Tuesday, November 19, 2013

John Fleming Doesn't Know American History

Over at The Hayride Congressman John Fleming has a piece in which he criticizes Barack Obama for leaving "under God" out of his recitation of the Gettysburg Address:
Whether you learned the Gettysburg Address in school or saw it recited in a movie or a documentary, you heard these words: “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
But, in a new recording of Lincoln’s famous speech, President Barack Obama said, “that the nation shall have a new birth of freedom,” leaving out the phrase ‘under God.’ Liberals have a long-running disdain for the phrase “under God,” and the Obama Administration has seemed to put religion in its crosshairs on several fronts, including threats on religious freedom in the military and through the Obamacare HHS mandate. But to leave out words penned and spoken by our Sixteenth President smacks of mean-spirited and inexcusable bias.

It was one thing for President Obama to be too busy to travel the 65 miles to Gettysburg for today’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, but it is quite another to brazenly omit God from Lincoln’s great speech.
Obama's recitation is one of a few dozen similar videos at LearnTheAddress.org, a website promoting Ken Burns' new documentary. Burns asked many famous Americans to record themselves reciting the Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln wrote at least five copies of the Gettysburg Address. These include the Nicolay Copy, which was a first draft; the Hay Copy, which Lincoln is believed to have written shortly after delivering the speech; and three other copies which Lincoln wrote at later times for charitable purposes. The Nicolay Copy and the Hay Copy do not include the words "under God," but the three later copies do. Apparently, John Fleming didn't learn that in school nor from the movies.

Did Lincoln ad-lib the phrase "under God" when he was giving the speech? I'm not sure and neither is history. Due to the technological limitations of the time, there is no audio recording of the actual speech.

However, there is a prominently displayed notice on Ken Burns' website explaining that the organizers of this project asked Barack Obama to recite the Nicolay version of the Gettysburg Address.

If Fleming has a problem with Obama reciting the Nicolay version, then he should really take that up with the person who chose that version for Obama to read.

I very much doubt that Obama was trying to make an anti-religious point by reciting the Gettysburg Address version that was chosen for him, just as I very much doubt that the irreverent comedian Louis C.K. was trying to make a pro-religious point by reciting the "under God" version that was chosen for him. Both versions were written as the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln and both versions are, in that regard, historically accurate.

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