October 22, 2017
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Hail to the Chief

President visits Gibson County steel plant
President Barack Obama greets supporters on the tarmac at Evansville Regional Airport during a brief visit to the Tri-State.

In a deeply divided country, just days away from a mid-term election, President Barack Obama waved from the top of the stairs of Air Force One — a highly-customized Boeing 747-200B aircraft— ready to descend to the tarmac.

It was Obama’s first visit to Evansville since 2008, when he still was fighting for the Democratic Presidential nomination. But this time, on Oct. 3, 2014, he was in town as a second-term president, eager to tout U.S. economic progress during National Manufacturing Day. The President visited Millennium Steel, a minority-owned steel manufacturer.

At the bottom of the long staircase, Obama was immediately stopped by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who had asked for a brief meeting to discuss the President’s plans to extend health care coverage to more low-income Indiana residents.

Once finished, Obama appeared to surprise the group of supporters in a pen across the runway by walking toward them and shaking hands with many. Even as he did so, a heavy contingent of armed guards stood around him. And a wall of trailers lined up against the fence kept the president out of view of those in the parking lot.

Those members of the public who did view the arrival of the President managed to stop near the old Whirlpool facility to the south. While those people could not get so much as a glimpse of the President, they were able to watch Air Force One as it landed.

It was later determined that the Secret Service had investigated at least one threat against the President’s life from a Southern Indiana resident. However, Secret Service agents and Indiana State Police officers quickly downplayed the threat, calling it unremarkable and stating that the President was never in danger.

After shaking hands, Obama slipped into the Presidential limo, known as “The Beast.” Perhaps the best-armored and best-equipped car on the planet, The Beast was followed by a string of white Sport Utility Vehicles, each carrying three or four people holding automatic weapons. The motorcade sped up U.S. Highway 41, which was closed to traffic.

Manufacturing Day isn’t exactly the best-known holiday. In fact, it dates back just a couple of years, to 2012. Obama’s visit came on the heels of the announcement that the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent in August to 5.9 percent in September — the lowest level in six years.

In Princeton, the President was pressed on his policy on coal, since Gibson County is the largest coal-producing county in Southwestern Indiana, at 9.5 million tons in 2013. Obama praised Millennium Steel, which supplies steel to Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Indiana, located south of Princeton.

In all, the President’s visit lasted a little more than three hours. Air Force One landed slightly after its 1 p.m. planned arrival, and was in the air again with the President at 4:30 p.m. Some local TV stations covered the event for the entire visit.

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