For the first time the president has sent a wreath to honor the 200,000 African Americans who fought on the side of the Union in the Civil War. Seems sad and amazing that this has never been done before; that it took an African American president to make this gesture
Sending this wreath is also an elegant solution to the minor contretemps about whether or not the President would or should send a wreath to honor Confederate war dead as previous presidents have done since Wilson. He did send that wreath but he also started this hopefully new tradition. It's a move that seems characteristic of who Obama is. He makes his point in a manner that is clear and nigh on impossible to argue with.
An Extra Wreath for Obama on Memorial Day
ARLINGTON, Va. — President Obama observed Memorial Day on Monday just as his predecessors have: by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here. But Mr. Obama added a new twist: he sent a second wreath to a memorial honoring African-Americans who fought in the Civil War.
President Obama took part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Presidents since Warren G. Harding have marked Memorial Day by visiting Arlington National Cemetery, where white rows of tombstones mark more than seven generations of America’s war dead. But with the nation’s first African-American president in office, a controversy erupted over Mr. Obama’s appearance this year.
Last week, a group of university professors petitioned the White House to end a longstanding practice of sending a wreath to a monument to Confederate soldiers on the cemetery grounds. Mr. Obama continued that tradition but started another, the White House said, by sending a second wreath across the Potomac River to the historically black neighborhood in Washington where the African-American Civil War Memorial commemorates more than 200,000 blacks who fought for the North in the Civil War.