President Obama shakes hands with crowd after his Wednesday campaign speech.
Photographer: Ben Siegel
Hillel at Ohio University Rabbi Danielle Leshaw delivers the invocation before President Obama's speech.
Photographer: Chris Franz
The OHIO Marching 110 helps set the tone at the Obama campaign rally.
Photographer: Chris Franz
Oct 18, 2012
By Monica Chapman
With just 20 days until the 2012 Presidential Election, President Barack Obama's campaign trail made its way to Ohio University's College Gate.
More than 14,000 university and community members crowded onto the College Green Wednesday to hear Obama's evening address, which was sponsored by the Ohio University College Democrats.
In a speech that spanned everything from taxes and job creation to healthcare and student debt, Obama trumpeted the successes of his first term and railed against his political opposition. Hailing social programs like the GI Bill and Pell Grants, Obama built the case for investments in the nation's future.
"That's the America we believe in. We believe in doing things for ourselves, but we also believe in doing some things together to make sure this country succeeds," he said.
Drawing on personal experience, Obama emphasized the importance of education in the 21st century economy.
"I'm only here because I got a good education," said Obama. "I wasn't born into fame or fortune … But in America, we give everybody an opportunity. That's what this country is about, and I've never forgotten that."
Obama's tour stop at Ohio University comes a day after he and republican nominee Mitt Romney faced off in the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
"Everyone was sort of riding on the enthusiasm from the debate, coming in high spirits with expectations to see him in person. I've never seen campus like this," said senior early childhood education major Rachel Everett, who attended the rally.
The OHIO stop marked Obama's second speaking engagement of the day, following an address at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, earlier in the day. Including this trip, President Obama has traveled to Ohio 16 times in 2012 to hold 21 political events.
"Obviously this is a really historic event for Athens and Ohio University. It demonstrates how important southeast Ohio is to the president as well as university students," said President of the College Democrats Shannon Welch, who helped to coordinate the campaign stop and introduced Obama at the rally.
With lines stretching from College Green all the way to Margaret M. Walter Hall on the West Green, many hopeful attendees waited hours before finding relief in the shade of College Green's golden canopy. Here, intermittent songs by the OHIO Marching 110 and an occasional OHIO chant helped bide the time until Obama took to the stage on the crisp autumn day.
But the wait was worth it, according to junior war and peace studies major Krista Mobley.
"It means the world to me. I feel like it's a once in a lifetime opportunity and we're so close – only about 20 feet away," said Mobley after landing a spot front and center. "I never expected (Obama) to come to Athens of all places, so it's definitely a very exciting time."
Obama marks the third sitting president to visit Ohio University's Athens Campus. President Herbert Hoover became the first in 1932 followed by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
According to Assistant Dean of OHIO's Honors Tutorial College Jan Hodson, who welcomed Johnson into town as a 12-year-old member of the Glouster High School marching band, increased security measures and social media contributed to a greater sense of enormity during this year's presidential visit.
"We had students all day Tweeting, Facebooking and emailing each other about what was going on. That just changes the way the word spreads and what people know," Hodson said.
Though the impact of tonight's rally on the election process has yet to be determined, its impact on attending students, faculty, staff and community members was clear.
"For (my children) to see somebody of color, someone who grew up with minimum means, become president – they can do anything. They can move mountains if they want to. So I think they have a great role model in President Obama," said Marian Carr, coordinator for global partnerships in the Ohio University Center for International Studies, who attended the event with her two sons.
"This was a historic day," added interim Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi. "Politics aside, having a sitting president on our campus hadn't occurred in 48 years. It was a big deal for our students to get to experience this. … It was a big night for Ohio University."
Did You Know?
Ohio University's last presidential visitor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, addressed campus on Ohio University's 160th birthday in 1964.
Yesterday's visit by President Barack Obama fell on yet another birthday – that of Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis.
To view video coverage of Johnson's speech, click here.
To watch coverage of Obama's speech, click here.