President Obama’s speech, appearance at KU relished by those in attendance

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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Anschutz Sports Pavilion at the University of Kansas was packed Thursday with more than 7,000 people anxious to hear President Obama deliver a speech on middle class economics.

It was the first time in more than a century that a sitting president made a stop at KU – a rare opportunity 100-year-old Fern Coffin wasn’t about to let pass her by.

“I have never had such an exciting day!” Coffin said after the speech. “I don’t know whether I will come back to Earth or not!”

Coffin’s affection for the president was shared by the younger generation, too.

“Oh my gosh!” said 13-year-old August Hoffman. “I thought that it was super fun that when he was walking in, we were so close, and then when he came around and we shook his hand, that was so cool!”

Several KU students also got a presidential handshake after landing a spot in the front row.

“I never thought in my mind that I would get to shake hands with the President of the United States!” said Matthew McFarland, a sophomore at KU. “This will be a day that I will remember for the rest of my lifetime, tell my kids about, tell my family about. It’s just amazing.”

All of them had their eyes on the president – even when he had his eye on someone in the crowd.

“Where’s Steve?” President Obama asked, pointing out Steve Ozark, a man from Lawrence sitting near the stage.

Ozark said two years ago he wrote President Obama a letter about how federal student loans helped his wife get an education at a time when their family was preparing for a baby and barely scraping by on food stamps.

“Steve wrote me a letter about his vision for this country, a place where every American, he said, has a place at the table,” President Obama said during his speech.

It was a moment Ozark and his wife, Julia, said they’ll never forget.

“It was very, very cool,” Ozark said. “I mean, I think the message is what’s really important. I think we need to focus on people with needs rather than what people want.”