By Chris Fish
BREVARD - A crowd of 3,050 people sang Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" in unison Sunday, Sept. 9, in anticipation of President Barack Obama's speech at Florida Tech in Melbourne.
When the president made his appearance a little before noon, the large crowd erupted with cheers and applause.
Before he began his speech, the president smiled and told the crowd to "take a seat if you have one, because I'm going to be talking for a while."
The president's speech began with some light humor, as he told the crowd that he would be finished in time for an NFL kick-off. It also featured moments of audience interaction, with one woman shouting out, "I love you, Obama," to which the president replied, "I love you, too."
However, when the president started to dive deeper into his speech, he spoke passionately of Medicare and the space program.
"We've begun an ambitious new direction for NASA by laying the groundwork for 21st Century space flight, and, just last month, witnessed an incredible achievement that speaks to our nation's sense of wonder and our can-do - the United States of America landing Curiosity on Mars," President Obama said to the cheering crowd, eliciting additional cheers and excitement.
This was the president's 10th time visiting Florida this year, but the first time he has visited the Space Coast in 2012, as well as his first visit to Florida Tech.
"Florida Tech is honored that the president of the United States chose to stop on campus," said Wes Sumner, a spokesman for Florida Tech. "This is the first time that a U.S. president has been to the university. The world spotlight is shining on Florida Tech."
Regarding Medicare, President Obama told the crowd that he would never turn the program into a "voucher," unlike what he said his opponent Mitt Romney would do.
"We've already added years to the life of Medicare by getting rid of taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies that weren't making people any healthier and making things more expensive for everybody," President Obama said. "We used part of the savings to help lower the cost of prescriptions and offer free preventive care to seniors. I thought that was a good idea."
Grace Olszewski, a Brevard County resident and senior, said prior to the event, that she was excited to see President Obama speak, prior to the event.
"I'm very interested in health care," Mrs. Olszewski said. "I hope everyone votes for him to give him the chance to finish what he started."
The president was introduced onstage by Palm Bay resident Mary French, a retired member of the FBI, registered Republican and supporter of the Obama campaign. Ms. French said she voted for President Obama in 2008 and she believes that, while the country has changed, Republican views on the issues most important to her have not, including issues involving women's health.
"Our president cares about each and every one of you," Ms. French said to the crowd. "He cares about the middle class. He cares about the economy and jobs. He strives to make equality for all."
Ms. French also commended the president's decision to send U.S. Navy SEALs to Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden.
The morning of the speech, President Obama visited Ossorio Bakery and Café in Cocoa Village for breakfast.
"We were given a 20-minute notice before he arrived," said Chelsea Patrick, an employee at Ossorio Bakery and Café. "He was very charming. It didn't feel like you were meeting the president. He was the easiest person to talk to."
Ms. Patrick said the day after President Obama's visit, the restaurant was very busy, and customers asked for more information regarding his stop at the café.
During his visit to the Space Coast, President Obama also took a few minutes to speak with Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher.
"He was busy trying to learn everyone's concerns, but I was able to whisper in his ear that spaceflight is important to us, and the faster he can get humans up and flying, the faster it will create jobs in the area," Commissioner Fisher said. "This is something we need figured out."
- Staff writer Meagan McGone contributed to this article.