Obama to be fourth U.S. president to speak at U

William H. Taft was the last president to hold a public event on campus.

by Devin Henry

In 1903, Teddy Roosevelt  applauded the Gophers football team. Eight years later, William Howard Taft  called the University of Minnesota âÄúperhaps the greatest university in the United States.âÄù George W. Bush  said he considered University President Mark Yudof  a friend when he visited in 2002.
On Saturday, President Barack Obama will become only the fourth sitting U.S. president to visit the UniversityâÄôs Twin Cities campus, and the first since Taft a century ago to hold a public event. Like we were then, the Minnesota Daily will be on hand.
In those early years of the 20th century, the paper ran sans photographs, and coverage of the presidential visits consisted almost entirely of running portions of their speeches verbatim. The coverage also offers insight into the traditions of the day.
Students were entertained by the UniversityâÄôs Glee Club on April 4, 1903 , while waiting on Theodore Roosevelt (âÄúOur Loved and Honored President,âÄù the paper proclaimed). He gave two speeches, one to a group of students at a chapel and another to 4,000 at the Armory.
The latter was a 45-minute address on tariffs and foreign policy toward Cuba and the Philippines. But at the chapel, he focused a lot on athletics, telling a cheering crowd he had âÄúkept a sufficient eye on the football field, and I could tell you a good many of your scores.âÄù The Gophers went 9-2-1 in 1902, good enough for third in the Big 9 Conference.  
âÄúI believe in rough, manly sports,âÄù Roosevelt said. âÄúI donâÄôt feel any particular sympathy for the person who gets battered about a good deal, so long as it is not fatal. And if he feels any sympathy for himself, then I donâÄôt like him.âÄù
Taft came to the Armory on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 1911 . His speech was shorter and drier than RooseveltâÄôs, and he took time to critique the manners of the college students in attendance. He called them âÄúcolumns of handsome and straight young men who understood the privilege of being bipeds and standing straight.âÄù
But when his short address ended and University President George Vincent  convinced him to speak longer, Taft undertook what he termed âÄúa little mild criticism,âÄù calling on universities to âÄúcultivate âĦ in the study of manners, the treatment of others with the kind of consideration that we find among the Latin races.âÄù
He called for less emphasis on âÄúshowing too deep an interest in our sideâÄù of sports. âÄúI wish the university games could be attended with less partizanship (sic) and better treatment of the other side in showing appreciation of their good plays.âÄù Vincent led the students in a rendition of âÄúHail, Minnesota,âÄù as âÄúaudible proof that the university spirit could be expressed in another manner than by âÄòbarbaric yells.âÄôâÄù
With that, they sent off the president. It would be 90 years before a sitting Commander-in-Chief visited the University again.
(Interestingly, the Oct. 26, 1911, issue carried the incorrect date and volume number in its masthead. A long-anonymous reader penciled in the correct date in the archived copies of that yearâÄôs Dailys.)
President George W. Bush came to Minneapolis in July 2002  with similar intentions as Obama. Bush was here months before the midterm elections (featuring Sen. Paul WellstoneâÄôs  ill-fated run for a third term and a marquee gubernatorial race) to rally Republicans at the Target Center.  While here, he hosted a close-door roundtable discussion on health care policy at the University.
The DailyâÄôs coverage had evolved since 1911, and the reporter covered both the Bush visit (âÄúI called up my friend Mark Yudof and invited myself here because Minnesota is one of the leading centers of health care innovation in our country,âÄù Bush said.) and the protests he brought with him (âÄúThe real terrorist is the one whose actions are killing people every single day, and thatâÄôs George Bush,âÄù a protester said).
Bush hosted no public events while on campus, though he held a press conference with Yudof (on âÄúStrengthening MedicareâÄù) that afternoon.
Obama will be the fourth president to visit the University in 159 years. His visit will draw thousands to Northrop Mall on Saturday, bringing all the pageantry and excitement that any presidential visit would. But his recent appearances have been prefaced with rock bands, not Glee Clubs. WeâÄôll probably still run a verbatim copy of the speech, but youâÄôll likely only be able to find it online. There most definitely will be protests, and weâÄôll have not only photographs in the paper, but live-streaming video of the event online. And any mention of Gophers football will be met with groans, not cheers.
SaturdayâÄôs is an event 99 years in the making. The Daily, like always, will be there to bring it all to you.

-Devin Henry is the editor in chief of the Minnesota Daily.