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Gettysburg disappointed at Obama snub - abc27 WHTM

Gettysburg disappointed at Obama snub

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GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Jared Peatman animatedly gestures across the cemetery in Gettysburg. On a blustery and gray day, Peatman is heated up in this historic place.

"If you can imagine 15,000 people out in these fields looking at Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address," he said.

Peatman's enthusiasm is understandable. His book, "The Long Shadow of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address," was released two weeks ago. He has studied the 16th President for decades.

He points out the significance of the various bronze memorials to Lincoln and even notes that the spot where Lincoln stood on November 19, 1863 is actually in a private cemetery mere feet from the National Park Service's official monument on land it controls.

Peatman also connects the dots from the 19th century to the 21st. He says Lincoln's call for equality in the Gettysburg Address was the first step on America's long journey to finally electing an African-American president in 2008.

"I think Lincoln would've seen the election of President Obama as at least partial fulfillment of that notion that he set forth in 1863," Peatman said.

Obama has not spurned the shadow of Lincoln. In fact, he's frequently embraced it.

When Obama initially announced he was running for President, he did it in the very spot in Springfield, Illinois that Lincoln announced his candidacy.

At his first inauguration, Obama was sworn into office with his hand on Lincoln's Bible.

So when Gettysburg prepared for the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the town was sure Obama was coming. Whispers for more than a year suggested he would be there.

"I thought he was going to come," said Bill Troxell, Gettysburg's 86-year-old mayor. "From every bit of information I had, I expected him to be here."

But the White House recently announced Obama will be a no show, no reason given. Residents feel it's a mistake and that the President should come.

"I personally think so," said former councilman and lifelong Gettysburg resident Bill Monahan, "but obviously I can't tell you what he thinks or what the people around him think. I would just leave it at we are all very disappointed."

"It would have been good for Gettysburg," said Troxell. "We would have appreciated him coming. It would've helped our businesses, the history of the town, and the interest people have in coming here. It would have been a great thing for us if he would have come to Gettysburg."

"I don't think we should take it as a snub from the President," said Ron Bailey, president of the fledgling Gettysburg Black History Museum. "It is a disappointment that we all share."

Bailey, an African-American, recognizes the symbolism and history and calls Obama's absence an opportunity lost.

"To actually come here and punctuate the words of that Address that has been so profound and meaningful for the country," Bailey said.

It is not the first time a President has decided against coming on an important anniversary. In 1963, on the 100th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, John F. Kennedy decided a campaign stop in Dallas was more important.

"But he did send Dean Rusk, his Secretary of State, who talked about the need for the nation to win the Civil Rights movement at home if it wanted to have any hope of winning the Cold War abroad," Peatman said.

Gettysburg is a little town, but it offers a big stage.

Just ask Lincoln.

There's still hope here that Obama will show up and maybe even make history.

"I haven't heard anything to that extent," Troxell said. "I've thought about that. But you never know."

Whether the President shows up or not, organizers would love you to visit Gettysburg for Dedication Day festivities. For more information, visit www.gettysburgcivilwar150.com.

 

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