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What U.S. presidents have said about Utah

By Kelly Smurthwaite

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 1 2011 9:50 p.m. MDT

President Ronald Reagan is given a tour of the Ogden welfare cannery in 1982 by President Gordon B. Hinckley during Reagan's visit to Utah. Then Elder Thomas S. Monson also helped with the tour.

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Theodore Roosevelt took a swim in the Great Salt Lake. Warren G. Harding made a journey to southern Utah by train and then spent an additional four hours in a car just to go horseback riding in Zion National Park.

George Bush Sr. popped in on a Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance while on official business to Utah.

Utah has often made a positive impression on U.S. presidents, and September and October are the months that most presidents have made their visits to Utah, mainly because of the election season.

When John F. Kennedy gave his historic speech in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle in 1963, he complimented the early Mormon pioneers, saying that their "faith and works are known and respected world around, and their voices heard in the highest councils of this country."

When Richard Nixon, who at the time was a young congressman from California, visited the campus of Brigham Young University in 1949, he had a special message for students:

"Every place I appeared (in California), parents came up and asked me to 'say hello' to a son or daughter at BYU, so 'hello,' " he said.

Jimmy Carter visited Utah seven times, once as president. During one of his visits, he praised the LDS Church's emphasis on the family.

"I know how much less difficult my own duties would be as president if your mammoth crusade for stable and strong families should be successful," Carter said. "That is why I feel a close kinship with you in achieving this noble purpose. Your great church epitomizes to me what a family ought to be."

On one of his many visits to Utah, Ronald Reagan was given a tour of the Ogden welfare cannery. His tour guides were LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and then Elder Thomas S. Monson. After the tour, Reagan remarked to the media that, "What I think is that if more people had this idea back when the Great Depression hit, there wouldn't be any government welfare today, or need for it."

During his visit during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, hosted by Salt Lake City, George W. Bush deemed Utah "the perfect place" to hold the Winter Games because of its scenery and kind people.

The presidential visits have been an area of interest for many Utahns. Mike Winder, West Valley mayor and author of the book, "When the White House Comes to Zion," says that with each visit to Utah, the U.S. presidents have come away with a great impression of the Beehive State.

"From the earliest visits, presidents have left Utah pleasantly surprised at the warmth, patriotism and industrious nature of the people. They come away realizing this is a unique place," Winder says.

And with a lot of attention on two presidential candidates who have Utah ties this election year, Winder says that having Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman as candidates for president is an opportunity for Americans to learn more about the state and its relationship with the White House.

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