Shortly before leaving, he referenced his opposition to the Iraq war, but reminded his audience that it would be unwise to act hastily in changing course. (For a story on Obama's troop drawdown plans for Iraq, click here.) "Moving the ship of state takes time," he said. "Now that we're there," the US troop withdrawal has to be done "in a careful enough way that we don't see a collapse into violence."
One student asked about America's policy regarding the possibility of an independent Kurdish state being established in Northern Iraq. Ankara worries that such a move would set a dangerous precedent for its own Kurdish population.
"We are very clear about the territorial integrity of Turkey," the president answered. "We would be opposed to anything that would start to cut off parts of Turkey."
The Turkish public's opinion of the US has reached a record low in recent years, something that was reflected in films, television, and books. Turks and Americans fighting it out in Northern Iraq was the theme of both a 2005 Turkish bestseller called "Metal Storm," and "Valley of the Wolves," a 2006 film that became one of Turkey's best-grossing films ever.
In his opening statements to the students, Obama set out to counter what he said was a false message being delivered about the US.
"Sometimes it suggests that America has become selfish or crass and doesn't care about the world beyond its borders," Obama told the students. "I'm here to tell you that's not the America I know.
"We are still a place where anyone who tries can still make it. If that wasn't true, then someone named Barack Hussein Obama could not become president," the president added.