Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to skip out on the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball since its inception in 1953. The event recognizes recipients of the military's highest award - the Medal of Honor - and as The Cleveland Leader previously reported, over the past 56 years and 14 inaugurations, no President has failed to appear at this event until now. Following the breaking of this news, there have been some misconceptions and erroneous information floating around. The American Legion, one of the main sponsors of the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball, issued a statement making it clear once and for all that Barack Obama did not in fact attend the event.
Craig Roberts, Media Relations Manager for the American Legion, issued the following statement:
The American Legion, as it has on every inauguration evening since 1953, hosted the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Banquet & Ball on January 20th. The quadrennial event is co-sponsored with fourteen veterans service and military service organizations and honors recipients of the Medal of Honor. Forty-seven of these heroes attended this year’s event which was held in the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel.
President Obama was invited but did not attend. Vice-President Joe Biden did appear, however, and was very warmly received. The new President’s absence was understandable considering the unprecedented logistical challenges presented by the vastly increased number of visitors to this inauguration and the necessary attendant security measures. The American Legion, as an organization, does not feel offended or “snubbed.”
Obama did make appearances at 10 official balls on January 20, including the Neighborhood Ball, the Home State Ball for Illinois and Hawaii, the Commander-in-Chief Ball, the Youth Inaugural Ball, and the Home State Ball for Delaware and Pennsylvania. He and his wife Michelle finished up the evening with brief appearances at the Mid-Atlantic, Western, Midwest, Easter, and Southern Regional Balls.
The Commander-in-Chief Ball, as some have falsely insinuated, is not the same as the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball. The Veteran's Ball, which had been cancelled after the event's organizer disappeared, is also not to be confused with the event honoring Medal of Honor recipients.
The Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball did take place at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel on January 20, 2009. 47 Medal of Honor recipients were in attendance at the event. The President traditionally attends, as does the Vice President and other dignitaries. Vice President Joe Biden did attend, but President Obama did not.
Instead, Barack Obama chose to be in the company of Kanye West, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Kid Rock, Stevie Wonder, Mary. J. Blige, Usher, Faith Hill, Alicia Keys, Adam Levine, Shakira, will.i.am, Samuel L. Jackson, Sting, Mariah Carey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sheryl Crow and Marc Anthony, amongst numerous other celebrities in attendance at the balls he did appear at.
Barack Obama made a monumental mistake in declining to attend the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball in favor of rubbing shoulders with celebrities. While the American Legion states that they do not feel snubbed or offended, plenty of America's citizens and servicemen are.