President Obama Speaks at Newtown, CT Prayer Vigil: ‘We Will Have to Change’
President Obama spoke for a nation in sorrow, but the slaughter of 20 children left the president, like so many others, reaching for words. Alone on a spare stage after what he described as the worst single day of his presidency, the commander in chief was a parent in grief.
“I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depth of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts,” Obama said at an evening vigil in the grieving community of Newtown, Conn. “I can only hope that it helps for you to know that you are not alone in your grief.”
The massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday elicited horror around the world, soul-searching in the United States, fresh political debate about gun control and questions about the incomprehensible – what drove the suspect to act.
It also left a newly re-elected president openly grappling for bigger answers. Obama promised that in the coming weeks, he would use “whatever power this office holds” to engage with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like Newtown.
“Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” he asked the audience.
Obama promised to lead a national effort for “change,” but left unclear what exactly the change would entail.
“What choice do we have?” the president asked. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”
As Obama read some of the names of victims early in his remarks, several people broke down, their sobs heard throughout the hall.
For part of his speech, Obama discussed the joys and struggles of being a parent (transcript via the Washington Post):
It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.
And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.
This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?
Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?
Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? [Emphasis added]
He continued with another push for change:
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.
We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.
If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try. [Emphasis added]
President Obama closed his remarks by slowly reading the first names of each of the 26 victims.
“God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory,” he said.
Here is video of the president’s remarks:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
- ‘Bigoted, Religious [Zealots]‘: High School Senior Allegedly Expelled, Charged With Felonies Over Gay Relationship With ‘Consenting’ Fellow Student 1,002 Comments
- ‘The Daily Show’ Creator Makes Outrageously Offensive Anti-Conservative Joke About Okla. Tornado 445 Comments
- Washington Times Writer: Fox News Scandal Goes ‘Much Deeper,’ W.H. Sitting on Something Top Obama Aides ‘Terrified’ About 397 Comments
- University Will Investigate Christian Professor’s Intelligent Design Class Following Atheist Furor 297 Comments
- Piers Morgan and Bill Nye Speculate on Climate Change’s Role in Deadly Okla. Twister 200 Comments
- Is This Video of Pope Francis Performing an Exorcism? Read More
- Boston Cardinal Snubs Irish PM Over Abortion Support Read More
- Incredible: The Moment a Woman’s Dog Emerges from Rubble During TV Interview Right After She Describes Losing Him 169 Comments
- See the First Behind-the-Scenes Photos as Beck and Mercury One Survey the Damage in Okla. 199 Comments
- Here’s the Inspirational Story of an American Flag Hanging Amid the Oklahoma Tornado’s Destruction Read More
- Jay Carney Shifts IRS Timeline (Again!) Read More
- Top IRS Official at Center of Political Targeting Scandal Will Plead the Fifth Read More
- Disgraced IRS Interim Chief Now Fully Admits Knowledge of Planted Question (but Did It Reveal a Past Half-Truth?) Read More
- Ex-IRS Chief: I Have no Idea How This Conservative Targeting Happened Read More
- Treasury Sec. Ready to Deploy ‘Extraordinary Measures’ as U.S. Hits Debt Limit (Again) 100 Comments
- Tech Company Demonstrates Remote Disabling of a ‘Smart Gun’ Read More
- Meet the Blind Man Nicknamed ‘Midnight Gunslinger’ Who Has 80% Shot Accuracy Read More
- How a $4.5 Million Network of 181 Sirens Helped Save Lives in Oklahoma Twister Read More
- See the Record-Setting Python a Man Caught With His Bare Hands (and Guess How Much It Weighed) Read More
- This Teen’s Invention Means You Could Charge Your Cellphone in Less Than 30 Seconds 104 Comments
- Senate panel approves weapons for Syrian rebels
- Fort Jackson commander facing adultery charges
- Soldiers flood western Mexico to protect towns
- Microsoft touts Xbox One as all-in-1 entertainment
- Harry Potter book with author notes sold for $228K
- Poll: Teens migrating to Twitter
- More tornadoes from global warming? Nobody knows
- Teachers credited with saving students in Okla.