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Published: February 09, 2023

“Super Cool Vibes” on Campus for President’s Visit

President Joe Biden visited The University of Tampa on Thursday, the second stop in what’s being called a 20-state “blitz” following his State of the Union address this week.

His speech in Plant Hall covered central tenets of his presidential agenda and was attended by about 200 invited guests, including UT students, faculty and staff.

President Biden on the screen at the Riseman Aquatics Center.President Joe Biden visited The University of Tampa on Thursday, the second stop in what’s being called a 20-city “blitz” following his State of the Union address this week. Photo by Andrew McDougall '23

The mood on campus was one of both excitement and curiosity. Secret Service agents and Tampa and campus police were clearly visible, and students lined UT University Drive to watch the motorcade, cell phone cameras in hands, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president in his limo.

More than 100 other students gathered at Riseman Aquatic Center to watch Biden’s speech in the 80-degree sun as CSPAN streamed on the big screen. 

While Biden mainly focused on social security and Medicare, students at the pool had other issues on their minds.

Junior Camila Barr, a film and media studies major, expressed frustration about immigration, and her friend Giulianna Lombardo, a sophomore majoring in international business and management, said she’d ask Biden about the war in Ukraine, if she could.

“It’s affecting so much in Europe, like the economy,” Lombardo said, “and so it’s affecting us, too. I just want to know what he envisions is going to happen.”

Students watching President Biden at the Riseman Acquatic Center.
More than 100 other students gathered at Riseman Aquatics Center to watch Biden’s speech in the 80-degree sun as CSPAN streamed on the big screen. Photo by Andrew McDougall '23

Lombardo went on to say that she and her family were “pretty conservative,” and so since Biden became president, she has been less involved and less interested in keeping up with the news.

“We don't really talk about him or what he does,” she said. “But it's kind of interesting to hear the other point of view that I never really get to hear.”

Another friend, Emily Ortega, a first-year business management major who is from the Dominican Republic, said she too felt Biden’s visit opened her mind to new ideas.

“Being an international student, I never really heard about day-to-day news (in the United States), or we never kept up to date. But now, studying here in The University of Tampa, I see how much other students have something to say and how interested everyone here is. That kind of motivates me to learn about it. I especially did not expect so many people to show up to watch his speech.”

Lounge chairs around the pool were full, and some students sat in the water on the steps to the pool while they watched the speech, the audio playing from loudspeakers around the pool deck. The Spartan men’s and women’s swim teams were in the water practicing amid the activity.

Riseman Aquatic CenterRegardless of how you feel politically, it's pretty significant that we're here witnessing the president of the U.S. coming to our school,” said Haley Herzig ’24. It's a pretty cool bragging right. Photo by Josh Napier

Students recognized that the president’s visit was special, no matter what their political leaning.

“I liked what President Biden had to say about how he gets along with Republicans and Democrats,” Xavier Tahtabrounian, a junior marketing major, said. “He's also a very open-minded individual, which I like. I came here to hear what he had to say, and none of it disappointed. It was all very good, and I'm glad that we can all agree on some things.”

His friend junior Haley Herzig, a cybersecurity major, said, “Regardless of how you feel politically, it's pretty significant that we're here witnessing the president of the U.S. coming to our school. It's a pretty cool bragging right.”

Lombardo echoed the sentiment from the shade of the Riseman Fitness and Recreation Center. “We’re really lucky the president is at our school right now,” she said.

“Super cool vibes.”

Story by Holly Neumann, Writer/Editor
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