Sunday, May 30, 2010

Obama's Memorial Day Commemoration

"Of all the presidents since World War II, only President Clinton paid a Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery every single year of his presidency."
Apparently the usual right-wing bloviators are expressing outrage in all the media over the fact that President Obama is visiting the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery on Memorial Day and not Arlington National Cemetery. This is "unprecedented," the wingnuts are claiming.

(Sigh.) It's merely the usual uninformed noises coming from the habitually uninformed sources. Still, it's depressing to be so frequently reminded how little Obama's most peremptory critics know about our nation's history, modern or otherwise.

As Steve Benen said Saturday, the president's decision to visit a national cemetery other than Arlington is "without precedent, except for all the other times."

Anne Kornblut and Ed O'Keefe pointed out in Friday's Washington Post that Ronald Reagan twice missed visiting any national cemetery on Memorial Day, once when he went to his California ranch and again when he opted to give a speech at West Point. George Bush the Elder never went to a national cemetery while in office. His errant son, George W., missed two years in a row.

The Post writers might have gone back a bit farther, as we did on a lark, through archived press reports from small town newspapers around the country:
  • In 1947, President Truman "spent a quiet day 'catching up on his work' at the White House, aides said, and his wreath was laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in
    Arlington National Cemetery by Col. Don E. Lowry of the President's staff." ["Nation Pays Tribute to Soldier Dead," Associated Press report, Bradford (PA) Era, May 31, 1947 (p. 1)]

  • In 1960, President Eisenhower spent the weekend golfing at his Pennsylvania farm ["Ike Gripes as His Golf Drives Fail to Obtain Much Distance," Associated Press report, Racine (WI) Journal, May 27, 1960 (p. 35)]

  • In the first year of his presidency, 1961, John F. Kennedy spent the holiday weekend in Massachusetts speaking to "about 5,000 New England Democrats who chipped in $100 each against the party deficit" and preparing to leave for a European trip. ["President in Paris Stop, Then Vienna," UPI press report, Eureka (CA) Humboldt Standard, (p. 1)] He sent Senator Richard Russell and Defense Secretary McNamara to lay a wreath at Arlington. ["Memorial Wreath at Arlington for Nation's Dead," id.]
  • In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson "observed Memorial Day at his Texas ranch" over a four-day stretch and wasn't expected to fly back to Washington until mid-week, where he met with his cabinet and later in the week with Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. ["LBJ Observes Memorial Day At Texas Ranch," UPI press report, Lebanon (PA) Daily News, May 30, 1967 (p. 6)].

  • In 1972, President Nixon spent his "Memorial Day holiday" meeting for 90 minutes with his cabinet, then flew to "his bayside villa" in Key Biscayne where he "relaxed after launching an apparent White House counteroffensive to diminish the impact of the Watergate scandal." ["Watergate Publicity Criticized By Nixon,"], UPI report, Weirton (WV) Daily Times, May 26, 1973 (p. 16)].

  • In 1974, Nixon spent the early part of Memorial Day weekend meeting "with his two Watergate lawyers — James St. Clair and J. Fred Buzhardt — on current legal technicalities involving the efforts of the House Judiciary Committee to get tape recordings of presidential conversations they subpoenaed." Then he taped for radio broadcast "an economic speech" and another about Memorial Day before flying to Key Biscayne where "Nixon expects to remain... until Monday evening." ["Nixon Expected to Deliver Pair of Radio Addresses," Associated Press report, Columbus (NE) Telegram, May 25, 1975 (p. 8)]

  • In May, 1980, President Carter commemorated Memorial Day aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz, which was returning from a six-month assignment at sea. ["Carter Issues Memorial Aboard Carrier Nimitz," Chicago Daily Herald, May 27, 1980 (p.1)]
One more historical fact: Of all the presidents since World War II, only President Bill Clinton paid a Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery every single year of his presidency. So it seems what the extremist conservatives are fulminating over is that Obama isn't enough like Clinton!

What we would like to know is why more presidents haven't visited other national cemeteries around the country like the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. That would be a great deal more patriotic than golfing, and certainly more so than meeting with your impeachment lawyers.

Memorial Day began, of course, as Decoration Day. It was "the occasion," as the New Jersey Suburban Intelligence put it on May 15, 1869, for "decorating the graves of the Union dead."

As it happens, Illinois lost more civil war soldiers loyal to the nation than all but two of the Union states (Massachusetts and New York). President Lincoln, himself, after whom the Elwood, Illinois national veterans cemetery is named, also was a casualty of that war in the fullest sense of the word. If anything, President Obama may be trying to bring us back from the beach parties to appreciate the original meaning of the commemorative holiday.

To be sure, after World War II "Memorial Day" became the more commonly used, and soon thereafter the official, name for the commemorative holiday. Now we honor all deceased veterans, North as well as South, who fought for the United States.

