With Education Secretary Arne Duncan by his side, Obama met with about 40 freshmen in the Wakefield High School library before his back-to-school pep talk was broadcast from the school.
One student asked him which person, dead or alive, the president would like to dine with, and Obama replied Gandhi, adding, "It would probably be a really small meal."
"He's somebody I find a lot of inspiration in," Obama said. "He inspired Dr. (Martin Luther) King" with his message of nonviolence. "He ended up doing so much and changed the world just by the power of his ethics."
Obama's broadcast to schools throughout the country has drawn much criticism from conservatives concerned about the indoctrination of children. While the content of his speech broadcast on ESPN and the White House website stuck to motivating students to do study hard and do the best they can in class, one student did address one of Obama's pet issues in the library meeting. He asked why the United States lacked universal health care.
"I think we need it," the president said. "I think we can do it."
He said he wants a plan that allows people who have health insurance through work to keep it and that gives those who don't have coverage an opportunity to get it. He also said it should save the country money over time.
Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information
And when asked for advice on getting his job, the social networking president warned about the dangers of Facebook.
"Be careful what you post," he said, because it can come back to haunt you.