MANCHESTER, N.H. – "God Bless the USA" blared in an arena of around 12,000 as 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump took the stage the night before the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary.
The president waved and mouthed "thank you" to the cheering crowd, before taking his place at the podium. He was flanked by signs reading "Promises Made" and "Promises Kept."
During his hour-long speech, Trump lauded the United States' economic prosperity and boasted about "killing the founder and leader” of ISIS. The audience chanted “lock her up” when Trump brought up Nancy Pelosi's impeachment inquiry, and booed loudly when he decried his Democratic opponents and called mainstream media "fake news."
As the audience booed the media, Daily Pennsylvanian reporters fought for space in the cramped press box alongside news teams from CBS, C-SPAN, NBC, The New York Times, Fox and other major outlets.
Young people at the rally expressed interest at the spectacle, praising its excitement and entertainment value.
The crowd was mainly white and populated by elderly and middle-aged adults, though older teenagers and university students were also present. Most female attendees held "Women for Trump" signs.
The vast majority of attendees were decked out in "Make America Great Again" hats and regalia, and all seemed very devoted to the president.
One audience member, Edward Young, traveled more than 350 miles from New Jersey to attend the rally, and camped outside the stadium in the snowy weather for nearly 20 hours so he could be among the first to enter.
Young's sister graduated from Wharton in 1991, and he urged young people, especially current Penn students, to "wise up" and vote for Trump in November's election.
"Support one of your alumni," Young said. "When you get into the business world, believe me, if you’re not conservative now, you will be. You’ll learn the hard way.”
Several students from Norwich University, a private military college in Vermont, traveled from school to support Trump.
Norwich sophomore Dominic Gerard said Trump rallies feel more positive than other candidates' political events.
"In other areas, it’s more like why something can’t be done, or why it’s always someone else’s fault that you may be where you are," Gerard said. "But here, it’s like 'you can do it, we’re not going to punish other people for what they’ve done, we’re going to incentivize you to do the best you can.'"
Norwich junior Noah Davenport agreed with Gerard, praising the event's turnout and calling the rally a "very patriotic and awesome time."
Towards the end of his speech, the audience grew quiet as Trump recited lyrics from Al Wilson’s “The Snake,” a poem about a woman who takes care of a venomous snake only for it to bite her. Trump told the audience to think of the snake as an undocumented immigrant poisoning the United States.
Before leaving the roaring crowd behind, Trump shouted a final phrase: "Make America Great Again."
Young said he believes the enthusiasm at Trump rallies is unique, referring to the way the crowd cheered throughout the event and danced to music playing in the background.
"Regardless of how you feel, you should get involved, because politics is really fun right now," he said. "This isn’t just government, this is like a stand-up comedy show – this is wild; this is amazingly entertaining."
Trump was in the state in a bid to steal attention from his Democratic rivals vying to win the nomination and face him in November. New Hampshire will also hold the Republican primary on Tuesday, where Trump is expected to win in an overwhelming landslide.
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