Impressions of a President

by Melissa Brunner

Covering a Presidential visit is part excitement, part - frankly - boredom!, and a final dash of intense stress.

Why boredom? Well, here's the behind the scenes take on how the day unfolded for me and Photog Doug. We got up at 4am to be on the road at 5am and in Osawatomie not too long after 6:30am. The White House gave media from 6:30 to 7:30 am to get their equipment in place. From 7:30 am to 10:15 am, we were all kicked out while the Secret Service did its security sweep. A shout out here to the Whistle Stop Cafe, where many of us ended up for breakfast - and lots of coffee! But that only took us up to about 8:15! A little after 10, we went to stand in the media line to pick up our credentials. We had to be in place on the media platform by 11:15 - the event didn't happen until 1! And we couldn't walk around and talk to people in the crowd, either - we had to remain within a fenced-in area.

That said, it is the President and it's not often that we in Topeka, Kansas have a chance to hear the President speak in person. I covered three visits by Pres. George W. Bush, but this was my first time hearing Pres. Obama. Others who've heard him speak have said how compelling his is in front of a crowd and I would have to agree. He delivered a message with which a crowd in middle America could easily identify - this was the "Main Street" he's urging Wall Street to support. Who wouldn't applaud a vision of a better future for our children, with opportunity for all? I don't think I heard any of the catcalls or disagreement from the crowd that have marked some other appearances. The only negative reaction from the audience was when the announcer introducing the students who led the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem mispronounced "Osawatomie."

The stress came in the rush of activity that followed to get our story back to Topeka and ready for you to see in the 5 and 6 pm news! We grabbed some interviews from people on their way out and my best efforts to use our laptop editor were seemingly frowned upon by the computer gods, but it all worked out! (special thanks to coworkers who saw me through a mild sleep-deprived freakout!)

But back to the message.... I'm curious to hear what all of you thought about it. Are you in the camp with Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who told me afterward that the "devil's in the details" and the GOP disagrees with the President on how to achieve the goals? Or do you feel the President is on the right track, with extending the payroll tax and having wealthy people pay more in taxes? Discuss.

On a side note, we were told the high school wasn't the first location considered for the event, but the town's auditorium couldn't accomodate all that was needed for security, media and everything else. Perhaps that explains why there wasn't a more direct connection to students themselves - I say that even though the President did speak about education becoming a national mission and creating opportunities for the next generation. Since it was at the high school, I would have liked to see the students sitting as a big group in the audience. Instead, about 60 or so who got tickets were scattered about and many parents brought their children. Students without tickets could watch a feed streamed elsewhere in the school, however, parents also had the option of giving kids an excused absence because, with all the security and streets and parking lots around the school closed, there was no where for students to park and getting busses in would have been difficult. Still, on three days notice to pull it all together, the school district, the city and the county did a great job!




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