Steve Debusk on meeting Obama

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Steve Debusk and Corey Martinez while filming for "This is United" in the fall of 2009.

Last week, former United pro Steve Debusk appeared in a New York Times article alongside President Obama. The brief meeting took place shortly before Debusk was due to introduce Obama to a group of students in Ohio, and their discussion turned to BMX. Obama asked Debusk about racing, Steve said he didn't race, and Obama referenced "freestyle."

Because I was always amazed at Steve's powerful brand of riding, and because I was additionally surprised that the Commander in Chief of the U.S.A. could even decipher between racing BMX and freestyle BMX, I hit up Steve to learn about their chance encounter and what Steve has been up to since leaving the BMX spotlight several years ago. How did you come to meet President Obama?
Debusk: My friend Corey works for the Obama campaign; he knew where I go to school and I'm pretty sure he must have passed my name along to someone. I got a call at work and they told me Obama was coming to my school and asked if I would help them. I did a few phone interviews over the next day or so and they told me that they wanted me to speak before and introduce the president; although Corey had already hinted that that was what they wanted. I found out three days before I was supposed to speak.

And the topic of BMX riding, were you surprised that Obama even knew what "freestyle" was?
Yeah. I did a little bio that was going to be passed to Obama so he could know a bit about me before we met. Everyone told me about how big a sports fan he was, but I still was surprised when he seemed to know what's up. I don't even bother getting into explaining BMX to most people. Most people don't even know the difference between racing and contest riding, let alone the kind of street riding most kinds do these days. So yeah, maybe he just did his homework, but that's fair enough, and I was impressed.

It's been a few years since you've gotten coverage on the BMX scene -- do you still ride or keep up on BMX?
Yeah, I still ride, but obviously not as much as I did a few years ago. I have a few spots close to my house that I'll ride to when I have some free time, and there is a fun little skatepark near campus.

I know you moved to Ohio and started school. What prompted your decision to go back to school?
I guess I just felt like I wanted to really study and get a more intellectual perspective on some of the things I was reading and thinking about. A couple of the people I respected most in BMX were that ones who said they got a lot out of their education as far as making them more well-rounded and critical thinkers. Basically I wasn't getting all I wanted out of just reading. It was a really hard decision because I knew it meant I would have to take steps away from riding, and while I think it was the right decision for me I still miss being involved in BMX like I used to.

And finally, why do you think people should care about the presidential election?
That's a difficult question. Without going too deep into how I feel about particular issues I'll say that I think our political system is deeply flawed; in the way people perceive their place in it as individuals, in all the ways it is influenced by interested parties at the expense of others and especially in the way elections are funded. The candidates might be largely the same when you compare their more macro-worldviews. Yet there are still some pretty important differences between Romney and Obama. While I don't agree with Obama's foreign policy, and a number of other things, he has actually done a handful of really good things, a few of which affect me directly. Romney is basically a huge step backward. Politics and the mainstream media is usually about a decade behind the majority of public opinion -- Obama is probably the closest thing to a President that accurately reflects public opinion as we're likely to get under the political structure we've got, Romney is a long way behind.

The fact that so many people don't know and/or don't care about the rest of the world around them indicates to me that we don't live in a democracy anymore.

So, yeah I think we should care about the election. One problem with democracy is that it only works properly if it has an educated populous to engage it. The fact that so many people don't know and/or don't care about the rest of the world around them indicates to me that we don't live in a democracy anymore. I think we should vote too. Even if only matters a little bit, it still matters. Those that argue that it doesn't matter at all are just speculating at best. Also, we shouldn't confuse a vote for a candidate with an endorsement for the political structure that we're stuck with. We can cast a vote in a faulty political system, just as we can live in the America and criticize it, it's healthy stuff.

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