Tuesday, December 6th, 2016: A phenomenal day for select Honors Students at the University of Tampa. We had the distinct privilege of witnessing President Obama speak on counter terrorism at the MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa.
The buses left UT at noon, heading for the Base through Tampa’s average thunderstorm. Everyone was dressed in presentable business casual, excited to see President Obama in his last days as the Commander-in-Chief; an opportunity of a lifetime, granted exclusively to the Honors Students at UT. As we got off the buses, none of us imagined the experience that awaited us. We were to stand in a long queue to get through security, as Tampa’s average thunderstorm turned into Poseidon’s wrath and drenched us all. Even as we complained about our respective ruined attires, there was not a single person who was not laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all. In hindsight, the drenching made the whole day that much more memorable.
When the rain stopped, and we made it through security at about 1345 hrs only to wait for the President to give his speech at 1600 hrs, most of us began to wonder if we could have done without the drenching. The feeling of impatience shrouded in damp clothes is not exactly the best combination on the planet. However, we made the best of the situation and took some terrible pictures, spotted soldiers in uniforms from different countries, and made conversation with some of them to find out where they were from. My friends and I talked to soldiers from France, Australia, Great Britain, and Italy, asked them questions about their home countries, families, and life in the USA. Yet another activity we could not have done without the opportunity offered by the Honors Program at UT.
At 1556 hrs, President Obama walked into the hangar with swift confidence, gave yet another one of his remarkable speeches, and humbly expressed, “it has been the privilege and honor of a lifetime to be your commander-in-chief,” before he waved and casually exited by parting the stage curtain. His incredible oratory skills were inspiring, asalways. President Obama’s words (and the following video captures him saying them), “Right makes might. Not the other way around,” are likely to resonate with us for a lifetime. Personally, I will never forget the joy I felt when he boldly stated, “Islam is not the problem. Us mistreating our own Muslims is exactly what terrorists want…the war on terrorism cannot be a war on Islam.”
As we got into the buses once again, discussing how moving President Obama’s words were, we saw his fleet of cars- leaving with their flashing lights- through the windshield. Despite the dampness of our clothes, and the discomfort of the (Florida) cold December wind, we are all immensely grateful to the UT Honors Program and Director Dr. Ryan Cragun for giving us the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the POTUS in person and in action.