Obama's Arizona memorial address

He was expected to be the healer-in-chief. He needed to rise to the solemn occasion and transcend political divisions. I think he did it.

In the immediate aftermath, I had no idea of and no concern over what other bloggers or journalists or analysts would say. I say President Obama delivered what to me was the best address he’s given yet. In tone, in tenor, in sincerity, charity, humanity and even humility, he seemed to me a different man. Granted, at times he seemed to lapse into his ‘campaigny’ mode, as I saw it. But he started, wove himself back time and again, and ended with sincere introspection, and exhortation.

Putting aside the service that opened as more of a “pep rally” than a memorial, in the apt words of a media friend, with the University of Arizona president emceeing the event and a stadium of responsive students a tad too exuberant for the occasion, the Obama administration took the podium with solemnity and surprising reverence. Why surprising? Because Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Justice Department Attorney General Eric Holder, in succession, delivered Scripture for the occasion, Napolitano a reading from Isaiah and Holder one from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

President Obama went, fittingly, to the Book of Job. What are the atheists saying now? Not the time to worry about that. It’s a time for….let’s don’t let it become a cliche…..civility. Here’s Reuters’ snap analysis:

In the heat of the congressional election campaign last year, President Barack Obama sometimes struggled to connect with Americans.

On Wednesday in Tucson, he may well have regained some of the rhetorical footing that helped him win the White House in 2008.

Back then, one had to admit he was a good orator, a gifted speaker. But this…was different. Poignant, as Reuters says.

Here’s a look at some of what he may have achieved with his emotional speech.

* Seeking the high road. Obama did not take sides in a bitter debate about political rhetoric and instead urged Americans not to seek an easy answer for the shootings.

“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,” he said.

* Highlighting important policy areas. Obama gave prominence to the concerns of gun safety and mental health by saying those issues were part of the national discussion after the shooting…

* Connecting with Americans. Obama did not rely on a teleprompter for his speech as he often does and connected with the audience with a speech that focused on the victims and called on Americans to come together.

The speech will be best remembered for the image he left of Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl shot and killed in the rampage.

Yes. True. Maybe that was it, most of all. Before he even took to the stage, in the presentations before him, the camera frequently focused on the front seats filled with dignitaries, the Obamas, members of Congress and the adminstration. And I noticed instinctive though subtle reactions I’d not seen in President Obama before, especially when Christina Green’s name was brought up.

At one point when he sat in his seat listening, he was noticeably aggrieved when the young girl was named. In his address, he named her several times, and once, I heard the audible, painful sigh as he re-set from ‘delivery’ to sincere plea for unity….finally. I thought he is connecting deeply with his own young daughters, with whom he’s very close.

“If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today,” Obama said. “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.”

She was born on 9/11, 2001, which only added to her pivotal role in tragedy and healing.

The largest flag recovered from Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center is on its way to Arizona to be displayed at the funeral of the girl killed in Saturday’s shooting spree who was born that day.

The Arizona Republic reports the 20-by-30-foot flag was the largest to have survived the collapse of the twin towers.

Nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green was born the day the towers fell and will be laid to rest Thursday in Tucson.

Obama honored everyone involved in that day’s events, the victims and heroes and families. The president who doesn’t emote, who holds whatever he feels in calculated check, showed it. Finally.

Obama seemed to meld his customary austerity with an emotional accounting of the attack’s toll.

Emotion from Obama. It was rare, and it was time.

I don’t need any professional confirmation of my observations. But I did notice this:

Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, said, “I’ve seen Obama, I’ve seen the race speech, I know his range…. This was beyond anything I’ve seen in a very long time.”

Me too. He needed to be a leader and a healer. I think he did it. And I hope he can carry on in that role.


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