American flags plastered to the walls. A young boy riding the shoulders of his father. An array of television cameras splayed on risers. Even comedian Dave Chappelle bobbing through the crowd in sunglasses.
These were the sights of Wright State University’s Student Union on Sept. 12 when Vice President Joe Biden made a campaign stop, attracting about 500 people for a political pep rally.
Hours earlier, a line stretched out the front entrance of the Student Union as people attending the rally crept through metal detectors.
Kelsey Pohl, a 19-year-old musical theatre major from Detroit, called the rally “a great opportunity.” She and a friend had been in class a few days earlier when they heard that tickets were being distributed on campus.
“We were dying to get out, and we couldn’t; we were staring at the clock,” she said. “We ran over to get tickets and there were 20 left.”
Pohl said the rally was a chance for her to become more educated about politics.
“I find a lot of people my age don’t actually know what’s going on; they think they do, but they don’t,” Pohl said. “I want to hear as many people as I can whenever I can.”
As the crowd began to swell inside the Student Union Apollo Room, sound technicians fed the festive atmosphere by launching a musical playlist featuring U2, Florence and the Machine, James Taylor, Wilco, Sugarland and Arcade Fire.
Those who spoke at the rally included Luis Luiggi, a Wright State student and Navy Reservist from Huber Heights who spent a year deployed in Afghanistan.
“Thanks to the G.I. Bill, I was able to attend Wright State to study history and become a teacher,” Luiggi told the crowd.
Biden arrived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base at noon and motorcaded over to the university.
“It’s good to be here at Wright State,” said Biden, drawing a roar from the crowd.
During his speech, Biden condemned the recent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead. Biden also touched on jobs, the auto industry, the military and the challenge of financing a college education.
Biden’s 35-minute speech was sprinkled with references to Ohio and Wright State. But in the crowd’s opinion he fell one reference short.
“For those of you struggling to send your kids to school, to college, or to keep your kid in college, in community college, or Wayne State University, or any college in America…,” Biden began.
The crowd believed he had meant to say Wright State and shouted that out to him.
“Wright State,” Biden replied. “It also includes Wayne State.”
Following his speech, Biden waded into the crowd to shake hands.
Luiggi said the rally was energizing for Wright State students.
“I don’t know what percent of the population we are,” he said, “but we could actually get on the streets and change people’s votes.”