President Obama speaks to 13,000 crowd at CSU

While Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney slogged through the weather in Florida for the Republican National Convention, President Barack Obama set foot on CSU’s campus Tuesday to a roaring crowd that chanted “Four more years!”

Obama addressed more than 13,000 students and northern Colorado community members at 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon on the Monfort Quad, all as part of an effort to engage young voters, according to campaign officials.

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“The truth is, you guys have more at stake in this election than anybody. When you step into the voting booth, the choice you’ll make in that instant will shape this country, the world, your lives for decades to come,” Obama said.

About 17 hours before Obama was to speak at CSU, sophomore hospitality management major Nick Hunter and his friends arrived on campus anticipating a long line for the event.

They were somewhat disappointed: By 9 a.m., only 40 people were in line. Hunter said he and his friends wanted to see Obama because it is a unique experience.

“It’s the president of the United States, and a once-in-a lifetime opportunity,” Hunter said.

Once inside the quad, Hunter expected a prime spot to hear the president speak, but was again disappointed.

“We got moved to so many places, police pushed us around, it wasn’t really organized. We were told to go one place, then people went to other places. We didn’t get the best seats,” Hunter said.

Haley Damm-Hamblin, a sophomore political science major, introduced the president and identified with students, who, like her, struggle to plan for the future.

“Like a lot of you, the thought of paying for college, and finding health insurance on top of looking for a job, is a heavy weight. But the last few years reminds us all how important it is to have a president that looks out for us,” Damm-Hamblin said.

She cited Obama’s doubling of the investment in Pell Grant scholarships, removing big banks out of the student loan business, providing a $10,000 tax credit for families to pay for four years of college and allowing students to remain under their parents’ insurance with Obamacare as easing her mind.

“In America, a higher education cannot be a luxury. It’s an economic necessity,” Obama said.

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According to a press release by the Obama Campaign, the increase in Pell Grants benefitted 5,496 CSU students in 2010, more affordable loans impact 167,000 Colorado students and 3,000 people in Larimer County under the age of 26 have health insurance through their parents’ plan.

“Our economic strength doesn’t come from the top down,” Obama said. “It comes from the students, the workers, it comes from small business-people and middle class families who are out there striving and hustling. Because when they do well everybody does well.”

Partway through his speech, Obama halted the crowd’s jeers about Romney’s plans for the country, and urged, “Don’t boo — vote.”

As an incentive, the Obama campaign is organizing a Rocky Mountain Rumble, which will pit CSU against CU to see which school can register the most voters.

“If beating Mitt Romney isn’t enough incentive, then how about we also beat the Buffs?” Damm-Hamblin asked a roaring crowd.

Participation in the political process is the heart of democracy, according to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who spoke before the president.  He also encouraged students to not only register themselves to vote, but to register their friends, family and neighbors.

“What fires me up even more is to see you guys energized about your active role in democracy,” Hickenlooper said. “The president is committed to you and you know that he’s committed to making sure you have a future that’s filled with opportunity. As long as you’re willing to work hard and play by the rules, he’ll make sure you get that opportunity.”

Obama challenged students to take responsibility for the country and envision a future of jobs near their homes, a stable health care system, opportunities for retirement, energy independence and ensuring educational opportunities to give future children lives that are bigger and better.

“Colorado State, your generation can choose the path we take for this country — your vote will decide where we go from here,” Obama said.

Hickenlooper characterizes Obama as extremely committed, uplifting and filled with common sense, which translates into his policies to provide for Americans.

“President Obama most of all is driven by the need to leave a better future, build an opportunity for each and every one of you and for generations of Colorado to come, or to put it another way, Barack Obama has your back,” Hickenlooper said.

Smushed near the outer perimeter of the crowd was Richard Woldseth, a Wellington resident who brought his children, Julianna, 3, and Chase, 8 months, to teach them about the president.

“I wanted to give my children a chance to see the president, tell them about the president, and give them this experience at a young age,” Woldseth said. “My daughter knows the president, knows his name, where he lives, what he does. I talked to her yesterday about how she could be president when she grows up, and that the president can come from all sorts of different backgrounds.”

Obama focused on convincing the crowd that he would continue the work he started in his first presidential term.

“Will this be an America where no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter who you love, no matter what your last name is, you can pursue happiness?” Obama said. “That’s what the last four years have been about, Fort Collins. That’s what this campaign is about.”

Politics Beat Reporter Kate WInkle can be reached at news@collegian.com.