June 13, 2014

On Saturday June 14, President Barack Obama will be delivering the '€œSpecial All- Graduate'€ commencement ceremony address for UCI students and their guests at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. It won't be the first time that a sitting president has visited the ballpark. Orange County native Richard Nixon attended a game there in 1971 along with then Anaheim Mayor Jack Dutton.

And while other presidential visits to the county are somewhat few and far between, if nothing else, that only helps them stand out.

Early Days

President Benjamin Harrison was the first to visit Orange County, giving a whistle-stop tour at the Santa Ana train depot in April of 1891. Herbert Hoover visited the OC in 1932 to speak with local leaders about his re-election bid, and there are no doubt a handful of people still living in the OC that remember the excitement of watching Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt cruise through the county in July 1938 as part of a motorcade from Los Angeles to San Diego. He was on his way to board the USS Houston for a few weeks of fishing off the Galapagos Islands, and residents in Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach (where he dined at the still White House Restaurant) all lined the streets for a precious glimpse.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt visits Orange County

Courtesy Orange County Archives

The White House Visits the Mouse

Another magnet for presidents (and men who would someday become president) over the years of course has been Disneyland. Harry S. Truman was the first President to visit, in 1957. He rode a number of the park's attractions but refused a turn on the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride. As legend has it, he did not want to be photographed with the symbol of the Republican Party. John F. Kennedy came to the park in 1959 and while there he met President Sekou Toure of Guinea.

President John F. Kennedy visits Disneyland in Orange County

Courtesy Orange County Archives

Pres. Dwight Eisenhower visited in 1961 and was made an honorary member of the Disneyland Fire Department. Local that he was, Richard Nixon visited the park on many occasions, including notable visits in 1955, '€˜59, '€˜61 and '€˜68. Gerald Ford visited in 1964 while still a Michigan congressman. Perhaps the greatest photo op of a president at Disneyland occurred in 1982 when Jimmy Carter, in town to attend a convention at the Disneyland Hotel, got up extra early for a private jogging tour of the park before it opened.

President Jimmy Carter jogs through Disneyland in Orange County

Photo credit: Library of Congress

And let's not forget Ronald Reagan, who as an actor helped emcee the park'€™s opening ceremonies in 1955. Reagan also had another memorable moment in Orange County in 1984, when he kicked off his presidential re-election campaign at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley.

More Commanders in the OC

There are other noteworthy visits, like the October 1992 night when Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton wowed a packed house at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa. It was just two weeks before the presidential election and back then it was viewed as a gutsy move to come hold such an event in what was then viewed as a seriously Republican stronghold.

One of the more strange presidential landmarks in Orange County exists in Dana Point; in a four-bedroom home that overlooks a panoramic view of the blue Pacific. It was here in 1977 where then-disgraced president Richard Nixon filmed three days a week for five weeks with British talk show host David Frost. The interviews remain some of the most compelling in modern-day political history.

The" Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum" in Yorba Linda is certainly Orange County's most substantial presidential landmark. But there are other sites scattered around the county that also help tell the stories of just what happens when the leader of the free world decides to pay a visit.

But getting back to Obama's appearance as he delivers the UCI commencement, interestingly, the school was dedicated back on June 20, 1964 by none other than then-President Lyndon Johnson.

Quoting Johnson from that day, '€œCalifornia is not just talking about education-you are doing something about it. This campus is a perfect example. It seems, in fact, that every time I come to California you build a new college. The last time, only 3 months ago, you were dedicating a new campus at Santa Cruz. Today, the university adds another campus at Irvine. If you keep up this pace, President Kerr, you are going to have a lot of ceremonies like this between now and November.'€

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