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January 27, 2012 marked President Barack Obama’s second visit to the University of Michigan during his presidency. Obama first visited Ann Arbor back in 2010 when he was invited to be the honored keynote speaker at the spring commencement. This time, the president returned to U of M’s Al Glick Field House to address the pressing issues of college affordability and discuss the White House’s education proposals to a crowd of students, elected officials and guests. MIW alum Mark Chou stood in line along with thousands of others for hours in the cold Michigan winter air to receive his ticket and get a good spot in the field house.
"I've seen President Obama before,” Mark states, “when he was an Illinois state senator, a U.S. senator, and a candidate for president. But there's something special about seeing the President of the United States. Plus, he was standing in front of a whole crew of Wolverines with the Michigan flag hanging at the side which made it all the better. The feeling in the air as he entered the field house was electric."
Two MIW alumni, Eméfah Loccoh and Emily Gold, were given opportunities to be involved in the behind-the-scenes planning of President Obama’s visit to campus. Fall 2010 cohort member Maria Flores actually had the privilege of meeting and talking to President Obama.
Eméfah Loccoh participated in MIW during the winter 2011 semester. She interned at the White House, which led to her involvement in Obama’s visit to U of M. Like Eméfah, many other White House interns were also asked to help with the day´s activities. Her specific responsibilities involved driving the President’s press corps within the Presidential motorcade. When asked what her most memorable moment of the day was, she commented, "Waving at people from the motorcade and seeing their faces light up because someone “famous” from the President’s motorcade had just waved at them.”
Emily Gold, an MIW winter 2011 cohort member, interned in the political unit of CNN during her semester in DC. She returned to DC the following summer for another internship, which led to her involvement with Obama’s visit to U of M. "A family friend who was my boss at my summer internship at the CBS Evening News knew a person working on the advance team for the White House. He was looking for volunteers and asked if I was available,” she states. Emily helped with different aspects of press coverage, such as setting up the press designated area the night before, checking press credentials on the day of, and other tasks.
In addition to his discussion of education issues, President Obama also requested to meet with a member of the Latino community in the area. Fall 2010 MIW alum Maria Flores was asked to represent the immigrant and Latino communities in Michigan by the Alliance for Immigrant Rights and other Latino organizations. According to Maria, “They believed that I was the best candidate to represent them because I was undocumented for the majority of my life, the daughter of farm workers, and now an honors student at the University of Michigan.”
Maria embodies the American Dream and could relate to the importance of the DREAM Act and immigration reform. On the day of his visit, she was escorted in to the field house for a photo opportunity and meet-and-greet with the president and other distinguished figures such Michigan Senator Carl Levin. She states, “When it was my turn, I held his hand for about 30 seconds. I looked at him straight in the eye and thanked him for his support of the DREAM Act, told him a little about my history and asked him to fight for the immigrant community across this country.”
When asked about how she’ll remember this day, Maria comments, “This experience is one that I will never forget. It was a great honor to represent the immigrant and Latino communities, but also non-traditional students and the entire University of Michigan.”