The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 28, 2010

Participants, crowd relish Obama visit

OTTUMWA — President Barack Obama told Indian Hills Community College student William Wynn, of Albia, that he did a great job introducing him Tuesday.

“He told me not to be nervous, gave me a pat on the back and told me good luck,” Wynn said about his quick conversation with the president before he walked on stage to introduce him.

Obama held a town hall meeting Tuesday at IHCC in Ottumwa where he discussed jobs, the economy, health care and immigration, among other issues, with southeast Iowans. Nearly 2,100 people attended the event.

“Just being able to meet the president and shake his hand was an extreme honor,” said Wynn, who was selected by IHCC faculty to introduce the president. “Looking out and seeing all of the people in the audience blew my mind.”

Ann and Michael Koch of Fairfield sat in line in lawn chairs Tuesday afternoon. Though they agreed that their political beliefs were different, they were both ready to hear what the president had to say.

“He’s a practical man willing to compromise to get things done, and that is helping move us forward,” Michael Koch said. He considers himself an independent but called Obama the best president of his lifetime.

“I voted for him in 2008 and I’m going to vote for him in 2012,” Michael Koch said with confidence.

“I believe he’s done a fantastic job in the most difficult of situations,” Ann Koch said. “I don’t believe he’s interested in power as much as he is interested in truly serving humanity.”

Theresa Briggs of Melrose had similar opinions.

“I back him regardless of other people’s opinions,” she said. Briggs was waiting in line to hear the president speak with her sister, Candy Boucher of Centerville.

“Folks are well-behaved and I’m proud of that as an Iowan,” Boucher said.

Joy Fullenkamp-Durflinger of Agency took her oldest son, Brock, 8, out of school Tuesday so he could experience the event.

“I want to teach him that you have to be a person to take action,” she said. “And there’s a lot of positive energy around this event.”

Fullenkamp-Durflinger said she was interested in hearing about health care and legislation for small businesses. She was glad to see the president answer some tough questions on various issues.

The last time Joyce Newton of Hamilton, Ill., heard the president speak was in Fairfield in 2007.

“I think it’s great that he came to small-town America,” Newton said.

She said she was interested in what the president had to say about Wall Street or financial reform but wished he would have expanded on his thoughts.

“I was disappointed when he said that the Senate had once again voted against it,” she said.

Newton’s daughter, Julie Morales, is a student at IHCC. Morales was one of the few people in the audience able to ask the president a question. Her question was about immigration and undocumented workers.

Candace Acord of Iowa City heard the president speak last month in Iowa City and wanted to hear him again in Ottumwa.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “I think he’s an inspirational speaker. He motivates us to act and get involved.”

Jaylin Carter, a fifth-grade student at Wildwood Elementary School in Ottumwa, was surprised that Obama came to Ottumwa. She would have expected him to speak in Des Moines.

“He’s awesome,” Carter said, after the event. “He’s so exciting.”

Mitchell Bean, a sophomore at Indian Hills Commnuity College, sang the national anthem at the event. He has sung the song before in front of an audience, but nothing as large as Tuesday’s event.

“I just had to focus and tell myself not to be nervous,” said Bean of Columbus Junction. “I knew I could do it, but all the pressure was the hard part.

“I’m really tough on myself. I always strive to be better. I think it went pretty well,” Bean said of his performance. “It was really a neat experience just being able to do that.”

Pat Shaver can be reached at (641) 683-5360 or by e-mail at p.shaver@ottumwacourier.com.

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