This is our first task — caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.
Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting. The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America — victims whose — much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.
But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.
In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?
All the world’s religions — so many of them represented here today — start with a simple question: Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose? We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain; that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame, or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will all stumble sometimes, in some way. We will make mistakes, we will experience hardships. And even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.
There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have — for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace — that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger — we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.
That’s what we can be sure of. And that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.
“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them — for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Charlotte. Daniel. Olivia. Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie. Jack. Noah. Caroline. Jessica. Benjamin. Avielle. Allison.
God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.
May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort. And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America.
- Charlotte Bacon, 6: After much begging, Charlotte’s mom let her wear a new pink dress and boots to school. It was the last outfit the redheaded girl would ever pick out. “She was going to go some places in this world,” says her uncle.
- Olivia Engel, 6: Olivia was looking forward to coming home Friday, to make a gingerbread house. “She loved attention,” says a family friend. “She had perfect manners. She was the teacher’s pet, the line leader. Her only crime is being a wiggly, smiley 6-year-old.”
- Dawn Hochsprung, 47: “I don’t think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day,” the principal said in 2010. As the AP writes, “When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend.” She died lunging at Lanza.
- Madeleine Hsu, 6. A doctor at Madeleine’s house said her family had no comment, adding, “This is the darkest thing I’ve ever walked into.”
- Catherine Hubbard, 6. “We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet,” said her parents in a statement that thanked emergency responders.
- Chase Kowalski, 7. Chase was outside all the time, and had recently won a mini-triathlon, says a neighbor. “You couldn’t think of a better child.”
- Jesse Lewis, 6. “He was always friendly; he always liked to talk,” says the owner of the deli where Jesse ate his favorite sausage, egg, and cheese with hot chocolate on Friday morning.
- Ana Marquez-Greene, 6. Video of Ana singing “Come, Thou Almighty King” is going viral. It’s in the gallery orhere. “As much as she’s needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise,” wrote dad Jimmy Greene on Facebook.
- James Mattioli, 6. “It’s a terrible tragedy, and we’re a tight community,” says the mayor of the upstate New York town where James’ mom grew up. “Everybody will be there for them, and our thoughts and prayers are there for them.”
- Anne Marie Murphy, 52. “You don’t expect your daughter to be murdered,” her father said, after he and her mother waited in vain for hours for news of their daughter. Murphy, a teacher described as a “happy soul,” died shielding her students. “It happens on TV. It happens elsewhere.”
- Noah Pozner, 6. Noah’s parents moved him and sisters from New York “for safety and education,” an uncle says. He called Noah, the youngest victim, “extremely mature. When I was his age, I was not like him.” He will be buried today.
- Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30. “Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten,” said her mom in a statement. After years of substitute teaching, she finally got that call this year. “It was the best year of her life.”
- Mary Sherlach, 56. Sherlach died rushing Lanza with principal Dawn Hochsprung. “Mary felt like she was doing God’s work,” said her son-in-law, “working with the children.”
- Victoria Soto, 27. “She beams in snapshots,” notes the AP, and she was killed after making sure her first-graders were safe. “She put those children first. That’s all she ever talked about,” says a friend. “You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself,” says the mayor of Soto’s hometown. (Via)