Vice President of the United States Joe Biden spoke to an audience of students, faculty, staff and community members at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Friday, Oct. 26 as a guest of student Democratic organizations, encouraging all to cast their vote for President Barack Obama on Nov. 6.
The vice president’s stop came as both President Obama’s and Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaigns have peppered the Badger State with political visits as the general election nears.
Once again, Wisconsin voters are expected to play a critical role in the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. For UW Oshkosh students, that meant a first, up-close-and-personal opportunity to hear a seated Vice President speak to their campus community.
Biden’s speech at UW Oshkosh, just 11 days before the 2012 election, lasted about 45 minutes inside of Albee Hall. Biden acknowledged UW Oshkosh’s dedication to sustainability and the 7-0 UW Oshkosh Titans football team; he also spoke on issues from foreign policy to taxes to jobs and educational opportunity and affordability.
“All we have to do is play like the Titans and this is going to be easy,” Biden said to the crowd of about 1,000 people.
UW Oshkosh leaders were excited for the opportunity the campaign stop brought to the student body. The vice president’s visit occurred as Democratic, Republican and other student groups have been busy – side by side, in most cases — encouraging UW Oshkosh students to engage in the political process and vote.
It also came the same week University faculty members welcomed Oshkosh and New North region nonprofit and community organizations to campus to help plant the seeds of collaborations that will enable high-impact, hands-on student civic engagement experiences in the developing “University Studies Program,” a ground-up redesign of general education at UW Oshkosh.
“I think any time we have an opportunity to have someone here, that is a really great opportunity for our students,” said Petra Roter, vice chancellor of student affairs. “It personalizes the experience and makes the political process very real for our students.”
Before Biden took his spot in front of the crowd Friday, Senator Jessica King, a UW Oshkosh alumna, took the stage to prime the rally audience. She said she was very excited to have Biden in Oshkosh and encouraged the crowd to “show your Titan pride!”
“It’s a rare opportunity for citizens to meet and see their vice president,” King said. “People who are here will remember this for the rest of their lives. To have the VP come to my alma mater is pretty cool.”
“There was no thought in my mind that I would be that close to the vice president,” said Will Geis, a junior studying music business at UWO. “It was such an opportunity to see him speak.”
“It’s a community-building event. Hopefully it will get students fired up to vote,” said Faith Sadlowski, a member of the College Democrats and junior environmental studies major who had the honor of introducing Biden. “We actually rallied all of these people together and gave out free tickets at Reeve and made phone calls and door knocks for the event and everything.”
The educational reach and value of the vice president’s visit also extended beyond UW Oshkosh’s borders into the community. Oshkosh Area School District middle school ALPs Charter School teacher Laura Wolff brought her class to the rally.
“Our students have been exploring the electoral process and have focused on the current candidates,” Wolff said. “They have studied individual platforms and want to experience the candidates first hand.”
Since the start of Biden’s vice presidency, he’s traveled to Wisconsin nine times including his trip to UW Oshkosh Friday, the Obama campaign announced. Over the years, other presidential hopefuls have made their way to the University, including a 2008 visit by then-Senator Obama. In 1992, then-vice-presidential-candidate Al Gore visited UW Oshkosh. Over the years, campaign stops by other high-profile candidates and elected leaders such as JFK, Ronald Reagan and Jesse Jackson have taken place at UW Oshkosh.
“It was great (to see Biden). I can’t believe that he came to our school,” said Jennifer Butler, a non-traditional UW Oshkosh student who was also on campus for the Obama visit in 2008. “I hope people vote with their conscience and they vote in their interests, I’m shocked by how many people vote against their interests.”
Butler said the opportunity to vote early made by the Obama campaign after Biden’s rally was nice, but she decided against it because she likes the experience of voting on Election Day.
“I know it’s more convenient to do it now but I like to bring my children with so they can be a part of the experience and see democracy in action,” Butler said.
Election Day is Nov. 6. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. UW Oshkosh and community residents who would like to vote early are able to do so at the Oshkosh Convention Center Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Matt Hietpas, UW Oshkosh Integrated Marketing and Communications STEP intern, contributed to this report.