President Obama visits UVM

? The Green Mountain State received their first sitting President since 1995 on Friday. President Barack Obama visited campus for a political campaign event March 30. The line to enter the Patrick-Forbush-Gutterson Athletic Complex started to form at 7:30 a.m., when Olivia and Caleb Hoh, two Burlington students, began the queue. “We are so excited, ” Olivia Hoh said. “I’m just excited to see the President.” Students and community members alike filled the indoor tennis courts of the complex hours before the President was expected to arrive. Shortly before 1 p.m., Mayor-elect Miro Weinberger introduced Sen. Bernie Sanders to kick off an afternoon of campaign speeches prior to the President’s. Sanders issued an impassioned call to action, warning that America must not cede the White House and Congress to “extreme right wing Republicans.” “We are fighting for the soul of America, and we do not intend to lose,” Sanders said. Vermont-native Grace Potter and her band, the Nocturnals, were next to take the stage. As attendees continued packing the facility, the band got the crowd moving with a set complete with some of her biggest hits. “It’s the honor of my life, and I think I can speak for all of the Nocturnals up here – it’s pretty cool to be opening up for the President of the United States,” Potter said. Gov. Peter Shumlin brought Potter back onstage for a curtain call, eliciting explosive cheers from the crowd. Shumlin gave a moment of silence for St. Johnsbury Academy teacher Melissa Jenkins, whose body was found March 26 by police. Shumlin left the campaign event early in order to attend Jenkins’ memorial service. He also expressed his gratitude to the President for standing by Vermont in one of its darkest moments in modern history: tropical storm Irene. It is with this support that the state was able to make such a remarkable recovery, Shumlin said. He then led the audience in singing a round of “Happy Birthday” for Sen. Leahy who will be celebrating his birthday March 31. Leahy said he enjoyed sharing cake with the President and, during his speech, mentioned that the best birthday present would be the reelection of Barack Obama. Obama took the stage, smiling and waving to a crowd of more than 4,000 clutching scores of iPhones and cameras. The President barely said the words, “I am here,” before he was interrupted by uproarious cheers and clapping. “This is a good crowd here,” he said in response to the welcome. President Obama touched on multiple issues in his 30-minute long speech including health care reform, making college affordable, equality for women and environmental initiatives. “Looking out for one another – that’s a value,” Obama said. “Taking care of our planet – that’s a value.” The sold-out event ended with a few handshakes from the President for those closest to the stage and a long line for the shuttle taking attendees back to their cars downtown.