Abraham Lincoln was right about a great deal but wrong when he suggested, in his Gettysburg Address, that "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here."

His point was spot on, that the focus on Nov. 19, 1863 should not have been his speech, but the sacrifice in the name of freedom that had been made that July by thousands of Union soldiers at rest in the cemetery he had come to dedicate.

But Lincoln's brief and eloquent speech was extraordinary as well. In just a few minutes it paid homage to those who had died, explained the meaning of that sacrifice in the context of the nation's history and, most important, its meaning for the future of the United States.

"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

President Obama himself is one consequence of that new birth of freedom. He also is an avowed admirer of Lincoln who took his oath of office on the same Bible that was used by the 16th president. Yet the White House has announced that he will not attend Tuesday, when the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's speech is observed in Gettysburg. Keynote speakers instead will be historian James McPherson and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Mr. Obama, a fine orator himself, should reconsider and go to Gettysburg. The commemoration warrants the attendance of the president, especially one who is living proof that Lincoln's got it exactly right.