I pen this after what I consider to be one of the only feel good moments in the past several weeks. Today I watched the Interfaith Memorial Service held in Dallas for the five police officers slaughtered by yet another hate-filled murderer.
The grieving families of those killed, religious leaders, members of law enforcement and politicians gathered to pray together, to commiserate with the families and to try, in some small way, to come to grips with yet another senseless act of violence.
By the time this column runs, I’m sure there will have been endless “roundtable conversations” on all of the cable news networks, scads of articles written and many, many conversations and email forwards about the speeches given reflecting the sender’s political persuasion whether Republican or Democratic.
But before I am deafened by all that noise, I wanted to weigh in, non-politically, on what I saw, heard and more importantly felt watching and listening to former President George W. Bush and current President Barak Obama as both, in their own way, sought to comfort not only the bereft families but the nation as well.
President Bush, having remained virtually quiet since leaving office, masterfully exhibited his best qualities. The “Comforter-in Chief” we all saw in his first speech after 9/11/01 was once again addressing the nation but today he seemed much more than that. He seemed to me to have evolved into an elder statesman speaking with a quiet fire calling for unity and conciliation. He hit a perfect tone of sympathy and compassion without fueling the fear and despair that many are feeling.
When he said, “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” I found myself nodding in agreement. He also said we shouldn’t look to become united in grief, but rather through our humanity.
And President Obama spoke passionately in what seemed to me to be part sermon, part speech. He spoke of his frustration and the frustration of the country in trying to find some meaning amidst the sorrow. He quoted Apostle Paul from Romans 5:3, “In our sufferings there is glory because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and in perseverance, character and in character, hope.”
Much of Obama’s speech centered on a call for unity; hoping that Americans, no matter their race or skin color, would come together; that Americans stop choosing sides and talking about which side has “done wrong.” Rather, the conversation should focus on what each side can do right.
Both of these Presidents have been through this before; both have had to face a shocked, grieving nation and try to console and uplift. With the right blend of righteous indignation they spoke from their hearts but also spoke through experience. We are a great nation, flawed no doubt, but not unredeemable. And as two leaders of their respective parties joined in a common theme, I was comforted.
Agree with their policies and politics or not, I think their remarks were spot on.
Both spoke of a shared humanity, the need for unity. Both preached a simple truth: Together we can do better.