Watertown Busy Preparing For President Obama’s Visit

Obama to deliver commencement speech at Lake Area Tech

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Only 16 U.S. presidents have visited South Dakota and Watertown is excited to welcome number 17.

Watertown and students of Lake Area Technical Institute are busy preparing for a visit from President Obama.

On May 8, the president will make his way to Watertown to deliver the commencement speech for graduates of Lake Area Tech at the Watertown Civic Arena.

“It’s one thing to take a day and walk across a stage for family to get to see you. It’s another for you to get to see the president make your speech,” said Cydney Breitag.

The Lake Area Tech senior is already looking forward to being handed her diploma, but she says a visit from President Obama will make graduation day even more memorable.

Breitag said, “It’s pretty awesome that we’re the only class in this state that’s going to ever get to say that a president’s coming to make your commencement speech.”

Lake Area Tech is recognized as one of the top community colleges in the nation.

While Obama is coming to speak to the 2015 graduating class, he’s also coming to address the school’s high retention and graduation rates.

Mike Cartney, president of Lake Area Tech, said “It is a very big deal. We’re very honored that he’s chosen Lake Area Tech. It’s something that’s very meaningful, very positive for us.”

With graduation day just a few weeks away, Lake Area Tech and people in Watertown are busy planning and preparing for the president’s arrival.

“In order to handle the seating in the arena and also to help address security things this will be a ticketed invite-only event,” said Cartney.

With thousands expected at the ceremony, Watertown Mayor Steve Thorson says city officials and local law enforcement are coordinating with the Secret Service on security measures.

“We have actually the entire emergency management involved in this. Codington County Emergency Management, the sheriff’s department. We all need to get on the same page,” said Thorson.

While the details of Obama’s visit to Watertown are still in the works, one thing is certain…

“It’s a pretty big deal for South Dakota, let alone Lake Area Tech,” said Breitag.

Before Obama announced he would be speaking at Lake Area Tech’s commencement ceremony, the school had asked instructor Dolores Stemwedel to be the speaker on May 8.

Stemwedel will deliver the speech in 2016.