While eulogizing the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting, President Barack Obama revealed that just after he left the hospital doctors said that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) “opened her eyes” for the first time since being shot in the head.
“Gabby opened her eyes,” he said to cheers. “So I can tell you, she knows we are here. She knows we love her.”
Obama further called for Americans to live up to the idealistic expectations of the youngest victim of the shooting, nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was recently elected to her student council.
“I want to live up to her expectations,” he said. “I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.”
He continued, “All of us… we should make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”
Obama also encouraged Americans to bring civility to political discussions out of respect for the six victims who lost their lives outside a grocery store in Tucson, many of whom were exercising their constitutional rights to free assembly and free speech.
“If this tragedy prompts debate, let’s make sure it is worthy of those we’ve lost,” he said.
The president recounted the lives of those five others fallen: John M. Roll, a US district judge; Gabe Zimmerman, the director of community outreach for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; Phyllis Schneck; longtime minister of 76-year-old Dorwan Stoddard; and Dorothy Morris.
“They believed, and I believe, we can be better,” he said. “We may not be able to stop all the evil in the world. but the way we treat each other is entirely up to us.”
Obama also expressed gratitude for those who helped prevent further lives from becoming lost that day: Daniel Hernandez, Jr., who is credited with saving the life of Rep. Giffords; Roger Salzgeber and Bill Badger, the men who tackled the gunman; and Patricia Maisch, who prevented the gunman from reloading; and the doctors, nurses, and first responders at the scene.
“It’s important for us to pause for a moment to make sure we talk in a way that heals, not wounds,” he said, adding, “What we cannot do is use this occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do. That we cannot do.”
“As we discuss these issues, we use a dose of humility. Let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations,” Obama stressed.
Prior to Obama’s eulogy, scripture passages were read by Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona governor, and Eric Holder, US Attorney General. A Native American blessing was also presented.
“There is no way to measure what Tucson lost last Saturday,” Jan Brewer, the Republican governor of Arizona, said. “Arizona is united in a mission of recovery.”
The following is from an earlier report…
In attendance are First Lady Michelle Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
About 17,000 people were estimated to be in line at McKale Center by 2 p.m. The center’s official capacity is 12,000.
Obama returned from overseas to deliver the eulogy entitled “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America” of the six people who died from Saturday’s tragic shootings outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona.
The president prior to the memorial service visited with the families of the victims as well as the target of the rampage Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who remains in critical condition after suffering a point-blank gun-shot wound to the left side of her brain.
Giffords’ doctors reported signs of her improvement throughout the week.
“She’s getting better every day, and she’s making more and more spontaneous movements,” Dr. Peter Rhee, head of trauma at University Medical Center in Tucson, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview Wednesday.
He continued, “She was able to actually even feel her wounds herself. She can fix her gown. She’s making very specific kinds of movements, so we’re very happy at this point.”
Giffords’ alleged assassin Jared Lee Loughner. 22, is being held without bail, facing five federal charges of murder and attempted murder. His parents Tuesday released a statement expressing their sorrow for the victims.
“There are no words that can possibly express how we feel,” they wrote in a statement. “We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don’t understand why this happened.
“We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss.”
The motive behind Loughner’s aggression remains a mystery, though speculation abounds, including whether harsh political rhetoric influenced the shooting.
Sarah Palin, a former Republican vice president candidate, blamed the media for the shooting despite criticism over her political action committee’s map had “targeted” Rep. Giffords with a bull’s eye.
Palin, now a Fox News commentator, offered no apology in her nearly eight-minute-long video released 15 hours before Obama eulogy.
The Anti-Defamation League, meanwhile, concluded in its analysis of Jared Lee Loughner’s “Internet footprint” that he was neither anti-Semitic nor a member of any particular extremist group, but rather he is mentally ill.
“Loughner’s writings do not provide any solid body of evidence or any patterns that would seem clearly to point to a particular ideology or belief system as a significant motivating factor,” the report said.
Rep. Giffords is reportedly Jewish and served on the Arizona ADL’s regional board.
Loughner’s friends reported that they had distanced themselves from him due to his increasing odd behavior over the past year.
“He did not have many friends,” Zane Gutierrez, 21, told The New York Times Tuesday. “We stopped talking to him in March of 2010. He started getting weird.”
The issue of mental health and violence came up before in the Obama administration. In 2009, 12 people died and 31 were wounded after Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a licensed psychiatrist, opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas.
“It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy,” Obama said at the time of the Fort Hood attack. “But this much we do know — no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice — in this world, and the next.”
This video is from Talking Points Memo TV, broadcast Jan. 12, 2011.