Obama talks Bieber and beasts with Aussie students

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Báo Tuổi Trẻ English - 31 month(s) ago 4 readings

US President Barack Obama joked about Australia's killer wildlife and said he would "say hi" to teen singing sensation Justin Bieber in a meeting with schoolchildren Thursday.

bieber File photo shows Canadian singer Justin Bieber Photo: AFP

US President Barack Obama joked about Australia's killer wildlife and said he would "say hi" to teen singing sensation Justin Bieber in a meeting with schoolchildren Thursday.

The president sat down with 18 pupils at Canberra's Campbell High School after an address to the Australian parliament, greeting them with a bright "G'day" and taking questions from the teens, aged between 14 and 16.

Obama said that en route to the school, just five minutes from Parliament House, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had told him about the huge range of native Australian animals "that can kill you".

"(There) seems to be a surplus of those here in Australia," he joked to the children.

The vast island continent is known for its venomous spiders and snakes as well as deadly sharks and crocodiles.

A local firm has even offered Obama complimentary insurance against a crocodile attack for his two-hour tour later Thursday of tropical Darwin, which is Australia's croc capital.

Obama, the father to two daughters aged 10 and 13, was met with screams of delight from the secondary school's 670 students as his motorcade arrived.

He told the 18 Campbell pupils he was "always inspired when I meet with young people because you're not stuck in some of the old stodgy ideas", and shook hands with each one before settling into an armchair to take questions.

They discussed his plans for reforming the US education system, with a particular focus on helping impoverished students and lifting standards in mathematics and science.

Obama was then asked whether he had ever considered teaming up with a celebrity like pop star Justin Bieber to take his message to young people.

"I interact a lot with celebrities," he said, explaining that a range of popular icons had supported his 2008 election campaign.

"Generally speaking, hopefully, if I'm going to be successful it's going to be because of the ideas I put forward and not because I'm hanging out with Justin Bieber," he added.

"Although he's a very nice young man and I'll tell him you say hi."

The Campbell High visit mirrored a similar trip Obama made with Gillard to a Washington-area school when she was in the United States in March.

The pair had debated the merits of Australian sandwich spread Vegemite, a salty yeast-based concoction that Obama insisted was "horrible" to the US students, after a staunch defence from Gillard.

After a dinner at Parliament House on Wednesday, Obama told his Australian hosts including Gillard: "And we see the world in the same way -- even if we do have to disagree on the merits of Vegemite."

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