- Associated Press - Friday, April 3, 2015

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AP) - In his first visit to Utah as commander in chief, President Barack Obama touted a solar industry initiative, met with Utah politicians and Mormon leaders, and pledged to come back to tour some of the state’s five national parks.

Obama wrapped up his 16-hour stay on Friday morning with a speech at Hill Air Force Base about training veterans for solar jobs. The president, who did not make any public appearances during his trip, also thanked the state for its hospitality.

“I’m going to make sure that I come back next time where I don’t have to do so much work, and I can visit some of these amazing national parks here and have a chance to visit with some of the wonderful people here in the great state of Utah,” Obama said.

Obama then boarded Air Force One at the northern Utah base, jogging up a stairway and waving goodbye before ducking inside the plane.

Earlier, Utah residents eager to catch a glimpse of the president lined downtown Salt Lake City streets near the hotel where he stayed overnight. They waved to his motorcade on its way north to the base, 30 miles north.



Drivers on Interstate 15 pulled over, some standing on top of their cars to take photos, as the motorcade passed, according to a media pool report. Several people were holding homemade signs that read “God Bless BO” and “Welcome to Utah President Obama.”

About 80 people, including local Utah officials and members of the military, attended the president’s speech Friday in front of solar panels at the base.

The speech followed a round-table discussion on solar energy that Obama held with residents, veterans and Utah leaders, including U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

Becker was one of several officials to greet the president when Air Force One touched down Thursday night. He later gave Obama a University of Utah basketball jersey and a sweatshirt, both inscribed with his last name.

“He may wear it on the court,” Becker said Friday. “I’m hopeful he’ll get a chance to wear it and show off our university.”

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert also greeted the president when his plane landed. The governor rode with Obama to Salt Lake City, and they discussed Medicaid expansion, public lands and education along the way, the Herbert’s office said.

Obama also met with leaders of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They spoke about the church’s community service, disaster relief efforts, humanitarian issues and immigration, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

The Mormon church said in a statement Thursday that Obama praised a new Utah law that protects some gay rights and religious rights. The church endorsed the law, which helped speed its passage in a state where most local lawmakers and about 60 percent of the residents are members of the faith.

The trip marks the 49th state that Obama has visited since becoming president, leaving South Dakota as the only state still awaiting a presidential trip.

Obama’s last visit to Utah was a brief stop in Park City while he was a presidential candidate in 2007.

Bishop, a Republican congressman whose district includes Hill Air Force Base, attended the speech and told The Associated Press afterward that there was nothing negative about the initiative to train veterans for solar jobs, but he had hoped to hear him talk more about military needs.

“I really feel like this was a missed opportunity,” Bishop said. “There are so many military issues that he could have seen firsthand at this particular base.”

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