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Thursday, February 22, 2024 — Houston, TX

Students meet Obama

By Josh Rutenberg     3/14/12 7:00pm

On a rainy Friday afternoon, packed tightly into the Union Station room at Minute Maid Park with more than 500 other people, four Rice University students waited anxiously for the president to arrive.

President Barack Obama made a stop in Houston last week as part of a fundraising campaign for his re-election bid.

The Rice Young Democrats received an invitation from a representative for the Obama re-election campaign for four students to attend the event.

The organization passed the opportunity on to Hanszen College senior Myles Bugbee, Hanszen freshman Zack Kopplin, Will Rice College junior Julian Yao and Will Rice sophomore Angela Guo the night before the event.

While the general public could purchase tickets for $500 apiece, students were able to purchase tickets for $25, a 95 percent discount.

In his speech, Obama discussed a wide range of topics, including a need to invest in education and make college more affordable for everyone.

The president also touched on the national economic recovery and talked about ending discrimination against pre-existing conditions for health care.

Furthermore, he mentioned he supported establishing equal pay for equal work, particularly with regard to gender disparities.

Bugbee noted that Obama mingled with audience members during the event.

"He waved and worked the front part of the crowd," Bugbee said of the president. "People were swarming wherever he was, but two of us got to actually shake his hand."

While waiting for the president to give his speech, the students met up with White House Deputy Press Secretary Joshua Earnest (Sid Richardson '97).

Earnest, a family friend of Kopplin, was traveling with the president, Guo said.

The group sent several text messages and emails to Earnest during their wait to let him know they were in attendance.

Earnest spoke with the students about his experiences in the White House and recalled his days at Rice, Guo said.

Guo mentioned that Earnest said he had been quite involved on-campus during his undergraduate years, even serving as a Beer Bike coordinator.

Bugbee said he is working with the Baker Institute to try setting up a student meeting with Earnest sometime in the near future.

The event primarily consisted of middle-aged individuals, Bugbee said. However, the Rice contingent did get the chance to meet a handful of students from other universities, such as Texas Southern University and University of Houston.

The four students arrived early to the event that day but ultimately stood for more than four hours before hearing the president speak. Air Force One had been delayed due to weather concerns.

Mayor Annise Parker (Jones '78), Congressmen Al Green, Gene Green and former mayor Bill White were also in attendance, Guo said.

The whole experience was one Guo said she would never forget.

"It's cool how the Young Dems offered us the opportunity," Guo said. "Not that many schools let you see the president of the United States."

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