updated 1/19/2011 11:45:47 AM ET 2011-01-19T16:45:47

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Good evening from New York.  This is COUNTDOWN special coverage of tonight‘s memorial on the campus of the University of Arizona, a memorial called “Together We Thrive: Tucson and America.”  A memorial for the victims, six dead, 14 wounded, about to begin, a memorial for Saturday‘s attempted assassination of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  There is her husband.

As important as this event will be over about the next hour with the president speaking, Gabby Giffords is the headline tonight.  She is delighting her doctors, and not just for these photos released by the family.  Without prompting by physicians, she adjusted her hospital gown, put up two fingers in a “V” shape, and scratched her nose.  The latter seems like nothing—neurologically, this complex, key indicator of good brain function.  She also touched her wounds—her wounds.

There are so many wounds—the invisible ones of family and friends, of those who were shot.  National wounds, torn open along old scars by the shooting.  To salve if not bind up the nation‘s wounds, part of the reason the University of Arizona invited the president and the first lady to the McKale Center at the U of A tonight for this memorial.

Aides say the president will focus on consoling, on the personal, and on the lives lost, the lives damaged.  Mr. Obama visited the congresswoman‘s bedside about 90 minutes ago.  In the minutes before this memorial was to begin, he‘s been meeting with the families of the other victims, including those lost.  Judge John Roll, young Christina Taylor Green, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwin Stoddard, Dorothy Morris, Gabe Zimmerman.

As the president arrives, sharing the stage with him tonight, the attorney general, Eric Holder, Arizona‘s Republican governor, the previous Democratic governor of Arizona, Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano.

The president is expected to speak, as we see Mrs. Obama embracing husband of Gabby Giffords.  The president is expected to speak for a little less than 20 minutes.  He will give the last remarks of any length tonight.

Our bookkeeping here, if this memorial service concludes before 9:00 p.m. Eastern, I‘ll rejoin you.  If after that, we‘ll go directly to “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” and I‘ll rejoin you with a live special edition of COUNTDOWN at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Pacific.

The ceremony tonight is to begin fittingly with Aaron Copland‘s “Fanfare for the Common Man” performed by the Tucson Symphony.  The choir you will hear throughout is the Arizona choir with the University‘s symphonic orchestra.

The Native American blessing will be given by Dr. Carlos Gonzalez of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona.

The national anthem will be sung by that university alumnus, Dennis Tamblen.

An introduction tonight from University of Arizona‘s president, Robert N. Shelton.  And the university student body president, Emily Fritze with her fellow student, Daniel Hernandez, Jr., Congresswoman Giffords‘ intern who helped save her life as the carnage unfolded and incidentally, he‘ll be with us at 11:00.

Governor Brewer will speak.  Her predecessor, Secretary Napolitano, will.  Attorney General Holder, and then the president.  And now as the memorial begins with the playing of Copland‘s “Fanfare for the Common Man” -- we take you inside the McKale Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

(FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CARLOS GONZALES, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA:  Welcome.  Let me start in the traditional way by introducing myself.  I am Carlos Gonzales.  On my mother‘s side, I am Mexican—a child of descendents of this family, pioneer family from Mexico that came in the 1800s.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GONZALES:  On my father‘s side, I‘m Yaqui, refugees from Mexico that escaped the genocide in Rio Yaqui in the 1800s.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GONZALES:  We have been here, for myself, I am fifth generation in the valley of Tucson.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GONZALES:  Now, please, understand, I am not a medicine man.  I‘m really just a family doctor, fortunate enough to teach here at this university, and fortunate enough to learn the sacred ways and the sacred words so that I can share them with you.

I have been given permission by my elders to say blessings of this type.  Although to tell the truth, I‘ve never done one with so many people. 

So, I‘ve also been fortunate to grow up in this great country where a

barrio poor kid

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GONZALES:  -- from the south side of Tucson—

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GONZALES:  -- could get an education at a fine institution like the University of Arizona.  Then even better, to come back and teach here, and teach students at this institution.  So with that, I would like to start the blessing after my brief introduction.  I‘m sorry, I have to do it the traditional way.  It‘s the way we do it.

Now, for those of you that know the traditional blessing way, please feel free to do it.  For those of the rest of you, just please stand.  So let me begin.

