White House officials announced yesterday afternoon that President Barack Obama will speak on campus this Friday, following his State of the Union Address tonight, as a part of a series of speaking events across the country.
Obama will deliver his remarks at the Al Glick Field House, the Michigan football team’s indoor practice facility, and he will speak about college affordability, the Associated Press reported.
The president is scheduled to travel to Iowa, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado tomorrow and Thursday before arriving in Michigan on Thursday evening, where he’ll spend the night before coming to campus Friday morning.
Scheduled to start at 9:35 a.m. on Friday, the event will be free and open to the public. Tickets will be available starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday at the Michigan Union Ticket Office.
Tickets will be given out on a first come, first serve basis with a limit of one ticket per person.
Friday’s speech will mark the president’s 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 is 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,” Coleman said in the statement. “We are particularly honored that he will visit following his State of the Union address.”
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.
“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 … appreciate what he did for the Michigan economy but are also worried about future job prospects.”
Michael Traugott, a research professor at the University’s Institute for Social Research, 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 a 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.”
Last June, Coleman was one of six university presidents from around the country to join with Obama in creating the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a joint venture between the Obama administration and universities to increase the number of advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States and develop 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 the 2009 bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler.
“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.
Despite the state’s upcoming primary, Obama’s main focus will be continuing to mobilize Democratic support, particularly against the past economic policies of the Republican candidates, Kollman said.
“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,” Kollman said.
The Ann Arbor Police Department, along with the University’s Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Secret Service, has been working to prepare for Obama’s visit, Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones said.
“The president’s coming to town, and every measure will be taken,” Jones said.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said the law enforcement agencies are working together to prepare for the visit. Hieftje said that while Ann Arbor is used to hosting big events, “everybody’s on deck when the president comes to town.”
“Aside from having the president come, and obviously folks like that, we also host a lot of very large events in town, (like) the largest art fair in the country,” Hieftje said. “Seven times a year, Michigan Stadium is filled, so we’re used to big events and traffic control, (and) I think it will be well-handled.”
Obama was 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 delivered historic speeches at the University. Then-Senator John F. Kennedy famously announced his intention to create the Peace Corps program from the steps of The Michigan Union on Oct. 14, 1960 as he was running for the presidency. Former President Gerald R. Ford also began his ultimately unsuccessful 1976 re-election campaign at a rally at Crisler Arena.
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.”
Daily News Editor Haley Goldberg, Daily News Editor Adam Rubenfire and Daily Staff Reporter Steve Zoski contributed to this report.