Audience reaction to President Obama’s VCU rally

Posted at 4:28 PM, May 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-05-06 16:32:19-04

EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Those VCU students reported the following story.

By Carliss Hardy and Amber Shiflett (Special to

RICHMOND, Va. – Lewis Johnson was right in the middle of VCU’s Siegel Center when President Barack Obama started his reelection campaign there on Saturday afternoon. “Four more years!” and “Move forward, not back!” roared the crowd of 8,000 people around him.

“It feels electric, it feels exciting. It feels like something great is going to happen,” said Johnson, an Obama supporter.

VCU head basketball coach Shaka Smart, who spoke out about his support for the president at the event, said he felt Obama’s human side makes him easy to relate to.

“A lot of things stood out to me,” Smart said. “I think what he said at the end about the fact that he’s not perfect, he’s not a perfect president and he wakes up every morning trying to help the American people, I believe that.”

Looking forward to the presidential election in November, Smart said that it is simply up to the people.

“It’s just going to come down to how many people, like the people here, are willing and able to help,” he said.

Many of the supporters at the rally believe that it is going to take a lot of effort to get Obama re-elected, but they showed great enthusiasm after the president rallied them at the event. Johnson said that he would like to see the president follow through on his words, if he is elected for a second term.

“I think when he makes a promise, he’s got to stand beside it. Do what you said you were going to do and make sure you don’t forget about the low class and the middle class,” Johnson said.

Bernard Wallace, another Obama supporter at the rally, said that the president needs more time to be an effective president.

“He’s only just begun. I think a lot of people forgot the state the country was in when he took over,” Wallace said. “I think a lot of people ignored the roadblocks that he’s encountered to try and turn the country around and he really needs our support.”

Although many of the supporters referred to the state of the country before Obama took office in January 2009, Danny Cotlow felt it was important to note the strength of this country and the many situations it has overcome in the recent past.

“Between the wars that we’ve had … this is a nation that will survive and grow and develop. We’ll still be the greatest country on the face of the earth,” Cotlow said.

When the president stressed the importance of getting the economy back on track, Martha Dugan felt that it was one of Obama’s most important points in his speech and that he is helping the country make economic progress.

“It’s all about the economy and even though the economy is not where is should be, we’re moving in the right direction,” Dugan said. “We’ve had 25 months of job growth, economic growth in this country. Republicans can say what they want, but he’s doing it.”

The main focus of the people in the audience was on the economy and Obama’s signature issues such as healthcare. Gloria and Jake Rickle said they are certain that the president will continue to work towards his goals of national healthcare, because it is a critical issue for the nation. Gloria Rickle said that Congress is the main reason healthcare policy is in its current state.

“That is probably the most urgent thing we see … we just have to get rid of these crazy people in the Congress that have no understanding of economics and they’re ruining the country,” she said.

The decisive votes that helped to elect Obama four years ago came from young Americans. The national co-chair of Obama’s re-election campaign, VCU student Sai Iyer, expressed his faith in Obama’s reelection and the importance of the youth vote.

“It is important for students and youth to recognize that in November every issue is a youth issue,” said Iyer, who addressed the crowd before the president and the first lady.

After the rally, the president’s supporters seemed excited again to campaign for him. Keeping this excitement alive throughout the next six months will be key to Obama’s re-election efforts as Virginia is again considered one of the key battleground states in this election.

This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.