How many times has President Obama had to do this? How many times has he had to console a grieving community and a shocked nation? How many times has he had to use his way with words to make sense of tragedy? How many times have we watched a man who keeps his emotions firmly in check be unable to hold back his anger and sadness over the loss of life and injury with each incident? And how many times has his raw expression of empathy or outrage or both tapped into the nation’s mood and spirit?
Nov. 5, 2009. Fort Hood, Tex. Soldier killed 13 service members and injured more than 30 others on the army base.
….the stories of those at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon. Theirs are the tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call — the call to serve their comrades, their communities, and their country. In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility. In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.
We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way. — Obama at Fort Hood on Nov. 10, 2011
Jan. 8, 2011. Tucson, Ariz. Gunman killed six and injured 13, including his target, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), outside a grocery store.
That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions — that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. For those who were harmed, those who were killed — they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them…. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. – Obama in Tucson on Jan. 12, 2011.
July 20, 2012. Aurora, Colo. Gunman killed 12 and injured 58, at a midnight showing of “The Dark Night Rises” in a movie theater.
I also tried to assure [the families] that although the perpetrator of this evil act has received a lot of attention over the last couple of days, that attention will fade away. And in the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy. …
God bless all who helped to respond to this tragedy. And I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country… — Obama in Aurora on July 23, 2012
Dec. 14, 2012. Newtown, Conn. Gunman kills 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
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. …
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. … –Obama in Newtown on Dec. 16, 2012
April. 15, 2013. Boston. Three were killed and 183 were wounded when two pressure-cooker bombs explode seconds apart near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act. If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us, to shake us from those values that [Gov.] Deval [Patrick] described, the values that make us who we are, as Americans — well, it should be pretty clear by now that they picked the wrong city to do it. …
In the words of Dick Hoyt, who’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, in 31 Boston Marathons — “We can’t let something like this stop us.”… And that’s what the perpetrators of such senseless violence — these small, stunted individuals who would destroy instead of build, and think somehow that makes them important — that’s what they don’t understand. Our faith in each other, our love for each other, our love for country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences there may be — that is our power. That’s our strength. That’s why a bomb can’t beat us. –Obama in Boston on April 18, 2013
Of course, it is the president’s job to be consoler in chief during times of crisis. But for Obama — and the nation — the searing crises never seem to stop.
Follow Jonathan Capehart on Twitter.