Ahayuta Achi (ph), oh, Creator, I come to give a blessing, at this time—at this time of harmony, at this time of disunity.  Please, after hearing my blessing and my prayers, let us work towards harmony, towards wholeness and balance.

Let us begin by honoring the eastern door from where we get visions and guidance.  May each of us get the vision and guidance to proceed in a good way.

From the southern door, where we get the energies of the family, please, let us honor the families of those that have passed on, let us honor the families of those that are healing, and- also let us honor our own families.  Let us remain humble and also use humor when appropriate, for humor is healing and can help people.

From the western door, please, let us honor the sacred ways and our sacred ancestors.  For without them, we would not be here.  Oh, Creator, that is the door through which those that have passed on have walked to the next world.  Let us honor them as they‘ve passed on.  Let us also look within ourselves to see how we can improve and be better human beings.

From the northern door, where we receive challenges and the strength to meet those challenges, let us all receive strength to meet the challenges that face our great country.  Please, give us that strength as we proceed.

From Father Sky, where we get the masculine energy, the energy to be responsible, to be respectful, and to protect those that need protection, give us that good energy.

For Mother Earth, where we get the feminine energy, give us that energy to nurture and care for those that need it, and also to help those that ask for our help.

Oh, Creator, may the two energies, the masculine energy and the feminine energy come together in our center, where the Creator exists, for each of us has a piece of the Creator.

Ahayuta Achi, please, you have given us each a gift.  May we use these gifts to help our fellow human beings.

O, Creator, let us bless the families of those that have lost their loved ones.  Let us bless the family of those that are healing.  Let us bless those people that are here today.  Let us bless those that are outside in greater Tucson, in Arizona, and in our country.  Let us bless them so that they too can heal from this tragedy that has occurred.

O, creator, if I may, my sons in Afghanistan, a little blessing to him to.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GONZALES:  O, Creator, let us not forget our fellow creatures, those that stand, those that blow in the wind, those that are tall and stately, those that crawl in the earth, those that slither on the earth, those that live under the earth.  Let us remember and bless the winged ones, those that swim in the waters, the four-leggeds, and also our brothers, the two-leggeds that walk throughout this world.

When we all come together at this time and may the words that people hear here sink in to their hearts, so that they too can heal, so that they, too, can feel better.

O, Creator, I ask this humbly.  I ask this so that we all can once again achieve harmony and balance in our lives.

O, Creator, welcome—we welcome those people that come to our beloved city here, our beloved city of Tucson, or Tucson as it‘s known.  Welcome here, and please, bless each and every one here.  And with that, I would like to end my blessing to all my relations.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER:  To guide us through this evening‘s event, please welcome Dr. Robert Shelton, president of the University of Arizona.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

ROBERT N. SHELTON, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA:  Good evening.

On behalf of the faculty, the staff, and the students of the University of Arizona here in Tucson, Arizona—

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  -- I am privileged to welcome you to “Together We Thrive:

Tucson and America.”  Our thanks to Dr. Carlos Gonzales, a member of the Pasquia (ph) Nation for offering tonight‘s blessing.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  We shall now be led in the national anthem by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra conducted by George Hanson and by Dennis Tamblen, a doctoral student in music here at the University of Arizona.

(“STAR-SPANGLED BANNER”)

SHELTON:  Please be seated.

Tonight, we have gathered here as a community to mourn a tragic and senseless loss.  We are here to try in a small way to bring comfort to those whose lives have been forever changed by an act so heinous that it is simply impossible to comprehend.  No one who lives here was untouched by the events of last Saturday.  Over the past few days, I have repeatedly heard people ask, “How could such a thing have happened?  And how could it have happened here, in our town, and to people so loved and so admired?”

One of the characteristics that has always struck me about Tucson‘s uniqueness is how such a vast metropolitan area of more than 1 million people can function so much like a small college town.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  It is in the truest and best sense of the word a community, where people know each other and care about each other.

The University of Arizona sits in the middle of that community, both literally and figuratively.  By hosting this ceremony, we hope that we can begin the process of healing.

Tonight, we have a chance to pray for those who were wounded, to remember those who were lost, and to reaffirm, reaffirm our commitment to each other.

