DePaul students brave freezing temperatures for tickets to president’s farewell address

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Despite a White House announcement that the line for free tickets to President Barack Obama’s farewell speech would not be allowed to form until 6 a.m., those hoping to witness the historic event began gathering outside McCormick Place around 4:30 a.m.

These enthusiastic supporters braved the three-degrees Fahrenheit temperature, bundled up in coats, gloves, blankets and scarves to shield themselves from the freezing cold air.

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Obama supporters wait in line for free tickets to his Jan. 10 farewell address. (Photo by Pat Mullane / The DePaulia)

At 6 a.m., McCormick Place staffers opened the doors and the lucky attendees that lined up early enough were able to spend the rest of their wait indoors and in comfort. However, they had hours of wait time ahead as even the indoor line was massive. According to the Chicago Tribune, the line began in the “grand ballroom of the (McCormick Place) South building that snaked through the West Building and finally outside, winding around the Hyatt Regency Hotel.”

Those who arrived after 6:30 a.m. were informed that the line in front of them was at capacity and all available tickets would already be accounted for.  According to NBC Chicago, more than 7,000 hopefuls arrived at McCormick place in hopes of snagging a ticket to the farewell address.

Among those hopefuls was DePaul graduate Brandon Haskey. Haskey arrived at McCormick Place at 5:30 a.m. and waited about three hours before receiving his ticket.

Haskey braved the bitter cold and waited in line as he felt “it was a really unique opportunity to see a historic, transformative figure in American politics speak.”

“I wanted to go as an expression of my gratitude for all I feel he has done for our country and community and to be a part of that legacy,” Haskey said. “But on another note, I also wanted to go because I wanted to drink up the last bit of Obama that I could before we experience the Trump transition. Knowing that we have a potentially very troubling four years ahead, I wanted to get this little bit of Obama in person.”

DePaul sophomore Eric Deasy arrived at McCormick Place at around 5:30 a.m. and “had to wait outside for about a half an hour, then at 6 o’clock they opened the doors and everybody rushed in. I was (part of the) first wave of people that actually got to wait inside.

Deasy said he waited in the line as Obama’s 2008 election was what first got him interested in American politics.

“My dad always told me — he grew up in the Reagan Era — and that’s wen he first started paying attention to politics,” Deasy said. “So Reagan has kind of always been his favorite president and I think that carries over for me (with Obama’s presidency.”

DePaul sophomore Elle Nowogrocki arrived at McCormick Place around at around 5:50 a.m. She too mentioned that growing up during Obama’s presidency was a motivating factor in getting tickets for his farewell speech.

(Graphic by Jacqueline Lin | THE DePaulia)

(Graphic by Jacqueline Lin | The DePaulia)

“I kind of grew up with Obama as my president and I was really happy with his presidency,” Nowogrocki said. “I thought that having his farewell address in the city that he started his political career in and the city I also live in was too good of an opportunity to miss.”

In an interview with Chicago’s WBBM television, Obama explained why he’s returning to Chicago to deliver his farewell address.

“Everything that I have done subsequently — all the way through my presidency — was a direct outgrowth of what I learned in Chicago,” Obama said “I always say Chicago’s got challenges, but it really is really a microcosm of the country. There is no city that in some ways that is more representative of both the difficulties, but more importantly, the promise of America.”

Nowogrocki said she hopes Obama’s speech will prepare those distressed by the outcome of the 2016 presidential election for the next four years.

“I think one thing (Obama) is really good at is inspiring us to have hope and to always believe in what we want to see happen,” she said. “I just hope it’s really inspirational and maybe gives us some guidance in how we approach the Trump presidency.”