Updated: Feb 21, 2019
February 20, 2019
Rumors that former President Barack Obama's daughter, Sasha, was touring UNC spread around campus like wildfire.
While I was walking to the UL to study before Spanish, a group of students sprinted by me. When I asked one of the students what was going on, she told me that Obama was on campus.
It made sense... Obama was supposed to attend the UNC-Duke game happening that night.
With my caramel mocha in hand and a croissant wrapped up in my backpack, I sprinted to Carolina Hall. Outside was a herd of students forcing their way into the building. Tour guides with frightened prospective students scurried away from the scene. All of us were screaming. I aggressively drank my coffee, so much so that some of it got on my nose. I don't know how this happened.
The weather: 34 degrees. Rainy. Possible flurries.
Our noses were running, but not as fast as we were.
"HE'S AT SOUTH BUILDING!" Someone screamed in the distance. Immediately, hundreds of students sprinted to South. We stood outside the building and lined the street, cutting tour guides off from the Old Well.
Oh, to be touring UNC today...
Someone drove past us. They asked what we're doing there. I yelled "Obama!"
Everyone was amused. I was proud.
Minutes later, people start screaming and running towards Franklin street.
"HE'S AT COSMIC'S!"
There's no way.
I know there's no way that Barack Obama would stop at the cheap burrito place everyone went to at 3 am when everything else was closed and they weren't down for Waffle House.
Did I run anyway?
You bet I did.
On our way, I came up with a theory that they were redirecting us so that the Obamas could leave in peace. Multiple people said that was smart. The experience of running was fun in itself. I'm surprised I didn't fall over -- my shoes were drenched.
I see a good friend of mine who is about to go to class. She asks me about Obama. I tell her we just did a lap around Franklin Street, passing Top of the Hill, Ackland, and even the spider. She is impressed and tells me to keep her updated.
I should have been in class. Where was I instead? Outside of South Building. My hair was drenched and I swear there were some flurries falling down and blowing in the wind. I was freezing. I pulled out my phone and took a picture, while people began to ditch the expedition. I posted on instagram:
Although my hair was wet and cold, my skin looked great in that image. Again, I was proud.
No sign of Obama yet. People in South Building are taking videos of the students outside. I never signed a waiver for any of this. A security guard has been circling South Building, and we didn't know what that was about.
There was only a few people left outside. I cross the street from where I was standing and meet up with them. We noticed that one of the windows in South building was covered with a tarp. A man came up to us and admitted he sent students running the other way.
We're all freezing. I gave us the nickname "Obama Buddies." Everyone liked it. My third proud moment of the day.
We're inside South Building. There's about eight of us, and we're waiting patiently. I pulled the croissant out of my backpack and chowed down. Sprinting nearly a mile is not easy. There's a crowd of people outside yet again, but they don't know we're inside. It's warm in South, and I'd never been in there. This was an experience.
One of the Obama Buddies (we'll call her Julia to protect her identity) decided to grab lunch and try to figure out the tea. She gave me her number, and we kept each other updated on the lack of events.
Julia came back, and No'bama. Some workers in the building made jokes about us, and we felt incredibly dumb. Our group shrunk to five. Still, we waited. We pondered. We watched security officers walk in and out of the building. We had no idea what was happening.
We decided to disband. My Obama Buddies have a warm place in my heart.
Julia and I were the only ones left in South. We weren't waiting for Obama anymore. We had a class together last semester, and although we hadn't spoken prior, we had a great conversation. We talked about theatre and theatre kids (which I've written about and will link here, by the way), journalism, the professor we had together, and mental health. I had a lot of respect for Julia last semester, and now I was getting to know her, all because of our unshakable dedication to Barack Obama.
He was never there, I don't think.
And thank God, because if the Obamas were here, poor Sasha...
I have no intention of sugarcoating the fact that as a student body, if the rumor was true that Sasha Obama was touring, we easily ruined the experience for her. I can only imagine how wild Harvard gets when the Obamas are in town.
But I have to say:
As wild as it sounds, the very mention of Obama brought a massive group of students together. In a politically polarized and tense environment, we all flocked together to find Obama. I spoke with people I wouldn't have even thought to speak to otherwise. I sat with them in a small lobby while being gently mocked by staff members.
I could have just left, but at the end of the day, I felt connected to these people. We're the ones who waited for Obama when he probably wasn't even in the state.
Julia and I opened up and told each other stories because we both really like Barack Obama.
So, did I see Barack? No, but I saw something better.
A political figure, for once, inspired us rather than terrified us.
What does that say about Obama's presidency and what young people are looking for in a future president?
As candidates declare their run for president, and when they begin their campaigns, will they look to the young people and what they want? Will they advertise directly to us and watch it blow up in their face?
Will these candidates find unifying messages of hope and reassurance that the future is going to be okay?
Obama said "Yes, we can."
Which whether you like it or not will forever be more inspiring than "get Trump out of office."
When the student body lost their shit about the possibility of seeing Barack Obama in the flesh, it's for a reason.
I'm back at my dorm typing up this post. Everyone is cozy and dry in my residence hall, although the sky is an ugly grey. I'm probably going to get some bagels for my girlfriend and I in a little bit.
The experience I had today, talking to different people all waiting to see the same person, was incredible. I'm almost glad we didn't see Obama, because then the magic would be gone. Everyone would rush to see him, and I wouldn't be able to say goodbye to the people I met. I wouldn't have been able to sit down with Julia. I wouldn't have been able to make clever remarks and Instagram captions.
Yeah, I didn't see Obama, which is always a bummer.
... But I saw and met more people who were just as excited as I was instead.
So if perchance you're running for the democratic nomination, take note of what happened in Chapel Hill today.
Look to the past and see what worked, and why we're living in Trump's America.
Find today's "Yes, we can," and do it.