If you experienced a bit of deja vu yesterday as President Obama made a statement reflecting on the morning’s tragic shooting at the DC Naval Yard, you weren’t imagining things.
Looking back at the president’s somber statement following Nadal Hasan’s attack on soldiers at Ft. Hood in 2009 and other national tragedies since, it seems like many of the familiar talking points have been recycled — in some cases, nearly verbatim.
So in case you ever need to publicly respond to a national tragedy, I’ve put together this handy rubric, specially modeled after the president’s own masterful–and disturbingly normalized–style.
Obama Speechwriting 101: The anatomy of a tragedy response
Step 1: Recap the situation
Benghazi terror attack, 2012: I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Aurora, Co., theater shooting, 2012: By now, many of you know, many of you have heard that a few miles outside of Denver in a town call Aurora, at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater, and dozens more are being treated for injuries at a local hospital.
Boston Bombing attack, 2013: We know that two explosions gravely wounded dozens of Americans, and took the lives of others, including a 8-year-old boy.
Navy Yard shooting, 2013: We still don’t know all the facts. But we do know that several people have been shot, and some have been killed. So we are confronting yet another mass shooting.
Step 2: Honor the victims
Ft. Hood shooting, 2009: These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It’s difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an army base on American soil.
Aurora: The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.
Benghazi: The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.
Sandy Hook school shooting, 2012: The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers — men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.
Boston: Obviously our first thoughts this morning are with the victims, their families, and the city of Boston.
Navy Yard: These are men and women who were going to work, going their job protecting all of us. They’re patriots. And they know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn’t have expected here at home.
Step 3: Assure people you’re on top of things
Ft. Hood: I’ve spoken to secretary Gates, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and I will continue to receive a constant stream of updates as new information comes in.
Boston: I’ve just been briefed by my national security team, including FBI Director Mueller, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, and my Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco, on the attacks in Boston.
Sandy Hook: This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation, and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families. [...] In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans. And I will do everything in my power as President to help.
Navy Yard: I’ve been briefed by my team on the situation. We still don’t know all the facts. But we do know that several people have been shot, and some have been killed.
Step 4: Seek justice
Ft. Hood: We are working with the Pentagon, the FBI, the department of homeland security all to ensure that Fort Hood is secure and we will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government. [...] We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident…
Benghazi: I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe.
Aurora: We’re still gathering all the facts about what happened in Aurora, but what we do know is that the police have one suspect in custody. And the federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice.
Boston: We continue to mobilize and deploy all appropriate law enforcement resources to protect our citizens, and to investigate and to respond to this attack. [...] It will take time to follow every lead and determine what happened. But we will find out. We will find whoever harmed our citizens and we will bring them to justice.
Navy Yard: I’ve made it clear to my team that I want the investigation to be seamless so that federal and local authorities are working together.
Step 5: Condemn violence and/or perpetrator(s)
Aurora: Such violence, such evil is senseless. It’s beyond reason.
Boston: This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror.
Sandy Hook: Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?
Navy Yard: [W]e will do everything in our power to make sure whoever carried out this cowardly act is held responsible.
Step 6: Invoke religion
Ft. Hood: In the meantime, I would ask all Americans to keep the men and women of Fort Hood in your thoughts and prayers.
Aurora:I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today. May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come. [...] [T]here are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.
Benghazi: Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers.
Sandy Hook: May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds. / May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in his heavenly place. May he grace those we still have with his holy comfort, and may he bless and watch over this community and the United States of America.
Navy Yard: In the meantime, we send our thoughts and prayers to all at the Navy Yard who’ve been touched by this tragedy. We thank them for their service. We stand with the families of those who’ve been harmed. They’re gonna need our love and support.
***Extra credit: Request a moment of silence
Aurora: So what I’d ask everybody to do, I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy, for the people who knew them and loved them, for those who are still struggling to recover, and for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day.