President Obama delivers powerful speech at Dallas memorial service
‘I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice, more peace’
On Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrived in Dallas to attend their 11th mass shooting memorial during his tenure as president.
Officers from around the country filed in and received standing ovations while walking to their seats. Five empty seats each held peaked caps and American flags honoring Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Krol, the five officers killed in an ambush while guarding a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas on July 7.
Before the latest mass shooting in one of America’s darkest weeks, 49 patrons were killed at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Before that, 14 people were killed at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California. Before that, nine people were killed at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and even before that, other mass shootings found the president in the same position he was today — delivering a speech at an interfaith service, memorializing the lives of citizens who should still be here today. The faces are different, the victims are different, but the scene remains the same, accompanied by the rhetorical question, “Why?”
In a speech written by the president himself, through a mixture of his own words and biblical Scriptures, Obama attempted to list solutions to ease America’s tensions, anger and pain.
“Scripture tells us that in our sufferings, there is glory,” Obama began. “Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. But sometimes the truths of these words are hard to see. Right now, those words test us because the people of Dallas, people across the country, are suffering. We’re here to honor the memory and mourn the loss of the five fellow Americans, to grieve with their loved ones, to support this community, to pray for the wounded and try to find some meaning amidst our sorrow.”
The president reminded those in attendance that the work and duties of police officers are “like no other.” He spent time addressing the victims and their families and recounting brief stories about each victim’s life and hobbies.
Deeper into his speech, Obama discussed the issues in America that have manifested themselves more violently in recent years.
“I know that Americans are struggling right now with what we’ve witnessed over the past week,” he said. “First the shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, the protests, then the targeting of police by the shooter here — an act not just of demented violence, but of racial hatred. All of it’s left us wounded and angry and hurt. It’s as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened.
“Although we know such divisions are not new, though they’ve surely been worse in even the recent past, that offers us little comfort. Faced with this violence, we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be bridged. We wonder if an African-American community that feels unfairly targeted by police, and police departments that feel unfairly maligned for doing their jobs, can ever understand each other’s experiences.”
Obama went even further by encouraging the citizens of Dallas and all Americans to “reject this despair” they may feel due to current circumstances, and to recognize the truths of the perceptions and actions regarding racism in America.
“When African-Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently … when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have ‘the talk’ about how to respond if stopped by a police officer, but still fear something terrible may happen, when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protests as troublemakers or paranoid,” Obama said. “We can’t dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness, or reverse racism. To have your experiences denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and co-workers and fellow church members again and again and again, it hurts.”
The president also addressed the other side of the issues, including how American citizens may ask “too much from [public servants] and too little of ourselves,” which can often increase strife and distrust between police officers and communities. In concluding, Obama took a more hopeful tone while encouraging Americans to remain positive and strong during such difficult times.
“The pain we feel may not soon pass, but my faith tells me they did not die in vain,” Obama said. “I believe our sorrow can make us a better country. I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice, more peace. Weeping may endure for a night, but I’m convinced joy comes in the morning.”
The full memorial service can be viewed here.