Shortly after his January inauguration a year ago, President Barack Obama held his first town hall meeting on February 10, 2009, in Fort Myers, Florida, a part of the country especially hard hit by the economic downturn. The last questioner the new president called on at that event was Julio Osegueda, a 19-year-old college student from Cape Coral, Florida, and McDonalds employee.
At the time, Julio was an enthusiastic young Obama supporter who'd just voted in his first election and was attending Edison College part-time studying communications in hopes of becoming a broadcaster. Overnight he became the most recognizable town hall participant of the new presidency along with Henrietta Hughes, an older woman who claimed to be homeless and pleaded with Obama for help.
The new president noted that it was Osegueda's hard-to-miss Obama hat, as well as his enthusiasm, that caught his attention:
The oldest of four children originally from Long Island, N.Y., life changed immediately for Julio after that town hall meeting last February. Before the presidential motorcade left the convention center that afternoon he was called by the Keith Olbermann show at MSNBC. Eventually Julio was interviewed on several cable and local television programs, including the CBS Early Show and CNN.
Julio is now working as a disc jockey at a local nightclub and still hoping to pursue his dream as a broadcaster. He has also done some guest broadcasting for the local minor league baseball team, the Fort Myers Miracle.
I attended the Fort Myers town hall and happened to be standing next to Julio in the street after the event while we were both waiting for the presidential motorcade to pass. I found him to be an affable, charming and enthusiastic young man who was genuinely thrilled about the opportunity he'd just been given. Julio was clearly the new president's #1 fan.
I sat down with Julio on the eve of the first anniversary of the Obama inauguration to ask for his take on the 44th President's first year:
Julio told me how his life has changed in the past year after the surprise honor of being called on by President Obama at the first town hall. I asked him if he feels he is better off than he was a year ago:
I asked Julio what he would like to see happen in the Obama administration and the country going forward, particularly things that might not be happening now:
The 2008 election of Barack Obama owes much to young people like Julio, now 20, who turned out in record numbers to elect a president who campaigned on a promise of hope and change.
Julio Osegueda hasn't lost his enthusiasm for this president, and still believes he can deliver both.
Julio Osegueda, President Barack Obama's #1 fan. (photo: Kathy Riordan)
On the Web: