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8 in 8: A look back at Barack Obama’s eight presidential visits to Arizona

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2012 file photo, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer points during an intense conversation with President Barack Obama after he arrived at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

PHOENIX — Outgoing President Barack Obama made eight official trips to Arizona in his eight years in office, but a majority of those came during his first term.

The newly elected president made a total of three presidential trips to the Valley of the Sun in 2009 — his first year in office — before taking the following year off.

He returned to Arizona in 2011 after a mass shooting that left six dead and nearly took the life of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Obama would visit for the next two years before taking a break from Arizona in 2014. He returned to the Valley twice in the early part of 2015. His March visit that year would be his last official trip before he left the White House.

It’s a first

President Barack Obama greets the crowd after delivering remarks about the home mortgage crisis, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009, at Dobson High School in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

President Barack Obama greets the crowd after delivering remarks about the home mortgage crisis, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009, at Dobson High School in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Obama made his first presidential trip to Arizona in February 2009, less than a month after being sworn in as president. It was the day after he signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that sought to rehire millions and pump billions into the economy.

In his first official Arizona address as president, Obama told a crowd of thousands at Dobson High School in Mesa about his plan for government-backed mortgage relief programs. His idea was to allow millions of Americans to refinance their mortgages and reduce interest rates to help the nation get back on its feet.

“This plan will not save every home, but it will give millions of families resigned to financial ruin a chance to rebuild,” he said.

Arizona — like the rest of the nation — was hurt by the Great Recession but was hit particularly hard in the housing bubble collapse.

College talk

President Barack Obama speaks at the Arizona State University commencement ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., Wednesday, May 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama speaks at the Arizona State University commencement ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., Wednesday, May 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

In May 2009, Obama returned to the Valley and spoke at the summer commencement ceremony at Arizona State University.

Thousands waited to see him in stifling heat outside of Sun Devil Stadium. Obama opened his speech with plenty of jokes — including laughing off ASU’s refusal to give him an honorary diploma because he had not yet achieved enough.

“First of all, Michelle concurs with that assessment,” he joked. “She has a long list of things that I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home.

“But more than that, I come to embrace the notion that I haven’t done enough in my life; I heartily concur; I come to affirm that one’s title, even a title like president of the United States, says very little about how well one’s life has been led — that no matter how much you’ve done, or how successful you’ve been, there’s always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve.”

Third time’s the charm

President Barack Obama walks the trail at Hopi Point, with his wife Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia Obama, 11, Sasha Obama, 8, not seen, as they tour the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz., Sunday, Aug. 16, 2009.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Barack Obama walks the trail at Hopi Point, with his wife Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia Obama, 11, Sasha Obama, 8, not seen, as they tour the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz., Sunday, Aug. 16, 2009.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In August 2009, Obama again landed in Arizona. He was in the state to address a national Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.

In his speech, Obama told the VFW that he was increasing the defense budget to ensure American soldiers were the best-armed and best-led military in the world. He also promised to help military families get ahead and improve the Veterans Administration, which was showing the first signs of a wait times scandal that would be uncovered years later.

“We’re keeping our promise to fulfill another top priority at the VA-cutting the red tape and inefficiencies that cause backlogs and delays in the claims process” he said.

Obama added that he planned to partner with U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to cut wasteful spending within the Department of Defense.

But this trip wasn’t all business. Obama took the opportunity to take a daytrip to the Grand Canyon with his family.

They spent about three hours strolling around the canyon’s South Rim, where Obama told his family the last time he visited the park was when he was 11.

Tucson tragedy

President Barack Obama takes his seat after finishing his speech at a memorial service in Tucson, Ariz., to console the nation and honor the victims of a shooting rampage that that killed six people and left 14 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, on the University of Arizona campus, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Barack Obama takes his seat after finishing his speech at a memorial service in Tucson, Ariz., to console the nation and honor the victims of a shooting rampage that that killed six people and left 14 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, on the University of Arizona campus, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Obama’s next visit to the state would not be anywhere near as joyous.

The president spoke at a memorial service after a January 2011 shooting that left six dead and 13 injured, including Giffords, in Tucson. The congresswoman was shot in the head but would make a miraculous recovery.