Representative Gabrielle Giffords is a good friend of mine, as she is of almost everyone in this community.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  This attack on her and on her constituents, our neighbors, our friends, has changed us all.  The question we have to answer is whether that change will make us angry and afraid or whether it will inspire us to commit to building a more sensible and caring world.

(APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  Tucson is a city that is unique for its diversity and its passion.  That so many of you would come out tonight speaks to our unity of spirit and our desire to stand by our friends and our neighbors in this time of great need.

(APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  Our society has many serious challenges.  But, fortunately, we have great leadership to help us through these difficult times.  Many of those leaders are here with us tonight to offer their support.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  To offer their support to the families and friends so tragically affected by the events of last Saturday.

Among the many heroes this week was one of our students, Daniel Hernandez, Jr. -- 

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  Daniel showed extraordinary poise at a most difficult moment.  As you have seen, he is here tonight with the president of the associated students of the University of Arizona—please welcome ASU President Emily Fritze and Daniel Hernandez, Jr.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

EMILY FRITZE, UNIV. OF ARIZONA STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT:  Good evening.

I would like to start by expressing my sincere gratitude to our guest and to everyone in the Tucson and university community for coming tonight to show your support for the families and friends affected by the heartbreaking events of this weekend.  As a student and a young member of this city, it is uplifting to see everyone tonight and to witness the outpouring of support from all of you.

I think it is important to take a moment and recognize that the victims on Saturday were attending Congresswoman Gabby Giffords‘ event in order to participate in the democratic process.  It is this process which Gabby loved so dearly and has spent the better part of her life serving.  Like many students at the University of Arizona and other young people, I have had the opportunity to interact with Gabby and her staff as an intern and to gain a sense of appreciation and inspiration for public service in its most genuine form.

From my experience, I believe that one of the things Gabby would want us to take away from Saturday is that we need to continue to be devoted public servants and citizens.  On Saturday—

(APPLAUSE)

FRITZE:  -- on Saturday violence reared its ugly head to silence our voice in government, but we know our community will not be silenced and our representative will not be silenced.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

FRITZE:  One of the most impressive examples of this spirit is my friend standing next to my, Daniel Hernandez.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

FRITZE:  Many of you have heard his story as someone who displayed courage and heroism in the face of danger.  As someone who knew Daniel before he has been called a hero, as a friend, one who has stayed up late with me many long nights of work and brought me many cups of coffee, I was not surprised to hear of his actions and selfless courage.

To me, Daniel exemplifies the spirit of youth and an individual committed to his friends, community, and greater humanity.  Yet, Daniel is only a representation of many that stepped up and took action.  Those individuals are a symbol of the character found throughout this community, that in all of us is the potential to act with kindness and to rise up when we have been called to do so.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

FRITZE:  It is with great honor that I introduce you my fellow student and dear friend, Daniel Hernandez, to say a few words.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

DANIEL HERNANDEZ, JR., INTERN, REP. GIFFORDS‘ OFFICE:  Thank you. 

Thank you.  Thank you.  I‘d like to start off by thanking Emily.

But I also want to start off with a few words.  The first of which is “E Pluribus Unum,” never had those words have been truer than they are today.  “Out of many, one.”

One thing that we have learned from this great tragedy is, we have come together.  On Saturday, we all became Tucsonians.  On Saturday, we all became Arizonians.  And above all, we all became Americans.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HERNANDEZ:  Despite the horrific actions that were taken on Saturday, where so many were lost, we saw glimmers of hope.  These glimmers of hope come from people who are the real heroes.

Although I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the use of the word “hero,” because I am not one.  The people who are heroes are people like Pam Simon, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Gabe Zimmerman, who unfortunately we lost that day, Ron Barber, the first responders.  And also, people like Dr. Rhee who have done an amazing job at making sure that Gabby is OK and those who were injured are being treated to the best of our ability.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HERNANDEZ:  Thank you.  Thank you.  We have all come together to realize that what defines us is not the differences, it is that we are all together, we are all a family.  We are all Americans.

And we must recognize that the real heroes, like I mentioned, are the people who have the dedicated their life to public service, whether it‘s direct care in nursing or being a physician or being a great representative like Congresswoman Giffords, or being a staffer.  They are the people who we should be honoring.  And they are the people that we need to keep in our thoughts and our prayers.

