As he waited for President Barack Obama to speak at N.C. State University, senior David Chung captured the mood among students.
"I'm somewhat optimistic," said the computer science major, a registered Democrat from Charlotte. "But at the same times, I'm still a little worried."
With Reynolds Coliseum split in half, as if for a concert, students filled most every seat hours before the president was expected to arrive to tout his American Jobs Act, a $447 billion stock pot filled with tax cuts, spending and other projected aimed at stimulating the stagnant U.S. economy.
Chung entered college in 2007, just before the state's housing market stumbled. He acknowledged that his academic pursuits have shielded him from feeling the brunt of the economy in the past four years. But now, as he prepares to graduate in May, is thinking more about how it will affect him. "There's jobs in computer science but it's a tough economy that we're in," he said.
At the top row, perpendicular to a stage draped in campaign style banners, Colt Pierce, a sophomore from Statesville, is anxious to hear about way to protect teaching jobs. He is a teaching fellow at N.C. State, a program that pays part of his education costs in exchange for four years teaching in a N.C. school. He is one of the last classes after state lawmakers cut the funding for the program in this year's budget.
"It'd be nice to hear about some job security for teachers," he said.
Pierce is a registered Republican and he will cast his first ballot in the 2012 election. "My views vary, especially after coming to college," he said. "I want to listen to what he says."
The crowd overwhelmed expectations and by 11:30 a.m., organizers lifted a hanging barrier to allow more seating. Former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt and a bevy of state lawmakers sat along the edges.
Using a bullhorn, Sara Potter energizes the crowd waiting outside Reynolds Coliseum (staff photo by Shawn Rocco).