Thursday, January 13, 2011

President Makes Impassioned Plea For Political Civility

Jan 12: President Obama delivered what has to be described as a remarkable speech in Tucson, AZ providing a eulogy to the fallen victims of the horrendous shooting last Saturday, a tribute to the heroic deeds of ordinary people, an impassioned plea for political civility, and most importantly -- hope for a new and better chapter in American Democracy.
    The President said, "Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health system. And much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government. 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. . . what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. . . 
    "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's 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 that our hopes and dreams are bound together.  . . sudden loss causes us to look backward -– but it also forces us to look forward; to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. . .
    "For those who were harmed, those who were killed –- they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but surely we see ourselves in them. . . And in Christina [the 9-year old girl who lost her life] -- in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic, so full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate -- as it should -- let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.

    "The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better.  To be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and coworkers and parents. 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. . .

    "We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that's entirely up to us. And I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us. That's what I believe, in part because that's what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. . . 

    "Imagine -- imagine for a moment, 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 some day 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 and 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. I want to live up to her expectations.  (Applause.)  I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. . ."

    Access the complete text of President Obama's speech (click here). Access the 33 minute video of the speech (click here).

No comments: