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North Carolinians Greet Bush With Cheers and Questions
By Grace West, 11, North Carolina
Scholastic Student Reporter

Scholastic Student Reporter Grace West interviews a person who attended the event. (Photo: Courtesy of Grace West)
Monday, April 5—Today, the streets and parking decks of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte were blocked off by police cars, barricades, and roving Secret Service agents. All this was in preparation for a visit from President George W. Bush. President Bush appeared at the community college to give a brief speech to supporters and then to attend a Bush-Cheney '04 fund-raising luncheon. The cost for lunch was $2,000 a person!

Security was tight inside the lecture hall. Armed guards and search dogs took up positions at security stations. Inside, Secret Service agents stood quietly, their eyes searching the audience for possible threats to the President's safety. Large banners reading "Better Training, Better Jobs" in patriotic colors decorated the room. Upbeat music played from the speakers hanging from the ceiling. There was an air of excitement among the audience, which numbered more than 500.

At 10:10 a.m., President Bush entered the auditorium and walked to the podium in the center of the room. There, after a long period of applause, he began to read his speech, which had been placed on the podium by a Secret Service agent a few minutes before.

In his remarks, President Bush praised North Carolina's initiatives in partnering community-college curriculums with local business needs. Through such partnering, Bush said, people can train for jobs that really exist. Outbursts of cheers, applause, and chants of "W, W, W" frequently accented his comments.

When Bush finished his remarks he proceeded into the audience where he greeted his supporters—and the microphones of several reporters. Ten minutes later, President Bush waved good-bye and exited the room. As the audience began to leave, it was apparent by the looks on their faces that Bush's speech had been well received.

Several Bush supporters in attendance gave their reactions to the President and his speech. "I like him. I like his policies," said Jack Bawer of Concord, North Carolina.

"I like what he stands for," said Jack's wife, Connie.

"He had all his points about North Carolina. . . . It was good," said Usha Bshamudre, who says she plans on voting for Bush this November.

Sheila Moran of Gaston County liked his stand on small businesses. "I am a small-business owner here in Charlotte, so all the comments he made about small businesses, especially with the health care and the insurance premium, the tax reductions all made sense . . . I think he's right on target."

The event was not without conflict, however. Protesters, who were fairly quiet and nonthreatening, gathered outside the lecture hall. With signs such as "Bush's Oil War Kills" and "Human Rights for All," the protesters made their statements without saying a word.