At 8 a.m. Monday, when most of us hadn’t woken up for class yet, thousands of UNH students, faculty, staff and other community members were already bundled, caffeinated and waiting outside the Whittemore Center in hopes of hearing President Barack Obama at a rally for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Throughout the past year, UNH has hosted nearly every political candidate for the presidency, making our campus a bustling one. Students and faculty have been given intimate access to future and current presidents throughout this time, a privilege not many experience.
“The past few weeks have been crazy,” said Allie Williams ’19, a journalism major. “It’s cool to see the vibe on campus when so many non-students are here. We get to see firsthand what it’s like to have a huge rally.”
Indeed, “huge rally” is no exaggeration. Candidates have brought thousands of people to Durham. Obama’s visit alone brought more than 8,000 people, according to a Clinton campaign volunteer. Students don’t seem to mind the busyness that has encompassed campus, however.
“It’s a big deal, the president coming and all,” said Ben Nawn ’17, a communication major. “I think everyone’s been thrilled with the other rallies, and this topped it off.”
Nawn’s friend Matt Vlahos ’17, a business administration major, agreed. “The campus is very excited,” he said. “I haven’t seen much negativity at all. Everyone’s been respectful to each other through all of it.”
With the presidential election taking place the following day, the timing of the Obama visit was particularly profound. Many classes were cancelled because of the event, and several students used the time to wait in line for hours on end to hear him speak.
“We’ve been in line for almost three hours,” said Isaac Tousley ’18, a finance major. “The Bernie Sanders rally was really fun with the live music, and we wanted to see what this one had to offer.”
Sanders visited campus twice during campaign season, once during the lead-up to the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary and again with nominee Clinton this past September.
Additionally, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Gary Johnson, John Kasich, Martin O’Malley, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Jill Stein all have come to UNH's campuses during this election season.
Regardless of whom they would vote for, students at the Obama event agreed on one thing: Voting is absolutely crucial.
“I’ve learned how important it is to express our right to vote, especially in such a close election,” Tousley said.
“I think UNH students have truly shown how much they care about this election,” said Corey Scarano ’17, a journalism major.
Scarano is currently interning for NH1 News Network and was at the Whitt bright and early to help the news station set up.
“I know I’ll be voting, and the huge line outside the Whitt early this morning showed me that people are getting out there, educating themselves, too,” Scarano said.
The excitement continued inside the arena.
A member of the UNH men’s hockey team, sitting in the front row directly behind the stage, also stressed the importance of voting. “Our team feels honored to have had so many candidates speak where we spend most of our time,” Danny Tirone ’18, a finance major and goalie said of the Whitt. “I’m definitely voting. It’s so imperative to make your voice heard.”
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