If you have not heard or read President Obama's speech last night, please try to find time to do so. he said the words we as a nation need to hear. Those that came home most forcefully for me:
"After all, that's what most of us do when we lose someone in our family - especially if the loss is unexpected. We're shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?
"So sudden loss causes us to look backward - but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we've shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame - but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others."
Longtime readers of this blog know that I suffered a sudden loss in the past year and Obama's words are so true of how I felt and continue to feel about that heartbreaking loss. And yet, we as a nation are now also feeling that sense of loss and asking those same questions. We all lost someone dear to us, even though we did not know them personally. When any American (or other nationality, for that matter) dies needlessly by violence, we all hurt for that loss. Reflecting on what we have done in the past and what we can do in the future--this is the time to think on those things. And remembering to tell those we love just how much they mean to us. I will be eternally grateful for my last conversation with my son, a happy one that ended as usual with the words, "I love you." How easily it could have been otherwise!
The President also said:
"The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives - to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.
"I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here - they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."
Amen and amen and amen.
It is up to us. Every one of us knows the difference between civility and rudeness, and most of us have heard those famous words, "My rights end where your begin." If everyone lived by that statement, what a country this would be.