President Obama brings his re-election campaign to UM for a grassroots rally

Coral Gables (October 11, 2012) — With her ticket firmly in hand, Tracy McLeod was one of the first in line. The University of Miami doctoral student arrived outside UM’s BankUnited Center at 8:30 on Thursday morning, intent on securing a good seat to “see and show support for the man I’ll always relate to because of his journey,” she said.

McLeod, 34, was talking about President Barack Obama, whose re-election campaign rolled onto the UM campus once again on October 11, this time for a Grassroots Event focusing on his administration’s achievements and plans to improve the economy and create jobs.

“I’ve heard Obama say how he was a poor college student who struggled and had to take out loans,” said McLeod, who will graduate with a Ph.D. in special education in May. “I’ve had to endure those same hardships, trying to make ends meet. So I can relate to him, and that’s why I came to this rally.”

Obama rallied support for his economic and jobs policies, telling the crowd he needed their help “to finish what we started.”

Once inside UM’s BankUnited Center, McLeod and some 9,200 others—which included an overflow audience at the UM Fieldhouse—heard an energized Obama say he needs their help “to finish what we started.”

“We’ve got some work to do, Miami,” said Obama, who was introduced by UM freshman Elizabeth “Lizzie” Cooke, a music business major who attended the president’s inauguration. “We’ve got an election to win. In just over two weeks, you get to start voting early…and everything we fought for in 2008 is on the line in 2012.”

From an end to hostilities in Iraq to the passage of a health care bill, the repeal of “Don’t ask, don't tell,” and tax cuts for small businesses and the middle class, Obama noted some of the campaign promises he’s kept.

“We reinvented a dying auto industry that’s come roaring back to the top of the world,” said the president. “Four years after the worst economic crisis of our time, we are moving forward. After losing 800,000 jobs the month I was sworn in, businesses have added 5 million new jobs in the last two years.”

Students lined up early for Thursday's rally. They began picking up their free tickets for the event on October 8 at the BankUnited Center Ticket Office.

Obama criticized Mitt Romney’s economic policies and proposed tax cuts, saying the Republican presidential nominee’s plan won’t create jobs, help the middle class, or expand opportunity. “Jobs and prosperity” don’t trickle down, said Obama. “They grow from a strong and thriving middle class.”

The president also called for investing in clean energy, wind, solar, and clean coal technology; hiring 100,000 new math and science teachers; and using the money saved from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges.

It was Obama’s third visit to UM as president and his second to the Coral Gables campus in the last 21 days. Last February he touted his energy policies at a rally inside the UM Fieldhouse. And on September 20 he returned to that location, discussing issues important to the Hispanic community during a town hall-style conversation with Univision anchors Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos.

UM freshman Atesha Gifford, an international finance and marketing major from Washington, D.C., said she was ecstatic to attend the rally because it gave her an opportunity to learn more about Obama. “This will be my first election as a voter,” she said.

U-nified: Rally attendees make the U sign.

Belgium tourist Jelle Van Regemortel and his girlfriend, Barbara Geeroms, were visiting the UM campus on Thursday when they learned Obama was coming for a rally. They took a place in line at about 10 a.m., hoping someone would give them some extra tickets to the event. Their luck came through when Jasmine Michaels, a freshman from Florida International University, and another good Samaritan donated their extra ticket.

“It’s not every day you can see the president of the United States,” Van Regemortel said.

Hollice Hamilton and his wife, Dinette, both retired, attended the rally wearing Obama T-shirts that read “Our President, Yes We Can.”

Prior to the rally, the scene outside BankUnited Center buzzed with activity as vendors sold Obama buttons, T-shirts, and hats. Bonnie Osborne, a retired school administrator, bought four buttons and plans to “proudly display them and keep them for historical purposes.”

UM has invited Romney, who last visited UM on September 19, to return to campus prior to the election.

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President Obama makes the ever-popular U sign. It was his second visit to the UM campus in 21 days.

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