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SBP October 11: Student Perspective on Presidential Visit

When I heard that President Obama was coming to NC State to speak, I was really excited. I had heard about his American Jobs Act, but didn’t know much about it and was excited to hear what he had to say. Mostly I knew what a monumental thing it was to have the sitting President of the United States coming to speak at my school!

Harrelson Lines
Students line up in the Brickyard for tickets to the President Obama speech in Reynolds Coliseum

The two days before his visit were a complete whirlwind. As a volunteer, I helped hand out tickets to students. We saw people with sleeping bags, blankets, and chairs. One or two even brought a futon to make camping in the Brickyard a little more bearable! After hearing many students voice negativity over the impending visit, it was so great to see students care so much about the event. Even after waiting up to nine hours for tickets, each student was happy and excited to receive their ticket to see the President speak.

Before long, that day arrived. It was my job, along with two other volunteers, to check in the members of the Press Pool. It was a fairly easy job and when we were done, we were allowed to mill around the Press Area (best seats in the house!) and wait with the rest of Reynolds for President Obama speak. It was a great atmosphere and the energy was high. The band was playing songs, alternating with music over a loudspeaker playing songs like Toby Keith’s “Made in America.”

Eventually, of course, out came the President of the United States. Reynolds erupted. He could barely get a word out in the beginning! And then he won me over when he commented on how happy he was to have so many wolves in his Wolfpack. Clearly, I am not a hard sell, but it really warmed my heart.

When President Obama began speaking about his Jobs Act, I really listened. I am not naïve enough that I thought he was laying out all of the facts. I know that there are more technicalities to the bill than what he was telling us. But what he said truly resonated with me. I know many people who are unemployed. I am a senior this year and I have many mixed emotions regarding graduation – one of which is downright fear of such unemployment. Obama said his proposal would include tax credits, cuts, and improvements that would offer incentives to small business owners making the employment of the unemployed actually benefit their business. Jobs would be given to construction workers, cops and firefighters. Teachers’ jobs would be protected and educational facilities would be improved. This received raucous approval from everyone who had now been sitting in muggy, un-air conditioned Reynolds for the past few hours.

He urged us over and over to contact our representatives – that was our “homework,” because he knew many of us were skipping class to attend the speech. One student in the bleachers shouted, “I love you, Barack!” and he yelled back, as he did during his campaigning days, “I love you, back!” But then he continued with a wide smile, “If you love me, you’ve got to help me pass this bill!” Cue thundering applause.

Danielle's friend Jourdan Gore captured this picture with her cell phone

I half-expected him to then be rushed out of Reynolds by his Secret Service (and who could have blamed him in that heat?), but he stepped down from the stage and began to make his way through the crowd of the standing section, shaking the hands of many students and other guests. One of my friends even got a picture of him doing the NC State “wolf” with his hands – possibly the most exciting thing that has happened all year. I knew that he was a great orator from seeing him speak during his campaign and his speeches as president, but being there, in person, to witness the sitting President of the United States speak was one of the most surreal experiences of my life and one that I will not soon forget.

Throughout campus, there were many mixed reactions to the President (or POTUS, as I have now learned the lingo) speaking at NC State. But even in these weeks after, I still feel incredibly honored that he chose my school and that I, a college student on the brink of (hopefully) entering the ranks of the employed, could see him advocate for those of us hoping for “good, middle-class jobs. Jobs that pay well. Jobs that offer some security.”

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