Former President Barack Obama will not be attending Billy Graham’s funeral on Friday, March 2. Every living President has received an invitation, but it appears that President Donald Trump is the only one who has accepted the invitation. However, many former U.S. Presidents have needed to turn down the invitation for various reasons. Why isn’t Obama attending?
Obama considers Graham to be a personal friend, but he won’t be able to attend the funeral. WTSP 10 News reported that Trump will be the only living president to attend the funeral. A spokesperson for Obama confirmed with multiple news sources on Monday that he would not be able to attend the funeral, but did not give a reason. He also did not pay visit Grahams’ family while he was lying in repose in Charlotte or at the Capitol Rotunda. However, in 2010 he visited Graham at his home in Monteat, North Carolina. So as of the time of publication, we don’t know why Obama isn’t attending. In the past, when he didn’t attend a funeral of someone important or that he was close to, it was often due to a scheduling conflict.
After Graham’s death, Obama tweeted that Graham “gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”
This isn’t the first high-profile funeral that Obama has decided not to attend in recent years. In 2016, Obama did not attend Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral, but he did attend the lying in repose ceremony. When asked why Obama wasn’t attending Scalia’s funeral, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, just said, “The president will pay his respects at the Supreme Court on Friday and he’ll be joined by the first lady.” He added that Obama wants to honor Scalia’s life and service and believes that is important.
Obama also didn’t attend Nancy Reagan’s funeral in 2016, but Michelle Obama did attend. Instead, Obama spoke at SXSW in Austin. Obama was always lavish in his praise and admiration of Nancy Reagan, saying that she helped ease his and Michelle’s transition into the White House. He said that she “could not have been more gracious and more charming” to himself and Michelle when they first entered the White House in 2009, The Hill reported. He also said, “‘Later, in her long goodbye with President Reagan, she became a voice on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer’s, and took on a new role, as advocate, on behalf of treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives.”
Obama also didn’t attend Muhammad Ali’s funeral in 2016, due to an important family engagement happening at the same time. Obama’s oldest daughter Malia’s graduation was on the same day as Muhammad Ali’s funeral. Because of this, the White House senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett attended in his place. Valerie knew Muhammad Ali personally.
Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also are not attending Graham’s funeral, as they already paid their respects while Graham was lying in repose at the Billy Graham Library earlier this week. Former President Jimmy Carter is also not attending, likely due to his wife’s recent surgery, and neither is former President George H.W. Bush, for health reasons.
Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all honored Graham in 2007 when his library was dedicated.