Obama’s speech draws student crowd

By Gretchen Andersen

The folks up on Capitol Hill can be an entertaining lot, especially when televised.

President… The folks up on Capitol Hill can be an entertaining lot, especially when televised.

President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address last night, and Pitt students gathered to watch as he addressed a range of topics including education and job opportunities — issues that have direct relevance for college students.

Laughs and applause came often during the President’s address as students watched Speaker of the House John Boehner and Vice President Joe Biden get into a bit of a nudge war, trading friendly elbows after some of Obama’s more controversial points.

The watch party was hosted by Pitt College Democrats, and more than 45 people attended.

Before the State of the Union began, City Councilman Bruce Kraus appeared before students and community members for a half hour question-and-answer session.

Kraus answered quiries about fundraising, campaigning, public safety, over-consumption of alcohol and reaching out to constituents — some of the topics Obama also covered.

“Always address your constituency,” he said. “People don’t vote with their minds — and I don’t mean for that to be taken offensively — but with their emotions. If you establish an emotional connection with a constituent, you will have their vote.”

Grad student Henry Goodelman, who’s enrolled in the School of Education, said he was impressed by Kraus.

“I thought he had a really good perspective on City Council relations with the entity of his constituency, students and regular citizens,” Goodelman said.

Students weren’t the only ones who attended, though.

Gustavo Envela, a Mt. Lebanon resident who said he was working to become a presidential candidate in Equatorial Guinea, also came to William Pitt Union to watch the address.

Envela was born in Equatorial Guinea and moved to Oregon when he was very young. He competed in the Olympics as a sprinter for Equatorial Guinea and then studied at Stanford University, where he said he received bachelor’s degrees in political science and African studies.

While watching the address, Envela was enthused when Obama spoke of American democracy.

“It was very motivational to realize that Obama sees that the world is a big arena, and the U.S. is a launching pad for dreams to come true,” Envela said.

Many of the students reciprocated Envela’s enthusiasm, breaking out into cheers during breaks in the speech.

When Obama said that troops will start coming back home in July, voices shouted “Hell Yeah!” and plenty of “woos” echoed in the room.

Students also cheered when Obama said “we are home to the world’s best colleges and universities.”

As Obama spoke of Boehner and his rise from a modest upbringing in Ohio to Speaker of the House, students screamed “He’s crying!”

College Democrats president Matthew DiFiore said that the turnout was excellent. Vice President Nneoma Njubigbo said the group began organizing the watch party two weeks ago.