On Wednesday evening, January 12, 2011, in front of thousands on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson, and millions on television, President Obama eulogized the victims of the horrific massacre with a speech that energized Americans with compassion and moral imagination. All presidents in their role as the “head of the state” are called on during times of crisis and tragedy to be a uniting force for the country. This was a time when our country needed leadership and our president delivered.

Great orators are able to use a tragic situation and turn it into a divine and spiritual incident that is a teachable moment. All African-American preachers have the ability to make a somber experience a joyful home-going celebration. On Wednesday evening, President Obama took a page out of the Black experience and taught a greater power has the answer.

“Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imagination,” Obama said. The president in his speech acknowledged that there is evil and there are people who are mentally unstable, but as Americans, we are resilient and we have the moral stamina to be better. By using our moral imagination, we have the ability to rise above our setbacks.

As the president spoke, everyone who was listening was involved with the process of reflection. Everyone is aware of the intense polarization and anger that is demonstrated everyday between the Democrats and the Republicans. The dysfunctional political discourse between the conservatives and the liberals has everyone scared to say what they truly believe.

Lately the political rhetoric has become ugly, but the president encouraged those listening to communicate with more civility in our public discourse. President Obama believes that “the forces that divide are not as strong as the forces that unite us.”

The president was adamant that no one will ever know what led to the unsuccessful attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the murder of six people and the shooting of 13 others. But we all are Americans and everyday our legislators are working to make a more perfect union. There is a multiplicity of problems confronting our country but we must never forget the values that make us great.

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do, it is important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

If ever there was a need for hope, unity, and compassion, President Obama during the Tucson memorial speech joined together and pulled together our country, and we became one. He shared personal notes about all of those who died in the shooting. But the part of the speech that struck an emotional chord with me was when he talked about 9 year-old Christina Taylor Green.

Christina Green was completely innocent and she saw the world from the eyes of a child. There was wonder in her eyes and her world was filled with dreams, and she was born on September 11, 2001, and she believed in the American dream.

Here is what President Obama had to say about Cristina Green: “I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.”

Every American who attended or listened to the memorial service now understands that we all have to do a better job at loving each other.

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