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Obama to Skip Nancy Reagan's Funeral to Attend South by Southwest

Obama will not attend Nancy Reagan's funeral on Friday, opting instead to attend a festival that he is scheduled to give the keynote speech at.
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President Barack Obama will not attend Nancy Reagan's funeral on Friday, opting instead to speak at a festival in Austin, Texas.

South by Southwest — an annual music, tech, and film gathering — announced last week that Obama would be the keynote speaker on March 11, and that Michelle Obama was scheduled to speak on March 16. It's the first time in the festival's 30-year history that a sitting president and first lady have participated.

Michelle Obama will be at the former first lady's funeral, which will be held at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. But White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Tuesday that President Obama won't be there.

"The president will not attend," he said at the daily White House briefing. "The president is traveling in Texas."

Reagan, 94, died Saturday of congestive heart failure. She will be buried beside her husband, former President Ronald Reagan.

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This isn't the first notable funeral in recent weeks that Obama has missed: Last month, Obama skipped Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's funeral, choosing to paying his respects the day before while Scalia's body lay in repose. Vice President Joe Biden was at the funeral itself.

In a statement after her death, the Obamas said they were "grateful" for Nancy Reagan's life.

"Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House. She was right, of course. But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice," they said.

Presidents do not always attend former first ladies' funerals, although current and former first ladies usually do. When Betty Ford died in 2011, neither Obama nor former President Bill Clinton went to her funeral. Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and former first lady Rosalynn Carter did; former President George W. Bush was also there, accompanied by Nancy Reagan.

And sitting presidents have only attended the funeral services of a former first lady a handful of times. The last time was when then-President John F. Kennedy attended the funeral of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1962.