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Nov 03 2016
by Anna DiGiacomo

President Obama visits UNC Chapel Hill

By Anna DiGiacomo - Nov 03 2016
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It was another beautiful November day at UNC Chapel Hill. The air was warm, and it seemed as if the sky had never shone a brighter Carolina blue. However, all it took was one step on campus, and any visitor would realize that it was no ordinary Carolina day. For an air of long-awaited anticipation had settled across UNC and it seemed as if the campus itself was holding its breath.

All week, whispers have been filtering through the student body. “Have you heard Obama is coming to campus Wednesday?” “What time are you getting in line?’ or, this reporter’s personal favorite, “It doesn’t matter if class is canceled, I’m not gonna be there."

Now that the day was finally here, the whole campus was in complete chaos. Although overnight camping was explicitly forbidden, rumors report that students were lined up as early as 11:00 PM Tuesday night, just to get close to the president. By noon, the line of students stretched over a mile - looping around Kenan Stadium, down South Road and all the way back to Hooker Fields. It wasn’t uncommon to for students to bribe fellow classmates with promises of food just to get in line with them. Furthermore, attendance was forgotten for all those classes which didn’t have the foresight to cancel on this momentous day.

In the end, temperatures peaked at 85 degrees without a cloud in sight. With heat exhaustion becoming a very real threat, volunteers worked around-the-clock distributing water to parched spectators. Yet, despite the heat, CNN reports that over 16,000 people attended the rally. Naturally, Fresh U seized this opportunity to get on-the-ground reports with Tar Heels.

What time did you get in line?

Cameron Beard:

"9:15 AM."

Ahmaya Smalls:

"10:10 AM."

Rachel Augustine:

"7:15 AM."

Luke DiGiacomo:

"11:15 AM."

Kaitlyn Davis:

"I arrived with the marching band and played from 11-12."

Emily Arnold:

"I didn’t wait in line. The campaign asked for volunteers from the band to play for the rally. I volunteered and, in exchange, they let us bypass the line."

Siddharth Vasisht:

"10:35 AM."
Students crowd outside Hooker Fields. Image by Anna DiGiacomo
 

Did you come specifically for Obama or did the other speakers influence you?

Cameron Beard:

"Well, who wouldn’t want to see Obama? This will be my first time seeing a sitting president and that’s awesome."

Ahmaya Smalls:

"I’m here to see Obama, why else would you be here? He’s our current president and I wanted to hear him speak."

Rachel Augustine:

"Obama and James Taylor. I’ve never been close to a sitting president and 'Carolina On My Mind' is a song I grew up with."

Luke DiGiacomo:

"Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see the president, but it’s really not worth this line or all this effort. James Taylor performing at Chapel Hill however? Absolutely."

Siddharth Vasisht:

"I was there to see Obama but it was nice to have the other speakers as well."

The Marching Tar Heels ensure the wait isn't a bore. Image by Anna DiGiacomo
 

What do you feel Obama’s greatest achievement has been as president?

Cameron Beard:

"Probably healthcare reform."

Ahmaya Smalls:

"Well, he was the first minority president of the United States. As a minority student myself, this has been very important to me."

Rachel Augustine:

"Definitely Bin Laden and education policy for K-12."

Luke DiGiacomo:

"Well, I suppose he achieved health care. He certainly achieved destabilizing the Middle East because to be fair, it’s hard not to put that at his feet. He also achieved the largest privacy infraction ever. So I guess you could say he achieved a lot."

Kaitlyn Davis:

"For me, I think the Affordable Care Act is a huge step to fixing our healthcare system. It, of course, doesn't fix everything, but it will pave the way to do so. Another thing is signing the climate change deal with a lot of other countries. I think climate change is one of the biggest issues that faces us, and it's super, super important to preserve the earth. So the U.S. becoming a leader for climate change is super important."

Emily Arnold:

"There’s a lot of good ones, but I’d say repealing the 'Don't ask, Don't tell' restriction."

