President Obama began his two-day campaign tour of Ohio and Nevada today with a speech on the campus of Capital University.
Capital University is a private four-year undergraduate institution located in the eastern Columbus neighborhood of Bexley, and is one of 28 Evangelical Lutheran universities and colleges located across the United States. A fitting place for the President of the United States to deliver a speech on his vision for education, as education is an important part of the Lutheran tradition, as Martin Luther once said ‘what do we older folks live for if not for the care of the young, to teach and train them?’
Education is important to the 10 year-old daughter of Ryan and Abigail Parsons who proudly answers that she wants to be a marine biologist and work in the State of Washington. Ryan, who recently finished graduate school at Old Dominican University in curriculum development, teaches at an independent school in Bexley. “As the economy collapsed in 2009 we lost one-sixth of our student population, over 100 students,” he said, “but things are coming back slowly and enrollment is back to where it was in 2008. It is a sign of the recovering economy that the students are coming back, and a sign that parents are able and willing to pay for a good education for their children, as we get very little in the way of state aid. We have four children, but only the 10 year-old wanted to miss school to hear the president, and we think it is important that she be exposed to occasions like this,” Ryan commented.
Jeannette Anderson was there to hear the president; and she describes herself as a strong supporter. Jeanette is a retired Master Sergeant who worked in deployment. When asked how long she served, she responds, “27 years, 9 months and 6 days.” I asked Jeanette why it was important for her to be there to hear the president. “I believe that God has a hand on him (Obama), and that he is trying to make a difference, and if those Republicans would just work with him things could get better for the whole country.” When asked what she thought was at stake in this presidential election, Jeanette said, “Things need to change, I do not want my children or grandchildren to face the problems we had, you know, they don’t want to call it racism … but we need to get behind this man, because if he does not get re-elected, well if people think things are hard now, just wait.” Jeanette is helping to raise two of her four grandchildren ages six and seven, not because the parents are not there but as she says, “times are hard.”
The chief steward of local 4501, Calvin Hairston, was there to hear the president address the crowd. “I sense the historic nature of this occasion, and on this campus. I remember seeing Kennedy in 1961 and Desmond Tutu many years later.” This campus stands for having a social conscience, and the local Lutheran Social Services plays an important part in this community, they have opened a shelter recently to help the many who are in need, that stands in contrast to the Republicans,” he remarked. “Republicans have gotten away from the idea of the importance of social conscience, why no Romney disclosure, for example, is there something to hide?” Calvin describes himself as a Christian who came to Ohio from West Virginia. “Did you know that the Hairstons are one of the largest Black families in Ohio?” he inquired. Looking around the audience Calvin remarked, “It is good to see so many enthusiastic young people here to see the president, it’s the youth that will have to carry on the fight to make this country a better place.”
And that comment, making this country a better place, is the common thread that ties together the feeling of everyone with whom I spoke. Each of them had their own set of problems, but at the same time each expressed their hopes for a better country for the next generation. And, as long as that remains the case, we will succeed as a nation.