On Tuesday, President Barack Obama — joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe and Dr, Jill Biden — attended the memorial of five Dallas officers slain by a sniper attack last week.
The memorial was the 11th time Obama traveled to a city to offer his condolences, something he referenced in his remarks to the gathered mourners and officials gathered for the event.
“I’m not naive,” Obama said during his speech. “I’ve spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency. I’ve hugged too many families that lost a loved one to senseless violence.”
Then turning to the political climate, Obama added that he understood how easily political lines are drawn and hardened after events like this.
“We turn on the TV or surf the internet and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn and people retreat to their respective corners. Politicians calculate how to grab attention or avoid the fallout. We see all this and it’s hard not to think sometimes that the center won’t hold,” the president said. “And that things might get worse. I understand. I understand how Americans are feeling. But, Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair.”
He then insisted, “We are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds. I know we’ll make it because of what I’ve experienced in my own life. What I’ve seen of this country and its people, their goodness and decency as president of the United States.”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 12, 2016
Not shying away from politics, Obama also talked poverty, gun control, and the impossible job police face today.
“As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools. We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment. We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs. We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book,” he said.
“And then we tell the police, you’re the social worker, you’re the parent. You’re the teacher. You’re the drug counselor. We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs, and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience. Don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when periodically the tensions boil over. We know those things to be true. They have been true for a long time. We know it. Police, you know it. Protesters, you know it.”
In a sign of bipartisan unity, President Obama was joined by former president George W. Bush who delivered remarks calling for a unity of hope, not fear in these turbulent times.
Both Bush and Obama also spoke directly to the families of the fallen, offering their condolences during this difficult time and praising the men who died for putting their lives on the lines for others.