Obama, Nixon to speak at UCM on Wednesday

The event will establish Obama’s policy goals for the fall.

President Barack Obama this week is set to begin a multi-month speaking tour, traveling Wednesday to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo., to give the second in a long series of speeches on the economy.

The tour kicks off at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., just hours before the president’s appearance at UCM, according to a news release from senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer.

And Obama’s choice of Knox is no coincidence; it was the venue for his first address on the economy as a U.S. senator in 2005. But for Obama, speaking on economics is now more a game of strategy, as his talks come just before what will be another debt ceiling debate in the fall.

Pfeiffer outlined what Obama will touch on during the tour, with plans to cover education, unemployment, the housing market, health care and social security.

“The point is to chart a course for where America needs to go — not just in the next three months or even the next three years,” Pfeiffer said in the news release, “but a steady, persistent effort over the long term to restore this country’s basic bargain for the middle class.”

Policy aside, Obama’s visit is historic nonetheless for UCM. It’s the first time a sitting president has ever visited the school, said Jeff Murphy, assistant director of university relations. Murphy noted that the last world leader to speak at the school was former president Bill Clinton, who was a commencement speaker in May 2011.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity — it’s a rare opportunity — that the president of the United States comes to Warrensburg,” Murphy said. “It’s not every day that a person from the Midwest gets to see the president in person.”

And few apparently passed up the opportunity, as a university official said that free tickets to the event were depleted within an hour of being made available.

But UCM stood out to Obama’s staff, Murphy said, because of the school’s involvement in the Missouri Innovation Campus initiative, an accelerated learning program that allows high school juniors to take college courses and finish their senior year with an associate’s degree from Metropolitan Community College.

“His speech is going to be about the economy, and we’re involved in some initiatives here that are certainly in line with what he’s going to be talking about,” Murphy said.

Murphy praised the program’s internship component, which he said taught students hands-on skills that would be unavailable to them otherwise. He noted that MIC students had worked as interns or gone on to work with companies like the Cerner Corporation, a biomedical systems manufacturer, and DST Systems, a software developer, as well as St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City.

Gov. Jay Nixon, who approved $9 million in grants last fall to expand the MIC program throughout the state, agreed with Murphy in a statement last Saturday. Announcing that he would join Obama, a fellow Democrat, in visiting UCM, Nixon expressed pride in how the initiative had evolved since 2012.

“By offering accelerated degrees in high-demand fields, Innovation Campuses reduce student debt and ensure Missouri workers have the skills to compete for 21st century careers,” Nixon said in his statement. “This visit is a great testament (to) this outstanding institution and the leadership of (UCM President) Chuck Ambrose.”

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