University of Miami students Maximo Soler and Emily Young received a seemingly suspicious phone call questioning their views on certain political issues. They were asked to explain why they were drawn to President Barack Obama’s campaign.
Four days later, on Sept. 20, they were invited to lunch with the President of the United States.
“From the second he said, ‘you’re going to meet him,’ I was just too excited to listen to anything else,” said Young, a junior who serves as a campus team leader for Canes for Obama and is currently an intern in the Media Relations office at UM's School of Communication.
The lunch, which was an unregistered campaign event, was organized for “first-time voters.” Soler – a senior who interned with Obama for America – and Young were joined by Leslie Redmond, a junior at Barry University in Miami Shores.
Before eating, the three students signed “pledge to vote” cards and handed them to Obama. According to Young, a Public Relations and Political Science major, the president made some remarks when the students handed him the cards.
“His exact words were: ‘I want to be sure that everyone knows that you all are on the case,’” she said.
The lunch took place after Obama spoke at the “Meet the Candidates” Town Hall event hosted by Univision at the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse on Thursday.
The students arrived for the Univision event and were greeted by a campaign leader. At one point, their cellphones were taken away, and they were driven to OMG! Burgers, located near Sunset Place Mall.
They arrived at the burger joint at around 3 p.m. and waited for the president to arrive in his motorcade. Meanwhile, the students ordered and ate their burgers.
According to both Soler and Young, the restaurant workers were not informed that Obama would be making a visit until 15 minutes before his arrival.
“It really felt like an out-of-body experience,” Young said. “It was like organized chaos.”
When Obama arrived, he greeted customers and interacted with the younger crowd. He then sat down with his guests, collected the voter pledge cards and began eating his lunch.
“It was unbelievable. Once you’re sitting with him, it starts hitting you,” Soler said. “You realize you’re sitting with the most powerful man in the world, just sharing fries.”
Soler said the conversation at the event flowed naturally.
“It was actually like talking to family, like talking to an uncle. It felt so normal,” Soler said. “He was super nice, just how you see him on the TV. You can tell on TV that he’s a super normal, very nice guy. In person, it’s just like that.”
Soler and Young also had the opportunity to ask Obama questions.
Young asked the president, “What have you learned in the past four years that you would change and do differently in the next four?”
Obama replied that he would have been able to accomplish all of his goals if he had encouraged his constituents to reach out to their congressional representatives.
Young paraphrased Obama’s response.
“Unfortunately, everyone does have their own personal agendas,” Obama said, according to Young.
Soler and Young believe they will never forget their opportunity to have lunch with the president.
“It was one that I know I will never forget for the rest of my life,” Young said. “Just walking out of there, that feeling that it was such a significant mile mark in my life had just happened.”
- Stephanie Parra & Lyssa Goldberg
*Editor's Note: This story, written by SoC Journalism Majors Stephanie Parra and Lyssa Goldberg, was originally published in The Miami Hurricane on Sept. 23, 2012. To read the Hurricane story, click here.