President Barack Obama Fills Florida Tech Clemente Center for Grassroots Event

MELBOURNE, FLA.—August may have been the month for a rare blue moon, but on Sept. 9 Florida Institute of Technology was the site of a once-in-a-blue-moon type occasion with the visit of President Barack Obama. The grassroots event filled the Charles and Ruth Clemente Center to capacity with approximately 3,000 people.

On Sept. 7, lines snaked up and down campus roads and through and around the three-story parking garage as people waited patiently for available tickets. The day of the visit, looked much the same as ticketholders lined up early—some the previous day—to be assured a place inside the Clemente Center for the president’s visit.

By 11 a.m., the last of those waiting were inside, anticipating, chanting, cheering and waving blue “Forward” signs handed out by the Obama national campaign.

Florida Tech freshman and communications major David Barkholz secured media credentials to attend as a student blogger. While the president’s campus stop was not an official university event or an endorsement by the university, Barkholz said it was an incredible student learning experience.

“This was the first event I attended as a member of the media and the experience was unbelievable. How many writers can say the first event they covered was a presidential speech? It was a day I’ll never forget.”

Florida Obama For America campaign officials, including Mary French, warmed up the crowd, leading cheers that welcomed the president to the stage just before noon. Following a 35-minute speech, he shook hands with those in the front of the crowd, who had stood since 8:30 a.m. He lifted a baby high in the air, eliciting a cheer before he waved and exited.

Florida Tech Student Government Association President Brian Thai, a senior aerospace engineering major, could not attend, but listened live to the broadcast on the student-run radio station. He called the event “a lasting memory” for fellow students.

“I felt it was a huge honor that he (Obama) decided to visit Florida Tech. Personally this shows me that Florida Tech is well on its way to becoming one of the top tier universities in the nation. I can’t help but be proud that I am a student here.”

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