After attending last night’s “Together We Thrive: Tucson & America” event at the University of Arizona’s McKale Center, I’ve changed my mind about the president’s lack of “gumption.” That’s what I said in “Time to Take a Stand,” my blog post written on last week’s terrible Saturday.
I was devastated. I’m not a crier so I use words to convey my emotions. I was angry. I stand by my view that targeting public officials is out of the American mainstream and is extremely harmful to our society.
Last night the president hit the perfect tone: “As he did in Philadelphia, on the subject of race [in March 2008], he embodied with his own rhetoric what a mature, measured, yet passionate political voice sounds like.”
Although I was at the McKale Center as a member of the press — with nearly 14,000 people — I really felt like a Tucsonan. So I jumped up repeatedly, clapping loudly and even whooping occasionally because it was cathartic.
Reporters sitting in the row behind me were speaking Spanish and French to news bureaus in other places. I didn’t care if it was politically incorrect for a journalist to applaud.
I have decided to resist calling right-wing politicians loonies, sickos and wackos in my blog. It is my personal writing but as one of the most ethical and professional journalists I know, Ethan Wilensky-Lanford, recently told me, “it’s better to be understated.”
President Obama was a role model for me last night. “Part of our nature is to demand an explanation, make sense of what seems senseless,” he said, noting that the discussion has begun on gun safety laws and the adequacy of the mental health system. Both are concrete, essential goals.
More important, he said, “Let’s make sure that we’re talking with each other in ways that heal, not in ways that wound.”
There were so many affecting parts of his speech. Here’s a gem: “What we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do. That we cannot do,” he said passionately.
“Let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imagination…sharpen our instincts for empathy, remind us of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.”
One of the most poignant moments in Obama’s talk came when he empathized with the parents of Christina-Taylor Green, saying that in her, “we see all our children.”
“I want to live up to her expectations,” said the president. “I want America to be as good as she imagined.”
It felt good to even contemplate a glimmer of that America again. And of this I’m certain: Last night I fell in love with Barack Obama again.