Here is a transcript of an interview with one of the students retelling the exchange with the President:
"MARI OYE: He read down the letter. He got to the part about torture. He looked up, and he said, "America doesn’t torture people”. And I said, “If you look specifically at the points we made” -- because we were careful to outline specific things that are wrong with the administration’s policy. He said -- so I said, “If you look specifically at what we said, we said, we ask you to cease illegal renditions,” and then I said, you know, “Please remove your signing statement to the McCain anti-torture bill.” And then I said that for me personally, the issue of detainee rights also had a lot of importance, because my grandparents had been interned during World War II for being Japanese American.
At that point, he just said, “America doesn’t torture people” again. And another kid, actually, from Montana came forward and said, “Please make the US a leader in human rights.” And that happened in the space of about a minute, but it was a very interesting minute with the President of the United States."
Mari Oye went on to tell about her mother's experiences during VN.
AMY GOODMAN: Mari, your mother also was a Presidential Scholar?Maybe there is hope after all. If the kids care about illegal rendition then we have something positive for the future.
MARI OYE: Yes, in 1968, when LBJ was president. And she felt at the time that she wanted to say something about the Vietnam War, but she had an English teacher back at the school she came from who she didn’t want to offend. And the English teacher had stressed that it was important, you know, to stay quiet when you were in the presence of the President. And I’ve had teachers that have stressed the opposite throughout my high school career, and so I thought of them, and I thought of my mother, and I thought of what I would be comfortable with in forty years. And I think we did the right thing while we were there.
AMY GOODMAN: What did your mother say?
MARI OYE: Well, when she found out, she had been touring Washington. Our parents weren’t with us at the time we went to the White House. And she was actually in the Holocaust Museum in the last room, when I called her to say that we had given the letter. She didn’t know there was a letter beforehand, when I called her to tell her what had happened. And she said that she walked out into the bright sunlight with tears streaming down her face, but since a lot of people walk out of the Holocaust Museum that way, you know, no one noticed anything out of the ordinary.