Presidential Commencement Addresses: Notre Dame Reigns

Ohio State will host its third commencement address by a sitting president this spring, but that’s only half the number tallied by Notre Dame

barackobama05.jpgThe White House’s announcement last week that Barack Obama would deliver the commencement address at Ohio State University in May of this year marks the third time a sitting president has spoken at the school’s graduation ceremonies, joining Gerald Ford in 1974 and George W. Bush in 2002.

In addition to the tradition that recent presidents give such an address at a military service academy (Obama will address the Naval Academy in 2013), the 44th President has also committed to speaking at Morehouse College in Atlanta this spring.

With Obama’s visit, Ohio State moves into a tie for second in the nation for hosting the most commencement addresses by a sitting president, but it has a long way to go to pass the all-time leader, located just 275 miles northwest of Buckeye Territory.

A Smart Politics analysis of presidential commencement addresses finds that Notre Dame is the most frequented non-military educational institution at which sitting presidents have delivered commencement speeches with twice as many as the next school.

Sitting presidents have delivered graduation ceremony remarks 92 times to 68 different colleges and universities, plus another 13 at high schools, according to data culled from the Public Papers of the President.

More than 50 graduation addresses have been given at U.S. military service academies or other armed services institutions with 15 at various federal / governmental institutions.

Of these 68 non-military higher educational institutions, the University of Notre Dame leads the way with six.

Dwight Eisenhower was the first to give such a speech at the school on June 5, 1960 when he gave his “Beyond the Campus” address.

Also giving commencement addresses in South Bend were Jimmy Carter (1977), Ronald Reagan (1981), George H.W. Bush (1992), George W. Bush (2001), and Barack Obama (2009).

Counting Obama’s visit to Columbus in May, five schools are tied for second hosting three sitting presidents:

· Howard: Herbert Hoover (1932), Harry Truman (1952), Lyndon Johnson (1965)
· Oklahoma State: Richard Nixon (1974), George H.W. Bush (1990), George W. Bush (2006)
· Michigan: Lyndon Johnson (1964), George H.W. Bush (1991), Barack Obama (2010)
· Yale: John Kennedy (1962), George H.W. Bush (1991), George W. Bush (2001)
· Ohio State: Gerald Ford (1974), George W. Bush (2002), Barack Obama (2013)

Nine other colleges or universities have hosted a sitting president twice:

· Baylor: Dwight Eisenhower (1956), Lyndon Johnson (1965)
· Dartmouth: Dwight Eisenhower (1953), Bill Clinton (1995)
· Hampton: George H.W. Bush (1991), Barack Obama (2010)
· Miami Dade: George W. Bush (2007), Barack Obama (2011)
· Penn State: Dwight Eisenhower (1955), Bill Clinton (1996)
· Princeton: Harry Truman (1947), Bill Clinton (1996)
· Texas A&M: George H.W. Bush (1989), George W. Bush (2008)
· South Carolina: George H.W. Bush (1990),George W. Bush (2003)
· University of Texas: Lyndon Johnson (1964), George H.W. Bush (1990)

Overall, Texas’ educational institutions have received more visits by sitting presidents on graduation day than any other state.

Presidents have given 11 commencement addresses in Texas – two each at Baylor, Texas A&M, and the University of Texas, with one each at Southern Methodist University, Southwest Texas State College, Texas A&I University (Kingsville), Texas Christian University, and Johnson City High School.

Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. are next with eight each, followed by Michigan with seven, Indiana with six, and Maryland and New Jersey with five.

A total of 19 states have yet to see a sitting president speak at one of their (non-military) educational institutions: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Presidential Commencement Addresses by State

Baylor University (x2), Texas A&M University (x2), University of Texas (x2), Johnson City High School, Southern Methodist University, Southwest Texas State College, Texas A&I University, Texas Christian University
Pennsylvania State University (x2), Cheltenham High School, Cheyney State College, Saint Vincent College, Science Leadership Academy, Swarthmore College, University of Pennsylvania
Washington, D.C.
Howard University (x3), American University, Catholic University, National Cathedral School, Sidwell Friends School
University of Michigan (x3), Calvin College, Eastern Michigan University, Kalamazoo Central High School, Michigan State University
University of Notre Dame (x6)
Holton-Arms School, Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Mount St. Mary’s College, Washington College
New Jersey
Princeton University (x2), Glassboro High School, Glassboro State College, Seton Hall University
California Institute of Technology, San Diego State, University of California, University of California San Diego
Miami Dade College (x2), Florida International University, Florida Technological University
Boston University, Holy Cross College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University
Hampton University (x2), Liberty University, University of Virginia
Yale University (x3)
Chicago State University, Eureka College, University of Chicago
Alcorn State University, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Mississippi State University
New Hampshire
Dartmouth College (x2), New Hampshire Technical College
Ohio State University (x3)
Oklahoma State University (x3)
South Carolina
University of South Carolina (x2), Furman University
Grambling State University, Louisiana State University
Joplin High School, University of Missouri
Portland State University, Warner Pacific College
Booker T. Washington High School, Chattanooga area high school seniors
Tuskeegee University
Arizona State University
James H. Groves Adult High School
Morehouse College
Greensburgh High School
Carleton College
University of Nebraska
New York
Barnard College
North Carolina
Wake Forest University
Concordia University

Note: Excludes addresses given at military service academies, schools in foreign countries, and graduation events at other federal institutions. Includes Barack Obama’s forthcoming 2013 commencement addresses. Data culled from listings in the Public Papers of the President.

Overall, 88 percent of commencement addresses have been delivered in states carried by the sitting president’s ticket (or the president’s party in the case of Gerald Ford) in the previous election cycle (91 of 103).

Interestingly, eight of these 12 addresses have been given by the last two presidents with George W. Bush speaking at Yale (CT) in 2001, Concordia University (WI) in 2004, Calvin College (MI) in 2005, and Saint Vincent College (PA) in 2007.

President Obama, meanwhile, gave commencement addresses at Arizona State in 2009, Booker T. Washington High School (TN) in 2011, Joplin High School (MO) in 2012 and will give one at Morehouse College (GA) this spring.

After this spring, President Obama and George W. Bush will have both spoken at Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Miami Dade College.

Presidential commencement addresses have also been given each year at one of the nation’s various armed forces service academies with one hosting a sitting president in every year since 1991.

Including Obama’s forthcoming 2013 address at the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. presidents have given 21 commencement speeches in Annapolis, Maryland, plus 14 at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point, New York), nine at the U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, Colorado), eight at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (New London, Connecticut), and one at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, New York).

Graduation remarks to armed services personnel have also been delivered once each at:

· The U.S. Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island (Richard Nixon, 1971)
· The U.S. Naval Base Fleet Sonar School in Key West, Florida (Harry Truman, 1949)
· The U.S. Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (Ronald Reagan, 1987)
· The U.S. Army Basic Training ceremony at Fort Jackson, South Carolina (George W. Bush, 2007)

Another 15 addresses have been given by sitting presidents to graduates of the now defunct Capitol Page School, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, the Foreign Service Institute, and the Columbus (Ohio) Police Academy.

President Obama also gave a graduation address to the New Economic School in Moscow in July 2009.

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