WATERTOWN, S.D. — South Dakota is losing a special distinction: Until Friday, it was the only state still awaiting a visit from President Barack Obama.
But there's no Mount Rushmore on Obama's schedule. The president is delivering a commencement address in the eastern end of the state at a two-year technical institute, a chance to promote his proposal for free community college and to become the fourth president to set foot in all 50 states.
The White House marked the milestone by posting photos from each state, taken by White House photographer Pete Souza. In at least one case, a visit is a liberal description. Obama flew into Nebraska in August 2012 to make a drive to Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was in the Cornhusker state less than a half hour.
"I can't let my South Dakota friends feel neglected," Obama told KSFY-TV last month when he announced the last stop.
Obama will be speaking at the Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown. The school is among the nation's top community colleges, recognized for rigorously preparing its students and for having a two-year graduation rate that's higher than the national average.
"It's the best school to come and talk about it (community colleges). It's great that he's coming," said Terry Dierkson, 35, an automotive technologies instructor at Lake Area. "Whether you like him or hate him, it's an honor to have him here."
American flags were attached to light poles along streets leading to the arena where Obama will speak.
"I've never really met anyone that's this big for our country," said 11-year-old Jordyn Geerdes, who skipped school Friday to attend the speech.
At the start of the year, Obama had visited 46 states. The White House promptly set up appearances in two of those remaining — Idaho and South Carolina — followed by Utah. The four are reliably Republican states.
Obama did visit South Dakota in 2008 while campaigning for president. And he spoke in North Dakota last year at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation that straddles South Dakota.
The other presidents to visit all 50 states were Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Kuhnhenn reported from Portland, Oregon.