Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Since its inception in 1953, every new president has attended The Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball – until now.
The ball was created for President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration to honor recipients of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award. The event is sponsored by the American Legion and co-sponsored by 13 other veteran’s service organizations, including the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
And while 48 of the nation’s 99 living recipients of the Medal of Honor attended the event, newly sworn-in President Barack Obama became the first president in 56 years to skip out on the ceremony.
Obama’s itinerary on Inauguration Day, however, did include attendance at 10 balls in his honor, many of which were graced by a cast of the nation’s biggest music and movie stars.
According to a Sofia News Agency report, the president and first lady began at the Neighborhood Ball, dancing to the song “At Last,” performed by popular music star Beyoncé. The dance also boasted attendees Stevie Wonder, Shakira, Mary J. Blige, Faith Hill, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Adam Levine, Sting, Mariah Carey and Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Obamas also attended the Home State Ball for Illinois and Hawaii, the Youth Inaugural Ball, a handful of regional balls and the Commander-in-Chief Ball, which was also attended by veterans and members of the military.
At the Commander-in-Chief Ball, the Sofia News Agency reports, Obama took time to address veterans.
“It is wonderful to be surrounded by some of the very best and bravest Americans,” Obama said. “Your courage, your grace and your patriotism inspire us all.”
News of new president’s snub of the Heroes ball, however, launched a flurry of comment on the blogosphere, from angry veterans questioning if this is what Obama means by “change” to supporters who have labeled the whole story a hoax, claiming the ball never took place.
WND spoke with the ball’s host venue, the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C., and confirmed that the ball did, in fact, take place.
WND also spoke with Craig Roberts, the American Legion’s media relations manager, who confirmed that President Obama did not attend the ball, but sent Vice President Biden instead.
Roberts further confirmed that he wrote the following statement, widely attributed to him on various blogs: “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.’”