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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Dezmen Southward

Thursday's presidential visit, on and off Bascom Hill


Thousands packed Bascom Hill Thursday to hear President Barack Obama speak, with as many reasons between them.


Junior Ben Gluck was excited for the atmosphere; sophomores Paige Hopper and Braidan Bechard plan on voting for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney but wanted the “once in a lifetime” opportunity to hear the eloquent president; Jimmy John’s deliveryman Tanner Hawley biked up to Observatory to not deliver three sandwiches, as customers canceled their already-delivered orders once they passed the event’s entrance.


“[The day] has been kind of a hassle,” Hawley said.


Seventeen-year-old “Obama-fan” Shawn Perry skipped Thursday’s classes at Wilmont Union High School outside of Kenosha.


Obama’s visit drew salesman Jaime Jak to Madison from San Francisco; his ‘Hot Chicks for Obama,’ Angry-Birds and Andy Warhol-style pins were $1 for 5 and 3 for $10.


“I knew the Angry Birds were going to sell,” he said. 

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The commander-in-chief’s visit coincided with the semester’s first round of midterms. Schoolwork kept many students off of Bascom Hill, but none of the students trapped in College Library by early arrival of the president’s motorcade can argue that President Obama kept them from their books.


With officials from the various law enforcement agencies set to prevent entry and exit during the arrival and departure of the presidential motorcade (from 2:30 to 3 and 4:15 to 4:45), many students studying in the almost inaccessible library timed the end of their study sessions to the minute. When the officers at the library received orders to close off the library 10 minutes earlier than originally scheduled, bedlam ensued.


“This is how the Hunger Games started,” quipped librarian Don Rembert. “It feels like a lockdown…there’s a perimeter, [students] are just unable to get out.”


Trapped in the library, sophomore Willie Elsass couldn’t make it to his afternoon class—one moved from Bascom to Humanities to accommodate the president’s campaign stop. 

“I guess I don’t have class,” he said. “I guess I’m going to go back to studying.”


Not the worst punishment in the world, given the Friday midterm that brought him to the library in the first place.


Some especially frantic students attempted to leave the building through a side exit in the basement garage. Guided on their exodus by one bearded librarian, they were not seen in College Library again.


Senior Jeremy Schmid decided against the journey, opting to stay in the library lockdown. He spoke favorably of Obama’s first term, was “not excited” by the president’s visit to stump for the election.


“I don’t like that he’s spending the day in Wisconsin and not in Washington fixing the country,” he said, though he did understand the need for heightened security around the library steps away from the rally’s stage. “It seems [its so close] like you wouldn’t even need a good rifle.”


Less than twelve hours earlier, the first floor of the library was crowded with students working late into the night. Hours later, Schmid looked up from his paper due the next day at the same room—now relatively empty —with many of its former patrons likely devoting their day to getting as close to the stage on Bascom Hill as possible.


Cheers could be heard, faintly, in certain parts of the building.


Students were freed from College Library at 3:30, not 3, when Obama had safely arrived at the Education Building. In one of the library’s third floor study rooms, all the blinds were deliberately closed and marked with signs warning curious students that they would be approached by security.


The view from the north-facing third-floor windows was unobstructed. They offered some of the marooned a glimpse of two identical black Cadillac limousines snaking up Observatory Drive.

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