In his speech to thousands of people at the McKale Center, Obama recognized the shooting would start a new national conversation about the issue but focused primarily on the victims and their families.

“There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts,” he said” But know this: The hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief and we add our faith to yours.”

Inside Intel

President Barack Obama speaks about manufacturing and jobs during a visit to Intel Corporation's Ocotillo facility Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Chandler, Ariz. In 2011 Intel announced a more than $5 billion investment to build the new chip manufacturing facility, called the Fab 42, bringing thousands of construction and permanent manufacturing jobs to Intel's Arizona site. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

President Barack Obama speaks about manufacturing and jobs during a visit to Intel Corporation’s Ocotillo facility Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Chandler, Ariz. In 2011 Intel announced a more than $5 billion investment to build the new chip manufacturing facility, called the Fab 42, bringing thousands of construction and permanent manufacturing jobs to Intel’s Arizona site. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

A year passed before Obama’s next trip to the Arizona.

During his January 2012 visit, the president stopped by the a new Intel plant in Chandler that was under construction. He used the $5 billion plant to encourage others to add to American manufacturing capabilities.

“I’m here because the factory that’s being built behind me is an example of an America that is within our reach,” he told the crowd. “An America that attracts the next generation of good manufacturing jobs.  An America where we build stuff and make stuff and sell stuff all over the world.”

This visit would prove eventful for another reason. A tarmac interaction at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport with then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer apparently got heated, as Brewer was seen shoving a finger in Obama’s face.

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2012 file photo, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer points during an intense conversation with President Barack Obama after he arrived at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

FILE – In this Jan. 25, 2012 file photo, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer points during an intense conversation with President Barack Obama after he arrived at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

Housing, part two

President Barack Obama waves as he leaves the stage after speaking about housing, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix. Afterward, the president headed to Los Angeles to appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama waves as he leaves the stage after speaking about housing, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix. Afterward, the president headed to Los Angeles to appear on “”The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.” (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

In his only Arizona address of 2013, Obama paid a visit to Desert Vista High School in August to again discuss the nation’s housing market.

But this time around, his tone was very different. The market looked to be recovering and the president touted the rise in both sales and prices, while the number of foreclosures fell.

“Thanks to the efforts of a lot of people like you, we’ve cleared away the rubble of the financial crisis,” he said. “We’re starting to lay the foundation for more stable, more durable economic growth.”

However, Obama was quick to point out that the nation was still on the long road to economic recovery.

During his trip, Obama also stopped off at Erickson Construction, a local homebuilding company.

Housing, part three

President Barack Obama talks to a full gymnasium crowd about housing and home ownership as he announces a cut in mortgage insurance premiums on Federal Housing Administration loans, a move aimed at attracting new homebuyers, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at Central High School in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

President Barack Obama talks to a full gymnasium crowd about housing and home ownership as he announces a cut in mortgage insurance premiums on Federal Housing Administration loans, a move aimed at attracting new homebuyers, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at Central High School in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It would be about 18 months before Obama came back to Arizona. In January 2015, he gave another housing speech and announced plans to make homeownership more affordable through mortgage insurance premium cuts.

“It should help further accelerate growth in the housing market and stabilizing prices in areas like Arizona that have a long way to come back and it’s just one more example of the kinds of steps that we can take to build on the progress that’s already been made,” he told a crowd at Central High School in Phoenix.

Obama also visited a single-family housing project.

Final visit

President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting on veterans issues at the Phoenix VA Medical Center Friday, March 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting on veterans issues at the Phoenix VA Medical Center Friday, March 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Obama would make his final visit to Arizona in March 2015, when he met with concerned veterans at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Administration Medical Center in Phoenix.

His visit came almost a year after a wait list scandal at the facility — in which staffers made it seem veterans were getting timely care but were actually waiting months — rocked the nation. Some veterans died waiting for medical care.

“We all know that there have been significant problems at this facility, that the kind of cooking the books and the unwillingness to face up to the fact … went on too long,” the president said.

Obama also met with the family of Kayla Mueller — a Prescott native who was kidnapped and killed by the Islamic State — and wounded Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, with whom Obama developed a close friendship.

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