Well, that was fast. After some students put in more than 10 hours waiting for tickets Wednesday night and prime spots in Glick Fieldhouse this morning, President Barack Obama is on a plane and headed out of the Mitten State.
The entire speech lasted only about half an hour. That’s far less time than many students put in to hear the president speak, and way less time than “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was played — I lost count after the track played for the eighth time.
Aside from telling Denard Robinson, who was seated in the box reserved for members of Congress and other dignitaries, that he in fact could not run for president, the speech could have been delivered at any college in any state. A few tidbits about Michigan’s significance among all American manufacturing. A shout out to Ford, General Motors and Chrysler heralding a newly competitive and innovative automotive industry. A bad joke about a why his new blueprint for America is blue — if he was adlibbing, alright, but if that was actually read off the teleprompter, Team Obama should really invest in a comedy writer.
It’s nearly impossible to deny that this speech and visit were merely the beginning of Obama’s re-election efforts. Obama called on Congress to overhaul financial aid — doubling work-study, extending federal loans and starting a Race to the Top program that ties federal money to colleges keeping costs down. I’ll let the Daily’s news coverage explain in greater detail.
While talking to a favorable crowd, it’s easy to get excited about the proposals. Higher education? We love it! Making it cheaper? Of course! As Obama pointed out, we need to call on our Congress to quit stalling and make these things happen. In the Denard/Congress box, no Republicans were in attendance — and why would they have come? Funding higher education by raising taxes on millionaires is hardly a bipartisan initiative.
Obama’s proposals kicked off his re-election efforts, but Republicans — led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–Va.), listed as the most powerful man in D.C. by GQ — have been working to defeat the president’s re-election campaign nearly since he took office. The unfortunate truth is that while for most University students higher education affordability is a priority, much of Obama’s blueprint will remain words on a page.
To put it bluntly, an overhaul of higher education is completely necessary. Policymakers and University officials present at today’s speech smiled politely and clapped at appropriate intervals. It was obvious, however, there was hesitation — especially around the Race to the Top College Edition. But the overarching mood was even more clear: Do something.
As residents of a state governed by an administration that so startlingly undervalues higher education it cut 15 percent of funding to universities and colleges last year, we need to do something.
As students at a university that — as a result of the reduced state funding — continuously increases tuition, making each incoming class more debt-ridden than the last, we need to do something.
As citizens of a country that proclaims itself to be a shining example to other nations with undoubtedly the best higher education system in the world, and where a college degree is becoming less accessible but increasingly vital, we need to do something.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why our state, led by a well-educated man, divested from higher education. I cannot understand that whether you’re a conservative or a liberal, seeking re-election or wholeheartedly working against the incumbent, we can’t agree on the importance of higher education to stay relevant on the global stage and retain a strong economy.
If you’re an Obama supporter, a Republican, a Michigan resident, University student or anyone else in America, let’s work hard to overhaul financial aid. Let’s work together, maybe not through a Race to the Top program, but through anything to make higher education more affordable.
So while he continues to make the rounds, rapidly releasing more proposals, let’s not take the focus off what the president came to Ann Arbor to talk about.
Andrew Weiner can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewWeiner.