Presidential Visits

A Countdown

Once considered a bellwether of heartland politics, Peoria has hosted numerous presidential visits over the years. And the top 10 presidential visits to the River City are…

10. George W. Bush, January 30, 2007. On a visit to Caterpillar’s plant in East Peoria, President Bush commended the company for its ability to successfully compete on the world stage.

 9. Barack Obama, February 12, 2009. Accompanied by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Congressman Aaron Schock and Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens, President Obama visited the same Caterpillar plant in East Peoria, pushing for his $789 billion economic stimulus package.

8. Harry S Truman, July 26, 1944. After being named Franklin D. Roosevelt’s running mate at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, Truman spent a night at the Hotel Pere Marquette on the way back to his hometown, Independence, Missouri. 

7. John F. Kennedy, October 24, 1960. Two weeks before being elected, Kennedy gave a campaign speech in Peoria’s Courthouse Square, offering hope amidst the challenges he saw ahead. “I believe that the 1960s are going to be the most challenging in our history,” he said, “but I believe they can also be our brightest days.”

6. Bill Clinton, April 8, 1992. As the Democratic front-runner in the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton spoke with striking UAW workers on the picket lines, and met separately with Caterpillar management, urging them not to replace striking workers.

5. William McKinley, October 6, 1899. President McKinley came to Peoria to dedicate the new Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Courthouse Square, which still stands today. That evening, whiskey baron Joseph Greenhut hosted the president in his mansion on High Street.

4. Richard Nixon, June 15, 1973. About a year before leaving office, Nixon spoke at the dedication of the Dirksen Congressional Center in Pekin—one of eight visits he made to the area between 1951 and 1973.

3. Theodore Roosevelt, October 10, 1910. While being driven around the city in a 1910 Glide automobile, Roosevelt famously called Grandview Drive the "World's Most Beautiful Drive," a tag that stuck—and gave the WMBD radio station its call letters.

2. Ronald Reagan, May 9, 1982. On the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Eureka College, President Reagan spoke at his alma mater to introduce the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Now famously known as the “Eureka Speech,” it is considered the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

1. Abraham Lincoln, October 16, 1854. Lincoln visited Peoria on many occasions, but it was on this visit that he gave his famous “Peoria speech,” which argued eloquently against slavery and vaulted him into national prominence. iBi

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