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Excitement Builds for President Obama's Visit to Northwestern

Students Thursday talk

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Student excitement built quickly at Northwestern University after President Barack Obama’s historic visit to the Evanston campus this Thursday (Oct. 2) was announced Tuesday by the University and the White House. 

Students hoped to snag a limited number of highly coveted tickets to Obama’s speech on the economy, but they said if they didn’t get to see him person, they planned to watch the live-streamed event at a campus viewing location. 

“I’m super excited,” said Prachi Jalan, 25, a first-year student at the Kellogg School of Management from Delhi, India, who was walking through the Jacobs Center Tuesday. “I would love to hear him speak and hear everything he has to say.” 

“I know the campus will be crazy when he comes,” predicted Jessica Arnold, 20, a junior in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) from Charlotte, North Carolina.  

“His visit puts things into perspective,” Arnold added. “Being a college student and being in this bubble, you don’t get to see how things play out in the bigger picture and the bigger world. Seeing him here, you see, maybe that could be one of us some day. I’m interested in social policy, so his coming is really great to see how the things that I’m studying can be put into work.” 

Campus-wide curiosity and speculation was sparked Monday as a number of helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft practiced for the presidential visit and landed on the soccer field on the landfill along the lake on the northern part of the Evanston campus. 

Obama will deliver a message on the economy to University and Kellogg students. This will be the first visit to Northwestern by a sitting president in 60 years and Obama’s second official campus visit. In 2006, before he was a presidential candidate, then-Senator Obama was Northwestern’s Commencement speaker and received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University. 

Students said Obama’s upcoming visit also reflected the University’s prestigious national reputation. Several students had seen Obama talk at their high schools or former colleges when he was a senator and wanted to see him again.   

Kevin Pukala, 25, a first-year Kellogg student from Chicago, said he hoped to get picked in the selection of students who would get seats in the auditorium for the speech. 

“It’s really cool to have the opportunity to hear him speak,” said Pukala, who saw the president speak as a senator in Pukala’s high school in the western suburbs. If he had a chance to ask the president a question, Pukala said he might ask him for post-MBA career advice. But, he acknowledged, “I’d probably be speechless in front of him.” 

Vanessa Beckhoff, 26, a Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications student from Caracas, Venezuela, said Obama’s visit “speaks a lot about how important this University is on the national level.” What would she ask the president? “As a young person…what would he recommend I do to make my country evolve and get better?” she said. 

Arnold, the SESP student, said if she got the chance to talk with Obama she would ask him what motivates him. “What drove him to do all the things he’s done in the world?” she wondered. “I think that’s really interesting for a leadership figure.” 

His answer, she added, might inspire her as she considers, “Why I’m here and what I want to do.”

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