Air Force One touched down at Logan at 2:25 p.m., under nearly cloudless, sunny skies, cool and bright, affording President Barack Obama a hazy view of the Boston skyline.
About 10 minutes later, the door to Air Force One opened and Obama began to descend the staircase. Midway down the stairs, he pointed at Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who was lined up first to greet him on the tarmac, just ahead of the other member of the greeting party, US Rep. Edward Markey.
Obama appeared to make a joke about Menino’s leg injury or cane, because Menino smiled and raised his cane in a friendly response to Obama’s remark.
Once on the tarmac, Obama gave a hearty handshake to Menino and a pat on the mayor’s shoulder. Then he greeted Markey. Markey and Menino then greeted Melinda Gates and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
The president then greeted about 50 friends and relatives of Secret Service and Air Force One crew who were behind a metal barricade on the tarmac. Obama shook hands as the crowd snapped photos. Then he was whisked off in a black Cadillac.
The presidential motorcade then headed to TechBoston Academy in Dorchester, where Obama was slated to talk about education in the backdrop of the successful urban high school.
As the motorcade sped from Logan to Dorchester, there were some crowds around Codman Square, cheering and waving. At TechBoston Academy, Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis was posted prominently at a back door, where the media was ushered inside.
The first event was held in Mr. James Louis’ biotechnology class, where 20 students were seated in groups of four at small lab tables with black tops. One group was working on HP laptops, one was working
with pipettes, one with a photospectrometer. A slide of a photo photospectrometer was projected on the wall. The students were waiting in giddy anticipation.
As Louis began to talk about the slide on the wall, an unmistakable voice was heard — “Mr. Louis!” – and the president of the United States entered the room, cause a stir among the students, a few of whom buried their heads in their hands appeared ready to cry with excitement.
Obama, accompanied by Gates, went from table to table, talking to each group of students. He was heard discussing protein, DNA and RNA with one group. He asked the students what they wanted to study in
college and offered words of encouragement.
“You guys are doing great,” he told one group. “I’m really proud of you.”
Apparently impressed with the scientific interests of the students, Obama turned to Mr. Louis and told, “We’ve got chemists, engineers. You’re doing good.”
Leaning over one table, Obama listened as Ronny De Leon, 18, a senior from Dorchester, explained how a photospectrometer works. Nodding intently, Obama told De Leon that he was following the young student’s
lesson. “I got you,” Obama told De Leon. “You’re pitching. I’m catching.”
DeLeo told Obama he was leaning toward studying biology in college.
“We’re proud of you guys,” Obama told the class. “You’re doing really great. Keep it up.”
“I expect all of you want to go to college,” he added later.
At one table, Obama asked the students what they wanted to study in college and what college they wanted to attend. One wanted to study architecture, one pediatrics, one pharmacy science. Obama seemed
particularly impressed when Jesse Barbosa, 17, a senior from Dorchester, told him that he wanted to study mechanical engineering at Northeastern. “We need mechanical engineers,” Obama said, as Gates nodded. “That’s really important.”
Gates asked one group what makes a good teacher, leading Obama to joke with Louis that the question put him in an awkward spot. “Kind of putting a little pressure here,” Obama told Louis, patting him on the
Outside the classroom, Menino was seen in a hallway, chatting with Newton Mayor Setti Warren, who has been considering a run against US Sen. Scott Brown.
Leaving the classroom, Obama went to a school lunchroom, where an overflow crowd of about 60 students cheered him loudly and rushed up to greet him. Obama grabbed a wireless mic and asked how many were
seniors, how many were juniors, and so forth. He got the biggest cheer for sophomores.
“I expect everyone here to go college,” Obama told the group. “I expect everyone here to succeed.”
After the speech, Obama stopped by and chatted with a roundtable of 12 student government members from local colleges who had come to TechBoston.
