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Obama pays tribute to Dallas officers shot in racial attack

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attended an interfaith memorial service for the fallen police officers and members of the Dallas community at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas today.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President Barack Obama headed to Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Md. today. Obama was traveling to Dallas to speak at an interfaith memorial service for the fallen police officers and members of the Dallas community.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President Barack Obama held hands with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, right, and first lady Michelle Obama during an interfaith memorial service for the fallen police officers and members of the Dallas community at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas today.

DALLAS » President Barack Obama urged Americans rattled by a week of violence and protests to find “open hearts” and new empathy today in a speech that seesawed between honoring police officers for their bravery and decrying racial prejudice that can affect their work.

Obama stood next to five empty chairs for the white police officers killed last week by a black man seeking vengeance for police killings. Behind him, underscoring his message of unity: Dallas police officers, a racially diverse church choir and local officials who ranged from black Police Chief David Brown to former President George W. Bush, a Dallas resident.

Obama sought to reassure the nation that he understands the impact of the unsettling events of the past week — including the killing of two black men by white police officers as well as the Dallas attacks.

Disturbing videos of the events have “left us wounded and angry and hurt,” he said.

“It is as if the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened.”

Undaunted, the president urged Americans to cast aside such doubt and replace it with faith in the nation’s institutions and progress.

“Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that 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,” he said.

The president spoke steps away from the chairs left empty for the five men killed last Thursday while protecting hundreds of people protesting the killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. The Army veteran killed by police after the Dallas attack said he was motivated by revenge.

“The soul of our city was pierced,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said, as he welcomed the president and a line of public officials, including Bush, who attended with his wife, Laura, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, and Brown. The group on stage capped the ceremony by holding hands and swaying to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” — a symbol in sight and song of the service’s unity theme.

“Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions,” Bush said. “And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose.”

Bush and other speakers paid tribute to the fallen officers — Brent Thompson, a 43-year-old newlywed; Patrick Zamarripa, 32, a Navy veteran who served in Iraq; Michael Krol, 40, an athlete and basketball lover; Michael Smith, 55, a former Army Ranger and father of two, and Lorne Ahrens, whose wife is a police detective.

No one expressed his appreciation for the men more memorably than Brown, who has emerged as the steady and charismatic face of the Dallas police. The chief spent part of his time reciting Stevie Wonder’s “I’ll Be Loving You Always” to express his affection for his officers.

For Obama, the moment was a chance to try to defuse what some have described as a national powder keg of emotions over race, justice, gun violence and policing. The president positioned himself as both an ally of law enforcement and a sympathizer of the Black Lives Matter movement.

It’s a posture neither side has completely accepted.

Law enforcement officials have sharply criticized Obama and some of his policies, including a decision to stem the flow of military-grade equipment to local departments. One prominent voice, William Johnson, executive director the National Association of Police Organizations, accused Obama of waging a “war on cops.”

Some protesters, meanwhile, questioned why Obama rushed home from Europe this week to attend the service in Dallas before meeting with the communities grieving their dead in Minnesota and Louisiana.

In a gesture aimed at the answering that, Obama telephoned members of the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the men killed in confrontations in Baton Rouge and suburban St. Paul, as he flew to Dallas.

The White House said Obama worked late into the night on his speech, consulting Scripture for inspiration..

After years of delivering emotional pleas for peace at similar memorials, Obama acknowledged his fatigue and the limits of his words on Tuesday.

“I’m not naive,” he said. “I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.”

When he has doubts, he said, he remembers a passage from Ezekiel, in which the Lord promised to take “your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.”

“With an open heart we can learn to stand in each other’s shoes and look at the world through each other’s eyes,” Obama said. “So that maybe the police officer sees his own son in that teenager with a hoodie, who’s kind of goofing off but not dangerous. And the teenager, maybe the teenager will see in the police officer the same words, and values and authority of his parents.”

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  • This nation with a “persistent racial divide” did, in fact, elect a black man president. Twice, with millions of white votes. So what does he mean by “deepest fault lines or our democracy?” He must be saying that even though we are inherently racist, we don’t necessarily act that way in the voting booth. When he was given this pulpit, the office of POTUS, I was actually optimistic that he might be a great example of a diminishing racial divide. Unfortunately, this is too little, too late.

  • Oh FCS you children. (except for Allie who actually had something positive to say) Can you give it a rest and go back to your rooms with your RedBull and play something that’s real to you? Klastri? you claim to be an attorney? could you act like the other attorneys I know and exercise some “sense commune?)

  • I believe the president is trying but he seems so ill-equipped to deal with matters of race. Every time he tries his pro-black, anti-white and anti-cop bias seems to emerge. He also seems to be lecturing his audience rather than empathizing with their pain. Over the past few days I’ve watched the Dallas Police Chief, the civilian lady who got shot and the trauma surgeon who operated on the victims speak far more eloquently on the matter of race relations than he. Their messages clearly came from their hearts not from an agenda.

    • Different perspectives. Everyone I talked to today said the president’s speech moved them to tears, and more than a few said they wished he could run for a third term. I never felt he was “lecturing”; odd that some people feel so defensive. You might ask yourself why. I’ve always felt he has a lot of empathy, while the Republicans in office have no idea what the word even means.

      • Sounded okay until you couldn’t resist hitting on the Republicans. He has empathy because he is a good actor and has vast experience on the talk shows. A third term?? Oh please. Enough damage after eight years.

      • The question is whom did you speak to today. I’m neither republican nor democrat as I think both parties are corrupt. I said what I see as an independent.

      • PoiDoggy, I went back and watched the speech again and I’m not sure what you and your friends watched but the man was giving a lecture about race relations. This was suppose to be a memorial for the fallen police, hardly a time for that lecture.

        • At Dallas Cop Memorial, Bush Embarrasses Obama With Just 22 Words
          He announced, “Most of us imagine we’d risk lives to protect love ones: Those in uniform assume that risk for the safety of strangers.”
          You will see Bush show his respect for the men and women who wear the police uniform and risk their lives everyday to keep our neighborhoods and families safe. These are classy comments from an American patriot, and Obama would never say this.

  • “… the unsettling events of the past week — including the killing of two black men by white police officers as well as the Dallas attacks.”

    If this is referring to the shooting of Philando Castile, the officer wasn’t white.

  • where are all the gun advicates they screamed for tougher gun control when the Islamic terrorist gun those people down in Orlando, no word from them when the 5 officers were killed. the reason the gun advicates are liberals with mental disorders.

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