Tete-a-tete with the President

October 18, 2012 8:40 AM

Aidan Smith

From the Tulane uptown campus to the landmark 30 Rockefeller Center in New York, political science professor Melissa Harris-Perry is no stranger to iconic settings. Yet a recent trip to the White House for her one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama was a unique opportunity for her.

Melissa Harris-Perry and Barack Obama

Melissa Harris-Perry, right, a Tulane professor of political science, interviews President Barack Obama for Ebony magazine. (Photo by Marc Baptiste)

“It was an honor to interview the President of the United States, and particularly to do so in the Oval Office,” says Harris-Perry, founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race and Politics in the South and host of her own MSNBC show. She interviewed the President for the cover story of Ebony magazine's November issue.

“Whenever I am conducting interviews for my television show, and especially in this case, I always want to treat the person I am interviewing with respect and at the same time push them to offer insights that I think my viewers, or in this case readers, will particularly want to know. Obviously, treating the president with respect isn’t hard! But it is hard to get someone who is as polished and experienced as he is to offer new insights, and tell us things we haven’t heard before.”

Harris-Perry notes that her discussion with Obama moved beyond discussion of the campaign and policy agendas and touched on issues of family and community.  

“The most memorable moment was when he talked about missing the opportunity to meet with his constituents ‘at their kitchen tables.’ Despite the power, prestige and authority of the presidency, he seems to legitimately yearn for the more immediate contact that a community organizer, a state senator or just a citizen has with his fellow Americans. Which is not to say he is interested in giving up the job! Because he was also passionate about the expansive agenda he would pursue in the next four years.”

The November issue of Ebony is on newsstands now.

Aidan Smith is external affairs officer for the Newcomb College Institute.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu