The White House released a statement saying that this was all agreed upon beforehand, but you can tell in the clip that if it was no one bothered to tell Obama. It looks super awkward. I do not think it is all that unreasonable for Obama to assume that when a president is invited to a ground breaking of a National museum, let alone the first African American president to an African American History museum, that they would be included in the ceremony.
Full blown snub, oversight, or did reasoned conclusion?
Video embedded below.
"It was a rather odd sight: as an array of museum officials, including former first lady Laura Bush, took up shovels at the groundbreaking for the first national museum dedicated exclusively to African-American history and culture, the nation's first black president sat watching, no shovel in hand.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attended the ceremony Wednesday for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and he delivered remarks.
When he finished and returned to his seat, a call was put out for groundbreakers to gather at the front of the stage. Obama then stood, buttoned his jacket and prepared to join in. But an official whispered something to him and he sat back down as museum officials and members of the museum's advisory council, including the former first lady, picked up shovels for the ceremonial turning of the dirt. The Obamas remained on stage.
Protocol does not seem to have played a role. Turns out, presidents throughout history have wielded shovels for groundbreakings.
White House officials said that only museum officials and advisers were scheduled to take part in the shoveling. They said that was part of the agreed upon plan between the White House and the museum."