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Barack Obama speaks to Las Vegas Students

By Kyra Hall

On June 7, 2012, an impressive crowd gathered to hear President Barrack Obama speak at the Cox Pavilion on a sunny summer afternoon. Free tickets were distributed from the Cox Pavilion’s box office in the days leading up to the speech. The excitement was palpable from the line leading to the security checkpoint.  Just half an hour after the doors first opened, the room was a packed.


A grand American flag served as the backdrop for the inspiring scene. All the people there, young and old, students and veterans, Republicans and Democrats, were there to listen to the Commander in Chief speak. Video cameras were set up on elevated platforms, and volunteers were bustling about to get everyone seated.


There was never a ceasing of the spectators’ movements. The standing floor was flooded with camera-wielding citizens waiting to catch a photo of their president. The crowd stood for the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and a stirring performance of the National Anthem. It was another half hour before the president took the stage to explosive applause and chants of “four more years.” It took a moment to settle the crowd enough for President Obama to be heard.


Obama began with a discussion of student loan rates. “A strong educational base,” the president says, is essential for a growing economy. “Education is an investment,” says the president. He talks about the state of the job market, and how unemployment among college graduates is less than among those who do not have a higher education. He discussed the jobs bill he proposed, which Congress has only just begun to pass and only partially. He listed things Congress should be doing in order to help the economy recuperate.


He discussed how home loans, like student loans, need to be made more affordable. The president asked that Congress make it possible for all responsible homeowners to refinance their homes at today’s low rates. He went on to discuss how industries like clean energy will help build jobs in Nevada. Understanding that this is an election year, he asked Congress to take these actions before “going on vacation” from legislative work and focusing on their reelection.


Federal student loan rates are due to double by the end of this month unless Congress acts. Obama said that this would add an average of a thousand dollars a year to each student’s debt. He mentioned that it was only eight years ago that he and his wife, Michelle, finally finished paying off their student loans. He goes on to say that he wants students to “know before you owe,” emphasizing the importance of understanding the responsibility of student loans.


A plan is now in place to make payment of student loans easier after graduation. According to the president, students who keep up with their loan payments will be rewarded by having their monthly payment adjusted to just ten percent of their income after graduating. Colleges and Universities are encouraged to keep tuition low by the president, and he suggests that funding be given to those schools that endeavor to make quality education affordable for their students.


“Here in America,” Obama said, “we admire success … we work and study for it.” He stressed that all Americans should have the right to a great education to “Build an America that lasts!” He encouraged the crowd to contact their congressional representatives and demand that the student loan rates not be raised. “Never forget that your voice matters,” President Obama said to ecstatic applause. His closing remarks were nearly drowned out by cheers from the crowd.


Obama’s speech today was well received by the crowd, but the actual political implications remain to be seen. The end of the month will show whether or not the speech raised enough public support to prevent student loan rates from doubling.

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