From Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama – Presidents Who Have Visited Knox College

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I don’t know if Knox College holds any kind of record for the number of Presidents who have visited its campus (nine), but the list is impressive. The college, located in Galesburg, Illinois, has a rich and fascinating history, and Abraham Lincoln is a big part of it.

Old Main at Knox College
Photo Credit of Old Main – photo credit: iagoarchangel via photopin cc
In this year of our Presidential election, as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney run for high office and have debated three times at college settings, it’s interesting to note that back in 1858, Abraham Lincoln and his opponent Stephen Douglas debated on Knox College’s campus, an event that is still celebrated to this day.

According to the college’s website, “The debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on October 7, 1858, drew upwards of 10,000 to Old Main – believed to be the largest audience at any of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.”

Other striking facts about the college include that it…

• is celebrating its 175th anniversary
• was founded by a group of social reformers who opposed slavery
• was one of the first colleges open to women and people of color

Of the nine Presidents who have been to Knox College, three were awarded honorary degrees.

Most recently, on June 5, 2005, Barack Obama became the third President to be granted an honorary degree, joining Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton.

When Barack Obama spoke at Knox College, he referenced Abraham Lincoln’s words, also spoken at the college, that the American principles of freedom and equality are timeless and all-inclusive, and if anyone did not believe it, to “rip that page out of the Declaration of Independence.”

Presidents who have visited Knox College have been…

  • Barack Obama – June 5, 2005
  • Bill Clinton – June 2, 2007
  • George H.W. Bush – March 13, 1988
  • Ronald Reagan – March 16, 1980
  • William Howard Taft – October 7, 1908 [Came to the campus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas debate.}
  • Theodore Roosevelt – July 5, 1900
  • William McKinley – October 7, 1899
  • Benjamin Harrison – October 8, 1890
  • Abraham Lincoln – October 7, 1858Eglomise Campus Cameo Diploma Frame of Knox College's Old Main

Books about the history of the college and the town such as Fighters for freedom : The history of anti-slavery activities of men and women associated with Knox College by Hermann R Muelder are sold at the Knox College Bookstore. The bookstore also offers the Campus Cameo Diploma Frame featuring an Eglomise illustration of Old Main where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas had debated.

Eglomise illustration of Old Main

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Additional Information:

Presidential Debates – 1960-2012

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