Published: January 28, 2010
View photos from the event on UT's Image Gallery.
It’s not every day you get to meet the President of the United States.
was a common sentiment among those waiting for tickets Wednesday and
those standing in line early Thursday morning, waiting to see President
Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who held a town hall meeting
at The University of Tampa Jan. 28. It was the first appearance
President Obama made after delivering the State of the Union address on
“It was such an honor. I would have never
have guessed I’d get an opportunity like this,” said Chris McCarthy ’11,
UT’s Student Government vice president, who greeted the president and
vice president at a private reception before Obama and Biden took the
stage in the Martinez Sports Center.
“It’s the beauty of our
country that as a regular person you can meet the president of the
United States,” said McCarthy, who handed a letter he wrote to the
president’s assistant, who promised the president would get it while on
Air Force One.
In the letter, McCarthy thanked the president for coming to campus and let him know of the buzz it generated among students.
was something else. It’s hard to describe,” said McCarthy, an
entrepreneurship major, who was among more than 3,000 taking part in the
town hall meeting. “It’s surreal. You can’t believe that he’s standing
in the room with you. It was definitely an honor and a privilege.”
wasn’t the only student getting close to the president. Forty were
chosen to sit on the stage behind him as well as 20 faculty and 20 staff
members. Another 50 volunteers helped staff the event, including the UT
Jazz Band and ROTC cadets and cadre. UT senior Mel Steiner ’10
performed the national anthem.
“I've actually never sung it
before in front of an audience, but the crowd was very supportive,”
Steiner said. “I will remember today for the rest of my life.”
the speech, President Obama touched on many of the highlights of his
State of the Union address, including the costs of higher education and
reducing student loan debt, which elicited a loud cheer and standing
“It took us 10 years to pay off Michelle's loans and 15
to pay off mine. I've been there,” Obama said. “Our belief is that
nobody should go broke because they chose to go to college.”
Northup, associate director of the Office of Student Leadership and
Engagement, said she was impressed with the level of involvement the
White House asked of UT’s students. She said this kind of experience is
what college is all about.
“Whether you agree with the politics
or not, this will generate a lot of conversation, which is the most
valuable educational outcome we could ask for,” Northup said.
Mason ’11, who is majoring in elementary education, said the first
opportunity she had to vote was in this past presidential election. She
said Obama’s visit was something she wasn’t going to miss.
“He’s here, at my school, in my gym,” Mason said. “I’m just in awe.”
Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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