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President Obama's planned speech at UNC draws hundreds in search of tickets

UNC seniors were lined up since 5:00AM to get tickets to see Late Night With Jimmy Fallon which will be taped Tuesday afternoon and air later that night.

Hundreds of students — both Republicans and Democrats — braved hours of cold and rain to ensure they received tickets to President Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday.

Students began lining up at the Carmichael Arena box office Saturday at 8:30 p.m. carrying sandwiches, blankets, tents and homework.

For many students, their goal was simply to experience the rare opportunity of hearing a sitting president speak on campus.

But for some students, the topic of the president’s speech — interest rates on student loans — is important for their ability to afford UNC.

Whitlee Angel, a freshman nursing student who waited in line for almost six hours Sunday, said the president will discuss an issue that affects her deeply as a student.

“If the interest rates substantially go up, then I probably wouldn’t be able to attend here in the future. It is just a hassle to have to pay more.”

The president’s visit to UNC is part of a tour of three college campuses Tuesday and Wednesday, including stops at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Iowa.

Obama is scheduled to land at Raleigh-Durham International Airport around 11:50 a.m. and is scheduled to speak Tuesday around 1 p.m. Following his speech, the president will make an appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” which will be taped in Memorial Hall.

Nikita Shamdasani, student body secretary at UNC, helped distribute tickets for Obama’s speech on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

“I, myself, probably gave out about 1,000 tickets,” she said.

Shamdasani said tickets will also be available tomorrow between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but she thinks they will run out before the end of the day.

Nicole Welsh, a sophomore anthropology and peace, war and defense major, said the event will be a good stress reliever for students before exams begin.

But Linden Wait, a sophomore global studies major, said the event will occur during his busiest week of the semester.

Welsh and Wait were among a group of students at the front of a long line that emerged Saturday. At least six tents were already set up outside Carmichael late Saturday night. Approximately 40 students had congregated by 11 p.m. Those numbers increased to 14 tents and more than 80 students by 7 a.m. on Sunday.

“We were surprised that there weren’t as many students out today,” said Jonathan Stupak, a sophomore public policy major who camped out with Wait and Welsh. “(University students) would wait longer for Duke tickets than Obama tickets.”

Stupak said he would likely vote for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in the November election, but he was still interested to hear Obama’s views on student loans.

“Even if we don’t agree with the president, it is a venerable position, and there needs to be respect for him.”

While Stupak said he will remember skipping class to see the president, he said the president’s speech will also touch on matters that affect him personally. He took out a financial aid loan last year because he was concerned interest rates would increase in future years.

The student group Tar Heels for Obama conducted voter registration drives while students were lined up outside Carmichael. Lindsey Rietkerk, campus team leader for the group, said Obama is doing his best to ensure that seniors can get jobs.

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