Antidotes to the Obama reading of the Gettysburg Address

This nation, under God.


USS Gettysburg (CG-64), displaying the Gettysburg Flag (upper right)
USS Gettysburg (CG-64), displaying the Gettysburg Flag (upper right)

The indefatigable LibertyUnyielding Staff highlighted today an egregious omission from President Obama’s video-recorded reading of the Gettysburg Address:  the dropping of the words “under God” from the final sentence.  As Staff points out, Obama has a pattern of cutting out references to God from passages well known to the American public.

But other Americans commemorate the great battle and Lincoln’s beloved speech differently.  Consider, for example, the recitation of the Gettysburg Address by the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.  Watch for Petty Officer First Class Cosby at 1:22.

USS Gettysburg (CG-64), a Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser, is deployed to Southwest Asia with the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) strike group.  The photo with the aircraft carrier (Truman), from early November, shows both ships in the Gulf of Aden, where Gettysburg has been on antipiracy patrol.  Gettysburg (ship’s motto: Deeds not words) flies the “Gettysburg Flag,” visible as indicated in the photo.  The second photo (above), from 2012, gives a better view of the Gettysburg Flag aloft over her namesake warship.

USS Gettysburg and USS Harry S Truman in the Gulf of Aden, Nov 2013 (NATO image)
USS Gettysburg and USS Harry S Truman in the Gulf of Aden, Nov 2013 (NATO image)

Abraham Lincoln knew that the battle he was commemorating was about the soldiers and the people of a great nation.  Today, the U.S. Army knows that to understand the origins of modern warfare, and the American tradition of the citizen-warrior, you have to visit Gettysburg.  You have to study the battle, and the war.  You have to walk the fields where the two armies clashed, in a thunderous engagement that took, in the space of three days in July, more lives than America lost in the entire Korean War.  (The U.S. Army War College is, of course, in Carlisle, PA, just up the road.)

University of Ohio ROTC cadets at Gettysburg, Nov 2012
University of Ohio ROTC cadets at Gettysburg, Nov 2012

Year after year, the Army sends its students to Gettysburg.  It sends dignitaries too, and choir and band, to add solemn ceremony to official events.  But in the iron chain-link of brothers-in-arms across time, it was the Army’s who fought and died at Gettysburg, an all-too-brief 150 years ago.  For the Army, Gettysburg isn’t a once-a-year commemoration but a defining orientation point for its ancient profession, and a touchstone for the meaning of American arms.   So the Army goes to Gettysburg, to think, to study, and to walk.

Briefing during terrain walk at Gettysburg, U. Ohio ROTC
Briefing during terrain walk at Gettysburg, U. Ohio ROTC


Ordinary Americans – aren’t we all? – commemorate Gettysburg in their own way.  This 96-year-old can still recite the Gettysburg Address from memory, after learning it 83 years ago.  (“Under God” at 2:52.)  Kathryn Harris, director of library services for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, delivers the Gettysburg Address dressed as Harriet Tubman, heroine of the anti-slavery movement.  The U.S. National Soccer Team got together to record a video recitation of the Gettysburg Address.  Six-year-old Beckham Christensen of Piedmont, OK recites the Gettysburg Address with a little assist from Dad (and, yes, Dad looks like a ventriloquist when you can see his face on-screen).  “Under God” appears in all these versions.

Meanwhile, a crop of new Americans was present to take the citizens’ oath of allegiance as part of the long slate of commemorative observances at Gettysburg today.  Welcome aboard, shipmates.

New citizens take the oath of allegiance at Gettysburg, 19 November 2013 (USA Today photo)
New citizens take the oath of allegiance at Gettysburg, 19 November 2013 (USA Today photo)

I furnish here an item of great interest to me: the address delivered at Gettysburg on Memorial Day, 1928, by Calvin Coolidge, one of the few sitting presidents to make a commemorative address at the battle site.  (Eisenhower spoke at the 100th anniversary commemoration in 1963; JFK was heading to Dallas.)  I urge you to take a moment to read the Coolidge speech.  Just read it, and see what you think.

Finally, you may remember this guy.  He is reciting the Gettysburg Address for the “Learn the Address” website sponsored by filmmaker Ken Burns.  And, yes, at 1:36, he includes Lincoln’s words “under God.”

