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Local man amazed by lunch with Obama

Rochester, N.Y. -- I ate lunch with the president, Brandon McDonald said as he laughed in disbelief. Its crazy, still unreal.

The recent University of Rochester graduate was one of seven people to sit down and have lunch with President Barack Obama Thursday afternoon. On his bus tour from Buffalo to Syracuse, the president made an unscheduled stop in Rochester to eat and chat with people at Magnolias on Park Avenue.

Over tomato and artichoke soup and a turkey sandwich, McDonald said, President Obama talked about the price of higher education.

It was just light conversation, McDonald said. He just really wanted to know about our experience, know about the University of Rochester and how we handled financing college.

Looking for ways to help people go to and stay in college, McDonald said, President Obama asked the group what people need to know to better understand student loans.

The recent U of R graduate, $26,000 in debt, spoke openly and honestly with the president. 

Financing college is very difficult, McDonald said. I understand why so many people aren't in college is because the immense loans that you end up taking out to go to college.

McDonald said the president genuinely listened to the concerns and suggestions voiced during the luncheon. 

Eye contact was uncanny, said McDonald. He definitely was paying attention to everything that each of the students was saying and especially the parents, too.

All with ties to the University of Rochester, the seven people selected to eat with the president were either students, parents of students, or recent graduates who use or used federal loans to help pay for college.

I feel honored and just humbled by the whole experience, McDonald said. Im still asking myself why me, why was I selected, but its just amazing and Im so glad I was able to have lunch with the president.

McDonald said he received a very vague email Wednesday night, as invitation to what was described only as "a very unique opportunity." As soon at McDonald said he was interested, he had to submit his Social Security number and pass a background check. 

I was a little skeptical at first, said McDonald. But it all turned out to be the best experience of my life.

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Washington Times