Siddharth Vasisht:

"The economic growth and success that we've seen with the economy in recent years, following the recession."

Concessions set up along the line of students. Image by Anna DiGiacomo
 

Has his presidency affected you personally?

Cameron Beard:

"His health care reform has positively affected my sister who needed it very badly. In turn, this helped my entire family in general."

Ahmaya Smalls:

"It hasn’t really. I’ve noticed that presidents and their politics really don't affect you on a personal level."

Rachel Augustine:

"Personally, I haven't noticed it a ton. I was mostly too young to care during the better half of his terms."

Luke DiGiacomo:

"It hasn’t really affected me personally at all. The fact is, politics really have very little impact in your day-to-day life."

Kaitlyn Davis:

"He's one of the main reasons I care so much about politics and policy, and I don't know if I would care as much now if he wasn't ever elected POTUS. He's a huge role model for me."

Emily Arnold:

"I mean, yeah. I’ve got loans and a Pell Grant and he expanded the grants and redid the way loans are given."

Siddharth Vasisht:

"He has inspired me as an individual and the public policy that he has put in place has helped my family [and] friends find jobs [and] thrive in the jobs they currently have."

The crowd begins forming on Hooker Fields. Image by Anna DiGiacomo
 

What was your favorite moment at the rally?

Cameron Beard:

"Definitely Obama."

Ahmaya Smalls:

"The moment when Obama first came out onstage."

Rachel Augustine:

"Just hanging out with my friends and casually seeing the most powerful person in the world."

Luke DiGiacomo:

"Absolutely when James Taylor came on stage."

Kaitlyn Davis:

"There was a part of his speech where he quoted the Constitution and it brought me to tears."

Emily Arnold:

"When Obama talked about Donald Trump being too dangerous to trust with nuclear launch codes and how the Republicans actually agreed with him."

Siddharth Vasisht:

"President Obama's speech, particularly when he reminded us that citizenship is the highest office for change."

Image courtesy of Travis St. Brice

Would you go again?

Cameron Beard:

"Maybe, I’m not sure because of how unorganized it was."

Ahmaya Smalls:

"Yes."

Rachel Augustine:

"Oh yes."

Luke DiGiacomo:

"Probably not."

Kaitlyn Davis:

"Yes, I would totally do it again!"

Emily Arnold:

"Heck yeah I’d go again!"

Siddharth Vasisht:

"This was actually my second Obama rally and I would definitely go again."

Image courtesy of Travis St. Brice

Who do you plan to vote for?

Cameron Beard:

"Hillary Clinton."

Ahmaya Smalls:

"Hillary Clinton."

Rachel Augustine:

"Gary Johnson."

Luke DiGiacomo:

"Gary Johnson."

Kaitlyn Davis:

"Hillary Clinton and Democrats up and down the ballot."

Emily Arnold:

"Hillary Clinton."

Siddharth Vasisht:

"Hillary Clinton because of the progress Obama has made."

Image by Anna DiGiacomo

All in all, it was a long and tiring day for the Tar Heels - yet, it was rewarding nevertheless. Whether they were there to see Obama, support the Democratic Party, or just hang with friends, it was truly amazing to see so many people peacefully gathered today. This reporter certainly will never forget this incredible experience or all the diverse people she was fortunate enough to meet.

If there was one key thing to take away from this rally, it's to remember that we shouldn’t allow politics to divide us. Whatever the outcome of the election, Trump or Clinton, we will all still be family, friends, classmates and countrymen. Also, all rallies should have chairs - seriously.

Lead Image Credit: Kennith Cruz


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Anna DiGiacomo - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Anna is a freshman Strategic Communications major at UNC Chapel Hill. She played varsity soccer in high school and besieged the student body with libertarianism. She now spends her time annoying her roommate, catching Bruce Springsteen concerts and getting lost while pretending to camp. Follow her on Instagram @digiacomoa

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