Video: Obama: 'Before we are Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans'

Image: Barack Obama
Rachel Taylor  /  AP
President Barack Obama speaks at a memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shootings at the University of Arizona campus on Wednesday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 1/15/2011 9:42:39 AM ET 2011-01-15T14:42:39

President Barack Obama urged Americans Saturday to maintain the "spirit of common cause" that arose from grieving over the Arizona shootings and use it to solve the nation's problems.

Legislative work in Washington came to a halt this week while lawmakers and citizens from both parties mourned the victims of a gunman who went on a rampage in Arizona on Jan. 8, killing six people and wounding 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Obama gave a well-received speech at a memorial service for the victims Wednesday in Arizona and he revived the theme of national unity in his weekly radio and Internet address.

Citing "great challenges for us to solve," Obama pledged to work with Democrats and Republicans.

The president moved to turn the page from the week of solemn observance for the dead and the victims to the governing business ahead.

"We carry on because we have to," Obama said Saturday. "After all, this is still a time of great challenges for us to solve."

He cited the need to create more jobs, strengthen the economy and reduce deficits — all issues, he said, that can be tackled in a "spirit of common cause with members of Congress from both parties — because before we are Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans."

But first, Obama will have to wait for lawmakers to take up a more contentious issue: repeal of his signature health care law.

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The House has scheduled a vote for next week to undo the law, setting the stage for partisan confrontation. The move to repeal the law is expected to succeed at the hands of the new Republican majority in the House. But it is not likely to get a vote in the Senate.

Obama praised the sense of community displayed in Congress in the days since the shooting rampage in Tucson last Saturday. The attack, the work of a single gunman, appeared aimed at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head and remains in intensive care. Obama noted that members of Congress from across the country and of all political persuasions rose to honor her and other victims of the shooting.

"As shrill and discordant as our politics can be at times, it was a moment that reminded us of who we really are - and how much we depend on one another," he said. "While we can't escape our grief for those we've lost, we carry on now, mindful of those truths."

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The theme echoed the president's remarks Wednesday night in Tucson at a memorial service for the victims. The speech was both eulogy and civic call for public discourse that heals, not wounds. Obama faces another challenging address in 10 days — his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress in which he is expected to outline his remedies for the economy.

Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican colleague of Giffords, also invoked the shooting in delivering the weekly Republican address. He alluded to his work with Giffords on bipartisan legislation to make the House more open and accountable and took note that Giffords was shot during a constituent outreach event outside a shopping center, what he called "a fundamental duty of a lawmaker."

"And so it is our duty to uphold our oath, to listen and to represent," Flake said. "We will not let this inhumane act cow us into doing otherwise."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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