Following one of the warmest days of the year, some students felt inclined to stay outside well into the night with one goal in mind: to secure a spot at President Barack Obama’s address on campus Wednesday.
On Monday, the University announced plans to issue a limited number of tickets to attend the address, which will be held at the Intramural Sports Building at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The University said tickets would be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to students, prompting many to pack bags for a long, chilly night waiting outside the north doors to the Union.
At 5:30 p.m. Monday, almost 16 hours before tickets for Obama’s Wednesday campus address were set to be distributed, LSA freshmen Janie Brown and Sydney Grant, as well as LSA sophomores Olivia Mason and Lizzy Brilliant, were already waiting in line outside the Michigan Union, as the first four in line to get tickets Tuesday morning.
By 11 p.m., lines stretched to about 500 students, with more arriving each minute. Planning for a long night, many groups brought tents, food and entertainment. At the front of the line, Brown and Grant said the experience was well worth it.
“I’ve always wanted to see President Obama in person and I figured this may be my only chance — or hopefully the first of many — but if not, I figured I might as well jump on this,” Brown said. “I’m done with class for the day, it’s beautiful outside, so I figured might as well, I’m not doing anything else.”
Grant agreed, adding that she’s not sure she’ll have the opportunity to witness such an event in the future.
“I’ve always been told by relatives that college is a really good time to seize opportunities like this, because you’re not going to get the chance afterwards,” she said.
Obama will come to Ann Arbor to advocate for a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. In February, the president signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal workers, but has now moved onto the more difficult task of convincing Congress to implement a similar change for all U.S. workers.
LSA sophomore Stephen Culbertson, communications director for the College Democrats, said he grew interested in politics during the 2012 presidential campaigns, when he and other members of the College Democrats worked for local chapters of Obama’s campaign.
“As a Michigan resident, I feel it’s important that we support our low-wage workers,” Culbertson said. “I think an increase in the minimum wage is long overdue.”
Members of the College Democrats also used the time waiting to distribute petitions in an effort to place gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and senate candidate Gary Peters on the ballot for upcoming elections in November.
As the line grew in the late evening, students implemented an unofficial numbering system that allowed individuals to solidify their position. Several students said the system was beneficial because it permitted individuals in line to leave for short periods of time and still maintain their standing.
Late Monday night, University Police said they could not comment on specific security measures, but said they were aware of the situation and were monitoring for potential hazards. Culbertson said students he had observed had been well-behaved and respectful.
“I think it’s a generally positive environment,” Culbertson said. “With the numbers — students decided they wanted to make it more of a safe and healthy environment.”
LSA freshman Austin Delsi, number 319 in line, said he heard about the event through an Instagram post by The Michigan Daily and was later alerted about the growing line by a friend who arrived earlier.
“Graduating from college in a couple years, the minimum wage is something that’s really relevant to me — especially with summer jobs and internships,” he said.