I am not a believer in telling someone how to mourn, as it isn't my business. But, the college students seemed to be more interested in seeing the president than they were in giving respect to the dead, but I don't think that the president can be blamed for that. He also seemed to be taken aback at the reaction of the students as well. But, they ate it up and it seemed that the people in attendance left with lifted spirits, which really was the purpose, to start the healing process.
The speech that he gave was appropriate for a memorial service. He talked about the victims that were lost in very personal terms with anecdotes of the six that were lost. On the littlest victim he said:
And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer. She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, "We are so blessed. We have the best life." And she'd pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.
He addressed the blame game that has taken over since the shootings:
The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives - to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. 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.
The highlight of the evening was when the president announced that the congresswoman opened her eyes while her colleagues from the congress were visiting. Her recovery is truly remarkable and I have no doubt that she was spared because God has a plan for the rest of her life. She will go on to do some wonderful things.
For me the big winner of the evening was Michelle Obama. She has always come across to me as cold. When the president made the announcement of Gabby's eyes the camera went to her husband who was sitting next to the first lady. The raw emotion you saw on Michelle's face was real and very heartfelt. I believe this is the first time that I really saw that in her. I once saw a picture of her playing with some kids where she had a big smile on her face, but that was a picture so the impact was not the same.
From the reports that I have read the university was in charge of the planning of the service. While it is true there is nothing that is not scripted when the president is concerned, they have said that they turned the planning over to them and the community. I certainly hope that the White House didn't know about the T-shirts because they were wildly inappropriate. I also think that the university officials should have done a better job at explaining to the students that booing the governor was not a good thing. Luckily it was not that loud nor did it last that long, very tacky indeed. I have heard some on the right compare the audience of the Virginia Tech shooting memorial to this, but I think that is unfair comparison as that shooting took place on campus and many in attendance were personally involved with the dead.
My favorite quote of the evening:
That's what I believe, in part because that's what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: 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 someday 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, something 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 us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us - we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.
On this we agree Mr. President. I want the next generation to be left an America that they can proud of and that offers them the same oppurtunities that were provided to me and to you.
Here are some highlights:
You can read the full speech of the president here.
Where you fall on the political spectrum is going to guide your opinion on this statement. He didn't directly address the behavior of the far left, but I personally don't think it was the neither the time nor the place. I tend to stay away from far left sites, so I am not sure what their reaction to the speech is, but the right is a little split on the speech, but I would venture to say that most felt the speech did accomplish what it set to, set a tone of healing for the families of the victims and to reach out to a nation that is still in shock over the unnecessary violence that took people too soon.