate to this week’sDemocratic National Convention in Denver.

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