Attendees offer reactions to Obama policy speech

University Park, Pa. -- In 2008, Penn State junior Chelsea Doub was just old enough to vote for the first time. The presidential election was a special one to her, not only because it was her first time voting but because one of the candidates was her role model, someone she identified with as the first person in her family to go to college and as a minority. Today, she got to hear him speak at her University, as president of the United States.

“I know that Barack Obama has motivated a lot of people in my generation,” Doub said. “Alternative energy is something our generation needs to worry about; it’s great to have our president make it a top priority. I think his message today let other students know just how important it is.”

Jess Pelliciotta, a senior political science major from Easton, Pa., is president of College Democrats at Penn State and chair of assembly for the University Park Undergraduate Association. She was thrilled to have the current president visiting Penn State to talk about alternative energy and the research Penn State has been doing.

“Pennsylvania is an interesting place where the older industries are closing, but is still on the forefront of making the country greener, while adding more jobs for the country,” she said. “The support the president is showing, coming to Penn State, shows the world that the U.S. wants to be a leader in cleaner energy. The U.S. must make a commitment to this effort, or we’ll be left behind.”

Rob Ghormoz, a senior political science major from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., said that having the opportunity to hear President Obama speak at Penn State was incredible.

“Having him here on campus shows just how important Penn State’s research is on a national level, how valuable it is to a growing industry,” he said. “I’m honored to be here to experience it.”

Penn State freshman and New Yorker Matt Kaye said he learned more about his University from President Obama’s speech. He said that he came to hear him speak because he thought it was extremely important to see his president in person, but had no idea that Penn State was a leader in alternative energy.

“I didn’t realize all the progress the University is making in energy and other environmental research,” Kaye, a history major, said.

Dustin Dove, a secondary education and political science double major and chief of staff for the University Park Undergraduate Association, was pleased with the president's remarks.

“I thought that he really took a good tone with Winning the Future, taking back our dependence on foreign oil, investing in newer, clean energies, especially at Penn State,” he said. “It's nice to talk about that in the abstract, but when you come to Penn State there's actually money coming here, funding research.”

And Sarah Gioia, a freshman studying psychology, from Elizabeth, Pa., said she was impressed that the president had a specific plan laid out on how the U.S will become a leader in alternative energy.

“He said what he intended to do and how he intended to do it – he was specific instead of just making empty promises,” she said. But that wasn’t even the most memorable part of the speech, to her. “My favorite part was when he said in this country you can get what you want as long as you put the work into it. As a college student studying all the time, it was great to hear that.”

She was also glad to hear he would be working on improving the job market, since it won’t be too long until she and her peers will be looking for work.

Jony Rommel, a public relations major from State College, Pa., worked on the Obama campaign in 2008 and now serves as public relations overall captain for THON 2011. She was one of 12 Penn State students invited to a Student Leadership Roundtable held at Rec Hall prior to the president's speech. Their discussion, led by Kal Penn of the White House Office of Public Engagement, focused on topics of concern to college students.

"Today we discussed a lot about tuition, specifically at Penn State and rising tuition, what an average student graduates with in terms of debt and how we can help that situation. We also talked about loans and grants and how we can send more students to college," she said. "We also talked about the cost of housing and how we can conquer that problem as well."

At the end of their discussion, she said, Obama spoke to them briefly and met each of the student leaders.

Other audience members in attendance at Rec Hall echoed sentiments similar to those of the college students. Betsy Huber, a member of the University's Board of Trustees and immediate past master of the Pennsylvania State Grange, traveled from Chester County, outside Philadelphia, to the University Park campus. She was pleased that Penn State students got the opportunity to hear the president speak on campus and that University's research was spotlighted.

"I thought it was great that he came to Penn State," she said. "Penn State does do an awful lot of research that is great for the future, and I thought it was great that he recognized the University in that way."

Karen Bryan, manager of facilities for the College of Communications, brought her daughter Hannah, a fifth grader at Houserville Elementary School. Bryan said she attended the speech with her daughter because she wanted them both to hear what he had to say about alternative energy.

"This is something that is going to touch everybody, not just myself or my daughter but the whole United States," she said. "And it's not an everyday opportunity, living in State College, that I can actually see the president in person and hear him in person as well."

Asked why she wanted to hear a policy speech, Hannah Bryan explained, "I just thought it would be nice to hear him for the first time." She was all smiles following the speech.

"He shook my hand and gave me a thumbs up."

To see photos from the president’s speech, visit http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/2420 and http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/2421 online.

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Last Updated March 21, 2011