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January 12, 2011

Column #1,533

An Uplifting Memorial Service

By Mike McManus

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, says your God…

Isaiah 40:1

                The Memorial Service in Tucson was much more than a tribute to those killed or wounded.  In a time of turmoil, Members of the Cabinet turned to Scripture to sooth and uplift the nation. Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, quoted Isaiah:               

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

“They will soar on wings like eagles…”

                Attorney General Eric Holder read II Corinthinians 4:4:

                “The one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus.”

                President Obama opened the most inspiring speech of his Presidency by quoting Psalm 46: “God will help us at break of day.”

                He lovingly described each of the six people murdered, who “represented what is best in America.  Judge John Roll…was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day.”  Dorwan Stoddard’s “final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.”

                He said that after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband Mark visited her, “she opened her eyes for the first time,” sparking joyful applause.

Obama paid tribute to the heroes as well as the victims: “Our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others,” first, Daniel Hernandez, “who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive,” but also two men who tackled the killer and “a petite 61-year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition.”

He acknowledged, “Scripture tells us there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, ”When I looked for light, then came darkness.”

However, he denounced the partisan and malicious debate which has erupted, saying “None of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack…What we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.”

Undoubtedly he had in mind Sarah Palin’s denunciation of a “:blood libel” against her.

Obama welcomed a “national conversation” about how to improve gun safety laws and our mental health systems.  Had the Brady law not expired in 2004, Jared Loughner could not have bought a 30 bullet magazine that shot so many people in seconds.

However, what was most inspirational about Obama’s remarks was how he asked all Americans to learn from the compassion of such people as Daniel Hernandez.  Their selfless service “poses a challenge to each of us.  How can we honor the fallen?”

“We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives.”

“We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.”

At another point he asserted, “We may not be able to stop all the evil in the world, but you and I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.”

He was most poignant in speaking about Christina Taylor Green, an A student who was a dancer and also the only girl on a Little League Team, a girl recently elected to her student council, who wanted to meet a role model, Rep. Gabby Giffords.

“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 role in shaping her nation’s future.

“I want us to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy 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.”

Obama reminded his listeners that Christina was born on September 11, 2001, when terrorists killed 3,000 Americans. She was one of 50 babies born that day who are honored in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in the book were simple wishes:

“I hope you will help those in need…I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

The President smiled, “If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.” He asked Americans to forge “a country that is forever worthy of her gentle happy spirit.”

President Obama rose to the occasion, and increased in stature as he helped America start the healing from the wounds of an horrific tragedy.  Scripture helped bring order out of chaos.

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