Obama plans East Lansing visit, few details available


When President Barack Obama last visited East Lansing in 2008, it was a month before he was first elected president.

On Friday, he’ll return as a president with one term under his belt who is looking to secure his legacy as he enters his final three years in the Oval Office.

Obama is coming to East Lansing for an event about the economy on Friday, according to multiple media outlets citing an unnamed White House official.

Little else is known about the event.

Both MSU and East Lansing officials said they had not received any information about the president’s visit during the weekend.

White House officials told several media outlets more details on the scheduled visit would be announced early this week.

East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett said he was excited to find out about the scheduled visit from the nation’s leader.

“Obviously we’re honored and ecstatic to be hosting the president in East Lansing,” Triplett said. “I think it’s only fitting that he chose Michigan for an address focusing on the economy given how much the state benefitted from the economic policies.”

Obama last visited Michigan during a trip to the Detroit Diesel plant in Redford Township in 2012, where he met with hundreds of factory employees.

In 2012, MSU College Democrats registered more than 5,000 students to vote in their effort to re-elect Obama, said Rawley Van Fossen, the organization’s president.

Van Fossen said he hopes Obama will speak about investment in higher education during his East Lansing visit.

“We need a skilled workforce for the United States to move forward,” Van Fossen said.

“I think that investing in higher education, especially higher public education, proves to be a genuine investment for the tax-paying citizens of this country.”

Van Fossen said he thinks MSU’s planned Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, also known as FRIB, might be what’s bringing Obama to East Lansing.

The project, which would add to the university’s research in nuclear science, is set to receive $55 million in funding for its 2014 operations, and the U.S. Department of Energy approved $635.5 million in federal funding in Aug. 2013. The project is set to be completed in 2022.

MSU College Republicans Vice Chair Tori Whiting said the president’s decision to hold an event in East Lansing was “a privilege and a wonderful thing” for the MSU and East Lansing community.

Whiting said the visit should be recognition of Michigan’s significant economic improvements made during Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.

“I really hope that he shows a lot of support for what the Snyder administration is doing right now in Michigan,” Whiting said.

The economy was the cornerstone of Obama’s State of the Union address last week.

The speech examined a broad range of issues, including an initiative to bring the federal minimum wage to $10.10, gender-based pay inequality and extending long-term relief to the unemployed.

But the president also took time in his speech to address higher education.

Obama said his administration had “worked with lenders to reform student loans,” and given “millions” of students the option to prevent their student loan payments from exceeding 10 percent of their income.

“I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt,” Obama said.

Under the Obama administration, federal student loan interest rates have declined for undergraduate students from 6 percent to 3.86 percent.

Although it has not yet been released whether Obama’s event will take place on or off campus, MSU has played host to presidents in the past.

According to MSU University Archives and Historical Collections, several former presidents came to campus while they were in office.

President Theodore Roosevelt gave the commencement address to the class of 1907.

A debate between then-President George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot at Wharton Center in 1992 garnered international attention.

Clinton visited MSU three times while in office — once to give a commencement address in 1995, once during his campaign for re-election in 1996 and then a third time to congratulate MSU’s 2000 NCAA Championship basketball team as he conducted his last days in office.

Other notable presidential visits include John F. Kennedy, who came to campus and spoke in front of the Union during his presidential campaign in 1963.

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