Those attending Tuesday’s ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in Pennsylvania heard from President Obama after all.
But instead of appearing in person, the president addressed new American citizens via a recorded message.
“This is now officially your country,” Mr. Obama told the citizens, who just moments before had taken the oath of allegiance, administered by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Together we can keep the beacon that is America burning bright for all the world to see. I’m proud to welcome you as new citizens of this country,” the president said in the message.
Mr. Obama has come under intense fire from local media and other critics who believe the nation’s first black commander in chief should have attended the historic event.
The president has repeatedly cited Lincoln, a fellow Illinoisan, as one of his heroes. He used the Lincoln Bible at both of his inauguration ceremonies, in 2009 and 2013.
In Mr. Obama’s place, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke at the ceremony, held at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg.
The White House has yet to offer an explanation for why Mr. Obama chose not to attend the ceremony.
Instead of going to Gettysburg, the president is meeting with top senators Tuesday to discuss nuclear negotiations with Iran, and later in the day will speak and answer questions at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in Washington.
In a Twitter exchange with reporters Tuesday, White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said the president couldn’t make the Gettysburg trip work “schedule-wise.”
He said Mr. Obama had to stay in Washington to deal with the “whole website thing,” a reference to the failed HealthCare.gov.