PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After a six-and-a-half-year gap between Oregon’s presidential visits in 2015 and 2022, President Joe Biden is visiting Portland for the second time in less than six months.
Biden visited Portland for the first time as sitting president in April of this year to talk about infrastructure and raise money for the democratic party. On Friday, the president is returning for a second, multi-day visit to attend an event for Democrats and speak about lowering health care and drug costs in the U.S.
In response to this moment in Portland history, KOIN 6 News has compiled a list of notable presidential visits to the Beaver State, documented by the University of California, Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project and other news and historical publications.
Rutherford B. Hayes – 1880
According to the Oregon encyclopedia, Rutherford B. Hayes became the first active U.S. president to visit the state of Oregon in the fall of 1880, one year after the light bulb was invented. The trip was part of Hayes’ tour of the Western states in an effort to reach citizens who reportedly felt disenfranchised from Washington, D.C.
Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1937
According to the American Presidency Project, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the Portland area on Sept. 28, 1937 to celebrate the near-completion of the Bonneville Dam and to visit the newly built timberline lodge.
“Those who will follow us to Timberline Lodge on their holidays and vacations will represent the enjoyment of new opportunities for play in every season of the year,” Roosevelt was quoted as saying that day. “I mention specially every season of the year because we, as a nation, I think, are coming to realize that the summer is not the only time for play.”
Harry S. Truman – 1948
On June 11, 1948, President Harry S. Truman traveled through Oregon for a whirlwind election campaign. The Oregonian reports that Truman set an Oregon record that day for the most presidential campaign visits in one day. Truman started his day with a speech in Portland, where he spoke in the wake of the Vanport Flood, which completely destroyed the former Oregon city. Traveling by train, the president proceeded to give speeches in Salem, Albany, Eugene, Oakridge, and Klamath Falls. Despite his record-setting campaign effort, Oregon voted for Truman’s opponent in the 1948 election, Republican presidential candidate and New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey.
“It is a terrible disaster,” Truman said of the Vanport Flood on June 11. “And I am in sympathy with trying to get that disaster met. I ordered out every agency of the Federal Government to cooperate with the Red Cross and the State of Oregon, and the city of Portland, too, to meet the situation as best.”
John F. Kennedy – 1963
Two months before his assassination in Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech in Tongue Point, Astoria on Sept. 27, 1963, announcing that the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard planned to build bases at the location. The speech was recorded and is available for listening via the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website.
Jimmy Carter – 1980
On May 22, 1980, four days after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, President Jimmy Carter traveled to Portland to hold a Q&A with reporters after he was given an inspection tour of the damage caused by the volcanic eruption.
“My overwhelming sense, as President, is to commend the people of the Northwest region of our country for the tremendous courage and presence of mind that has been shown here and the cooperation among the people in dealing with one of the most remarkable and formidable natural phenomena, I guess, of all recorded time,” Carter said that day. “The calmness and the cooperation that’s been shown and which must be shown in the future is one of the most important single factors in minimizing the damage that was potentially catastrophic.”
George H.W. Bush – 1990s
During several visits to Portland in the 1990s, President George H.W. Bush was met with hostile responses from Portlanders protesting the Gulf War. The celebrated, well-documented protests notably captured in the Chuck Palahniuk book “Fugitives and Refugees,” involving ritualistic fires, colorful costumes and, according to Palahniuk’s book, red, white and blue barf.
The Willamette Week reports that the protests were so notable, they caused a member of George H.W. Bush’s administration to dub Portland “Little Beirut” after the war-torn capital in Lebanon.
Bill Clinton – 1996
“It can never be obscured,” Clinton said. “The roads, the homes, the businesses, the power lines that were swept away in the mudslides, the avalanches, and the washouts, they are many.”
Barack Obama – 2015
A week after the deadly Umpqua Community College Shooting that claimed the lives of eight students and one professor on Oct 1, 2015, President Barack Obama traveled to Roseburg to meet privately with families of the victims. Hours after the shooting occurred, the president addressed the nation in his 15th White House press briefing regarding mass shootings.
“Somehow this has become routine,” the president said during the address. “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have common sense on gun safety laws.”