I was not able to catch the Memorial Service in Tucson live last night on television because of other commitments, but I was able to catch part of it on the radio and later on I was able to watch a replay of the service on television.
As a communications major, I enjoy listening to, reading, and watching speeches – all types. I can normally tell if a speech moves me if there are tears in my eyes or if I catch myself saying, “I wish I could write like that.”
President Obama’s speech accomplished both of these items last night with me. He did not politicize the event – he was the “healer-in-chief” when he needed to be. He did a fine job.
There were concerns floating around the web about the outbursts of applause and cheers from the crowd. First and foremost, this was Tucson Arizona’s Memorial Service and they can act the way that makes them feel better – the way that they want to memorialize those who lost their lives or were injured in the shooting. It’s not up to me to make a statement about their actions. When the Lord calls me home, and if my surviving family members have a Memorial Service or funeral for me, I want joy and laughter at the event – because I have gone to a much better place.
There were several incredible moments during the President’s speech, but none were quite as great as the part about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords:
And I want to tell you — her husband Mark is here and he allows me to share this with you — right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues in Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.
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.
The President did talk about the “discourse” that has swept our country:
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.
After the tragic events of 9/11 our country came together – we were all one Nation against the terrorists who wanted to harm us. That togetherness only lasted a few months before the “polarization” crept back in to our politics. Although the tragic event in Tucson is different from the events of 9/11, it took even less time for the politicizing to begin.
As a country, we need to pull together in times like this. President Obama did his job. He brought us together last night with laughter, with tears, with compassion, and with a call for each of us to do better.
Now it is up to us.