President Barack Obama’s visit to the island in about three weeks will be brief, but will mark nearly half a century since John F. Kennedy’s visit in 1961. That was the last time the island, a U.S. jurisdiction, welcomed a sitting U.S. president.
On June 14, Obama will lead members of the White House Task force on Puerto Rico Status in the first of a series of discussions about the island’s economic, political, educational and public safety issues.
“With his visit, President Obama will fulfill the commitment he made during the 2008 presidential primaries, to return to Puerto Rico as president,” Gov. Luis Fortuño said Tuesday, upon confirming the Commander-in-Chief’s visit. “So, Puerto Rico prepares to host its first official presidential visit since 1961, when President John F. Kennedy was greeted with great enthusiasm and love by our people. I’m sure the reception that President Obama will get on June 14 will be no less remarkable and productive.”
During the 2008 primaries, Obama danced salsa through the streets of Old San Juan and shook hundreds of hands as he sought votes to beat his then-opponent Hillary Clinton. While she won the Puerto Rico primary race, he took over the White House, choosing her as his Secretary of State.
While nearly no details about Obama’s visit were disclosed Tuesday, Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock may have given away at least one: Obama’s visit will last just a couple of hours.
“We will now see those who would perhaps rather not have Puerto Rico’s head of state visit us starting to minimize the importance of this historic visit. ‘It’s too short…what’s he going to do in two hours…,’ etc. They will not want us all to savor this historic event, but they will fail because the power of the presidency, the admiration of Barack Obama is greater than their pettiness,” McClintock said, not naming names.
Still, he said Obama’s visit “is important.”
“The content of his trip will be meaningful. By coming with the membership of his White House Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status he will be giving support to the invaluable work that the Task Force is carrying out to help Puerto Rico, not only in resolving its century-old status problem but in assisting in our economic development,” said McClintock in a note posted on his Facebook page.
McClintock, a member of the U.S. Democratic Party, said Obama has received multiple invitations from not only Fortuño, a Republican, but himself, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, Democratic Party State Chair Roberto Prats, Young Democrats Association National Committeeman Francisco Domenech, and National Committeeman Andrés López, among others.
“The immense majority of Puerto Ricans will be looking forward to watching Air Force One overfly San Juan and approach Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, triggering the beginning of this historic visit by their President on June 14, a day when Puerto Rico will have the opportunity of standing united in proudly welcoming Barack Obama to the place where the United States becomes a Caribbean nation,” McClintock concluded.