- Barack Obama will not attend the 150th anniversary celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on November 19
- Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will represent him
- Some Pennsylvania newspapers have accused the president of ‘cowardice’
“This is nothing less than a profile in cowardice.”
President Barack Obama’s affinity for Abraham Lincoln was on display through his political rise, but he won’t be on hand to mark one of the 16th president’s signature moments.
Obama has refused to attend the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in Pennsylvania on November 19.
His decision, which has not been explained, has infuriated local media.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett also plans to attend the ceremony.
Newspapers in the Keystone State, which Obama carried in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, have taken the president to task, according to News Max.
Local officials had planned for a possible presidential visit for months.
‘For a president who has so demonstrably associated himself with Lincoln — the heir of Lincoln’s policies who announced his candidacy from the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield and used the Lincoln Bible (twice) at his inauguration — this is nothing less than a profile in cowardice,’ Donald Gilliland of Patriot News in the state capital of Harrisburg wrote.
‘How could he not pay his respects to those whose ultimate sacrifices that made his presidency possible?’ read an editorial in the York Daily Record.
‘How could he not visit and acknowledge the new birth of freedom that is his — and our nation’s inheritance of that battle?
‘Symbolism matters. President Obama could have used this occasion to offer words of healing and reconciliation — as his Illinois forefather once did. Instead he is sending us a little-known Cabinet member to do the job of a president, of a statesman, of an orator. Unacceptable.’
Like Lincoln, Obama came to national prominence through the politics of Illinois, where they both once served in the Legislature.
Obama began his presidential campaign in Springfield, Illinois, a town with deep ties to Lincoln; traced Lincoln’s 1861 train route in coming to Washington and even took the oath of office on Lincoln’s Bible.
For months, planners had held out hope that Obama would be at Soldier’s National Cemetery for the reading of the famous oration, first delivered on November 19, 1863, more than four months after the Civil War’s pivotal battle.
More than 3,500 Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Gettysburg are buried there.
McPherson, a top Civil War historian who won the Pulitzer for ‘Battle Cry of Freedom’, said he was surprised by Obama’s decision.
‘I thought he would probably come. He identifies with Lincoln and knows a great deal about him,’ McPherson said.
‘It might have been an opportunity for him to say something important, maybe enhance a tarnished image. He’s going through a rough patch right now.’
Obama, the nation’s first black president, has said he feels a ‘special gratitude’ to Lincoln, who led the fight to end slavery in the United States.
White House press secretary Jay Carney refused to comment on Obama’s decision.
‘I think that is an enormously significant event in our history, and I think Americans will take the appropriate time to consider the speech that was delivered there. I would simply say that I have no updates on the president’s schedule,’ he said, according to The Washington Times.
‘I think all Americans will share and marvel in the remembrance of that important date in our history.’
Tags: 'Battle Cry of Freedom', 150th anniversary, Abraham Lincoln, American Civil War, Battle of Gettysburg, Civil War, Gettysburg 150th anniversary, Gettysburg Address, James McPherson, McPherson, November 19., Obama, Soldiers' National Cemetery