A majority of those waiting for entrance were college students—a base of support for Obama during the election—in favor of reform. Many didn't know when reform could happen but still had a sense of optimism for change.
Joseph Galante, a student in the Aerospace Engineering Graduate Program, ultimately wants comprehensive health care reform. His fear, though, is that "anything that makes it through Congress will be expensive and without any teeth."
"I'm a logical guy. I'm an engineer," he said. "People are worried about consequences. Republicans and Democrats are debating on a different set of facts—they are not arguing about the same thing."
Rykia Dorsey, a freshman from DC's Howard University majoring in political science, doesn't think "the perfect path has been laid out yet," and that she still "has questions about reform." But she and her classmates expressed unanimous support for the President, trusting in his judgment and calling it "the right idea."
"Some of the pushback is ignorance," she said.
As newcomers found their way to the back of the long line to get inside, they passed the section cordoned off for protestors. Numbering 30 at the most, those gathered reflected the wide spectrum of pushback against the administration’s health care reforms.
A solitary LaRouche volunteer stood at attention with a poster of the president depicted as Adolf Hitler; several protestors wore Halloween masks and medical scrubs; quiet adults passed out pamphlets with alternative health care reform talking points.
But the most noticeable contingent of health care reform opponents was found in the unofficial group University of Maryland Students Against National Health Care. Discernable by their red T-shirts, the group, in true digital grassroots form, owed its existence to a Facebook group created by Michael Ross, a senior majoring in rhetoric and political cultures.
Ross and his fellow protestors enjoyed the bulk of the media's attention— though there was little conflict to cover as the university kept everyone waiting outside the venue moving and orderly.
"Obama's coming here isn't the voice of the university," Ross said. "It's very difficult to have an opposing view, here."
Ross's own views came easily, having fielded interviews continuously throughout the day. His fellow protestors repeated, nearly verbatim, the argument for tort reform—which would address the high cost of malpractice insurance—and the necessity for portable health insurance, which would allow patients to purchase out of state health care. Their opinions on what would happen next differed.
"We need to change the insurance system," Shane Morris, a Thomas Edison State College junior majoring in political science, said. "The problems that liberals want to solve with more government were caused by government."
Miraj Patel, sophomore majoring in biology, was skeptical that the president’s proposed reforms wouldn't add to the deficit.
"I'm just not sure how it's going to be paid," he said.
Asked what reform should look like, Patel referred several times to the health care system in Germany, though the country boasts one of the oldest universal health care systems in the world.
"In practice, the moral issue doesn't work," Patel said, referring to the argument that Americans have a universal right to affordable and available health care.
Next to Patel, with a Gadsden flag billowing against a cold, heavy sky, David Spielman, a 2009 graduate from Salisbury University with a degree in political science, argued that, above all, health care needs to center on "personal choice."
Referring to the administration’s proposed reforms, Spielman said, "The first step to health care reform can’t happen, especially with what the polls are saying."
Nearby a sign announced the Sept. 16 poll from Rasmussen, which found 44 percent of the country in favor of health care reform, versus 53 percent against.
Less than hour later, President Obama took to the stage surrounded by a raucously positive audience
"The good news is, we are now closer to reform than we've ever been. After debating this issue for the better part of a year, there's now agreement in Congress on about 80 percent of what needs to be done," he said.
"And I'm going to seek common ground in the weeks ahead," he said later in the speech. "If you come to me with a set of serious proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open. But know this: I will not waste time with those who've made the calculation that it’s better to kill health reform than to improve our health care system."