The motorcade left Dorchester for a fundraiser at the Museum of Fine Arts shortly after 5 p.m. Dozens of people were still on the sidewalks in Codman Square, waving and gawking. One family had displayed a life-sized cut-out of Obama on their porch. The motorcade sped up a narrow side street, and then headed on to Interstate 93 South, which had been cleared for the president, allowing Obama to avoid Boston’s notoriously ornery drivers and its infamous rush-hour traffic. Boston Police motorcycles growled around the motorcade, and two police boats bobbed in Dorchester Bay, just off the Sister Corita Kent gas tank.
Even the president could not part all of Boston’s traffic, however, and the motorcade slowed down on Storrow Drive, near the Mass Eye and Infirmary, as police held drivers by the side of the road. A golden
sun was setting over Charles River, as the motorcade continued on past the Back Bay and into the Fens, to the museum.
Obama (joined by Markey and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) met with the Boston Celtics in a separate room at the MFA, just before the fundraiser. In addition to the team’s co-owners, Jonathan Lavine and Stephen Pagliuca, Obama met with coach Doc Rivers, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Avery Bradley, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Rajon Rondo, Carlos Arroyo, Jeff Green and Troy Murphy. Shaq was not there.
Mingling in the fundraiser were Vicki Kennedy, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, state Senate president Therese Murray, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and MFA Director Malcolm Rogers.
In a high-ceilinged room with Renaissance paintings on the walls, guests sat on gold-colored cane chairs at round tables adorned with bouquets of flowers. Black-jacketed waiters served white and red wine. They listened to Pelosi vow to take back the House for the Democrats.
The crowd applauded as Markey praised Obama for giving the Medal of Freedom to Bill Russell. Markey joked that Obama’s decision to give the award to the Celtics legend was all the more remarkable because the president is a “passionate Bulls fan.” Markey said the economy is rebounding, even through experts said it couldn’t happen. Wall Street regulations have been overhauled.
Then Obama took the stage to applause.
“Thank you! Thank you, Boston!” he declared.
Reprising his campaign’s rallying cry, he said: “Yes, we can!”
Obama thanked Markey “for your extraordinary service.” He thanked Menino, “our outstanding mayor of this great city of Boston.” He also thanked state Senate President Therese Murray, Murray and Pelosi. He also thanked Vicki Kennedy and the museum “for this extraordinary setting.”
Obama said the country has been on a “wild ride,” – losing 4 million jobs in the 6 months before he took office. He said “when the rubble had cleared, when the dust had settled, this country was going through
as tough a time economically, as tough a time financially as any time since the 1930s.”
He said he had made “quick decisions and oftentimes very unpopular decisions,” rather than “resort to the expedient,” and put his finger to the wind.
Obama said Menino would be able to attest to the value of the stimulus program. He hailed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, expansions in clean energy and other items. “We didn’t just rescue the economy, we put it on a stronger footing for the future,” Obama said.
He said the “good news” is that the country is “now turning the corner.”
“We can feel, in pockets across the country, the economy getting stronger,” he said, although too many are still out of work.
Obama said he had come from “a wonderful school,” TechBoston.
“What a spectacular turnaround” that school has had, he said. There were kids from a “tough neighborhood” there, who were explaining a spectrophotometer to him, he said.
“And we were nodding our heads like we knew what they were talking about,” Obama said, to laughter.
He said every kid at the school gets a laptop and the school has a longer school year and longer days, with 60 minutes per class. Some kids stay in school in July and August – “and that costs money,” he said. So the country needs to decide “what our priorities are, what our values are.”
The country, he said, “needs to continue to invest in the American dream.”
Obama said he is “preaching to the choir” when he talks to Menino about the need to improve infrastructure like road, rails and airports.
Obama said he had met with college Republicans and Democrats at TechBoston, because getting young people involved in civic life means “something good is going to come out of it.”
He said he was impressed by “how smart and civil,” the college kids were and said he had he considered “sending them up to Capitol Hill” to teach Congress a lesson. The crowd chortled appreciatively.