Thank you President George Washington! Besides being a founding father and the first President of the U.S., it was the celebration of George’s birthday on February 22 that kicked off what we now know as Presidents’ Day. Observed on the third Monday of February, the day honors the individuals who have steered the U.S. throughout the course of its history. The day also gives some lucky ducks a three-day weekend!
And this week, our story continues because what could make the week that our nation celebrates Presidents’ Day any better than a visit from the President himself to our region? The cities of Kalamazoo and Portage will be letting the balloons fly on Thursday when President Joe Biden makes his planned visit to the Pfizer plant. This comes after the Biden administration announced a deal last week to buy 200 million vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna. Welcome, Mr. President!
In honor of those who have honorably served our country, the FIRST & 42 team takes a look back at some historic stops in our region by those who sat in the Oval Office. No matter on which side of the aisle you sit, there is one thing we hope to all agree on: Southwest Michigan certainly has gotten its fair share of Presidential notice. Fire up the band for a round of “Hail to the Chief” and read on to see who’s visited our region!
- Four years before he became the 16th President of the U.S., Abraham Lincoln, then a representative from Illinois, visited Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park on August 27, 1856. While he was supposed to speak on behalf of the Republican Presidential candidate John C. Fremont, he instead focused on the hot topic of the time—the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.
- During his “Swing Around the Circle” speaking tour, President Andrew Johnson stopped in Battle Creek at the old Michigan Central Station on August 28, 1866 to solicit support for Reconstruction policies.
- President William McKinley came to Battle Creek in 1892 and again in 1899. It was during this later trip, that a committee of leaders from the Cereal City intercepted him in Kalamazoo on the way to a family wedding and pleaded with him to address the crowd waiting for him.
- In 1903, Warren G. Harding visited the Battle Creek Sanitarium as a guest of his dear friend Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. We bet you’re wondering if they shared a bowl of corn flakes?
- On September 21, 1911, President William Howard Taft was in Battle Creek to talk about how he proposed to reorganize large corporations to bring them into compliance with anti-trust law.
- Teddy Roosevelt headed to Battle Creek in 1912, and he made the trip again in 1916 for the city’s celebration of “Teddy Roosevelt Day.” How could he miss his own day?
- Herbert Hoover visited the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 1936 and 1941.
- As a senator, Harry S. Truman stayed overnight in Battle Creek during his tours of Michigan’s army bases.
- During his 1960 Presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy delivered a speech in Kalamazoo in which he highlighted the importance of education in the fight against communism and the role of the Federal government in supporting education, including loans to college students and education programs for developing nations. The date was October 14, 1960.
- Back on September 5, 1965, more than 40,000 listened to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s speech about war, inflation, and public health during the centennial celebration of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
- Richard M. Nixon made campaign stops in 1968 to Battle Creek and Kalamazoo while seeking the presidency. He knew the way, because he’d been here before in 1952, 1956, and 1958.
- President Gerald R. Ford stepped off the platform of his “Presidential Express” in Battle Creek on May 15, 1976. He was in his home state to give a brief campaign speech.
- Ronald Reagan campaigned in a rally at the then W.K. Kellogg Regional Airport during the 1976 Michigan Republican primaries and returned to Battle Creek to stump during his successful bid for the presidency in 1980.
- Batter up! Did you know that long before he was President that George H.W. Bush visited Western Michigan University (WMU) as a member of the Yale baseball team playing in the 1947 World Series at Hyames Field? He came back in 1980 to the WMU campus in 1980 to stump for future President Ronald Reagan. Bush gave the commencement speech at Albion College in 1987. Looking to celebrate manufacturing during his own re-election campaign in 1992, he stopped by Stryker in Kalamazoo for a word or two.
- Having previously visited McCamly Place during a 1992 campaign rally, President Bill Clinton made another whistle stop on August 28, 1996 at Merrill Park in Comstock Township on his way to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. All aboard his “21st Century Express” train!
- On October 27, 2000, -Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush shared his thoughts for the future with a crowded gym at Kalamazoo Christian High School. He later returned for campaign rallies at Wings and C.O. Brown stadiums in 2004.
- Remember when President Barack Obama gave the commencement address at Kalamazoo Central High School on June 7, 2010? There to honor the winner of the 2010 Race to the Top High School Challenge, he gave the graduating class one final lesson before they tossed their caps high.
- Former President Donald J. Trump hosted a “Merry Christmas Rally” at W.K. Kellogg Arena on December 20, 2019. He visited “cereal town” again in 2020 during his reelection campaign.
- And, the Biden campaign, featuring First Lady Jill Biden, stopped by Battle Creek with Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Jill Biden’s visit came a week after President Joe Biden gave remarks in Warren, Michigan. In Battle Creek, Jill and Governor Gretchen joined local military families for a discussion.