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JEM Senior Covers President's Visit


One senior from the School of Journalism and Electronic Media had the opportunity of a lifetime to cover President Obama's visit to Knoxville on Friday, January 9th. Read Rilwan Balogun's fascinating story and how he refused to let any obstacle in the way stop him from achieving his goal. 

Rilwan first heard that Obama was coming to Knoxville the Sunday before classes began and immediately sent a text to faculty member Mike Wiseman asking what he had to do to get there. "The next thing I know," said Rilwan, "Mike sent an email back saying 'I emailed the White House Press Secretary,' and I said okay!" Rilwan also takes classes part time at Pellissippi State Community College where he found out was the location where the President would be speaking, and while waiting for a reply from the Press Secretary, he discovered Pellissippi student tickets could be purchased to the event. That Tuesday he called but ran into a problem when the college told him only full time students could receive tickets. Never discouraged, Rilwan asked how he could get a press pass since he was with The Volunteer Channel here at UT, and the response was that the White House would have to send one. Rilwan got in touch with a friend that works at WBIR locally and they forwarded him the email containing the press pass application, which he filled out and again waited for a response.<--break->

Thursday, the day before the President arrived, Rilwan received the news that he had been approved and to report at 7 a.m. the following morning. "I didn't have a camera with me at the time so while during a break in my Thursday night class, I ran to see if I could get a camera and the equipment room was closed. I went to TVC - no cameras. I remembered a friend said she had accidentally kept a camera over break so I got into contact with her and went over at 1:00 a.m. to get it," Rilwan explained. He arrived at 7 a.m. the next morning, camera in hand, and waited until President Obama arrived at 1 p.m. to begin his speech.

Rilwan explains what it was like being in a press conference with the President. "At first, it was normal like I've done before but then I said 'Wait. This is the President!' and I looked up from where I had been staring down at my camera and took everything in, even clapping when Obama made a point. Then I looked around and no one else in the reporter area was clapping and I told myself to go back to being professional," said Rilwan with a laugh. When asked how this experience helped prepare Rilwan for his future career in journalism, he replied "How I got there, how I kept going, and the need to be there when I found out he was coming. I'm always persistently consistent. If I want something I'm going to make sure I get it done. Even when things go wrong, other people would give up, but to me, this is huge and I need to be there."

President Obama chose Knoxville as a stop in a weeklong trip over the country to continue discussing education and other issues due to the “Tennessee Promise,” a scholarship students of Tennessee can apply for and receive two years of community college or technical school free. 

The Daily Beacon was also there representing the University of Tennessee along with Rilwan from TVC.