Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post

Hours of preparation pave Obama's path to College Green

Days of planning and hours of waiting on sidewalks preceded President Barack Obama’s half-hour speech in Athens Wednesday, but many said it was well worth the effort.

By 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Athens Police and Engineering and Public Works departments were closing off streets and, an hour later, students were already forming lines to see Obama.

Within that time, city and university employees, police officers, sheriff deputies and Secret Service agents had worked tirelessly to ensure Obama’s visit would be safe and secure.

“Everything went smoothly, and the Secret Service is great to work with,” Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said. “It’s really grueling for our officers, though, with long hours on foot patrol; it’s just like a fest or Halloween.”

Aside from security preparations, Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly said it is very exciting and an honor to have Obama in town.

“We recently had the football team crack the (Associated Press) Top 25, and now a visit from the president,” Kelly said. “It’s just a great reflection of the Athens community.”

Kelly said he first saw a United States president when Lyndon B. Johnson visited Athens in 1964 and had not seen another president until Obama.

In the past century, Obama is the 11th president to visit Athens and the only sitting president to visit since Johnson.

“It was certainly a historic day at Ohio University,” said Ryan Lombardi, interim vice president of Student Affairs.

Lombardi said he was able to meet Obama before he went onstage. He said they spoke about how things were going at OU and that the president commented on how beautiful Athens is.

“He was very easygoing and was extremely gracious,” Lombardi said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing to meet him.”

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl, who welcomed the crowd before Obama took the stage, said he was asked to speak at the rally and that the opportunity is not one to be turned down lightly.

The preparations looked “chaotic” at times, Wiehl said, but he added he was confident that both local law enforcement and the Secret Service were well able to make the event happen.

Wiehl said the speech was strong and covered all of the important talking points of Obama’s campaign.

“The most important thing I took away from (the speech) is that he is asking for assistance, asking for our vote,” Wiehl said.

In between calls for attendees to vote, Obama explained his stance on a variety of issues and how these opinions differed from Romney.

Obama spoke about student issues for a few minutes, which resonated with some in the crowd, while others felt the topic required more attention.

“I wish the major issue was education. After WWII when Japan got leveled, they put everything they had into education and they became a powerhouse,” said Dave Gustafson of The Plains. “Now we are draining education while we have such a bloated military budget.”

The crowd cheered and laughed consistently throughout Obama’s speech, following his every word and often shouting out to him to join in the conversation.

But, soon after he took the stage, it was already over and the president was closing his speech.

“Thank you, Ohio! I love you,” he said. “Thank you.”

Soon after, maintenance and event workers were tearing down fencing and the stage, while attendees shuffled out with empty water bottles at their feet.

A helicopter flew through the darkness overhead, and people stopped and waved eagerly.

One young woman looked wistfully over her shoulder, looked up at what may have been the president thousands of feet above.

“Why’d you have to leave? Just stay here.”

—Allan Smith and Brandon Carte contributed to this report.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH