Upon reading a Newsvine user's seed of a blog that used unsourced information that said the following:
According to TSO who was at the "Salute to Heroes Inaugural Ball", this newly sworn-in President for the first time in 56 years blew off the ball (that's 14 Inaugurations).
Some background on the ball;
The American Legion sponsors the ball, which recognizes recipients of Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award. It started in 1953 for President Dwight D. Eisenhower's first inauguration.
Event co-sponsors include 13 other veterans service organizations, among them the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
So where was our new President instead of honoring Medal of Honor recipients who by some miracle are still alive? According to Huffington Post, this was his schedule for Inaugural celebrations;
Later that day, the Presidential Inaugural Committee will host 10 official inaugural balls:
— Neighborhood Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center.
— Obama Home States (Illinois and Hawaii) Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center.
— Biden Home States (Pennsylvania and Delaware) Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center.
— Midwest Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center.
— Mid-Atlantic Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center.
— Western Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center.
— Commander in Chief's Ball at the National Building Museum.
— Southern Inaugural Ball at the National Guard Armory.
— Eastern Inaugural Ball at Union Station.
— Youth Inaugural Ball at the Washington Hilton.
Unofficial balls include:
— Congressional Black Caucus Inaugural Ball at the Capitol Hilton.
— Creative Coalition Inaugural Ball at the Harman Center for the Arts.
— Recording Industry Association of America's ball for Feeding America.
— BET's Inaugural Ball at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
— Africa on the Potomac inaugural celebration at Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va.
— American Music Inaugural Ball at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
— Inaugural Purple Ball at the Fairmont Hotel.
— Human Rights Campaign's Equality Ball at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel.
— Inaugural Peace Ball at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.
— Impact Film Fund ball.
Mr. Wolf from Blackfive sends along this link to which Inaugural Balls Obama actually attended last night.
Blackfive, which I read occasionally for military pieces, confirmed that President Obama did not come to the inaugural ball. So I became curious because the only two sources were two blogs and one source that consisted of initials. Therefore, I did what any rational person would do: I contacted the American Legion to get the straight story from the people who would know. I was put in contact with a very pleasant gentleman named Craig Roberts who is the American Legion's Media Relations Manager and after our conversation he e-mailed me this statement which I will include in its entirety:
In answer to your inquiry:
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."
Media Relations Manager
The American Legion
1608 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Roberts for taking my call and taking the time to compose this statement so that I can share it on behalf of the American Legion. So to those fellow Obama supporters that think this ball did not happen, it did. It was omitted from the media outlets it was omitted from because of logistical challenges due to the extraordinary number of people that flooded Washington D.C. to see Barack Obama be inaugurated as the 44th president and it is not yet on the American Legion's website (as I type this at 8:30 A.M. on 1-23-09) because of some difficulties in updating the website. However, there will be media coverage of the event forthcoming.
I have found out also that the likely reason that Barack Obama attended the auxiliary balls that he did is because six of the balls that he attended were held in the same building. Therefore, attending those balls and the others that he attended were the most efficient with regards to security. It is no secret that President Obama has had questions surrounding his security, that is evident by observing that he was the earliest presidential candidate ever to get a security detail. If the Secret Service felt it prudent to guard him so early in the campaign can the reader imagine what the Secret Service feels is prudent now that he is the President of the United States?
The most likely reason that President Obama did not go to the "Salute to Heroes" inaugural ball is because it was held in the Renaissance Hotel which consists of 16 floors. There was an event called the "Illinois Party - Presidential Event" held at the Renaissance the night before that the then-President-elect did not attend either (I have a call in to the President's press office asking for confirmation of this information which was given to me by one of my sources for this story). Given the amount of time and resources it would have taken to clear a 16 floor hotel as well as protect it while President Obama was inside, I can only guess that he was advised by his Presidential Protection Detail not to attend either inaugural ball because of the building and the inherent problems in securing and then protecting it. The sheer number of people crowding the streets and staying in the hotel surely presented a formidable screening problem as well. But, there's your story... it's not as sexy as "Barack Obama Hates The Military" but it is the truth as best I can tell after talking to the organization responsible for hosting the event and doing some research and educated guesswork about why a security team wouldn't want to protect a principal in the Renaissance with more than 2 million extra people in Washington D.C.
Update: It would appear that, according to Stars & Stripes that Obama had some Medal of Honor recipients at an inaugural ball that he attended. This gives the number of living Medal of Honor recipients as 99, but I believe that two have passed away since that number was compiled leaving 97. There are 7 in this picture and there were 47 at the American Legion inaugural event. I'm curious if there were more at the event this photo was taken at.
Further update: I received an e-mail from Mr. Roberts today (which I would have gotten yesterday if I had not miscommunicated my e-mail address to him) with his original statement along with a new statement. I will include both statements in their entirety:
My statement on behalf of our National Adjutant, Dan Wheeler:
"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 by 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.
President Obama was invited but did not attend. Vice-President Joe Biden
did appear, however, and was very warmly received. From The American
Legion's point of view, 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 National Adjutant of The
American Legion states that, as an organization, The Legion does not
feel offended or "snubbed" by the President's failure to appear."
Mr. Wheeler's message as of noon today (January 26):
"We extended an invitation as we always do. There are numerous Balls
and we know he can't attend them all. Of course, we would have loved
for him to make an appearance, but he didn't. It's a logistical
nightmare. He did meet with the troops at the Commander In Chief's
Ball, and we are grateful for that. Our Ball wasn't about the
President; it was about the Medal of Honor recipients and the veterans
and families who were there. We are grateful that the Vice President
appeared, and our guests were very appreciative.
"That having been said, there are much more important issues to dwell
on, which we intend to do. We look forward to working with the new
administration on ensuring full and guaranteed funding for VA health
care services, and the very best treatment for our service people who
have been wounded, and on the quality of life of all members of the
Armed Forces and their families, as well as the maintenance of a
national security force that will deter any enemy from considering an
attack on America."