Thursday, 13 January 2011

"It’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

President Obama spoke yesterday at a memorial service for those slain in Arizona. I haven't been able yet to watch video of the speech, but I've just looked up the text to at least quickly read through the gist of what he had to say.

Tears are welling in my eyes. This is awkward, as I am at work. It's a good thing I have a slight cold and thus an excuse for sniffling.

Fully half of the speech seems to just be telling the stories of the victims... one by one...
George and Dorothy Morris -– “Dot” to her friends -– were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters. They did everything together -- traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their congresswoman had to say. When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. (Applause.) Both were shot. Dot passed away.
Everything -- everything -- Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion.  (Applause.)  But his true passion was helping people.  As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits that they had earned, that veterans got the medals and the care that they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks.  He died doing what he loved -– talking with people and seeing how he could help.  And Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancée, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year. 
And, unbearably, excruciatingly...
And then there is nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student; she was a dancer; she was a gymnast; she was a swimmer. She decided that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the Major Leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. (Applause.)

She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age. She’d remind her mother, “We are so blessed. We have the best life.” And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.
Almost impossible to read.

But there is also hope in the world.
Gabby opened her eyes.  Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you she knows we are here.  She knows we love her.  And she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey.  We are there for her.
And, turning to the broader discussion of how to learn and move on from this tragegy:
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy -- it did not -- but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.
That seems to me exactly right. We can't govern our every action and word according to how it might be seen by the most disturbed person among us. But we can aspire in all of our actions and words to live up to the example of the best among us.

We can have a politics that is vigorous, lively and full of energy while at the same time recognising that our opponents are human beings, that they have families and loved ones and lives outside of their politics. That they may be as sincere and as thoughtful about their beliefs as we are about ours.

It's too easy to transfer anger ABOUT ISSUES to anger AT PEOPLE. And my experience has been that in politics what is easiest is usually also what is least valuable.

My thoughts are with the families of the victims.


KathyF said...

Incredible. Thanks for posting a link.

Melinda said...

I cried too... it was such a beautiful speech. The President focus on the victim and not blaming or pointing fingers. I look at a closed up pic of him and you can tell he was weeping before the speech. His eyes were red and a little teary. FLOTUS expression and the way she comfort Gabby's husband was so touching... I am so proud to be an American and to have President Obama as my leader