Conference call with president eases disappointment for Livingstone students
Livingstone College students, faculty and staff were among the thousands of people disappointed when they learned they wouldn't be able to hear President Barack Obama's acceptance speech on Sept. 6 because the venue was changed from Bank of America Stadium to Time Warner Cable Arena.
But they decided to just make the most of it.
Several students participated in a brief conference call with the president on the afternoon of Sept. 6, held for people who had community credentials but couldn't attend, and they also watched him accept his party's nomination to seek a second term in the White House at a watch party on campus.
The watch party was organized by Rodney Hughey, associate director of student activities. He said the party, held at the student union and attended by 60 students, was fun. Pizza and soft drinks were served, and the students often stood, clapped and cheered throughout the president's speech.
"The pizza and drinks didn't come until just before President Obama spoke," Hughey said. "The students had been there for at least an hour before that watching the other speeches and events taking place at the convention. The students were definitely engaged. With all of our voting efforts on campus it helped the students realize how important their vote will be now and as they progress in life."
Damion Cuthbertson was among the students who listened in on the president's conference call that Thursday.
"I thought it was tragic when I received the text message canceling my ability to get to see President Obama give his speech in person," said Cuthbertson, a freshman from Charlotte. "But when I heard President Obama's voice Thursday afternoon and he personally apologized, my spirits were lifted."
Deanca Crouch, also a freshman from Charlotte, agreed with Cuthbertson that hearing the president's voice took the sting out of not being able to see him in person.
"The fact that he apologized to all of those people and sort of outlined what he was going to say Thursday night shows he really cares about his supporters," Crouch said.
Crouch, who will be voting in a presidential election for the first time in November, said hearing President Obama's voice inspired her.
All last week, Livingstone students participated in functions held to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. On Sept. 2, the Blue Bears Marching Band, under the leadership of Director Sidney C. Sessoms, Jr., performed at a Delegate Welcome Event honoring North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee, held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
On Sept. 4, several Livingstone students participated in a Congressional Black Caucus Institute event hosted by Johnson C. Smith University. Titled UFUTURE College Summit, it featured Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. and other members of Congress. It was moderated by actresses Alfre Woodard and Nicole Ari Parker and actor Hill Harper, who attended Harvard Law School with the president.
On Sept. 5, about two dozen students participated in "Conversations with the Next Generation," at the Discovery Place IMAX Theater. Chelsea Clinton helped host the event. Dr. Jacqueline Gray, interim vice president of student affairs, Dr. Da'Tarvia Parrish, an associate professor of English, and Melissa Rivers, director of career services, accompanied the students.
"The Clinton family to my generation is like the Kennedy family to my mother's generation," said freshman Tanya Walker of Detroit. "It is simply a breath of fresh air to see the Clintons endorsing President Obama, all the while engaging the younger generation and reiterating to me just how important my voice is. Chelsea Clinton was passionate, knowledgeable and sincere. I love her."
Nothing can substitute for seeing the president in person, but Dean of Students Manuel McGriff said he's proud of the students for not letting their disappointment lead to apathy.
"They were upset because they really had their hearts set on witnessing history," McGriff said.
"But participating in the conference call with President Obama and attending the watch party helped them regain the excitement they'd been feeling all week.
"Our students realize what's most important isn't being able to say they saw the president in person but rather that they exercise their right to vote on Nov. 6. They realize what's most important is helping to elect the man they think can get this country back on its feet, the man they feel truly wants what's best for college students and people of color."