Good afternoon, President Obama…welcome to Western!
Monday, June 7th was a crazy day to be on campus! In addition to the usual thousands of people on campus and the additional incoming freshman for Orientation, there was definitely extra excitement and energy in the air. Excited students and Kalamazoo residents surrounded the outskirts of the University Arena in hopes of catching a glimpse of the hundreds of secret service agents, police officers, their horses, and the most exciting of them all: Barack Obama. Yes, I REALLY did just say that President Barack Obama came to campus!
Over 1,000 high schools entered the White House’s Race to the Top Commencement Contest, all for one reason: the opportunity to have President Obama speak at their high school graduation. It was narrowed down from thousands of schools, to six, then three, then one: Kalamazoo Central High School.
While WMU students and faculty were overwhelmingly thankful for one thing, that Obama was not only in our college town, but on our actual campus, I had something else to be grateful for: my press pass. Although I began writing for the school paper over a year ago, never had I ever expected to be able to sit in the same room as the President. Yet here I stood, crammed between lights, cameras, and action, among reporters, photographers, flashes, lots of noise, and of course, the best kind of chaos.
As I walked toward the Arena, I became increasingly nervous. Although I had a press pass, a confirmation e-mail, and four forms of identification, a large part of me remained doubtful toward my admittance into the event. As I passed hundreds of people, I was warned, “You’re going to get in trouble!”, or “Be careful, you have to have a ticket!”. I felt like a broken record as I shyly mumbled, ”I have a press pass…I think.” I made it through three security checks, four sets of police, lotttsss of horses, finally arrived at the press check in table, and suddenly, I was in! And not just in, but with a White House press pass around my neck.
I’m not really into politics, so I wasn’t sure how much of Obama’s speech I would understand, but I surprised myself as I clung onto his every word, trying to hold two cameras, and my breath, all at once. He was funny, down-to-earth, and really made sure the ceremony was about the graduates, and no one else. Never had I seen high school graduates so proud. The adrenaline rush of everyone in the arena, including myself, was unmatchable.
Now, even weeks later, Kalamazoo and campus is still buzzing with murmurs about Obama’s visit. It was a once in a life-time experience, and was definitely the coolest experience I’ve had as a journalist. Needless to say, Obama has left quite a mark here. Congrats to the Kalamazoo Central High School class of 2010!
I’m off to bed–Even aspiring journalists have to close their computers sometimes!
It’s a GREAT day to be a Bronco,