Student who Kasich hugged comes to Ohio to help

Posted at 7:44 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-11 07:38:03-05

While his University of Georgia classmates enjoy their spring breaks in sunny locales sporting palm trees, senior Brett Smith can be found in a windowless office in Rocky River.

"I’m from Franklin, Georgia but no one knows where that is so I say Newnan and people don't usually know where that is so I just say south of Atlanta," Smith said.

He’s in Cuyahoga County making phone calls on behalf of presidential hopeful John Kasich.

If you saw Brett you’d think he looked familiar but when you hear his Georgia accent it hits you. He was the college student who drove up from Georgia last month to attend a Kasich town hall in South Carolina. It was at the end of the event when Kasich called on Smith who had raised his hand and told him the last word was his.

Smith a senior political science major told Kasich of the difficult time he had been through in his life, the death by suicide of a father figure, the divorce of his parents and his father’s loss of his job.

“I was in a really dark place for a long time. I was pretty depressed but I found hope and I found in the Lord, my friends and now I found it in my presidential candidate that I support,” Smith said at that town hall before asking Kasich, “I’d really appreciate one of those hugs you’ve been talking about.”

The moment would be replayed for millions of viewers over the next few days. At the time Smith said he knew CSPAN cameras were there "but I thought maybe my grandmom might see,” he said. “I didn’t feel like it would be something that went out of the room, I just felt like it was something between me and him.”

Before he left the room CSPAN had tweeted it out and someone showed him, “it already had like 50 retweets and the views were racking up,” Smith said. “That’s when it kind of hit me that this might be I guess bigger than just a Clemson University moment.”

Since then Smith said he’s enjoyed his 15 minutes. “I’ve never been recognized by a stranger so that’s been kind of cool,” he said.

“It's kind of neat to have people know who you are and recognize you and especially know you for something that's positive,” he said adding with a smile befitting a college senior “I've gotten a lot of hugs lately here in Ohio so that's been fun."