Obama in Dallas to comfort a nation in mourning
Lt. Thomas Glover, president of the Dallas chapter of the Black Police Assn., called Obama’s speech “magnificent.”
“He was able to merge the solemn occasion of the two young men who lost their lives in Minnesota and Louisiana with the loss of the officers," Glover said.
Glover said the president wasn’t rushing to judgment, that he needed to address the “epidemic” of “young African American men losing their lives at the hands of police.”
Glover knew one of the officers killed, Patrick Zamarripa, 32. He supervised him at the jail. Zamarripa, or “Z” as his buddies called him, was always willing to help, he said. He was the one you’d call to get lunch when no one else was willing to go.
“When I heard his name that night I said, ‘Oh no, not Patrick,’” Glover said. “I believe he would be asking us to come together and move on, that human lives matter.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) called the president’s speech “raw” and said he struck the right balance, “recognizing the pain of all people.”
“He was no less empathetic to those families of police than he was in acknowledging the decades of oppression of black Americans,” said Jackson-Lee, who is black.
“The audience sat with deep listening. When we left out of there we were hugging each other,” she said. “He obviously set the right tone. He didn’t leave anyone out or diminished. He honored the officers but also the pain a lot of others feel.”
Jackson-Lee also liked former President Bush’s comment about not judging groups by their worst members. And she noted the symbolism of seeing the two leaders of different races and parties speaking together.
“Let’s see if we can find a common path. America needs to pause and feel the hurt of others,” she said.
Jackson-Lee is one of the leaders of the congressional gun task force that’s trying to pass legislation limiting gun sales online, among other things. While the president mentioned the threat to police of guns flooding neighborhoods, he didn’t speak much about them and she said that was “appropriate.”
Terry Cunningham, president of the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police, attended Tuesday’s event after meeting with the president, vice president and leaders of several other law enforcement groups Monday.
“Part of the president’s frustration was he felt reform wasn’t happening fast enough,” Cunningham said.
Police in turn said they expected more from Obama.
“Some around the table didn’t think he was very supportive of law enforcement,” Cunningham said.
He said the president’s comments during the meeting were echoed in his speech.
“This is the most open, honest and raw I’ve ever seen him,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham acknowledges that “there are clearly police officials who are racist” as in other professions, and that “we have to find a way to root that out.”
But he said he and others at the meeting cautioned the president not to weigh in on videos of police shootings before they have been investigated.
“We said just don’t rush to judgment in incidents like that - you fuel the debate,” he said.
Obama agreed, saying, “we don’t know what happened yet, but I can still support the families.”
And then “he did it again today” Cunningham said.
Cunningham wished Obama had not mentioned Castile or Sterling Tuesday, and instead kept the focus on police.
“We talked to him about that: When police officers get killed, you’re not calling them. There’s got to be a balance there,” Cunningham said, noting that while Obama met Tuesday with relatives of the fallen officers in Dallas, and sends letters to families of others killed, he declined Cunningham’s invitation to meet with the widow of a Virginia state trooper killed earlier this year.
“It’s right in his backyard. Didn’t happen, and yet he calls the families of Sterling and Castile,” Cunningham said as he left after the speech, wearing his dress uniform.
President Obama, in a striking bit of candor as he mourned slain Dallas police, reflected on how “inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change.”
“I’ve seen how inadequate my own words can be,” he added.
It’s something the president has been grappling with privately, and now openly: what to say amid a relentless pace of gun violence and racial unrest.
In his remarks the president cited scripture: “Let us long not with words and speech but with actions and truth.”
“If we’re to sustain the unity we need to get through these difficult times, if we are to honor these five outstanding officers who we’ve lost, then we will need to act on the truths that we know,” he said. “And that’s not easy, it makes us uncomfortable. But we’re going to have to be honest with each other and ourselves.”
“The deepest fault lines of our democracy have now been exposed, perhaps even widened,” President Obama said Tuesday in Dallas. “And though we know such divisions are not new, that offers us little comfort. Faced with this violence we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be bridged. We wonder if an African American community that feels unfairly targeted and police departments that feel unfairly maligned for doing their jobs can ever understand each other...
I understand. I understand how Americans are feeling. But I’m here to say: Dallas, we must reject this despair. We are not as divided as we seem.
And I say that because I know America. I know how far we have come against impossible odds. I know we will make it because of what I’ve experienced in my own life. What I’ve seen of this country and its people and their goodness, their decency, as president of the United States. And I know it because of what I’ve seen here in Dallas."
President Obama personally wrote much of the speech he will deliver Tuesday at the memorial for five slain Dallas police officers, working late into the night Monday on a draft.
The White House said Obama consulted scripture as he prepared his remarks.
He did the same last summer when he spoke at a memorial service for the victims of the Emmanuel AME Church massacre in North Charleston, S.C. The theme of his speech was "Amazing Grace,” and he closed his remarks by singing the hymn.
For the second time in less than a month, a former Republican presidential candidate joined President Obama on Air Force One to travel to his state to memorialize shooting victims.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida joined Obama during a somber visit to Orlando on June 16. Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas traveled on the presidential jet with Obama to Dallas.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the White House extended the invitation to Cruz, one of the administration’s most ardent congressional foes.
“At a time when our country is so divided, I think it is important that the country’s leaders are coming together across party lines despite significant political differences to emphasize a shared desire to unify the country,” Earnest told reporters.
The state’s other Republican senator, John Cornyn, will speak at the service, as will former President George W. Bush. It’s an indication, Earnest said, that “our country is not nearly as divided as it might seem.”
“Unfortunately, it’s in moments of tragedy that this unity is revealed,” Earnest said.
Patrick Zamarripa, 32, one of the officers killed last week, left behind a 2-year-old daughter, Lyncoln. The girl played in the front row of the concert hall as mourners filed in for an interfaith memorial service for the slain officers.
Zamarripa’s father and fellow officers have said that Lyncoln was the apple of his eye, and he posted plenty of photos online of himself toting her around in a baby carrier or in his arms.