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KU students, others in Lawrence await President Obama’s Thursday speech

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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The University of Kansas campus will get a visit from President Barack Obama this coming Thursday morning. He'll be the first sitting president to visit Lawrence since William Howard Taft did more than 100 years ago.

It's more than a brush with a celebrity. Recent KU graduate Kyle Gardner says he's been awaiting a visit from President Obama for a long time.

Gardner says he holds our nation's president in idol status. Since serving as an intern on the president's re-election campaign in 2012, Gardner served as president of KU's Young Democrats, and now, he leads Douglas County's Democratic Party.

"I remember seeing him speak on television in 2004, giving that keynote," Gardner said. "My dad told me he was going to be the next president, and we saw that through."

The president is due to address KU students at the Anschutz Sports Pavilion on campus, just two days after his annual State of the Union Address before Congress.

President Obama was due to appear in Lawrence in 2013, but canceled in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.

"Even Gov. (Sam) Brownback said he was happy he was coming when he was initially going to come," Gardner said. "I'm sure he would still say the same "

Current KU students say they're excited for Thursday's 11 a.m. speech. Lenexa native Alex Boeding and Topeka's Brittany Bodenheimer say political views shouldn't matter when a sitting president comes calling.

"This is a once in a lifetime thing," Boeding said. "Like you said, it's not very often that a sitting president to talk to a campus. I feel so grateful that he chose KU."

"I'm sure there will be critics everywhere he travels, but I think everyone here in Lawrence will be expected to receive him," Bodenheimer said.

Bodenheimer went on to say that she has political aspirations of her own, and President Obama is a role model of sorts. She says she's excited for Thursday's speech because, in her words, this president, like none other, has made young Americans a priority.

KU students will get first crack at tickets beginning at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning at the KU Student Union. The remainder will go to the general public on a first come first serve basis starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

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