Last night President Barack Obama delivered a poignant, heartfelt address to the American public at the “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America” event held at the University of Arizona. The mass gathering paid tribute to those killed and wounded in Saturday’s fatal shooting spree at a Safeway market in Tuscon and included an update on U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords‘ condition.
Giffords, 40, suffered a bullet wound to the head that traveled the length of her brain on the left side. One of the volunteers in Giffords’ office, Daniel Hernadez, managed to tend to his boss’ wounds during the chaos, dubbed a “hero” by the president during his speech.
“Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday. I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak,” Obama said before delivering miraculous news on Giffords critical condition. “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 the room — Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.”
“Gabby opened her eyes so I can tell you – she knows we’re here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.”
Obama also delivered a personalized address to each of the six victims who were killed: Judge John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, Gabe Zimmerman and Christina Taylor Green.
Of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, Obama delivered a special eulogy.
“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 us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.”
“Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called Faces of Hope. On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. ‘I hope you help those in need,’ read one. ‘I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.’ ”
He added, “If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.”
The president also addressed how the country collectively needs to move forward, learning a lesson from the horrific act.
“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 systems. 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.”
“We must examine all the facts behind this tragedy,” the President continued. “We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future. But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.”