But we're old enough to remember many older folk, especially in the Midwest where we grew up, who stubbornly continued referring to it as "Decoration Day." Many regretted that the former name was fading, and for good reason:
The name Decoration Day was of itself a reminder to young and old alike that the season had come for setting out spring flowers and small flags on the graves of the nation's heroes, that the occasion was one not exclusively for picnics or a visit to the local ball park.
-- New Castle News (PA) May 26, 1956 (p. 4)
If nothing else, here's hoping Obama's visit to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery educates Americans a
little bit more about the history of Memorial/Decoration Day. Let's hope, also, that Americans inside as well as outside the Beltway wake up to the fact that they, too, can visit a national veterans cemetery other than Arlington. There's bound to be at least one near you:

City State Entity
Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Elwood Illinois VA
Alabama National Cemetery Montevallo Alabama VA
Alexandria National Cemetery Pineville Louisiana VA
Alexandria National Cemetery Alexandria Virginia VA
Alton National Cemetery Alton Illinois VA
Andersonville National Cemetery Andersonville Georgia NPS
Andrew Johnson National Cemetery Greeneville Tennessee NPS
Annapolis National Cemetery Annapolis Maryland VA
Antietam National Cemetery Sharpsburg Maryland NPS
Arlington National Cemetery Arlington Virginia Army
Bakersfield National Cemetery Bakersfield California VA
Balls Bluff National Cemetery Leesburg Virginia VA
Baltimore National Cemetery Baltimore Maryland VA
Barrancas National Cemetery Pensacola Florida VA
Bath National Cemetery Bath New York VA
Baton Rouge National Cemetery Baton Rouge Louisiana VA
Battleground National Cemetery Washington D.C. NPS
Bay Pines National Cemetery Bay Pines Florida VA
Beaufort National Cemetery Beaufort South Carolina VA
Beverly National Cemetery Beverly New Jersey VA
Biloxi National Cemetery Biloxi Mississippi VA
Black Hills National Cemetery Sturgis South Dakota VA
Calverton National Cemetery Calverton New York VA
Camp Butler National Cemetery Springfield Illinois VA
Camp Nelson National Cemetery Nicholasville Kentucky VA
Cave Hill National Cemetery Louisville Kentucky VA
Chalmette National Cemetery Chalmette Louisiana NPS
Chattanooga National Cemetery Chattanooga Tennessee VA
City Point National Cemetery Hopewell Virginia VA
Cold Harbor National Cemetery Mechanicsville Virginia VA
Corinth National Cemetery Corinth Mississippi VA
Crown Hill National Cemetery Indianapolis Indiana VA
Culpeper National Cemetery Culpeper Virginia VA
Custer National Cemetery Crow Agency Montana NPS
Cypress Hills National Cemetery Brooklyn New York VA
Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery Dallas Texas VA
Danville National Cemetery (Illinois) Danville Illinois VA
Danville National Cemetery (Kentucky) Danville Kentucky VA
Danville National Cemetery (Virginia) Danville Virginia VA
Dayton National Cemetery Dayton Ohio VA
Eagle Point National Cemetery Eagle Point Oregon VA
Fayetteville National Cemetery Fayetteville Arkansas VA
Finn's Point National Cemetery Salem New Jersey VA
Florence National Cemetery Florence South Carolina VA
Florida National Cemetery Bushnell Florida VA
Fort Bayard National Cemetery Bayard New Mexico VA
Fort Bliss National Cemetery Fort Bliss Texas VA
Fort Custer National Cemetery Augusta Michigan VA
Fort Donelson National Cemetery Dover Tennessee NPS
Fort Gibson National Cemetery Fort Gibson Oklahoma VA
Fort Harrison National Cemetery Richmond Virginia VA
Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery Fort Leavenworth Kansas VA
Fort Logan National Cemetery Denver Colorado VA
Fort Lyon National Cemetery Las Animas Colorado VA
Fort McPherson National Cemetery Maxwell Nebraska VA
Fort Meade National Cemetery Sturgis South Dakota VA
Fort Mitchell National Cemetery Fort Mitchell Alabama VA
Fort Richardson National Cemetery Fort Richardson Alaska VA
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery San Diego California VA
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery San Antonio Texas VA
Fort Scott National Cemetery Fort Scott Kansas VA
Fort Sill National Cemetery Elgin Oklahoma VA
Fort Smith National Cemetery Fort Smith Arkansas VA
Fort Snelling National Cemetery Minneapolis Minnesota VA
Fredericksburg National Cemetery Fredericksburg Virginia NPS
Georgia National Cemetery Cherokee County Georgia VA
Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery Schuylerville New York VA
Gettysburg National Cemetery Gettysburg Pennsylvania NPS
Glendale National Cemetery Richmond Virginia VA
Golden Gate National Cemetery San Bruno California VA
