This information provided by The Federal Observer, http://www.federalobserver.com
By TYLER WHITLEY AND PAMELA STALLSMITH - TIMES-DISPATCH
Under pressure from Gov. Mark R. Warner, special assistant John H. Hager withdrew as the keynote speaker at an event today honoring two Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
Hager issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that he felt his presence might detract from the intent of the organizers of the Lee-Jackson Day ceremony.
"I appreciate Governor Warner's willingness to respect my earlier decision to keep the prior commitment, but I feel that it is no longer appropriate," said Hager, who was Virginia's Republican lieutenant governor until Saturday.
Warner, a Democrat, appointed him the state's first anti-terrorism czar as the assistant to the governor for commonwealth preparedness.
Today is an official state holiday to commemorate the birthdays of the two Civil War generals. All state offices will be closed.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans hold one ceremony at the Capitol, while for the past two years a group promoting the Lee-Jackson holiday has also held an event there.
Hager was to address the second group and talk about the importance of the Civil War to Virginia tourism, said Brag Bowling, an organizer of the event.
Warner let it be known Tuesday that he did not want Hager to participate and agreed to allow him to speak only because he was honoring a previous commitment. Hager said he had accepted the invitation to speak a year ago.
"The governor wouldn't have done it," Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said. "It is a divisive sort of appearance and he doesn't want to send that sort of message to Virginia."
Qualls acknowledged that the event marks an official state holiday. Warner wants to emphasize the diversity of Virginia, she said.
"We want John Hager to be who he is and say what he wants to say, but it is not representative of this governor," Qualls added.
State Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Hanover, said he would honor his commitment and called Warner's stance "ridiculous."
"It is an official holiday of the commonwealth of Virginia," Bolling said. "General Lee and General Jackson represent a great deal to the history of Virginia."
Fred D. Taylor of Suffolk, Virginia state president of the Heritage Preservation Association of Virginia, expressed disappointment at Hager's withdrawal from the ceremony and Warner's reproving Hager.
"As governor of Virginia, Mark Warner has a responsibility to recognize state holidays," Taylor said. "They are using everything Southern as a dividing tool."
As the state prepares to celebrate another holiday on Monday - the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. - deliberations continue over the Virginia flag salute controversy in the House of Delegates.
The House leadership and the Legislative Black Caucus hope to reach an accord by tomorrow and possibly today.
At issue is the House's decision last week to begin the daily session by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag and the little-known Salute to the Flag of Virginia, which the General Assembly adopted in 1954.
It is also the official state flag salute of the Virginia division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Most members of the House didn't know the history of the salute until a Times-Dispatch article detailed its origins last week.
The Legislative Black Caucus has decided that its members will not join other House members in the daily recitation of the Salute to the Flag of Virginia because of its Confederate ties. However, they do say the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag.
The assembly's lone black Republican has joined the caucus and will not recite the salute.
"I am my brother's keeper, and if it offends them - and it does - then I've elected to go along with them and not say it," said Del. Winsome E. Sears, R-Norfolk.
The caucus, which totals about 15 House and Senate members, met behind closed doors again yesterday morning for about an hour and continued to talk to the Republican leadership.
"We are trying to move forward as cooperatively as possible to find a resolution," said Del. Robert F. McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, who suggested that the House recite the pledge and salute.
He was unaware of the salute's origins. "It's obviously got to be something everybody can accept. It needs to be a source of unity every morning."
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