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Thursday, January 13, 2011 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: Tavis Smiley on Obama’s Arizona Memorial Speech,...
2011-01-13

Obama Calls for "Civil and Honest Public Discourse" at Tucson Shooting Memorial

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More than 26,000 people attended a memorial Wednesday night to remember the victims of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson that left six people dead and 20 wounded, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who remains in critical condition. In his 33-minute address, President Obama called for civil and honest public discourse and paid tribute to the victims of Saturday’s shooting. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: More than 26,000 people attended a memorial service Wednesday night to remember the victims of Saturday’s shooting in Tucson that left six people dead, 20 wounded, including Congressmember Gabrielle Giffords, who remains in critical condition.

Speakers included Daniel Hernandez, Giffords’ 20-year-old intern, who had been on the job for five days. He’s been credited with likely saving Giffords’ life immediately after the shooting.

DANIEL HERNANDEZ: One thing that we have learned from this great tragedy is we have come together. On Saturday, we all became Tucsonans. On Saturday, we all became Arizonans. And above all, we all became Americans. Despite the horrific actions that were taken on Saturday, where so many were lost, we saw glimmers of hope. These glimmers of hope come from people who are the real heroes. Although I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the use of the word "hero," because I am not one. The people that are the heroes are people like Pam Simon; Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; Gabe Zimmerman, who unfortunately we lost that day; Ron Barber; the first responders; and also people like Dr. Rhee, who have done an amazing job at making sure that Gabby is OK and those who are injured are being treated to the best of our ability.

AMY GOODMAN: In his 33-minute address, President Obama called for civil and honest public discourse and paid tribute to the victims of Saturday’s shooting, including nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better, to be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation, in a way that would make them proud. We should be civil 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.

They believed — they believed, and I believe, that we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here, they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that’s entirely up to us. And 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. That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.

Imagine, imagine for a moment, 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 and 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 to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us, we should do everything we can do to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama, speaking last night in Tucson at a memorial for the victims of Saturday’s shooting and honoring those who were wounded. Joining us now in Washington, D.C. is Tavis Smiley, the host of Tavis Smiley on PBS and The Tavis Smiley Show on PRI. He’s also co-host of Smiley & West with Dr. Cornel West. Today he’s hosting a nationally televised discussion at George Washington University titled "America’s Next Chapter." We’ll go to break and then rejoin Tavis Smiley.

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