Annual convention of the Medal of Honor Society, held in Gettysburg, PA, Sep 2013 (Photo: Meredith Tibbetts, Stars & Stripes)
Annual convention of the Medal of Honor Society, held in Gettysburg, PA, Sep 2013 (Photo: Meredith Tibbetts, Stars & Stripes)

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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6 thoughts on “Antidotes to the Obama reading of the Gettysburg Address”

  1. “an industrious and law-abiding people will make a peaceful nation, while a lawless and riotous people will make a warlike nation. Like many other of our problems, the solution runs back to the individual and the home. If around the Nation’s fireside[s] respect for authority, reverence for holy things, and obedience to parental discipline are taught, the surest foundation for peace will be laid. Where these home influences are lacking, the danger of conflict increases.” Calvin Coolidge, XXXth President of the United States 1923-1929, Address at Gettysburg Battlefield, May 30, 1928

    “respect for authority, reverence for holy things, and obedience to parental discipline”…

    I confess to having previously little appreciated Coolidge. What a grievous oversight that has been upon my part. A genuinely good man, clear sighted in his priorities and values. His marriage was, by most accounts, a happy one and as Coolidge wrote in his Autobiography, “We thought we were made for each other. For almost a quarter of a century she has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces.”

    Such a man would have understood that respect must be earned through actions that demonstrate one’s character. That ‘holy things’ such as Lincoln’s “under God” are worthy of reverence and, that parental discipline absent loving guidance, isn’t discipline at all but rather abuse.

    Judge for yourself the character of the man; “Do the day’s work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak, whoever objects, do it. If it be to help a powerful corporation better to serve the people, whatever the opposition, do that. Expect to be called a stand-patter, but don’t be a stand-patter. Expect to be called a demagogue, but don’t be a demagogue. Don’t hesitate to be as revolutionary as science. Don’t hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table. Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. Don’t hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation.” Calvin Coolidge to the Massachusetts State Senate, 1914

    It strikes me as illustrative that the Obama administration’s actions unarguably demonstrate its opposition to, “respect for authority, reverence for holy things, and obedience to parental discipline”…

    Nothing destroys respect for authority quicker than a ‘leader’ who unapologetically and repeatedly lies to his fellow citizens. Disrespect for ‘holy things’ is evidenced when a President purposely eliminates references to the divine and, no more subversive action toward parental discipline can be taken than for the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to boldly claim that parents do NOT have a ‘right’ to educate their own children.

    1. Wasn’t that an amazing speech by Coolidge? Like a bracing hand reaching out from the past to hold up a torch and illuminate the shabby, compromised thinking of our day.

      Imagine making fiscal continence a central point of appeal to the people’s moral sense and patriotism.

      Thanks for the excerpt from Coolidge’s 1914 communication to the state senate. That one had come my way in the past, but it was a long time ago, and I hadn’t thought about it for some time.

  2. Not only does our Commander in Chief appear to have an allergy to any reference to God, he has the arrogance to think he can improve on Lincoln. It’s enough to make one (and the nation) sick.

    Thanks for the antidote.

  3. Former President Eisenhower spoke at the 100th Gettysburg Address commemoration…while Kennedy was on his way to Dallas. Kennedy’s visit to Dallas was a political fence mending trip to smooth over frictions in the Democratic Party between liberals Ralph Yarborough and Don Yarborough (no relation) and conservative Texas Gov. John Connally. Hhmm…attend the 100th Gettysburg Address commemoration or go on a political fence mending trip easily rescheduled…tough decision, right? Not.

    Of course, had Kennedy done the right thing, he wouldn’t have been in Dallas that fateful day.

  4. My guess is that Obama omitted the “under God” part because it implies that Americans should owe fealty to the all powerful. In Obama’s vision, Americans should not owe fealty to God but rather they should owe fealty to the state. Render unto Ceasar only.

    I’m an atheist and if I were the one publicly delivering the Gettersburg Address, even I would include the words “under God.” It wouldn’t even occur to me not to.

  5. Although it was ignored by the media (wouldn’t want to embarrass Barry in any way), Sally Jewell’s speech was excellent. Short. Respectful. Inclusive. Very much in the spirit of the original. It’s worth searching for her speech on the Internet (before Barry has the NSA “erase” it from the Internet).

    It’s actually a blessing that Barry didn’t give a speech. It would have been long, boring, divisive, filled with “I,I,I,me,me me” and attacking Republican.

    The irony is that, if Barry had given Jewell’s speech, he would have immediately gained 5 percentage points in the polls.

    Thank God he’s as thick as he is, or he’d be even more of a danger.

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