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Obama calls for unity, humility at Tucson memorial

At a memorial for the victims of the mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, President Obama sought to move beyond finger-pointing to healing. He said of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was killed: 'I want to live up to her expectations.'

By Staff writer / January 12, 2011

Karen Morgan (l.) and her daughter Arielle Andelin, both of Tucson, listen with an overflow crowd in Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., to remarks by President Obama Wednesday as he attends a memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shootings

Charlie Riedel/AP

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Washington

Speaking at a memorial service at the University of Arizona in Tucson, President Obama honored the victims of last weekend’s shooting rampage in that city, sharing thoughts about those who had died and lauding the heroic behavior displayed during and after the attack.

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Mr. Obama also spoke of the ideal of representative democracy; Saturday’s shooting had taken place at a meet-and-greet for constituents – called “Congress on your Corner’’ – hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona, who was gravely injured in the attack.

Obama stunned the assembled crowd by revealing that Congresswoman Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time since the attack right after the president and his wife visited her in her hospital room. Giffords’s husband, space shuttle commander Capt. Mark Kelly, sat next to Michelle Obama in the front row.

But amid the expressions of hope and mourning, the president also dove into the national controversy over whether political passions and inflamed rhetoric had created a climate conducive to the attack by the gunman.

“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 happen to think differently than we do – it’s 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,” said Obama, speaking at the university’s McKale Memorial Center.

The president called on Americans to listen and empathize, not focus on division, speaking directly to the title of the event, “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America.”

“What we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each another,” Obama said. “That we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.”

“Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame,” he continued, “let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

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