GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — President Barack Obama's affinity for Abraham Lincoln was on display through his political rise, but he won't be on hand in a few weeks to mark one of the 16th president's signature moments.
Obama will not be among the throng in Pennsylvania on Nov. 19 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the National Park Service said Wednesday.
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, Ill., 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 Nov. 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.
Instead, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will represent the administration, sharing keynote speaker status with historian James McPherson. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett also plans to attend the ceremony.
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 in an interview. "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.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for more information about the president not attending.
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- Barack Obama