elsiestormberg & collettegillaspieOn Wednesday, Jan. 13, roughly 11,000 people snaked around the front of the Baxter Arena to hear President Barack Obama speak. All bundled up with drenched feet from the melted snow, fans and political enthusiasts began lining up at 5:30 a.m. because people were not assigned seats with their tickets.
“I woke up at 4:35 a.m. and made it to Baxter at 5:30 a.m. There were only two people there. It was this other guy in front of me and then me,” sophomore Erica Curtis said.
Eventually, other people began to trickle in. Newscasters arrived to interview people waiting in line. Surrounded by former and current senators, Curtis sat proudly behind President Obama as he gave his speech.
“I got great seats! I sat in section 118, row one, really close to Obama,” Curtis said.
By midday, police cars, buses, and tra c clogged Center Street. Lines wove back and forth through an adjacent parking lot. The wait was treacherous.
“I was not early at all, so I stood in line for at least two hours and 45 minutes,” junior Lexi Riley said. “Eventually, I got tired of that, so I acted like I was talking on the phone and just walked in front of people who were closer to the door. So, basically, I cut.”
Doors opened at 1 p.m., and a huge line of shuttles formed. Due to all the people, bus drivers were told to keep all passengers inside the shuttles.
Protesters anked the sidewalks along Center Street. The activists came from all walks of life. Self-proclaimed Born Again Christians admonished people in line for coming to support President Obama. Pro-Life supporters held up abortion pictures and condemned the president for protecting the rights to an abortion.
However, the majority of people in line waited eagerly to see the president. “It was so nice out, and everyone was so happy to be there. The person in front of us was an older woman who needed to be in a wheelchair. She refused to sit because she was
so excited, and she wanted to walk,” junior Julia Hautzinger said.
After waiting in line outside, fans went into Baxter Arena for coat and bag checks from the Secret Service. People quickly filled Baxter Arena’s 7,500 seats. The hordes of people made ushers’ jobs difficult. Many had to stand. Some seats were more desirable than others.
“At first they sat us right behind the press box, but we couldn’t see, and
we wanted good seats after waiting so long. When we told them we were moving, the usher got really mad at us and told us we could not move. Then, he turned around, and we moved,” sophomore Andie Mikuls said.
Finally, the time came to see President Obama. Audience members craned their heads for a view of the president when he arrived at 4:30 p.m. This was the rst time a sitting president has visited UNO, and this was the rst time President Obama had been to Omaha since 2008.
“He’s so personable and charismatic, and his smile was beautiful,” Hautzinger said.
Applause and shouts of agreement peppered President Obama’s speech. “I think it was funny to watch the crowd react to Obama,” senior Nithali Sridhar said.
Certain parts of his speech appealed greatly to the audience. “I liked how Obama made it clear that people on food stamps are not to blame for the economy,” Curtis said.
Though his speech echoed his State of the Union from the prior night, President Obama added some Nebraskan personal touches. “It surprised me when he said, ‘Go Mavericks!’” Curtis said.
President Obama was casual and amiable throughout the duration
of his speech. “I liked how he was so easygoing, and he wasn’t super formal. He talked about Omaha at the beginning, and it was really cool,” Mikuls said.
After speaking for an hour, the President of the United States bid adieu to the crowd and exited Baxter Arena. Fans were in awe.
“Seeing him alone is an honor in itself. It was a pep talk for America,” Sridhar said.
Riley, who admires President Obama, agreed. “I thought it was amazing. I loved the experience, and it was indeed worth the wait,” Riley said.