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Obama at Tucson Memorial: Let Debate Be "Worthy of Those We Have Lost"

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 13, 2011 1:50PM

President Obama dug deep into his considerable oratorical skills at last night's memorial service for the dead and wounded at last weekend's shooting in Arizona. It was a passionate speech from a man not necessarily known for sentimentality. In Obama's delivery and willingness to be the adult in the room after a week's worth of news cycle chatter about whether rhetoric was to blame for the shooting, the speech reminded us of Obama's 2008 Philadelphia speech on race. As with that speech, last night's address was the right speech at the right time and may go down as a defining moment for Obama, in that he was speaking not only as President, but a husband and father.

Obama, his voice cracking at times, dropped personal anecdotes about those who were killed throughout his address, but specifically framed the latter portions of the speech around the forever untapped potential of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green:

"Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted."

Obama later called for the assembled, and the nation, to "do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations." Obama also, with the blessing of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords's husband Mark Kelly, announced that Giffords opened her eyes while being visited by a gathering of her congressional peers.

Throughout the memorial service, there was cheering and shouting by some of the people in attendance, which led to post-memorial analysis by pundits that the attendees weren't "properly respecting" the victims, and a sneaking suspicion from us that conservative talkers may be dusting off the Paul Wellstone Memorial playbook to spin the memorial as a political rally (we'll find out this morning once Limbaugh, Beck, et al. hit the airwaves). Obama, addressing the subject of whether rhetoric was a contributing factor in the shooting, said:

"Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath."


"But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."

You can read the full text of Obama's speech here. Or watch it below.

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