Ask Abe: U.S. Presidents

An Alum

How Many U.S. Presidents have visited UW–Madison?

Abe

What? My constant, glorious, bronze presence isn’t enough for you? Well, fine. If you must know, four sitting U.S. presidents have visited Madison to deliver a total of seven presidential addresses.

The first was President Rutherford Hayes, who “mingled in a friendly manner with the young lady students” on September 10, 1878, according to a 1929 Milwaukee Journal article. The second visit didn’t happen until the next century, when President Herbert Hoover spoke at the Wisconsin Field House during his (unsuccessful) reelection campaign in 1932. President Harry Truman was next — speaking twice in his two terms. During his (successful) reelection campaign in October of 1948, he addressed an at-capacity crowd at the Stock Pavilion. Then, in the spring of 1950, he returned to speak about policy, rather than to deliver a campaign stump speech — the only presidential address on campus to do so. His was a “peace address” given at the Field House, which was broadcast to a nationwide audience. (Less than a month later, the U.S. entered the Korean War.)

The next presidential visit didn’t occur for another 58 years, when President Barack Obama came to Madison. He visited campus three times: first during his election campaign in February 2008; next in September of 2010 in an effort to motivate young Democrats to vote in the next election; and finally, just hours before his reelection in November of 2012.

In addition to sitting presidents, UW–Madison has also hosted a number of former commanders-in-chief — Presidents Taft (May 1915), Theodore Roosevelt (May 1918), and Carter (March 1994) visited after their terms — as well as POTUS hopefuls. Woodrow Wilson (1911), Dwight Eisenhower (1949), John Kennedy (1960), Bill Clinton (1992), gave talks on campus during the Octobers of their respective campaigns. Most recently, democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders visited in the spring primaries of 2016.