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Politics & Government

People had Plenty to Say To, and About, President Obama in Syracuse

Chenelle Terry/WAER News

Hundreds of students who attended President Obama’s speech in Syracuse cheered many of his points about making college more accessible.  The President repeated messages about how important education is… much higher incomes and lower unemployment for those with college degrees.  He also laid out a plan to help with rising costs.


Credit Chenelle Terry/WAER News

"And I don’t want debt to keep young people, some are here today, to go into professionals like teaching for example that may not pay as much money, but are of huge value to the country.  And I sure don’t want young people not to be able to buy a home, or get married, or start a business because they’re so loaded down with debt.  So what we’ve done is we’ve capped loan repayments at 10% of a student’s income after college.  We call it Pay as You Earn."

His plan includes a new ratings system for colleges that includes opportunity, and what students make after graduation.  He praised Syracuse’s Say Yes to Education program for helping students go to college.  An energetic Obama engaged the crowd in his 23 minute address, responding to an “I love you” in the crowd with “I love you too”…and complementing a heckler demanding a pardon for Bradley Manning, as respectful.  People waited many hours to get tickets, then hours more in security lines…100 or more with tickets never got in.  but most seemed uplifted to have attended the first presidential visit to Syracuse in at least 13 years. 


President Obama was greeted by a cheering crowd inside of Henninger High School’s gymnasium, but it was hard to miss the hundreds of “anti-fracking” protestors lined along the streets.

Attendees flooded into the gym to hear President Obama’s speech on education, but hundreds of gas-drilling opponents such as Renee Vogelsang protested outside in hopes that their voices would be heard.  

“We know fracking cannot be done safely. We want the president to embrace a renewable energy economy right now, not tomorrow, one that isn’t going to make people sick, that isn’t going to harm our drinking water, our food shed, our air, and provide good safe jobs with solar power wind, geothermal, hydro, we can do it right now”

Credit Chenelle Terry/WAER News
Margaret Wristoff brought her children

But even with strong emotions in the air, parent Margaret Wristoff, who attended the speech, says the commotion was actually… peaceful and valuable.

“I thought it was kind of neat for my kids to see that there’s two sides and that everyone could say what they wanted to say without it turning violent”

While some people had other agenda’s for heading to Henninger High School, most of President Obama’s audience left feeling touched by his words. Nottingham alum Marissa Jones sang the National Anthem at the event and says the president’s words gave her extra motivation to continue toward a higher education.

Credit Chenelle Terry/WAER News
Marissa Jones

“I felt very encouraged to just go to school and finish and graduate. Very overwhelming, I’m very humbled to be here and to just be a part of this, I’m speechless”

Hillside & Upward Bound, programs in Syracuse that focus on higher education preparation, were at the event. Some students say that with such a small community, it means a lot to them that the president chose their city and is working hard to make sure they can attend college.