The Long History Of Presidential Visits To Texas A&M’s Campus

By Sam Peshek, Texas A&M Marketing and Communications

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) shares a laugh at Kyle Field In 1937. (Photo courtesy Cushing Memorial Archives, Texas A&M University)

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937

Visited campus in 1937 near the end of his first term as president and spoke to 20,000 people at Kyle Field. He reviewed the Corps of Cadets as they passed by. Many of the cadets in attendance would go on to serve in World War II.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Chief of Staff of the Army, addresses the crowd at Campus Muster in 1946. (Photo courtesy Cushing Memorial Archives, Texas A&M University)

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1946

Eisenhower, then Chief of Staff of the Army after the conclusion of World War II, visited campus to deliver the Campus Muster address. That year, he lauded the Aggies who fought in the war for their service.

“No more convincing testimony could be given to the manner in which the men of Texas A&M lived up to the ideals and principles inculcated in their days on the campus than the simple statement that the congressional medal of honor has been awarded to six former students, that 46 took part in the heroic defense of Bataan and Corregidor and that nearly 700 are on the list of our battle dead,” Eisenhower said.

After spending the years after the war as president of Columbia University, he successfully ran for president in 1953. He served two terms.

President Lyndon B. Johnson, then vice president, addresses a crowd at Easterwood Airport in 1962. (Photo courtesy Cushing Memorial Archives, Texas A&M University)

Lyndon B. Johnson, 1962

On a visit to Texas A&M in 1962 as vice president, the Texas native and Texas Senator stopped at the Activation Analysis Research Laboratory, founded by Texas A&M Nuclear Science Professor Richard E Wainerdi.

The president had a close relationship with former Texas A&M President Gen. James Earl Rudder. Johnson sought Rudder’s support during his campaign for senate and sought his advice on an array of issues in Vietnam. When Rudder passed away in 1970, Johnson, a year removed from the White House, returned to campus for his funeral.

President Gerald R. Ford, then vice president, delivers his commencement address to graduates in G. Rollie White Coliseum in 1974. (Photo courtesy Cushing Memorial Archives, Texas A&M University)

Gerald R. Ford, 1974

Gerald R. Ford made two visits to Texas A&M’s campus, the first as vice president and the second as a former president. In Spring of 1974, he delivered a commencement speech to Texas A&M graduates more than a year after replacing Spiro Agnew as vice president. Five months after his visit to College Station in August 1974, he would be sworn in as president after Richard Nixon resigned at the height of the Watergate scandal.

He returned to Texas A&M in 1997 for the grand opening of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

“Lest we forget a presidential library is much more than a library,” Ford said. “It’s a classroom of democracy, a place to find inspiration as much as information.”

President George H.W. Bush delivers a commencement to Texas A&M graduates in 1984. (Photo courtesy Cushing Memorial Archives, Texas A&M University)

George H.W. Bush, 1984

The elder President Bush had a relationship with Texas A&M long before he chose to make College Station home to his presidential library and museum. His first appearance came in May 1984 when he addressed students at spring commencement ceremonies as vice president.

On his visit as president in 1989 he delivered a major foreign policy speech outlining his vision for the containment of the Soviet Union. 

“In all seriousness, the policy I have just described has everything to do with you. Today you graduate. You’re going to start careers and families, and you will become the leaders of America in the next century. And what kind of world will you know? Perhaps the world order of the future will truly be a family of nations.”

He made another visit in 1992 when his time as president — and 50 years of public service — drew to a close. He revisited his Soviet containment policy speech given to Texas A&M graduates three years earlier.

“I said,`We seek the integration of the Soviet Union into the community of nations. Ultimately, our objective is to welcome the Soviet Union back into the world order,”’ Bush said. “And was this aim too ambitious? Not for the American people.”

He would give two more Texas A&M commencement speeches in 1999 and 2006. In 2016, he continues to make public appearances at the library and surprise tour groups.

President Jimmy Carter delivers his remarks during the opening of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in 1997. (Photo courtesy William J. Clinton Library and Museum)

Jimmy Carter, 1997

Carter, 20 years removed from the White House, made his first visit to Texas A&M in 1997 for the opening of the Bush Library. A portion of remarks during his speech included the responsibility for fundraising for the library.

“George Bush has done an indescribably good job for the people of America, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen,” Carter said. “And as he has excelled, as a congressman, as the director for the CIA, as a cabinet member, as our representative for the People’s Republic of China, as vice president, and as president, I’m sure he’s going to be extraordinarily successful in his years beyond the White House.”

President Bill Clinton delivers his remarks during the opening of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in 1997. (Photo courtesy William J. Clinton Library and Museum)

Bill Clinton, 1997

Well into his second term as president, Bill Clinton expressed his appreciation for President George H.W. Bush giving him advice during his first term. Even though Clinton defeated Bush in the 1992 general election, George H.W. and George W. Bush became close with Clinton in their post-presidency years.

“For four and a half years now, even though our relationship began under somewhat unusual circumstances, I have been very grateful that whenever I call on President Bush he was always there with wise counsel and when he agreed with public support. It’s hard to express to someone who hasn’t experienced it what it means in a moment of difficulty to be able to call someone who first of all knows exactly what you’re up against and secondly tell you the truth, and he has done that time and time again. I am persuaded the country is better off because of it.”

President George W. Bush (right) appears on stage with father President George H.W. and mother First Lady Barbara Bush during Texas A&M commencement in 2008. (Photo courtesy White House Archives, White House photo by Eric Draper)

George W. Bush, 2008

George W. Bush made frequent visits to Texas A&M’s campus before, during and after his time as president, the first major one being the opening of the elder Bush’s presidential library in 1997.

“When President Bush chose Texas A&M University for his library, he made the perfect choice,” then-Gov. Bush said of his father. “This university is a place of tradition, and George Bush is a man of tradition. This university embodies the spirit by which he lived his life: duty, honor and country.”

He would deliver a commencement speech as governor in 1998, and he returned to campus once more in December 2008 for commencement, this time as president near the end of his second term.

“When I leave office next month, I will depart confident in the future of our country, because I have faith in each of you,” Bush said. “I will depart uplifted by the many acts of courage and service that I have witnessed these past eight years.”

He came to the George H.W. Bush Library again in 2014 to discuss his book 41: A Portrait of My Father with the elder Bush in the audience.

President Barack Obama gives his remarks at the Points of Light Institute forum on Texas A&M’s campus in 2009.

Barack Obama, 2009

Obama traveled to College Station less than a year after his first presidential inauguration at the behest of former President George H.W. Bush to speak at the Points of Light Forum 2009. Obama used Bush’s service in World War II to challenge Texas A&M students to stay active in their community service projects.

“If President Bush could fly 58 combat missions when he was younger than many of you here today and keep on fighting even after he was shot down and nearly captured by the enemy, then surely you can keep going when your service project gets a little tough,” Obama said.

 


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