A new mini-controversy is brewing over another action—make that an inaction—of President Obama’s. The 19th of this month is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The president has decided not to be in attendance to observe that historic event. Unlike 23 other presidents, he has chosen not to put in an appearance at the place where one of the most famous speeches in American history took place.
This has the citizens of Gettysburg and all others who are participating in the commemoration dismayed. “Why the snub?” they wonder. A short word to those who are distressed over Obama’s absence from the proceedings: don’t sweat it. The anniversary of Lincoln’s pithy and wise comments should be one of dignity and genuine appreciation. In my opinion, the presence of our current president at the event would only serve to degrade its historic significance. Neither he nor his wife have ever really been proud [in the right sense of the word] of their country. Why cheapen this commemoration with any insincere remarks he might choose to offer?
Instead, rejoice in his absence as you ponder anew the address that begins with those beguiling words, “Fourscore and seven years ago.” Listen attentively to Lincoln’s reminder that we are a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Recall his stirring vision that those who died on that battlefield would help the nation, under God, to experience a new birth of freedom. And dwell on that final thought, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Be grateful that, during an arduous civil war that could have destroyed this nation forever, we had a leader who knew how to lead. Further, be thankful that God gave us another chance to live up to our ideals.
And finally, pray that the president doesn’t change his mind and decide to show up after all. This should be a memorable occasion for all the right reasons. Undue attention to a man who doesn’t really care much about his own country’s history would only detract from the memory of all those who fought for the nation’s ideals and from the memory of the president who so clearly enunciated them.