President Joe Biden stopped by Green River College in Auburn on April 22 during his two-day visit to Washington and Oregon last week, sparking throngs of curious passers-by and passionate protesters as the commander-in-chief spoke with students and elected officials inside.
The scene along 124th Avenue SE, through which Biden’s motorcade traveled to reach the school, was a cacophony of democracy. Harsh critics of the president – many flying pro-Trump flags or chanting the euphemistically “Let’s go Brandon!” slogan – stood across the street or mingled with crowds of students and local residents, eager to catch a rare glimpse of the president’s arrival. At one point, members of the Biden protesters unfurled a huge “Trump has won” banner.
Inside the college’s Mel Lindbloom Student Union building, Biden called for action against rising prescription drug costs and other national issues, according to media reports. He was joined by Governor Jay Inslee, U.S. Representative Kim Schrier and Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.
Outside, a raucous microcosm of the country was blooming.
There was the preacher warning crowds of the dangers of sin, a participant blowing bubbles and the group unfurling a “Flavortown” flag in tribute to American restaurateur and Food Network star Guy Fieri. There were the younger students talking about both Biden and catching Pokemon, protesters telling the president and governor to go home, and Secret Service agents scanning the crowd.
For Rob Meadows, an 18-year-old student from Green River, Biden’s visit was just too unusual to miss.
“It’s kind of the center of the United States right now,” Meadows said. “I’m not much of a Biden fan to be honest, but that’s not stopping me from going out. I still think it would be pretty cool to see him.
This is also how Wilber R. felt. He felt neutral towards President Biden, but did not want to miss this chance.
“The adrenaline is rushing,” Wilber said. “You’re not going to see a president every day in your life.”
If he had the chance to ask Biden a question, he would ask, “What are you doing with so much power?” You have the power to do anything, to help people, but there really is no change. So what are you doing with so much power?
Allan P., a 21-year-old student in Green River, said he would like to see Biden address immigration reform, climate change and efforts to end the criminalization of cannabis.
“I have a little brother, and luckily he’s here in America,” Allan said. “But sadly, I hear so many stories of little children from Guatemala who come all the way here…placed in detention centers. When I see these videos, I see my little brother, who is only six years old. I think, ‘Wow. If it wasn’t for my mother who immigrated this far, it could be me and my little brother.
“As you can see it’s lively here,” Allan said with a laugh as a driver honked his horn in strong support for the sign’s hesitations.
Meanwhile, Anton May expressed his frustrations with a sign that read ‘Come on man: quit’.
“The pain at the pump, the price of food, the disaster we had in Afghanistan; the list goes on and on,” he said. “It’s been the worst year and a half of any president. He makes Jimmy Carter blush.
May said he wanted to see a stronger border, less reliance on foreign oil and better leadership on inflation.
But “I have nothing against people who support the president,” he said. “I want the president to do well. Why wouldn’t you? If the president is fine, we are all fine.
He said Biden had abandoned his once-moderate platform, and he’d like to know why: “He makes me wish for the days of Barack Obama, and that’s saying something.”
Tim Schumaier, 69, lives in Auburn and came out for the “unique opportunity” to see and support the president. Reflecting on the crowd in front of him, Schumaier said the country had seemed more divided in the past six years than at any time in his life.
“I’m just glad we live in a country where we can all be here and express our thing,” Schumaier said. “There are a lot of places where you can’t do that.”
Ian K., a student from Green River, said he would like to ask Biden why he revoked permits for a planned Keystone XL pipeline expansion.
“Quite frankly, I think this is one of the worst decisions he’s made in his presidency,” Ian said. “I wish I had answers to that.”
Next to him was Ryan T., a sophomore in high school, who said he was glad the president’s supporters had their way: “And obviously we’re going to be respectful, too.” I admire them and thank them.
Nick Perius, a 51-year-old business executive who lives a few miles from the college, came to see the show for himself. Perius said “there is a lot of room for improvement” with Biden’s performance, although he admitted being president is hard work.
He was happy Friday to have the chance to hear what all parties had to say.
“I can’t stand on one side of the street and shout without being on the other side of the street and understanding,” Perius said. “I am here with an open mind.”
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