Obama encourages midterm mobilization

The 2008 election was the beginning, not the end, of the journey for voters who were energized by President Barack Obama’s victory two years ago, the president told an audience in the Marvin Center Tuesday night.

For the third time since he assumed the presidency in 2009, Obama made his way to the Foggy Bottom Campus, this time to speak to and take questions from a crowd of about 120 voters for a town hall meeting.

The meeting was held in an effort to mobilize young voters for the midterm elections Nov. 2.

“We’ve got a whole lot more work to do,” Obama said to the audience, which included 20 first-time voters from GW who were preselected by the Democratic National Committee. “If you can muster and sustain that sort of energy, I’m absolutely confident we will do well, we will win all across the country.”

The 20 GW students and faculty members selected to attend the DNC event were either first-time voters from the GW Guide to Personal Success program, or professors in the political science department.

During the town hall, Obama cautioned that Republicans are ready to capitalize on the current political climate with a “throw the bums out” message, while Americans are still out of work, adding that younger Americans can counter this message with their own enthusiasm.

“The other side right now is excited,” Obama said. “They see the opportunity in the midst of some still very difficult economic times, they see the opportunity to take advantage of that politically.”

Obama called on GW junior Dan Lippman for a question, who asked Obama what surprises he has encountered during his first two years in office. Obama said the most surprising thing was learning to navigate the new media environment most effectively.

“The 24-hour news cycle is just so lightning fast and the attention span I think is so short that sometimes it’s difficult to keep everybody focused on the long term,” Obama said.

Students lined the streets surrounding the Marvin Center hoping to catch a glimpse of the commander in chief, however, Obama entered the building through the underground parking garage, never seeing the hundreds of students waiting for him.

His visit also shut down a large swath of the Foggy Bottom Campus, clogging traffic and nixing meetings and dinner plans for some students and faculty. The Marvin Center was closed from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m., including the food service in J Street, and canceling any other events that were scheduled to take place in the building.

Students living in Crawford Hall – which is directly next to the Marvin Center – were forced to stay in the residence hall until Obama’s event had ended, and the parking garage underneath the Marvin Center was closed for the entire day.

Students who were able to attend the event said the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Freshman Oscar Wang called being part of the town hall audience “a really great opportunity to meet the most powerful man on earth.”

A first-time voter in the 2010 elections, Wang said he did some phone-banking for the DNC two weeks ago and was asked to attend.

“I’m pretty much excited without words,” Wang said.

Sloan Saunders, also a freshman, was chosen to greet the president as he arrived, only learning that she received the honor as she arrived to go through security.

“First I was a little confused, then it hit me that I was going to say hello to the president,” Saunders said before the town hall.

She sent a text message to her mom as soon as she found out.

“She hasn’t texted me back. I think she’s in shock,” Saunders said.

University President Steven Knapp and Board of Trustees Chairman Russell Ramsey were also there to greet Obama.

“These kinds of events are part of a much larger reality here,” Knapp said. “It’s all part of what it means to be here in the nation’s capital.”

“It’s an honor but it also feels a little normal,” Ramsey said about having Obama on campus, adding that it feels like GW hosts cabinet secretaries and administration officials “every other week.”

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