Obama's no-show at Gettysburg event: Snub, or smart?
November 18th, 2013
12:02 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama's no-show at Gettysburg event: Snub, or smart?

(CNN) – As Pennsylvania gears up to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address on Tuesday, one prominent Abraham Lincoln fan won't be in attendance: President Barack Obama.

The National Park Service announced a few weeks ago the President won't be part of the activities commemorating the historic speech, and critics have since assailed Obama for skipping the event.

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"It would be an occasion for him to honor a crucial time in our past, to create a historical bridge to today," Salena Zito, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer, wrote in a column.

"His dismissal of the request shows a man so detached from the duty of history, from the men who served in the White House before him, that it is unspeakable in its audacity," Zito added. "Ask almost any person in this historic town; even his most ardent supporters here are stunned."

Lesson from Lincoln: Mr. President, you're talking too much

Twenty-four presidents have visited Gettysburg since the summer of 1863 and the sesquicentennial has been a year-long series of events, culminating on Tuesday.

In his place, the White House is sending little known Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who started her Cabinet position just this year.

The York Daily Record noted in an editorial it would only seem natural for the first black President to honor a moment in history known for its "new birth of freedom."

"President Obama could have used this occasion to offer words of healing and reconciliation - as his Illinois forefather once did," the editorial stated, adding that his decision not to come is "unacceptable."

Critics further point to the President's own fondness for Lincoln. Obama, for example, announced his first campaign for President in Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln's home is located.

The President also took the oath of office on Lincoln's Bible during both of his inaugurations. And for the first inauguration, he replicated Lincoln's 1861 trip from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C., to assume the presidency.

But Heather Cox Richardson, professor of history at Boston College, said Obama is making the right-though ironic-decision not to go.

The Gettysburg Address, she said, is a re-dedication of the idea of equality that was seized upon in the Declaration of Independence a century earlier. And now, with the country mired in sharp political divisiveness, Richardson said the message of Lincoln's famous speech needs to resonate.

"By not going, President Obama lets that speech stand on its own. If he went, it would all be about him," she said, stressing that his detractors would unfairly have a "field day" trying to hammer Obama for drawing attention to himself on such a symbolic day.

"The themes of the Gettysburg Address are what we really need to focus on," she added. "And in an ironic twist, our first black President can't be present for them."

So what does the White House say?

When asked why he wasn't going, White House spokesman Jay Carney on October 31 gave no reason, other than to say he had no updates on the President's schedule for November 19.

"I think that is an enormously significant event in our history, and I think Americans will take the appropriate time to consider it, consider the speech that was delivered there," he said. "But beyond that, I don't have any updates on the President's schedule."

It has since become known that Obama is scheduled to speak at the annual meeting of the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

Ken Burns: Learn Lincoln's words by heart

The President, however, hasn't been totally silent on this year's big anniversary. He appears in a video with the four other living Presidents–as well as a number of high profile figures in politics, the media and entertainment–to recite the Gettysburg Address. The effort was put together by documentarian Ken Burns as part of his push to get Americans to record themselves remembering the speech.

The video opens–and ends–with Obama stating the famous words.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (308 Responses)
  1. southerngent

    The less speeches he makes the less lies he tells, so maybe it was for the best.

    November 18, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  2. mkat2

    Announcing his candidacy in Springfield, being sworn in on Lincoln's Bible are all 'PROPS" that he is famous for!

    November 18, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. KC

    Wow another thing the GOP has to whine about. You are not more American because you go to Gettysburg. Ridiculous.

    November 18, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. Bill

    Just another clueless move, from the community organizer!

    November 18, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  5. RD

    Lincoln, was a Whig Party member, not a Republican. I know because he is directly related to me. My family has serious reservations about Obama's references to him. Trust me, Pres Lincoln would have never approved of many of Pres Obama's ideas.


    November 18, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  6. j007bond

    So he's sending Sally Jewell. How cute.

    November 18, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  7. m12345

    Dumb to use "smart" in the same sentence as Obama

    November 18, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  8. GIUK

    I don't blame Obama for not going. It's just a bunch of misty eyed Civil War groupies sitting around pining for the mystical Good Old Days. I think people with a life have a term for it. BORING!

    November 18, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  9. Todays Reality

    CNN's "reporting" is getting as bad as Foxnews "reporting"... nothing but negativity. Get a clue! Maybe Obama skipped Gettysburg because of scheduling problems.

    Whine, whine, whine.

    November 18, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  10. bobhamiltonchicago

    Wouldn't you hope that the President is a bit too busy to attending a meaningless ceremony? It won't change his critic's opinion of him and like all ceremonies, is a waste of time.

    November 18, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  11. tkid

    Obamacare was a "No show," why should this surprise anyone

    November 18, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  12. hubert39

    I forget. Who won the war? One day people will stop loving wars.

    November 18, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  13. Name- Ray

    He probably has a golf game scheduled.

    November 18, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  14. PtBarnumBoy

    Impeach him!!!!!!!! How dare he skip such an important event when it's quite obvious that he has nothing else to be concerned about at this point in time.

    November 18, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    He's too busy campaigning.... still.

    November 18, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  16. SpgfldTom

    Why should Obama go to Gettsburg to honor the 50,000+ Americans who died there? Much more fun to hang with JayZ and tell whoppers to the American people.

    November 18, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  17. Pete/Ark

    Some of my more profit-oriented Cherokee ancestors used to switch sides in mid-battle, a distant cousin worked on building the Monitor, a great-great grand uncle died (stupidly) for the Union Flag ... most of my family didn't show up until after 1880 ...can we put the idiocy behind us ????

    November 18, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  18. chukch

    The President is probably tired of the racial lies that has given America a black eye as information technology is giving everyone a better idea of the meaning being elected President as a person of a different color. The American deception is beginning to known for just what it is, a deception.The real America is emerging as our Fore-Father envisioned.

    November 18, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  19. abnguy

    There are a lot of people in Pennsylvania unhappy that the President has been caught in such a big lie. When the other shoe drops in 2014 with the company policies it will get worse. He only used Lincoln as a prop to help get elected.

    November 18, 2013 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  20. PoliticiansRcrooks

    Slavery is the history of the Democrat party the party that owned slaves and is still dividing America today and the source of most racism in America.

    November 18, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  21. Sandy

    What a hypocrite! He announced he was going to run for Pres in Springfield, IL. He's just hiding because he know that U.S. citizens now know he is a bold faced liar. How pathetic. How dems still support Obama befuddles me.

    November 18, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  22. oharris30

    Oh boy, once again the whining crying repubs that thinks the sun evolves around them. That this country only belongs to them. What a joke. Instead of complaining about the president and checking through every paper or media source for the President's name just to throw their dirt at him, the GOP congress needs to get back to work and uphold their commitment to the American people.

    November 18, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  23. Sandy

    Love all the Confederate flag waving Tea Nuts that are criticizing the President on this one.

    As quoted above, do you and others that keep bringing up the Tea Party not understand that is NOT a political party! The majority of Republicans do not claim to be part of the Tea Party. We are just sickened that this country is do divided and in worst shape since Obama took office. Do not bring up the stock market. He gets no credit for the rise. The Fed and its FOMC policy is the reason the stock market is where it is today.

    November 18, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  24. NYNJCT

    I do remember that Obama had attended the 50th the address of Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington DC.

    November 18, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  25. Donna L

    The GOP will whine no matter what he does. That's all they know how to do is whine.

    November 18, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
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