A White House official confirmed this afternoon that President Barack Obama will not be in attendance at former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s funeral on Friday, instead opting to speak at a popular film and music festival in Texas.
Obama will be represented at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library by his wife, Michelle. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she will be attending the service in Simi Valley, California, as well.
In late February, Obama drew widespread criticism after skipping the funeral for conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
The president is scheduled to deliver a keynote address on Friday at the South By Southwest festival in Austin. The annual event features movie screenings, musical performances and conferences on interactive media and technology, and has become known as a must-attend date for those in the tech world and Silicon Valley.
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Sitting it out: President Barack Obama won’t be attending Friday’s funeral for former first lady Nancy Reagan, the White House said Tuesday
A portrait of former first lady Nancy Reagan decorates the doors of the main entrance at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The funeral will be held on Friday at the library
Officers stand to attention and salute as the hearse carrying the coffin of Nancy Reagan is driven away from her home in Bel Air
Nancy Reagan will be transported from the Little Chapel of the Dawn (pictured) to her final resting place at the Reagan Library
Flowers for Nancy: A bouquet is left at the Little Chapel of the Dawn in honor of Nancy Reagan
Nancy Reagan will be laid to rest next to her late husband, the former President Ronald Reagan. California Highway Patrol are pictured scorting the hearse transporting the former First Lady’s body.
The news comes just days after the Obamas recalled how Mrs Reagan had been wonderful and gracious to them when they moved into the White House.
President Obama said she ‘had redefined the role’ of First Lady.’
He added: ‘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.’
During her appearance on Tuesday at Union Market in Washington DC to promote her Let Girls Learn education initiative, Mrs Obama described her late predecessor as ‘a woman of incredible strength and grace,’ reported ABC News.
‘Through the examples she set both during her time in the White House and beyond, Nancy Reagan reminded us of the importance of women’s leadership at every level of our society,’ the first lady said in her remarks.
Prior engagement: Instead of attending Mrs Reagan’s funeral, President Obama will be speaking at the annual South By Southwest movie, music and technology festival in Austin, Texas
During her appearance on Tuesday at Union Market in Washington DC to promote her Let Girls Learn initiative, Michelle Obama said she was grateful to Nancy Reagan for offering ‘advice and encouragement’
‘And on a personal note, Mrs Reagan also understood the value of mentoring. She warmly and willingly offered advice and encouragement to me as I settled into my role as First Lady, and I am so grateful for her kindness and generosity to me and my family over the years, and I hope that our continued work to educate girls worldwide is a fitting tribute to her legacy.’
Michelle Obama is also scheduled to deliver a keynote address at the South By Southwest festival Wednesday to tout the Let Girls Learn campaign.
The Obamas’ participation in the popular event, which drew more than 80,000 attendees last year, was announced last Wednesday, four days before Mrs Reagan passed away from congestive heart failure.
‘I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate our event’s 30th year than to welcome both the president and first lady to SXSW,’ festival co-founder Roland Swenson said last week, according to a report by The Daily Caller.
In his address, President Obama is expected to ‘urge the audience to apply their ideas and talents in working with technology for future world issues.’
The Obamas’ appearances mark the first time a sitting president and first lady have spoken at the annual gathering.
The Reagan Library announced Monday that Mrs Reagan will lie in repose for public visitation on Wednesday from 1pm to 7pm and Thursday from 10am to 2pm. Transportation to the library will be by shuttle from a bank property in Simi Valley, California.
Nancy Reagan touches the casket of her husband, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, as it lies in state in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, June 9, 2004
Friday’s funeral starts at 11am and will be closed to the public. Mrs Reagan will be buried at the library alongside her husband, who died on June 5, 2004.
The 94-year-old former First Lady passed away in Bel Air, California, on Sunday after suffering congestive heart failure.
Instead of flowers, Mrs Reagan asked that contributions be made to the library.
Starting as an actress in the 1940s and 1950s, she married Ronald Reagan – then president of the Screen Actors Guild – in 1952.
Mrs Reagan was an influential First Lady during her husband’s presidency from 1981 to 1989.
Notably she spearheaded the ‘Just Say No’ to campaign against drugs, speaking at schools and appearing on TV shows such as Dynasty and Diff’rent Strokes to promote the cause.
‘Drugs take away the dream from every child’s heart and replace it with a nightmare, and it’s time we in America stand up and replace those dreams,’ she said in a speech which led to 12,000 Just Say No clubs being set up across the country and a Just Say No Week implemented by Congress.