January 12, 2011 — President Barack Obama, in Tucson, Arizona, delivering maybe the best speech I’ve seen from him as president, in response to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords:
If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.
Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away in the next news cycle.
The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better, to be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and co-workers and parents.
And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.
We should be civil 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.
They believe — they believe and I believe that 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, that’s entirely up to us.
And 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.
That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina-Taylor Green believed.
Imagine — can you imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy, just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship, just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.
She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.
I want us to live up to her expectations.
I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us, we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.
September 5, 2011 — Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, warming up the crowd for President Barack Obama at a Labor Day event in Detroit, Michigan:
We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers. And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party. And you know, there is only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They’ve got a war, they got a war with us and there’s only going to be one winner. It’s going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We’re going to win that war … President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let’s take these son of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.
Please condemn these senseless, meritless and hopelessly inflammatory remarks, Mr. President.
The rest of the folks on your side of the aisle were quick to blame the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords on Sarah Palin and her “crosshairs” targeted district map, and you were enough of the bigger man to address troublesome rhetoric without assigning blame in that fantastic Tucson speech. Do the right thing here as well, and denounce these remarks. Set the country straight about the Tea Party, Mr. President. Tell the country the truth, tell the country that the Tea Party is made up of everyday men and women who believe in the merits of smaller, limited government — even if you do not. Put things in perspective, Mr. President. You have the power to set much of this anti-Tea Party rhetoric to rest.
And if you don’t do it because it’s the right thing to do, if you don’t do it because you once again want to be the bigger man, that’s fine. Do it because we want our representative republic to be as good as Christina Taylor-Green imagined it.