Marchae Grair

KENT: Kent State’s campus was filled late Wednesday afternoon with an energy that had not been seen in years, when a sitting president last visited Kent.

President Barack Obama’s appearance brought out spirited members of the community, students and even a few protesters to the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center and surrounding areas of campus.

People who stood in line earlier in the week were inside the arena to see the president, but many others were near the M.A.C. and the campus food court, known as the student center.

“We’re longtime residents of Kent, and we’ve always been supporters of Obama,” said Mike Pacifico, a Kent resident who attended the event with his wife, Kendra. “We’re here to take in the essence of a president coming to this town for the first time in 80 to 100 years.”

Crowds of Obama supporters held green campaign signs supplied by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees outside the M.A.C. Center. A few protesters, disputing pensions for retirees of Delphi, a Northeast Ohio auto-parts company, stood outside next to supporters before the speech, but left before the speech started.

Scores of supporters

The crowd outside the arena was populated mostly with young people who said they supported the president’s college initiatives.

“I came today to support Barack Obama because he supports the college students like me,” said Shamara Costa, a KSU student who stood outside during the speech.

Some in the student center watched the speech on a large television.

“I think it’s really cool, especially since Kent’s a really historical school,” said Hanna Richards. “It’s funny watching it on TV, and he’s 100 feet away from us, and it’s cool to see Kent in the spotlight.”

“Right now, Kent is the most important place in the United States,” added Jordan Garber, who watched the speech at a table with Richards.

The two friends joined in the applause, laughter and standing ovations from enthusiasts who couldn’t get inside for the speech.

Those who were interested in Obama’s visit were in the company of others who wanted to eat and work on their studies.

“I don’t really follow politics,” said Jared Stadden, a Kent State student.

Stadden was in the minority of people who were just following their regular routine.

“I was really enthused through the whole thing,” said student Marisa Manocchio, who said she is an aspiring teacher. “He really kept me excited for what could be for this country. Moving forward. Obviously, I was here. I want him to be our next president. I feel that he is the best choice, especially for students. … He definitely beat the opponent in everything.”

Other people in the community said they were pleased with the president’s speech.

“I thought he did a good job connecting with college students and their concerns,” said Kent resident Jeff Child. “It was nice to see him address on a university campus issues that the young voters can care about and react to. I support the president. Whenever you get a chance to listen to a president come to your campus, I think it’s our obligation to come and listen to what he says and respect the office.”

Obama’s speech helped him reconnect with some existing supporters.

“He speaks directly to me as a teenager, Democratic … he’s just perfect,” said Kent State student Catie Callow. “He’s everything that I stand for, and he’s got my back, so I have his.”

Marchae Grair can be reached at mgrair1@kent.edu.