WATCH: Area leaders react to Obama's message

By Dave Greber

August 23, 2013 Updated Aug 23, 2013 at 10:29 PM EST

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Binghamton University students and faculty weren't the only ones in attendance for President Barack Obama's visit Friday.

Many area lawmakers and political leaders were in attendance as well.

Pols on both sides of the aisle who spoke to Action News in the minutes following the president's town hall were proud he chose BU to deliver his proposal on making higher education more affordable.

Not surprisingly, local democrats were most impressed.

"I've always wanted to see him in person," said Jim Testani, chairman of the Broome County Democratic Party. "I saw him at his inaugural four years ago, but it was me and 5 million of my closest friends, so you didn't get terribly close. This was exciting. It really was exciting.

"Not only as a democrat, but as an American, to see your president -- and I don't care whether you're democrat or Republican -- we've got one president and only 43 people have sat in that office, and it's always an honor to be in the presence of the president of the United States."

Mayor Matt Ryan said it makes sense for the president to release his proposal at BU, and that he supports the president's plan to boost the middle class.

"I think it's wise to start this conversation because it's so important to keeping a viable middle class for our country," Ryan said. "So I think he chose this venue very carefully because of the great reputation we already have."

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, said the president's key point -- that students just can't end their education after high school -- is solidified in the 21st century.

"I think the central point that he made is that higher education isn't a luxury," Lupardo said. "It really is a necessity for any job of the 21st century. So we've got to figure out a way to work together to help students to make schools more afordable, but also make wise choices."

Lupardo also said she has been dedicated to changing the system in New York, as state funding for higher education has been on the decline.