So, I thank you for this opportunity, but I say we must reject the title of “hero,” and reserve it for those who deserve it.  And those who deserve it are the public servants and the first responders and the people who have made sure that they have dedicated their life to taking care of others.

And with that, I thank you all.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  These two young students are examples of why I am so proud of this university.  They should give all of us a great sense of hope for our future.  Thank you, Daniel.  Thank you, Emily.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  I‘m now honored to bring to the lectern, the leader of our state.  She is providing great leadership at a difficult and challenging time.  Please welcome to the podium the governor of the state of Arizona, the Honorable Jan Brewer.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA:  Thank you.  And thank you, President Shelton.

Mr. President, Mrs. Obama, Justice Kennedy, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, Minority Leader Pelosi, and my fellow Arizonians—good evening.

First, let me say again, thank you, Daniel, for your very uncommon courage, that likely saved Gabby Giffords‘ life.  Thank you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BREWER:  Mr. President, on behalf of the people of the state of Arizona, I thank you for coming today to help us with our healing. 

(APPLAUSE)

In the aftermath of Saturday, your words have been a source of comfort and strength to every Arizonan.  Your presence today serves as a reminder that we are not alone in our sorrow.  America grieves with us. 

(APPLAUSE)

This great nation stands ready to help our wounded heal, to join our neighbors and our state in mourning a loss beyond measure.

(APPLAUSE)

There is no way to measure what Tucson and all of Arizona lost this past Saturday.  A day that began as a warm Arizona morning, neighbors were grocery shopping, running errands.  They were gathering to meet their congresswoman, to see the Gabby Giffords smile all of us know so well. 

(APPLAUSE)

There is no way to—

(APPLAUSE)

There is no way to quantify the loss of a fine public servant like United States District Court Judge John Roll. 

(APPLAUSE)

There is no way to measure the deaths of good people, parents, and grandparents, like Dorwin Stoddard, Phyllis Schneck, and Dot Morris. 

(APPLAUSE)

Gabe Zimmerman, also killed, was only 30 years old.  He was soon to be married, devoted to social work, and a fighter for justice. 

(APPLAUSE)

There is absolutely no measure in the idea that the void someone like Gabe leaves behind. 

We also lost Christina Taylor Green. 

(APPLAUSE)

Born on another day of unparalleled sadness, September 11th, 2001, Christina was only nine years old.  She was a new member of the student council at Mesa Verde Elementary School.  She loved ballet, swimming, and baseball. 

We can never know what Christina might have become.  We can‘t imagine what the families of our six innocent neighbors are feeling.  Nor can we know the pain of the wounded, some whom are still struggling for their lives. 

Saturday‘s gunfire didn‘t simply take six lives, injure my friend Gabby Giffords, and injure several others.  It pierced our sense of well-being.  It raised questions of which we can make no sense, questions begging for answers that will not come anytime soon. 

I know this though: Arizona is united in a mission of recovery.  This state, bound together by prayer and action and hope and faith, will not be shredded by one madman‘s act of darkness. 

(APPLAUSE)

We have come to understand, aided by your presence, that we are being lifted up by the thoughts and prayers of others who mourn with us.  We will remember how to smile again. 

I know Arizona.  I know it‘s every corner, I know its proud, courageous citizens.  We will go forward together, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, devoted to prayer. 

We will go forward unbending, unbowed.  In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “it is a way which is plain, peaceful, generous and just.  It is a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.” 

May god bless all the victims, their families, and those suffering from Saturday‘s tragedy. 

May God bless those who serve us in the cause of freedom and in justice. 

May he bless you and your families and our great state of Arizona. 

And may god always bless and protect the United States of America. 

Thank you. 

(APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  Thank you, Governor Brewer. 

Confronting the challenges to our nation‘s security is an enormous undertaking.  We are safer as a country because we have the right person leading that effort.  Please now welcome back to Arizona our former governor and the current secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano.  

(APPLAUSE)

JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY:  Thank you.  Thank you, Tucson.  Thank you, Arizona. 

(APPLAUSE)

We know—we know that the violence that occurred Saturday does not represent this community, this state, or this country. 

