On Tuesday we reported that radio talk show host Chris Plante discovered President Barack Obama had neglected to use the phrase “under God” when reciting the Gettysburg Address for a Ken Burns film project.
The push-back on the story was nearly immediate, with the White House claiming they read an early draft of the address, which did not include mention of God, at Ken Burns’ request.
The Ken Burns website, learntheaddress.org, added a text box on their homepage claiming they had asked the president to read the “Nicolay Draft” of Lincoln’s speech. Strangely, all of the living past-presidents, as well as the Hollywood luminaries, were asked to read the actual Gettysburg Address, not the “Nicolay Draft.”
The Ken Burns YouTube account, which has hosted the film of Obama reading the “Nicolay Draft” since Nov. 9, carries the headline: “President Barack Obama Recites the Gettysburg Address”
Let’s be clear: The White House and Ken Burns claim that the president was not asked to read the Gettysburg Address. They claim he was asked to read the “Nicolay Draft.” Why doesn’t the headline on the YouTube account say: “President Barack Obama Recites the ‘Nicolay Draft’ of the Gettysburg Address?”
It certainly appears that whomever uploaded and labeled the video on the Ken Burns YouTube account was under the impression that the film contained President Obama reciting the Gettysburg Address, not an early draft.
There were early drafts of President Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Brandenberg Gates in Germany where he famously said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” In fact, the early drafts from the State Department specifically omitted that line. When Reagan delivered the speech, he deliberately included it and the rest is, literally, history.
Years from now, imagine a future president participating in a film project honoring the historic “tear down this wall” speech and the project’s director asks the president to recite the State Department’s draft. Do you think that future president would do it? Do you think they would sit for a camera and recite a draft of the speech without the words “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall?”