Excerpts from President Obama’s Speech in the Memorial Service in Arizona
I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today and will stand by you tomorrow. There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: The hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy will pull through.
Everything -- everything -- Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion. (Applause.) But his true passion was helping people. As Gabby's outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits that they had earned, that veterans got the medals and the care that they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks. He died doing what he loved -- talking with people and seeing how he could help. And Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancée, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.
And then there is nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student; she was a dancer; she was a gymnast; she was a swimmer. She decided that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the Major Leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age. She'd remind her mother, "We are so blessed. We have the best life." And she'd pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.
These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, all around us, just waiting to be summoned -- as it was on Saturday morning. Their actions, their selflessness poses a challenge to each of us. It raises a question of what, beyond prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward.
How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory? You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations -- to try and pose some order on the chaos and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health system. And much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -- at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -- it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.
But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do. That we cannot do. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.
And in Christina -- in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic, so full of magic. So deserving of our love. And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate -- as it should -- let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. (Applause.) 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 coworkers 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 believed -- they believed, and I believe that we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved life 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 -- 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 some day 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 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.
As has already been mentioned, Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called "Faces of Hope." On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child's life. "I hope you help those in need," read one. "I hope you know all the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart." (Applause.) "I hope you jump in rain puddles." If there are rain puddles in Heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.
And here on this Earth -- here on this Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and we commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit. May God bless and keep those we've lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.
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'I HAVE A DREAM' LEADS TOP 100 SPEECHES OF THE 20th CENTURY
The mastery and magic of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous " I Have a Dream" speech earned it top honors in a the list of the 100 best political speeches of the 20th century.
Compiled by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M University, the list reflects the opinions of 137 leading scholars of American public address. The experts were asked to recommend speeches on the basis of social and political impact, and rhetorical artistry.
Stephen Lucas, UW-Madison professor of communication arts, and Martin Medhurst, professor of speech communication at Texas A&M, say the new list confirms that excellence in American public oratory has thrived during the last 100 years.
"While it has become fashionable to bemoan the death of eloquence, this list makes it clear that the 20th century has produced public speeches of the highest order," Lucas says.
King delivered "I Have a Dream" during the civil rights march on Washington Aug. 28, 1963. Says Medhurst, "His eloquent vision of a day when his own children 'would live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character' persuasively articulated the American dream within the context of the civil rights struggle."
Following "I Have a Dream" on the list are John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address, best known for the famous challenge, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inaugural address, March 4, 1933 and his declaration of war, Dec. 8, 1941, make FDR the only person with two speeches in the top five.
Barbara Jordon's keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, July 12, 1976, completes the top five. Surveyed scholars cited her eloquence, power and masterful delivery, as well as the historical importance of the first keynote by an African-American woman.
The rest of the top 10 are:
6- Richard Nixon's "Checkers" speech of 1952.
7- Malcom X's 1964 "The Ballot or the Bullet."
8-Ronald Reagan's 1986 eulogy of the Challenger astronauts.
9-JFK's address to the Houston Ministerial Association during the 1960 presidential campaign.
10-Lyndon Johnson's "We Shall Overcome" speech that helped secure passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Lucas and Medhurst say the list has yielded some interesting information, including the fact that three of the top 10 speeches were delivered by African Americans, reflecting the importance of the civil rights movement and the black oral tradition.
Twenty-three of the top 100 were delivered by women. Two speeches by women in the 1990s fared especially well: Hillary Rodham Clinton's 1995 address at the United Nations World Conference on Women (No. 35), well ahead of her husband's only ranked speech (No. 92), made at a prayer service for Oklahoma City bombing victims. And while George Bush didn't make the list at all, wife Barbara Bush's 1990 commencement address at Wellesley College ranked No. 47.
Lucas notes that the list, which also includes speeches by Jesse Jackson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mario Cuomo, and famed attorney Clarence Darrow, reminds us of the power of the spoken word throughout American history. "Despite our computer age," he says, "there is still no substitute for public speech to lead, galvanize, console and inspire."
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Martin Luther King, Jr.: I Have a Dream Speech (Excerpts)
Delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation (...)
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!" And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring -- from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. /
Let freedom ring -- from the mighty mountains of New York. /
Let freedom ring -- from the heightening Alleghenies of
Let freedom ring -- from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. /
Let freedom ring -- from the curvaceous slopes of California. /
But not only that.
Let freedom ring -- from Stone Mountain of Georgia. /
Let freedom ring -- from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. /
Let freedom ring -- from every hill and molehill of Mississippi,
from every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,
"Free at last, free at last.
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
The Gettysburg Address - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Reagan's Best Words
From The Space Shuttle "Challenger" Tragedy Address, Delivered 28 January 1986
The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."