Something else I hadn’t been keeping up with the last few days… I was still out of the country when the Arizona shootings happened, and the couple of days I was stuck at home because of the snow, my newspapers either didn’t come or came after I had quit looking for them.
But I know that others among you were paying rapt attention. I know Samuel Tenenbaum was. I saw him at breakfast this morning, and asked him how he did. Well, he said, he had been in mourning Saturday night, but after the president’s speech last night, he felt a lot better. (When I wondered why the shootings — once I realized that was what he was talking about — affected him so deeply, he explained that he knew “Gabby” Giffords. He said he met her at one of the Laders’ Renaissance Weekends, and that she and Inez had been on a panel together.)
Since that encounter, a couple of other folks have mentioned how awesome the president’s speech was last night. So now, as I type this, I’m listening to it. I’m going to pause now and listen to the rest of it… In the meantime, y’all can start leaving comments…
… the part I’m listening to right now, when he’s just finished his well-researched eulogy for the dead and is applauding the heroes of the day, demonstrates a superb job of connecting emotionally with his audience, with the nation. That’s impressive, and appropriate. But here’s the bit I’m waiting for:
The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.”
It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans “to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully” and to “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
“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 think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”…
That, of course, is a topic near and deal to me, and few speak more eloquently about the need for civility than Barack Obama. (It’s one of the reasons we enthusiastically endorsed him in the primary in 2008.)
I’m listening to that part now… as I hear it, I’m a bit lost because I missed the back-and-forth of the last few days that prompted the president to feel like he had to urge us not to claw at each other over this. But I’ve caught snatches of it, and I can extrapolate the rest. I know how the 24/7 spin cycle, and the parties, and Twitter, and all of that work. So without fully knowing the background, I fully appreciate the message…
I particularly like his urging the nation “to rise above ugly political debates and see civic life ‘through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol” of adults,” and his exhortation that any debate engendered by this horror be worthy of the victims. Of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, he said:
“I want us to live up to her expectations… I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.”
He urged us to make sure “that our nation lives up to our children’s expectations.” Amen to that, Mr. President. Amen to that.