Missing in Action: Obama a no-show at Gettysburg Address anniversary
November 20, 2013 12:00 AM | 3315 views | 4 4 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tens of thousands gathered in Gettysburg, Penn., on Tuesday from around the country to mark the 150th anniversary of what most scholars consider to have been the most important, most compelling and most quoted speech ever given in this country: Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”

There was a prominent no-show at the event: President Barack Obama, who chose to snub his predecessor and whose White House spokesman, Jay Carney, offered only a barely coherent excuse for his boss’s absence and decision to send an obscure Cabinet secretary in his place.

We realize following in Lincoln’s footsteps would be a daunting task for any public speaker, even one as gifted as Obama. And we’re aware that even though 24 of the presidents since Lincoln have visited Gettysburg during their tenure (and according to The Gettysburg Times, every 20th-century president except Bill Clinton), many of them were reluctant to do so for that very reason.

Yet Woodrow Wilson spoke there on the 50th anniversary of the speech, Franklin Roosevelt did so on the 75th and Dwight Eisenhower (by then an ex-president living on a farm nearby) did so on the 100th. Vice President Lyndon Johnson spoke there that year (1963) as well (filling in for President Kennedy, who begged off) and used the opportunity to make one of the strongest pro-civil rights speeches of his career. President Ronald Reagan, for reasons presently unclear, did not attend the 125th anniversary event, although 125th anniversaries of things rarely get the attention that 100ths or 150ths do. Even so, if he was invited, he should have gone, and should have come in for some criticism on these pages for not doing so if he skipped the occasion.

But Obama’s absence was mystifying, considering that Lincoln used the speech to expand the justification for the war from “preserving the Union” to the need for “a new birth of freedom.” That is, a guarantee that the country would finally live up to the words of its Constitution that “all men are created equal.”

Had not the Civil War taken place and had not Lincoln been willing to stake the country’s future, his political prospects — and ultimately his life — on the need for such a change, as so powerfully argued in his Address, it’s unlikely that Obama would today be in the White House.

But perhaps it’s just as well Obama chose to spend the day holed up in the White House. Unlike Lincoln, who spoke of unity and rebirth, Obama trades in polarization and the politics of deceit. It’s possible that after paying lip service to Lincoln and those buried there that Obama would have used most of his speech to brag about his health care law, which has already caused millions of Americans to see their health insurance policies canceled, with many millions more to come.

And even had he not, Obama, as an advocate of ever-bigger and more intrusive government, might have put a different spin on Lincoln’s famous closing lines about “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Lincoln put the emphasis on the words “the people.” Obama might just have likely emphasized the word “government.”

Obama bypassed a golden opportunity to remind Americans of our shared heritage and to spur us to transcend our many differences. He also did himself no favors by snubbing one of this country’s most revered figures and failing to honor the sacrifices of those who fought and fell at Gettysburg.

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just sayin
November 20, 2013
Oh please, If he had gone to the event and gave a brilliant address honoring Lincoln you would have been hysterical and condemned every word. How dare a Muslim, who pals around with terrorists, who has no birth certificate, born in Kenya, who is also a Marxist, communist, Nazi, Lutheran, Methodist, who has destroyed the greatest health care for the rich in the world! How dare he honor anyone! Sarah Palin could have given the address if someone would explain what the Gettysburg Address was. You Becha.
November 23, 2013
@"just sayin": You sound just like an Obama supporter...someone who truly has nothing to lose should the country go to Hell!
M.K. Kilgore
November 20, 2013
In your editorial on Wednesday 11/20/13, you state that Obama would have never been elected President if the civil war had not been fought. That may or not be true, but one thing is certain, he is the President now and is not going to be running again so your point is moot. What is also true is the Confederate cemetery on Powder Springs Street would not exist, nor would Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park exist. As far as extolling the virtues of the murdering Lincoln, I don't blame any body from shunning the anniversary of his speech. Lincoln is responsible for thousands of dead Americans in the North AND South. He allowed Gen. Sherman to loot, rape, and plunder Georgia from Dalton to Savannah and the MDJ upholds him as if he was some kind of God. Why don't you move your paper to Illinois or New York where it would fit right in with the Yankee culture? Also, as usual you find a way to excuse Reagan's absence and dwell on Obama not attending which is typical for your hypocritical, extreme right/wing fish wrapper. How in the name of correctness do you distinguish between the 125th and 150th anniversary except to give Reagan an excuse? The good news today is the MDJ is only a small town gossip spreader and its slanted comments are not read by many people of importance world wide. You should spend more time on the so-called Conservative leaders of this county spending money the county does not have to subsidize the professional sports team that is currently in the town you hate, for it to come to Cobb and be a thorn in the taxpayer's side for the next thirty years. We cannot even fill the pot holes in our roads and streets, but we can spend millions to subsidize the billionaire owners of a sub standard pro team. This County is being run by a bunch of incompetent clowns.
November 20, 2013
"Obama, a no-show".

Good, why spoil a perfectly good event!
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