Actor Matthew McConaughey appeared at the White House on Tuesday to talk about his hometown of Uvalde, Texas where 21 were killed by a mass shooter who bought assault weapons on his 18th birthday.
He told a story about one of the many children killed last month: Maite Rodriguez. She wore green converse high-tops to show off her love of the Earth and the environment. She drew a heart on the toe of the shoes. Many of the children were so unrecognizable that the only way they could be identified was from a DNA test comparing them to their parents. In the case of Maite, it was her shoes.
McConaughey had someone in the White House press briefing room hold up the shoes as his voice cracked and tears formed in his eyes.
He began his speech by saying that he and his wife spent the last week on the ground in Uvalde with the families of the victims. He wants to have a national discussion about how to make the horrifying deaths of these children matter.
"While we honor and acknowledge the victims, we need to recognize that this time, seems that something is different," he continued. "There's a sense that perhaps there's a viable path forward. Responsible parties in this debate seem to at least be committed to sitting down and having a real conversation about a new and improved path forward. A path that can bring us closer together and make us safer as a country. A path that can actually get something done this time. Camila and I came here to share my stories from my hometown in Uvalde, came here to take meetings with elected officials on both sides of the aisle. We came here to speak to them, to speak with them, and to urge them to speak with each other. To remind and inspire them that the American people will continue to drive forward the mission of keeping our children safe because it's more than our right to do so."
He explained it's the responsibility of all officials to do it. He said he hopes that he can inspire energy, reason and passion and turn it into action.
"We are in a window of opportunity right now that we have not been in before," McConaughey continued. "A window where it seems like real change, real change can happen. Uvalde, Texas, is where I was born. It's where my mom taught Kindergarten less than a mile from Robb Elementary. Uvalde is where I learned to master a Daisy BB gun. I think that took two years before I graduated to a .410 shotgun. Uvalde is where I was taught to revere the power and the capability of the tool that we call a gun. Uvalde is where I learned responsible gun ownership. And Uvalde called me on May 24th when I learned the news of this devastating tragedy."
He said that when he heard the news of what happened he began driving home to hold his children and talk to his wife about what they would do to help.
"We loaded up the truck and drove to Uvalde. When we arrived, a few hours later, I got to tell you, even from the inside of our vehicle, you could feel the shock in the town. You could feel the pain, the denial, the disillusion, anger, blame, sadness, loss of lives, dreams halted. We saw ministries. We saw first responders, counselors, cooks, and families trying to grieve without it being on the front page news. We met with the local funeral director and countless morticians who hadn't slept since the massacre the day before, because they had been working 24/7, trying to handle so many bodies at once. So, many little innocent bodies who had their entire lives still yet to live."
He broke down describing the families who told him about their lost children. One father recalled his love of spoiling his daughter. There were promises of taking her to Sea World that McConaughey said would never happen.
He closed by saying that there is a chance "to reach for and to grasp a higher ground above our political affiliations, a chance to make a choice that does more than protecting your party, a chance to make a choice that protects our country now and for the next generation."
He urged everyone to take a sober, humble and honest look into the mirror and ask what is truly of value in our society.
"We got to get some real courage and honor our immortal obligations instead of our party affiliations," he said. "Enough with the counterpunching. Enough of the invalidation of the other side. Come to the common table that represents the American people. Find a middle ground, the place where most of us Americans live anyway. Especially on this issue, because I promise you, America, you and me, we are not as divided as we are being told we are. No. How about we get inspired? Give ourselves just cause to revere our future again. Maybe set an example for our children, give us reason to tell them, hey, listen, and watch these men and women."
He called on lawmakers to lead with humility and uphold values inherent to the world.
"So, where do we start? We start by making the right choices on the issue that is in front of us today," said McConaughey. "We start by making laws that save innocent lives and don't infringe on our second amendment rights. We start right now by voting to pass policies that can keep us from having as many columbines, Sandy Hooks, Parklands, Las Vegases, Buffalos, and Uvaldes from here on. We start by giving Alithia a chance to be spoiled by her dad. We start by giving Maite a chance to become a marine biologist. We start by giving Ellie a chance to read her Bible verse at the Wednesday night service. We start by giving Irma and Joe a chance to finish painting their house, maybe retire, and get that food truck. We start by giving McKenna, Layla, Eliahana, Annabell, Jackie, Eva, Amerie and Lexi — start by giving all of them our promise that their dreams are not going to be forgotten. We start by making the loss of these lives matter. Thank you, thank you."
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