Tag Archives: Gettysburg Address

Compare two presidents’ view of White House

Oh, for a momentary flashback to a time when the president of the United States would express reverence for the People’s House.

I came across an essay that President Barack Obama wrote about the White House. He penned it in 2013, less than a year after his re-election. It’s worth looking at today in light of a remark that his successor, Donald J. Trump, reportedly made to some golfing buddies at a club the president owns in New Jersey.

Trump called the White House a “real dump,” explaining to his pals that’s the reason he spends so much time away from there on the weekends.

I prefer to reflect on Obama’s essay, which you’ll find here.

The former president wrote this essay to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, which President Lincoln delivered in 1863 at the site of the horrific Civil War battle. Obama wrote, in part: “I linger on these few words that have helped define our American experiment: ‘A new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’”

That is what living in the White House is all about. The structure pays tribute to the struggles that have built our great nation. Barack Obama clearly understood its meaning. Donald Trump does not.

Critics fabricate anger over Gettysburg absence

President Obama today decided against attending ceremonies marking the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s brief but poignant speech in Gettysburg, Pa.

So what?


The White House said the president took a pass on the ceremony because of on-going problems with the healthcare.gov website, which the administration is seeking to fix by the end of the month.

Still, critics on the right have found reason to criticize Obama for not attending the event. There was this, for example: “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,” wrote Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Ask almost any person in this historic town; even his most ardent supporters here are stunned.”

Well, I hasten to point out that President Reagan did not attend the 125th anniversary of the speech, which occurred when he occupied the White House. I do not recall much hissy-fit pitching over that. Indeed, the Gipper never even visited Gettysburg while he was president. It’s also been noted that of all the presidents who have served since Lincoln, only one of them — William Howard Taft — attended ceremonies on the site of the famed Civil War battlefield.

The criticism, of course, demonstrates the state of play these days. Barack Obama is having a difficult time at the moment. The Affordable Care Act is proving to be much more problematic than he envisioned. World hot spots keep setting off sparks. The economy is still a bit sluggish.

Does he deserve criticism? Sure he does. It goes with the territory.

He doesn’t deserve to be beaten up over being absent from ceremonies marking the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address. Hey, he took the oath of office twice while placing his hand on President Lincoln’s Bible; he routinely cites the wisdom of the 16th president as one of his guiding lights.

Now this was a speech for the ages

Americans are filled this year with commemorations of seminal events in our nation’s history.

We’ve noted already the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, with its climactic speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who proclaimed for the ages that “I have a dream today …” This Friday marks the 50th year since a gunman shot down the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, as he motored through downtown Dallas.

Today also marks the 150th year since another milestone moment. President Abraham Lincoln stood on a field that once was the scene of immense carnage and delivered the Gettysburg Address.

The speech is remarkable for two things: One is the content of the text and the profound wisdom it contains. The other is its brevity. Here is the speech … in its entirety:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

President Lincoln was incorrect about one element of his remarks. He declared “The world will little notice, nor long remember what we say here … ”

Wrong, Mr. President. The world remembers.

And many of wish we could return to an era when statesmen rose to speak such wisdom.