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Michelle Obama speaks at Miami

Published: Monday, November 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 20:11

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Lauren Olson | The Miami Student

First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama spoke to a crowd of 2,600 in Withrow Court Saturday.

First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama spoke to a crowd of 2,600 at a chilly Withrow Court Saturday.

“You have a really beautiful campus I hope you realize how lucky you are, it’s really beautiful,” Obama said.

Mrs. Obama wasn’t the only famous person in Withrow Court. Celebrity artist Will.I.Am made a surprise appearance as well. Obama said Will.I.Am has been a supporter of her husband from the beginning and is campaigning in Ohio along with President Barack Obama and Mrs. Obama.

Students and community members waited in line in wintry weather for over an hour to see the First Lady and earlier Saturday, students were posting on Facebook they would pay for a ticket to the speech.

Obama was introduced by first-year and College Democrats member Alex Ponikvar, who joked in an interview after that his college career could only go downhill from there.

“She is an inspiring woman,” Ponikvar said. “She was so warm and welcoming.”

Ponikvar said he was too excited to be nervous before his introduction.

“It was amazing, absolutely a once in a lifetime experience,” he said.

Student Body President John Stefanski attended the speech and obtained a prime seat near the stage. Stefanski said he thought the speech was a success.

“It was really cool and her speech was awesome,” Stefanski said. “She really hit home all the points of why we have to keep moving forward as a country, why we have to get out the vote, get people ready.”

Laura Kretz, president of College Democrats, said she was delighted with the event turnout.

“It was fantastic,” Kretz said. “The enthusiasm was great, everybody had an amazing time.”

John “Baylor” Myers, chairman of College Republicans, said while the First Lady is a national figure, he did not encourage people to attend the event.

“Perhaps [if it were] not an election year I would encourage students to see the First Lady as a national figure but at this time Michelle Obama came to this campus to support the Obama campaign and [President Obama’s] policies,” Myers said. “So, I would not have encouraged people to go. I would have said ‘see you at another venue because right now you are supporting an agenda that has failed our country.’”

The first lady also addressed the closeness of the Presidential race.

“This election is going to be closer than the last election; that is the only guarantee, so we need to brace for it,” Obama said. “And it will all come down to what happens in a few key battleground states, especially this state; right here in Ohio. So, especially for our young people let me put this in perspective…back in 2008 Barack won Ohio by about 262 thousand votes. And while that might sound like a lot, when you break that number down across precincts throughout an entire state, that’s just 24 votes per precinct. That’s how these races work.”

Miami University President David Hodge said he is not surprised Miami has received so much attention during this election.

“Miami does have a robust political range,” Hodge said.

Hodge said he believes the attention Miami has received during this election has been positive.

“This has been a very positive thing for Miami and for our students,” Hodge said. “Students understand that civic responsibility is very important.”

Mrs. Obama urged attendees to use the next three days before the election to get involved in the ‘get out the vote (GOTV)’ movement.

“One vote in a neighborhood, just a single vote in an apartment building could make the decision,” Obama said. “Just one more vote in a dorm room could change the direction of a nation.”

Questions arose over why Withrow Court was chosen as the venue for the First Lady. According to Claire Wagner, Associate Director of University Communications, Obama’s advance team chose the venue. Miami offered Goggin Ice Center (the ice can be drained), but the advance team did not want to disrupt any usual activity, according to Wagner.

Like at the Paul Ryan rally earlier this year, Miami did not sponsor the event, Wagner said. The university helped with logistics of the event only—things like connecting the advance team with security and making sure the venue had wireless Internet.

Miami’s non-partisanship extends to Hodge as well. At the Paul Ryan rally in August, Hodge said he greeted Ryan privately, but did not attend the event itself. Hodge was out of town over the weekend, but said he would have done the same for the First Lady. Hodge said while it is the university’s duty to greet and welcome political guests, he feels it would be “inappropriate” for the university president to publicly attend one of the events.

While Miami has not been directly involved in planning any of political events on campus, Hodge had some advice for students on Election Day:

“Get out and vote. Do your homework and go vote.”

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