What An Opportunity

On the awkward moment that happened when President Obama came to Buffalo

In Culture on August 23, 2013 at 10:28 pm

President Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of 7,200 in Buffalo about higher education and the middle class. The University at Buffalo was the first step on his two-day bus tour.

I covered President Barack Obama’s visit to the University at Buffalo yesterday. Here’s a column on what he had to say.

It was a strong speech, overall. But, well, there was one uncomfortable moment. Here’s what happened.

One of Obama’s final sentences drew by far the day’s biggest cheers: “It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” he said of repairing the broken higher-education system. “The good news is, from what I hear, folks in Buffalo know something about hard work.”

He knew the necessity of appealing to Buffalo, and he did it well. Of course, it’s that way with every city he visits – but when it comes to Buffalo, our adoration for our hometown is a bit heightened. We are the constant underdog, but we love our city and we love when it gets national attention. And when people recognize the toughness of this city, we thrive off that.

His three-prong plan for higher education drew some applause, but it was nothing compared to the deafening cheers that followed UB and Buffalo shout-outs. Which is natural, of course.

Obama got off to a blazing start when he exclaimed, “Hello, Buffalo! Go Bulls!”

Then he stumbled. Obama was making the necessary thank-yous. First, to UB sophomore Silvana D’Ettore, who introduced him, then to Secretary of Defense Arne Duncan, then Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Then he said, “Your outstanding mayor, Brian Higgins, is here.”

Wait, what?

Higgins is a congressman. Byron Brown is Buffalo’s mayor. The vibe went from enthusiastic to awkward.

The crowd booed. Obama looked perplexed. He made the ‘Obama Face,’ which has become so popular online with the accompanying ‘Not Bad’ tagline.

People shouted. Obama cupped his hand to his hear and asked, “What?” Then, upon hearing an answer, he said, “Byron Brown, that’s it. I’m sorry, Byron.”

Of course, he recovered from the folly. Whether you like him or not, there is no denying he’s a demi-god at the podium.

Here’s a video of the awkward moment.

  1. Trying to figure out what the point of this was … that the President is human?

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