I don't generally listen to political speeches. Not any of them. I prefer to read the words afterward as a way to get the ideas without the emotion. In this case though, I felt the Wednesday memorial service in Tucson was different because I do believe in collective energy and wanted to be part of what I believed would be a positive surge of it.
Everything everyone said who spoke seemed part of a memorial service that truly was meant to heal. Very much I liked how Obama spoke to what had happened, where he put his emphasis, the way he personalized the victims and made us aware of the qualities of the heroes (and there were many that day). He was speaking of the best of who America is, and we needed to hear that at this time. He was working on building that positive energy that I believe in so much.
Although most everyone probably either listened to the speech or read the words, I wanted to pull a few out, ones that I felt most concisely spoke to what is needed now. What he was doing was speaking to our good angels, not our bad ones-- and we all have the bad ones, the times we yield to the inner anger and out it spouts.
So the following were the phrases that I think threaded through his words and that we most can take to heart-- if we want a kind of culture that things like happened Saturday don't happen. Some would say that's a dream. I would say it's about a collective human energy that we can build in positive ways or let deteriorate into chaos. Really it is a choice and it's not just what someone else does. It's what we do in our families, our communities, with our words. Do we build or tear down?
"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 think differently than we do – 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."These are good words, words right, left and the un-politicized should all take to heart. They are part of building a positive energy that can find solutions to problems that have bedeviled us too long. It is not hopeless and it starts with us wherever we are.
"Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us 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 our hopes and dreams are bound together."
"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 with the next news cycle."
"And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations."