Looking Back at Memorable Minnesota Presidential Visits

June 20, 2018 05:55 AM

When President Donald Trump touches down in Duluth Wednesday afternoon, it will mark his first visit to Minnesota since taking the oath of office.

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But presidential visits to the state are nothing new.

Every president since at least Calvin Coolidge has made a stop or stops here at some point during their presidency.

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Warren Harding appeared at the Minnesota State Fair as a candidate in 1920. And William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Woodrow Wilson all made visits as well.

"We certainly haven't been ignored," said Kerri Teske, a reference technician at the Minnesota Historical Society.

"Even if, especially in earlier days, Minnesota was mostly a stop on their way to someplace else. Or they were here to campaign."

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Some visits, though, did leave lasting memories.

Here is a look at some of the more impactful Minnesota presidential visits over the years:

Rutherford's Rambles

Records of travel by presidents in the 1800s can be hard to come by.

But it is clear Rutherford B. Hayes made a stop in Minnesota during his time in the White House. His 1878 visit included a stop at the State Fairgrounds, speaking to a huge crowd in the grandstand after breakfast at the Metropolitan Hotel, according to the Minneapolis Tribune.

He delivered a perhaps less-than-dazzling address on the reduction of the national debt. But he spoke of Minnesota in more detail during an address in Minneapolis later in his visit, which also included stops in Hastings and Red Wing.

"Of course we all know, everybody in the United States that knows anything, knows a good deal, and a good deal that is good and pleasant, about the City of Minneapolis," he told the crowd.

"We know of your energy, your rapid growth, your prospects, and what you are doing today. Passing around your city, viewing your beautiful homes, viewing also its wonderful manufacturing establishments, so extensive, so well fitted to take hold of raw material which we have seen growing in the colossal wheat fields of the Northwest; passing through these we realize how it is that one column of figures that I have repeated, and I propose to repeat until I get back to Washington, how it is that column of figures stands so favorably to the United States as it does."

Carry a Big Stick

Perhaps the most memorable "presidential" moment in Minnesota did not technically take place during a presidential visit at all. Though Theodore Roosevelt would return to Minnesota while in the White House, he was still Vice President when he appeared at the Minnesota State Fair on Sept. 2, 1901.

But the speech was notable for several reasons. To begin with, it came just days before events thrust Roosevelt into the nation's highest office. President William McKinley was shot in Buffalo on Sept. 6, and died on Sept. 14.

Yet the speech is best remembered for a phrase that became associated with Roosevelt and the policies he advocated at home and abroad.

"Speak softly and carry a big stick," he told the crowd. "You will go far."

FDR Honors the Mayo Brothers

In the midst of his first term in office, Franklin Roosevelt arrived in Rochester on Aug. 8, 1934. His purpose: to honor Willliam and Charlie Mayo, the doctors of Mayo Clinic fame.

"You have helped to give to the medical profession a unique place in the community and the Nation," he said in his remarks.

 Roosevelt went on to inspect projects on the Mississippi River, including a dam between Lake City and Winona, the Minneapolis Tribune reported.

JFK in Duluth

John F. Kennedy was in the Twin Cities in October, 1962, just weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis, campaigning for Democratic candidates in the mid-term elections.

And he was back the following year, addressing delegates to the Northern Great Lakes Region Land and People Conference in Duluth on Sept. 24, 1963 - just two months before he was assassinated in Dallas.

"We can, I believe, solve a good many of our problems," Kennedy told the crowd at Minnesota-Duluth.

"I think they are man-made and they can be solved by man. And I think we must not keep our attention so fixed on those great issues of war and peace, which are perhaps the most desperate and the most serious and the most important, or the great issues of space, but also concern ourselves with what happens in the United States, and particularly in those areas of the United States which have been left behind."

Bush and the Bridge

Just days after the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, 2007, President George W. Bush arrived to inspect the disaster scene.

Bush vowed to help get the bridge rebuilt, and praised those who had been working at the spot of the collapse.

"I have met with the chief of police and the sheriff, rescue workers," he said in remarks covered by KSTP's Tom Hauser. "People who represent the men and women working as hard as they possibly can to go under these murky waters and to find facts."

Obama at Xcel

Barack Obama also made several visits to Minnesota during his presidency. But perhaps his most famous trip came while campaigning for the office.

On June 3, 2008, at the close of a hard-fought battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, the Illinois Senator appeared at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul - the site of the Republican National Convention later that year.

"Because of you," Obama told a cheering crowd. "I can stand here and say I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America."


Frank Rajkowski

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