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YouTube Star Talks Space With President Obama


In 2007, Destin Sandlin had a goal, to get smarter every day. To do this, he started a YouTube channel. Now his channel, which has more than 3 million followers, teaches viewers more about all sorts of things - the mechanics of a tattoo needle to the biology of how Houdini died to the physics of skating on ice. And on Friday, Destin Sandlin got to do something pretty cool. He and two other YouTube stars were selected by Google to meet President Obama. They got to sit down for an exclusive one-on-one interview that they could then share with their followers online. Destin Sandlin joins me now to talk about this experience. Hey, Destin.

DESTIN SANDLIN: How's it going, Rachel?

MARTIN: It goes well. How are you? How was it?

SANDLIN: Oh, it was fantastic. I mean, you know, the president's just a man. And granted, he's the most powerful man in the world. But still, when it comes down to it, we're all people right?


SANDLIN: It was great to meet him on a personal level.

MARTIN: Were you nervous?

SANDLIN: Well, not really. My heart was beating fast once, when I walked up. Then I just calmed the nerves and just went for it. So you know, I didn't really feel nervous. It was kind of odd.

MARTIN: What did you wear?

SANDLIN: I was really excited about my tie. It had red and blue.


SANDLIN: That was one of my goals...


SANDLIN: To make sure not to show favoritism towards any side.

MARTIN: Yes, bipartisan.

SANDLIN: I enjoyed it. Yeah, it was fun.

MARTIN: You asked your followers to help you pick questions to ask the president. How many did you go in with? And how many did you actually get to ask?

SANDLIN: I had six questions total. And I ended up dropping the fifth one. His answers were a little bit longer than we expected. So I didn't have time to cram it all in.

MARTIN: He's a bit of a slow talker.

SANDLIN: (Laughter) Well, he can be. It just depends on the format of the interview, I think. So it was fun.

MARTIN: What was the best exchange that you had with him, do you think?

SANDLIN: Well, I enjoyed asking him about space because my grandfather was a drafter during the - a draftsman during the Apollo program. And so I've grown up listening to stories about space. And you know, I want to be an astronaut. Everybody wants to be an astronaut. And I just don't think the administration had laid out a plan for deep space exploration. You know, they say, we're going to use commercial entities to get to low Earth orbit and work and sustain on the International Space Station and then, dot, dot, dot, Mars. I work with rockets for my day job, and I was really interested to know what the dot, dot, dot meant.

MARTIN: And did he have a plan?

SANDLIN: Well...

MARTIN: (Laughter).

SANDLIN: I don't know.

MARTIN: How did he answer the question?

SANDLIN: He answered the question by saying exactly that. We would use the commercial - the commercial partnerships to, you know, boost supplies and sustain the space station. He mentions the word asteroid. But, you know, I don't know what asteroid he's talking about. But he did say that we would go to Mars. There just wasn't a clear timetable out. We'll see how it goes.

MARTIN: What was the question that you wanted to ask him and didn't have time for?

SANDLIN: I actually have it memorized, if you want me to just tell you.


SANDLIN: It was, Mr. President, my sister and I are both mechanical engineers. I serve the country through the Department of Defense, by using my science and engineering skills to increase the military might of the nation. My sister decided to go into the Peace Corps when she got out of school. So basically, she helps the nation speak softly. And I help the nation carry a big stick. So Mr. President, what do you think the balance between that diplomacy and military intervention - how do you think that's changed, in your mind, over the course of the presidency?

MARTIN: Good question.

SANDLIN: Yeah, I was really excited to ask it. But we just didn't have time.

MARTIN: Maybe you'll get another shot. Save that one for next time.

SANDLIN: Yeah, the next time I'm in front of the leader of the free world. I'll just - yeah, I'm not sure that's going to happen.

MARTIN: Destin Sandlin is the creator of Smarter Every Day on YouTube. Destin, thanks so much for talking with us.

SANDLIN: Thank you so much, Rachel. It's been an honor. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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