(APPLAUSE)

At these times, words can fail us.  So let us listen instead to the words of the Old Testament.  And I will provide a reading now from the Book of Isaiah. 

“Comfort, yes, comfort, my people, says your God.  Speak comfort to Jerusalem and cry out to her that her warfare is ended, that her inequity is pardoned.  For she has received from the Lord‘s hand double for all her sins. 

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low.  The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth. 

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. 

Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things, who brings out their hosts by number.  He calls them all by name.  By the greatness of his might and the strength of his power, not one is missing. 

Why do you say, oh, Jacob, and speak, oh, Israel, my way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God.  Have you not known—have you not heard the everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth neither faints nor is weary. 

His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the weak.  And to those who have no might, he increases strength.  Even the youth shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.  But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. 

They shall mount up with wings like eagles.  They shall run and not be weary.  They shall walk and not faint.  This is the word of the Lord.”

(APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  Thank you, Secretary Napolitano.  I am honored now to introduce the leader of the United States Department of Justice.  He is our nation‘s leading law enforcement official.  Please welcome the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder. 

(APPLAUSE)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Thank you.  Thank you. 

Like Janet, I will read words far a beyond any that I might employ.  A reading from “the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians.” 

“Since we have the same spirit of faith, as he had who wrote, I believed and so I spoke.  We too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and bring us with you into his presence. 

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people, it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.  So we do not lose heart, though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. 

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal wait of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 

For we know that if the Earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God.  A house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  This is the Lord‘s word.” 

HOLDER:  I think you can see by those who are in the program and by the many dignitaries and elected officials in the audience how deeply our country was affected by the terrible events last Saturday.  We are truly honored to have the leader of our great nation with us here tonight. 

(APPLAUSE)

We are obviously saddened by the circumstances that have brought President and Mrs. Obama to Tucson.  But we are comforted—we are comforted by their compassion and inspired by their determination to reach out and help.  America has been blessed through its glorious history by visionary and committed presidents, who often at great personal sacrifice step forward to lead us to better futures and greater hope. 

Barack Obama assumed the presidency at a perilous time in our history.  We are fortunate to have someone with his intellect, his energy, and his heart to lead us forward. 

(APPLAUSE)

Please welcome the president of the United States, Barack Obama. 

(APPLAUSE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Thank you.  Please. 

Please, be seated.

(APPLAUSE)

To the families of those we‘ve lost, to all who called them friends, to the students of this university, the public servants who are gathered here, the people of Tucson and the people of 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.

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

Scripture tells us, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the most high dwells.  God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech. 

(APPLAUSE)

They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders:  representatives of the people answering questions to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns back to our nation‘s capital.  Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner,” just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.

(APPLAUSE)

And that quintessentially American scene, that was the scene that was shattered by a gunman‘s bullets.  And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday, they, too, represented what is best in us, what is best in America.

(APPLAUSE)

Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years. 

(APPLAUSE)

A graduate of this university and a graduate of this law school...

(APPLAUSE)

... Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain 20 years ago, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and rose to become Arizona‘s chief federal judge. 

His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit.  He was on his way back from attending mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his representative. 

John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons, and his five beautiful grandchildren.

(APPLAUSE)

George and Dorothy Morris—“Dot” to her friends—were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters.  They did everything together, traveling the open road in their R.V., enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. 

Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their congresswoman had to say.  When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. 

(APPLAUSE)

Both were shot.  Dot passed away.

A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow.  But in the summer, she would return east, where her world revolved around her three children, her seven grandchildren, and two- year-old great-granddaughter.  A gifted quilter, she‘d often work under her favorite tree, or sometimes she‘d sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants...

(LAUGHTER)

... to give out at the church where she volunteered.  A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby and wanted to get to know her better.

(APPLAUSE)

Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together about 70 years ago.  They moved apart and started their own respective families, but after both were widowed, they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy‘s daughters put it, “be boyfriend and girlfriend again.”

(LAUGHTER)

When they weren‘t out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ.  A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with their dog, Tux.  His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.

(APPLAUSE)      Everything—everything Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion, but...

(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 fiancee, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.

(APPLAUSE)

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. 

(APPLAUSE)

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.

Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing.  Our hearts are broken, and yet our hearts also have reason for fullness.

Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday.  I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. 

And I want to tell you—her husband, Mark, is here, and he allows me to share this with you.  Right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues from Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.

(APPLAUSE)

Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.

(APPLAUSE)

Gabby opened her eyes.

(APPLAUSE)

Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you, she knows we are here, she knows we love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey.  We are there for her.

(APPLAUSE)

Our hearts are full of thanks for that good news, and our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others.  We are grateful to Daniel Hernandez...

(APPLAUSE)

... a volunteer in Gabby‘s office. 

And, Daniel, I‘m sorry, you may deny it, but we‘ve decided you are a hero, because you ran through the chaos to minister to your boss and tended to her wounds and help keep her alive. 

(APPLAUSE)

We are grateful to the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. 

(APPLAUSE)      They‘re right over there.

(APPLAUSE)

We—we are grateful for petite Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer‘s ammunition and undoubtedly saved some lives. 

(APPLAUSE)

And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and first responders...

(APPLAUSE)

... who worked wonders to heal those who‘d been hurt.  We are grateful to them.

(APPLAUSE)

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 the 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 to impose 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 -

much of this process...

(APPLAUSE)

... 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—that heals, not in a way that wounds.

(APPLAUSE)

Scripture tells us that 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.”  Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is, none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.  None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man‘s mind.

Yes, we had to examine all the facts behind this tragedy.  We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence.  We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.

(APPLAUSE)

But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. 

(APPLAUSE)

That we cannot do.

(APPLAUSE)

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.  After all...

(APPLAUSE)

After all, that‘s what most of us do when we lose somebody in our family, especially if the loss is unexpected.  We‘re shaken out of our routines.  We‘re forced to look inward.  We reflect on the past. 

Did we spend enough time with an aging—an aging parent, we wonder? 

Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices that they made for us?  Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in a while, but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward, but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. 

(APPLAUSE)

We may ask ourselves if we‘ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives.  Perhaps we question whether we‘re doing right by our children, or our community, whether our priorities are in order.  We recognize our own mortality. And we 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 making the lives of other people better.

(APPLAUSE)

And that process—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.        (APPLAUSE)

We may not have known them personally, but surely we see ourselves in them.  In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. 

Phyllis, she‘s our mom or our grandma, Gabe, our brother or son. 

(APPLAUSE)

In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America‘s fidelity to the law. 

(APPLAUSE)

And in Gabby—in Gabby, we see a reflection of our public- spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never- ending process to form a more perfect union.

(APPLAUSE)

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 co-workers 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. 

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

They believe—they believe and I believe that we can be better.  Those who died here, those who saved lives 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. 

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

That‘s what I believe, in part because that‘s what a child like Christina-Taylor Green believed. 

(APPLAUSE)

Imagine—can you 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 someday 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 us to live up to her expectations. 

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

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 of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart.  I hope—I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

If there are rain puddles in Heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. 

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

*

ROBERT N. SHELTON, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA:  Thank you. 

Thank you, President Obama, for your remarkable, inspiring words.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  I also thank all of the speakers here tonight, as well as all of the federal, state, and local leaders who have come tonight to lend their support.  We have heard many, many inspirational thoughts from our distinguished guests.

At this time, I invite everyone here at the McKale Center and those watching here in Tucson, and indeed, around the nation, to join together in a moment of silence, which will be followed by a musical selection.  Join me, please, in a moment of silence.

(MOMENT OF SILENCE)

(CHOIR SINGING)

(APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  I now conclude the program tonight by reading a poem that was written by W.S. Merwin, who is the current poet laureate of the United States of America.  Mr. Merwin has a long history with the poetry center here at the University of Arizona.

(APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  The poem is entitled “To The New Year.”

“With what stillness it lasts, you appear in the valley.  Your first sunlight reaching down to touch the tips of a few high leaves that do not stir, as though they have not noticed and did not know you at all.  Then the voice of a dove calls from the far away, in itself to hush of morning.

So this is the sound of you, here and now, whether or not anyone hears it.  This is where we have come with our age.  Our knowledge, such as it is, and our hopes, such as they are, invisible before us, untouched and still possible.”

(APPLAUSE)

SHELTON:  Thank you for coming and good night to everyone.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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