URBANA, Ill. (WCCU) -- Preparations for Friday’s award ceremony honoring former president Barack Obama at the University of Illinois are already underway.
Crews around campus are prepping to make sure everything goes according to plan. U of I Police are working with the secret service to ensure the community's safety.
More than 22,000 students entered the lottery hoping to score a seat at Foellinger Auditorium to watch Obama receive the Paul H. Douglas award for ethics in government, but only 944 students from the Urbana, Springfield and Chicago campuses were selected to attend. While thousands of students are disappointed they will not get to see the former president speak they are still excited about his visit to campus.
“Everyone has been buzzing and talking about it like they're super excited and I think that it's really cool that he's even coming to our university,” UI student, Jordan Tarvar said who was not one of the students selected to attend the event. “I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to it, but maybe next time or if there is a next time.”
“I didn't get a ticket and I think the acceptance rate was like 6 percent which is unfortunate,” UI student, Matthew Rice said.
Obama's name will soon join the list of the past Douglass award winners that dates back to 1994.
“I’d say he's a step above in terms of everyone else we've given it to in terms of the level of office,” interim director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Jon Davis said.
Obama will be the first president to receive the national award and he will join dozens of others including U.S. Representative John Lewis and the late U.S. Senator John McCain.
"[Obama] had a great record when he worked across the aisle and there's been no investigations which is kind of unusual these days for a president sitting in office,” Davis said.
It took about 7 months for the former president to accept the invitation.
“Independently his team contacted one of the IGPA staff to see if they could come to Champaign so they could talk about civic engagement and address the students and we reminded them about the award and they said 'oh it's perfect we'll take the award and do the presentation both,'” Davis said.
Friday's event starts at 11AM. Students who did not get a ticket can watch from an overflow room in Huff Hall on campus where the university will set up a livestream for up to 4,400 students.