Grafton National Cemetery Grafton West Virginia VA
Hampton National Cemetery Hampton Virginia VA
Hampton VA National Cemetery Hampton Virginia VA
Hot Springs National Cemetery Hot Springs South Dakota VA
Houston National Cemetery Houston Texas VA
Indiantown Gap National Cemetery Annville Pennsylvania VA
Jacksonville National Cemetery Jacksonville Florida VA
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery St. Louis Missouri VA
Jefferson City National Cemetery Jefferson City Missouri VA
Keokuk National Cemetery Keokuk Iowa VA
Kerrville National Cemetery Kerrville Texas VA
Knoxville National Cemetery Knoxville Tennessee VA
Leavenworth National Cemetery Leavenworth Kansas VA
Lebanon National Cemetery Lebanon Kentucky VA
Lexington National Cemetery Lexington Kentucky VA
Little Rock National Cemetery Little Rock Arkansas VA
Long Island National Cemetery Farmingdale New York VA
Los Angeles National Cemetery Los Angeles California VA
Loudon Park National Cemetery Baltimore Maryland VA
Marietta National Cemetery Marietta Georgia VA
Marion National Cemetery Marion Indiana VA
Massachusetts National Cemetery Bourne Massachusetts VA
Memphis National Cemetery Memphis Tennessee VA
Mill Springs National Cemetery Nancy Kentucky VA
Mobile National Cemetery Mobile Alabama VA
Mound City National Cemetery Mound City Illinois VA
Mountain Home National Cemetery Mountain Home Tennessee VA
Nashville National Cemetery Madison Tennessee VA
Natchez National Cemetery Natchez Mississippi VA
National Cemetery of the Alleghenies Cecil Township Pennsylvania VA
National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona Phoenix Arizona VA
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Honolulu Hawaii VA
New Albany National Cemetery New Albany Indiana VA
New Bern National Cemetery New Bern North Carolina VA
Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery Rittman Ohio VA
Philadelphia National Cemetery Philadelphia Pennsylvania VA
Poplar Grove National Cemetery Petersburg Virginia NPS
Port Hudson National Cemetery Zachary Louisiana VA
Prescott National Cemetery Prescott Arizona VA
Puerto Rico National Cemetery Bayamon Puerto Rico VA
Quantico National Cemetery Triangle Virginia VA
Quincy National Cemetery Quincy Illinois VA
Raleigh National Cemetery Raleigh North Carolina VA
Richmond National Cemetery Richmond Virginia VA
Riverside National Cemetery Riverside California VA
Rock Island National Cemetery Rock Island Illinois VA
Roseburg National Cemetery Roseburg Oregon VA
Sacramento Valley National Cemetery Dixon California VA
Salisbury National Cemetery Salisbury North Carolina VA
San Antonio National Cemetery San Antonio Texas VA
San Francisco National Cemetery San Francisco California VA
San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery Gustine California VA
Santa Fe National Cemetery Santa Fe New Mexico VA
Seven Pines National Cemetery Sandston Virginia VA
Shiloh National Cemetery Shiloh Tennessee NPS
Sitka National Cemetery Sitka Alaska VA
South Florida National Cemetery Lake Worth Florida VA
Springfield National Cemetery Springfield Missouri VA
St. Augustine National Cemetery St. Augustine Florida VA
Staunton National Cemetery Staunton Virginia VA
Stones River National Cemetery Murfreesboro Tennessee NPS
Tahoma National Cemetery Kent Washington VA
Togus National Cemetery Chelsea Maine VA
U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery Washington D.C. Army
Vicksburg National Cemetery Vicksburg Mississippi NPS
Washington Crossing National Cemetery Newtown Pennsylvania VA
West Virginia National Cemetery Grafton West Virginia VA
Willamette National Cemetery Portland Oregon VA
Wilmington National Cemetery Wilmington North Carolina VA
Winchester National Cemetery Winchester Virginia VA
Wood National Cemetery Milwaukee Wisconsin VA
Woodlawn National Cemetery Elmira New York VA
Yorktown National Cemetery Yorktown Virginia NPS
Zachary Taylor National Cemetery Louisville Kentucky VA


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Good article. What is wrong with the Obama haters? No facts, no valid criticisms, no brains. Just hate.

Anonymous said...

Stuck on stoopid, that's what is wrong with them.

Glenn Beck is their goto guy and he sits behind a microphone and belittles this president's 11 year old daughter. He sounded as though he himself were a 5 year old, and not a grown man worth millions of dollars.

That was as disgusting as anything I have ever heard. A grown man belittling and smearing a little girl for asking a question of her Daddy, the President.

What a chickenshit he is.

gold buffalo proof said...

This is are the most days of the history of the country. This days celebrate the spirit of brave men who died for the country.