January 24, 2012 - 3:12am
BY BETHANY BIRON
White House officials announced on Monday afternoon that President Barack Obama will speak on campus this Friday as a part of a series of speaking events across the country following his State of the Union Address on Tuesday.
Obama will deliver his remarks at the Al Glick Field House, the Michigan football team’s indoor practice facility. Obama is scheduled to travel to Iowa, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado before arriving in Michigan on Thursday evening.
The event is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. Friday, and will be free and open to the public. Tickets will be available starting Thursday at 9 a.m. from the Michigan Union Ticket Office in the Michigan Union.
Al Glick Field House
There’s a limit of one ticket per person, and they’ll be given out on a first come, first serve basis.
The president's appearance on campus will be his second visit to the University since taking office. Obama delivered the Spring Commencement address at Michigan Stadium in May, 2010.
University President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement to The Michigan Daily that the University was excited to welcome Obama back to campus.
“As a public research university, we share his commitment to a strong future for our state and our nation. We are particularly honored that he will visit following his State of the Union address."
Michael Traugott, a research professor at the University’s Institute for Social Research, said there is probably a variety of reasons Obama chose to speak at the University, including Michigan’s possible swing-state role in the upcoming presidential election.
Traugott added that Obama may have chosen the University due to his working relationship with University President Mary Sue Coleman, or his connection with Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president and Law School alum.
“I think there’s probably a variety of reasons (he’s coming),” Traugott said. “One of them is of course that in the fall, Michigan will be an important state for its electoral votes and probably much more contested than it was in 2008. Secondly, he has a lot of people on his staff who have connections to the University of Michigan, including Valerie Jarret. Thirdly, he seems to have a good working relationship on a variety of policy issues with President Coleman.”
Last June, Coleman was one of six university presidents from around the country to join with Obama in creating the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership — a partnership between the Obama administration and the universities to enhance the number of advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States, while developing more sophisticated manufacturing processes.
Traugott added that the proximity of Michigan's Feb. 28 Republican presidential primary could be another incentive for the president to visit to Ann Arbor this week. He noted that Obama will probably tailor the speech to discuss his policies that are popular with Michigan voters, including his role in helping automakers in Detroit.
“I think ... there will be an interest in framing the Michigan Republican primary in terms of topics that he thinks he has a particular advantage on, including unemployment and the bailout of two of the Big Three automobile companies.”
Traugott said Obama's choosing of the University over nearby Detroit or Lansing may indicate that he plans to make an announcement regarding educational or workforce initiatives for students.
Political Science Prof. Ken Kollman said winning the support of a “core constituency” of working and middle class voters in Michigan would be crucial to Obama’s re-election in November, adding it would reflect approval among Michigan constituents of the president’s recent policies regarding reviving the automobile industry and spurring job creation and economic growth in the state.
“Winning Michigan is very important to his re-election,” Kollman said. “It’s also a state where he can cash some chips in. He can take a lot of credit for saving the Big Three, or at least two of the Big Three. He is in a fight for working class white voters all over the country and there are a lot of such voters in Michigan that are probably undecided about him and appreciate what he did for the Michigan economy, but are also worried about future job prospects.”
Kollman said that though the Michigan Republican Primary is coming up, Obama’s main focus will be to continue to mobilize Democratic support, particularly against the past economic policies of the potential Republican candidates.
“His big thing now is to try to draw contrast between himself and the Republican Party as a whole and to try to be running against them as a party,” Kollman said. “He doesn’t exactly know who his opponent will be yet, but no matter who it is, he’s going to try to tie them to economic policies that are seen as not willing to step up places like Michigan.”
Obama is the fourth president to give a commencement speech in Ann Arbor, following former presidents Bill Clinton in 2007, George H. W. Bush in 1991 and Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
Other former presidents have also given historic speeches at the University, including John F. Kennedy’s famous announcement of the launch of the Peace Corps program from the steps of The Michigan Union on Oct. 14, 1960, and Gerald R. Ford’s announcement that he was seeking re-election at Crisler Arena on Sept. 15, 1976.
In his address to the 2010 graduating class, Obama stressed the need for civic involvement and discussed the difficult economic environment that University graduates would face as they entered the work force.
“The fact is, when you leave here today, you will search for work in an economy that is still emerging from the worst crisis since the Great Depression,” Obama said in his speech. “You live in a century where the speed with which jobs and industries move across the globe is forcing America to compete like never before.”
LSA freshman Ken Leaton said she is looking forward to hearing Obama discuss his plans leading into the 2012 election.
"I’m definitely excited to see him because I’m interested to hear what he’ll say for the upcoming election … and see what he plans to do in his election campaign and to see what the main issues are in the upcoming election. I will definitely try to go."
Gabriella Recinos, an LSA junior, said she was "pleasantly surprised” to hear the news, and added that Ann Arbor's central location makes it an ideal place to host the president's speech.
“Ann Arbor is a pretty good place because a lot of people can come,” Recinos said. “People from Ypsi can come, people from Detroit can come and hopefully people from outside of Ann Arbor will come.”
Rackham student Brad Kent said he would be interested in going if the event if it is open to students and tickets are easily accessible. Regardless, he said his is looking forward to hearing Obama elaborate on points brought up in his State of the Union address.
“I just found out today, and I think it’s great,” Kent said. “I’m glad that he’s coming, and I’m excited that he’s going to come after he gives the State of the Union address so we can hear him expound on his plans.”
Rackham student Hakeem Jefferson said he anticipates Obama to speak about job growth or educational initiatives, topics he finds particularly important to improving the state’s economy.
“I’m excited that the president’s coming to town,” Jefferson said. “I think it’s important for him to come to town, not only because he’s looking to get elected in November, but because Michigan probably needs to hear more about his jobs plan and needs to know more about what he’s going to do to help the economy improve more. ... I’m excited and I’ll definitely go if I can get a ticket to attend.”
He added that he hopes to see the president sing. During a speech at The Apollo theatre in New York last week, Obama gave his rendition of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
“He seems to do a good job singing the Al Green song … I think the president being the president should be able to sing whatever he wants, whatever Michelle’s favorite song is,” Jefferson said.
Editor in Chief Joseph Lichterman and Daily News Editors Haley Goldberg and Adam Rubenfire contributed to this report.