By Courtney Steiner
On Friday, Jan. 21, President Barack Obama spoke at General Electric in Schenectady, New York about the importance of expanding the economy and making America more competitive by investing in jobs, innovation and clean energy. The Concordiensis, represented by News Editor Tess Koman ’13 and Senior Photographer Courtney Steiner ’12, joined the pre-credentialed press corps in the lead factory of GE’s largest energy division to witness this unforgettable moment in Schenectady history.
As I stood in front of my dresser this morning, the angel and devil on my shoulder debated over what I should wear. After all, how often does one get to cover the President of the United States’ appearance in her college town? The angel (my mother who was actually on the phone) argued for a polished look whereas the devil (the lingering teenager in me) thought it would be kind of cool to represent Union at Barack Obama’s visit to the General Electric plant today.
The devil won out and I was glad. As Courtney and I trekked to the farthest possible door marked ‘Media Entrance,’ I wondered if I would even get close enough for my handheld recorder to pick up Obama’s voice. After checking in, receiving our totally legit press passes (that were to be in plain sight at all times), and being thoroughly searched and sniffed by dogs, we were discouraged to find out that the media section wasn’t as decked out as the ‘Distinguished Persons Area.’ We found our way to a little stage about fifteen feet away from the podium where Obama would speak in just a few short hours. Not armed with the fully-equipped cameras and microphones and headsets of the official press corps, we claimed the very back corner. That’s when the devil came in handy.
“Oh hey! Are you two from Union College?” asked a reporter from the White House television crew. When we told him we were, he allowed us some space further down on the stage with a clear view of Barack Obama himself. From then on, all of the aggressive reporters wanted to know if we were reporting for our school paper, and we were so excited to tell them we were! As I finally inched to the front of the stage, I noticed President Ainlay in the front row of the Distinguished Persons Area, and as soon as he saw my Union T-shirt, he gave me a big thumbs up.
Obama arrived quickly with the CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt. After a brief introduction by the CEO, Obama took the stage and proceeded to rave about the progress that the plant has made and how Schenectady shows a bright and promising future. While I did not agree with everything the President said, it was hard for me not to notice his ease at the podium. I loved that he opened with a Jets joke and talked about how thrilled Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton was to have experienced Air Force One. He addressed the Distinguished Persons, the Congressmen and Congresswomen in attendance, and spent equal time acknowledging all of the G.E. workers in the room. It was kind of magical to watch one of the most powerful men in the world address an enraptured room. This was by far the biggest event to hit Schenectady in awhile—and it was less than three hours of Barack Obama’s day.
I ended the day on the phone with my mom who wanted to know all about the day’s events, as well as what I had decided to wear on the day the President came to Schenectady. I sent her a picture I snapped on my camera of Obama gesturing not even twenty feet away from me. Needless to say, the devil won out on this one.
Tess Koman, News Editor