President Barack Obama became the fourth US president to visit all 50 states, after he finally went to see South Dakota. Although South Dakotans were no friends of Obama’s during his two terms, they seemed really happy to see their president in action.
And Obama was nothing but smiles. “I am thrilled to be here,” the president said in his commencement address for South Dakota’s Lake Area Technical Institute. The president then casually reassured South Dakotans that he cherishes them just as much as other Americans, saying “he was saving the best for last.”
It took Obama more than six years to pay a visit to South Dakota, and by looking at his popularity figures in the state, it is hard to blame him. About 70 percent of the state’s residents have openly declared their disapproval for their president. Moreover, South Dakota’ Republican Party called for the impeachment of Obama last year, and the resolution was passed in the local senate.
But all things put aside, it was the US president visiting their state, and regular South Dakotans could not hide their enthusiasm. Probably not by coincidence, Obama chose to land his plane in Watertown, a town who was never visited by a sitting president before. Its 21,000 residents were curious, some of them even thrilled by the visit, even though Obama was “clearly not their president,” as Laurie Brandriet Keller told Washington Post reporters.
Obama took the opportunity to talk about one of his education reform proposals – free community college. Giving a speech at Lake Area Tech was relevant for the discussion, as the institution is one of the best community colleges have to offer. Its two-year graduation rate sits well above national average, and its students generally enjoy a good reputation for their scrupulous preparation.
Obama argued providing free education is one of the things that government should do in order to prepare young Americans for the high demanding job market. “As a country we can’t afford to let any striving American be priced out of the education they need to get ahead,” the president said.
The President detailed on the matter, saying that well-paid jobs are getting increasingly tech-oriented, and making sure community colleges such as Lake Area Tech offer free education is paramount. “That’s why I came here today, to this little tiny school in a little tiny town,” Obama told his audience.
It has to be said that this wasn’t Obama’s first stop in South Dakota, but his other visit came in 2008, when he was still a presidential prospect. The trip marks the end of the tour the president took through the four Republican states that he finally decided to visit this year – the other three being Idaho, Utah and South Carolina.
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