2/25/11 ASHLAND, OH -- Blanchester resident and Ashland University Student Senate President Phillip Wages got the thrill of a lifetime Tuesday when he attended a session for college student leaders in Cleveland and President Barack Obama walked into the meeting and shook his hand.
Wages, a senior toxicology major from Blanchester, Ohio, and the son of Eugene and Evelyn Wages of Blanchester, was invited to attend President Barack Obama's small business forum at Cleveland State University on Feb. 22 and was part of a group of 15 college student leaders scheduled to meet with Kalpen Modi, the youth liaison for President Obama. This meeting took take place following President Obama's opening remarks at the small business forum.
"We were all just sitting in the meeting talking about jobs and the economy when the door opened and President Obama walked in," Wages said. "He went around the table and shook our hands, thanked us for attending the session and sat down to talk with us."
Wages said he was very impressed with President Obama.
"He seemed very sincere. He wanted to know what our ideas were and was very interested in trying to implement them in some way," Wages said. "It was very refreshing to see that he didn't have an agenda to push, he just wanted to hear from us."
Wages said the discussion was wide-ranging, but centered on entrepreneurial and small business opportunities as well as funding for new businesses. He added that White House officials discussed conducting future webinars involving student college leaders.
"I was just thrilled as a college student leader with being able to talk to a White House official and then President Obama walked in; that changed my whole perspective on the forum," he said.
The session with the college student leaders, unlike the other roundtables led by Obama Cabinet members and top aides on that day, was not open to the media because it was not an official part of the forum.
Wages also was part of the crowd at Cleveland State who listened to President Obama's remarks as part of the "Winning the Future Forum for Small Business," a program that brought small business owners together for discussions on what is and isn't moving U.S. business forward.
"President Obama talked about how manufacturing was a key topic in the Rust Belt and noted that Cleveland represents many Midwestern cities that were once manufacturing strongholds," Wages said. "The President called the reinvention of Cleveland and the region "the Tech Belt" for Cleveland's fiber optic networks, universities, hospitals, entrepreneurs and innovations."
Wages said that in his closing speech, the President noted tax credits for angel investors, creating networking opportunities in industry fields and clusters, and bringing together businesses with universities and community colleges to create job training and opportunities as key areas for improvement.
The invited students, who received calls and e-mails from the White House, included leaders of the student governments at a number of colleges and universities throughout northern Ohio.
Ashland University (www.ashland.edu<http://www.ashland.edu>) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.