Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
On Saturday afternoon Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, spoke to university students, campaign volunteers and city dignitaries in the Stone Room in an effort to inspire students to vote and volunteer for the Obama campaign.
According to Obama For America, Biden’s speech was a part of a two-day tour through Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, Mich., addressing “what is at stake for middle-class families.” Dr. Biden’s visit came shortly after her appearance in Charlotte, N.C. at the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6.
“It was wonderful for K to host the second lady. It’s really not a tiny thing. She had a few minutes to say a lot,” said Kalamazoo College President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran.
Wilson-Oyelaran said the college had only three days to prepare. Until Friday afternoon Dr. Biden’s visit was kept secret to most members of the community, with the exception of the College president’s office, the communications office and the head of the K College Democrats, Alex Werder K’15.
Werder introduced Dr. Biden to just under a hundred and thirty attendees.
“Please welcome a mother, grandmother, representative of the Democratic Party, and a lifelong educator,” he said.
Werder said that he, like many K College students, will vote in his first presidential election on Nov. 6, 2012. During her speech, Dr. Biden recalled the first time she voted.
“I actually voted for my husband, who I didn’t even really know at the time. But thank God I voted for him,” she said.
In her speech, Dr. Biden emphasized the importance of this presidential election, calling it a “pivotal point.” She also addressed increasing student debt, federal financial aid, retirement security and health care reform.
Biden’s speech was short and followed by a five-minute meet and greet, where students and local politicians shook hands with the Second Lady.
“Her speech was not the focal point,” Werder said.
He said the focus of the event was students’ feedback with Dr. Biden and her encouragement of voter volunteers.
Wilson-Oyelaran said she was able to speak about K students with Dr. Biden for a few minutes.
“[Dr. Biden] was very gracious. We were two educators talking. I think she was surprised to hear that twenty-four percent of our students are eligible for the federal Pell grant,” she said.
Dr. Biden said that she always feels good on a college campus. She currently works as English professor at Northern Virginia Community College. Most historians agree that Biden is the first Second Lady to work a paying job while her husband is in office as Vice President.
Wilson-Oyelaran was impressed with Biden’s work schedule.
“I can’t imagine how she does it with two days a week of teaching…It says something about her as her own person. [Joe Biden's] political career doesn’t change her plans,” she said.
A staffer for Dr. Biden said, “On the car ride here, she was grading papers.”
Abby Keizer K’15 heard about the event through a friend who received an email about it from the K College Democrats on Friday night. Keizer is a member of the Women’s Advocacy House and spoke briefly with Dr. Biden about her LLH.
“She was impressed. She said it was wonderful we had this resource on campus,” said Keizer.
Attendees were required to show photo identification and fill out a sheet provided by the Obama campaign in order to enter the Stone Room on the West side of Hicks Center.
Keizer, who just recently joined the K College Democrats, said she was required to write down her, “name, address, email, phone number and volunteer availability.” She was uncomfortable with volunteering for a campaign and declined to sign-up to register voters.
Keizer thought the reaction on campus would have been different if the GOP nominees’ wives, Ann Romney or Janna Ryan, had spoken.
“It’s Kalamazoo. We’re known for being a Liberal college. I have Republican friends here at school, but it wouldn’t have been the same,” she said.
According to RealClearPolitics’ averages, Biden’s visit came at a time when Obama continues to lead by 48.3 percent to 42.5 percent in Mitt Romney’s home state, Michigan.