Pure coincidence brought President Barack Obama and musician John Legend together on Ohio State’s campus Sunday.
Minutes before the president and first lady Michelle Obama took the stage at the political rally on the Oval, Legend performed three of his most popular tracks. After the rally, Legend relocated to the Union, where he discussed his philanthropic work, answered questions from students in attendance and performed a few more songs. The 1,720 person-capacity Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom was not full, despite being a sold-out event.
“I thought John Legend had a great performance. I thought the songs he chose were very empowering to the cause. It’s awesome that he can come to our school and take time out of his schedule to return to his roots,” said Bridget Mackin, a first-year transfer student. “Not many people are proud to say they’re from Ohio.”
Legend, a Springfield, Ohio, native, proudly discussed his excitement about his family’s attendance at the event.
“It’s always an honor. My family got to be here today, which is very cool. This was their first time meeting,” Legend said.
This was not Legend’s first time meeting the president. Before he spoke, Obama called Legend his friend. Legend has musically introduced Obama in the past, including at the Iowa Caucus of 2008.
During his performance at the rally, Legend performed “Green Light,” “Save Room” and “Ordinary People.”
“I just wanted to rev the crowd up,” Legend said. “‘Green Light’ is always a crowd favorite, ‘Ordinary People’ is always a crowd pleaser … but I also wanted to do something more political and social that would wake up everybody.”
Legend sang “Ordinary People” again at the Union, but also wanted to inspire students.
Legend’s nonprofit organization, the Show Me Campaign, fights for education reform in the U.S. Legend that equal access to a quality education is the civil rights issue of our time, and superior education is a proven solution to poverty.
This belief, that students stuck in the cycles of poverty will be without opportunity, aligns with Obama’s political foundation.
Although they have coinciding political ideologies, their appearances Sunday evening were not coordinated. Legend, originally scheduled to perform at the Union at 7 p.m., changed his plans to accommodate the president only a week ago.
“It is a great honor that the president is coming to our campus, and OUAB and the managers for Mr. Legend were flexible in allowing the time of the event to be changed,” said Daniel Walls, Ohio Union Activities Board lectures chair in an e-mail.
Everyone in attendance might not have been Democrats, but some students thought that Legend’s celebrity status could sway votes.
“I think if people respect John Legend, then they might be influenced to vote for the Democratic Party,” said Sarah Middleton, a second-year in zoology.
Although Legend said he tries not to beat people over the head with politics, he is not shy about where he stands on the political spectrum.
“As citizens, we all have the right and responsibility to be involved in our democracy,” Legend said.