According to CNN, last night President Obama got some laughs at a function sponsored by a Washington D.C. social club known as the “Alfalfa Club”. The club’s annual dinner was originally began as a way to celebrate Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Obama was quoted as saying
“I know that many you are aware that this dinner began almost 100 years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old, and very confused.”
Now, I’m all for the President having a sense of humor but I don’t exactly appreciate him using it to crack jokes at the expense of one of the South’s most beloved and treasured personalities. President Obama might want to talk to his speech writer especially when his words can be construed as intending to say that General Lee was a racist and that he might not approve of a black president. Most likely, Lee would have been gracious in the situation and would have sat quietly and listened to what the President had to say. He was known for being polite and respectful above all else, something the new president decided not to be last night.
Though Lee owned slaves, as did most plantation owners of his time, he was not known as being particularly racist. He is quoted as saying in a letter to his wife before the war
“… In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country”.
Lee also freed the slaves that he had “inherited” from Custis Lee before the war instead of attempting to profit by their sale. Lee also was a proponent of enlisting black soldiers in the Confederate Army saying
“he could make soldiers out of any human being that had arms and legs."
President Obama might take a chapter from Lee’s life and start giving thought to his actions and words before they fall from his mouth. Especially when at the expense of someone good portions of his constituents hold near and dear to their hearts. It is my sincerest hope that these words do not portend a term full of intolerance towards those of Southern Heritage and 4 years full of attempting to tear down the memories of heroes of the Confederacy.
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