“We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change,” Obama said. He added: “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?”
Behind his words was a signal of presidential intent that Obama, for the first time, would push for solutions aimed at preventing such incidents, such as new gun-safety laws. But, he said, he would save detailed policy discussions for another venue on another day; he did not utter the word “gun” during the 18-minute speech.
The president eulogized those killed Friday by a gunman who brought what Obama called “indescribable violence” and “unconscionable evil” to Sandy Hook Elementary School — “a school that could’ve been any school.”
“I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation,” Obama said. “I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief.”
Obama did not openly cry, as he did during an appearance after the shootings Friday. But he took sporadic pauses to compose himself and spoke again as a father, having started his day by watching his daughter Sasha’s dance rehearsal. He ended it in a hall full of grieving parents, some of whom won’t ever get to see their children’s performances again.
In his own remarks during the vigil, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) said Obama had told him that Friday was the most difficult day of his presidency. Hours after the Newtown shooting, Obama fell silent and wiped tears from his eyes as he read a brief statement from the White House press briefing room.
“Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice,” Obama said Sunday.
Every American’s first task, he said, is to protect and care for the nation’s children.
“Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?” Obama asked, adding: “If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.”