Cheers and cellphone photos engulfed President Barack Obama as he visited Columbia on Friday, challenging college students to help improve America.
“Do not get cynical about what’s possible,” he told an admiring crowd of 1,166 at Benedict College, where he took eight questions from the audience during an hour-long Q&A.
A highlight was a question from 10-year-old Trace Adams, who asked when Obama knew he wanted to be president.
“Not when I was 10,” Obama responded. “Are you thinking about it?”
“A little bit,” Trace responded.
Obama addressed questions on the Keystone Pipeline, the high cost of college, police brutality, gun violence and – from the mother of an 18-year-old – how to help young men, such as her son, maintain hope.
“Think about more than just yourself,” he said. “That gives meaning to your life. That gives purpose to your life ... and you’ve got to have purpose beyond just the almighty dollar.”
The president stopped in at Brookland Baptist Church’s lunch buffet and met with VIPs during his four-hour visit, his first in South Carolina since his election in 2008.
Lines began forming at Benedict College before 7:30 a.m., where even the 400 tickets to watch Obama on video went fast.
“It’s a historic day,” student Edward Scott said.
The president was greeted at the airport around noon by Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. Air Force One took off shortly after 4 p.m.