President Barack Obama said the shootings of five Dallas police officers would appear to have exposed the “the deepest fault line of our democracy” but that Americans must reject such despair.
Obama honored the work of law enforcement officers, saying they answer a call that at any moment, even in the briefest of interactions, may put their life in harm’s way.
He said fewer people are being mourned at the service because of the brave actions of the officers killed.
Obama added that Americans can’t dismiss protesters who call attention to racial issues 50 years after the Civil Rights Act as troublemakers.
He said that Americans know that bigotry remains, some are affected by it more than others and that none of us “are entirely innocent.”
He also said that the country asks police “to do too much” and that we do “too little ourselves.”
The President continued by asking Americans to find the character to open “our hearts to each other.”
He asked whether Americans can see in themselves a common humanity and recognize how different experiences have shaped people’s perceptions.
Obama says, at times, he has doubts, saying “I’ve been to too many of these things.”
He says that’s why Americans should pray for each other to have not a heart of stone but one that’s open to the fears and challenges of their fellow citizens.
Obama also says he believes the police officers who died in Dallas did not die in vain, and he says there is evil in the world, which is why “we need police departments.”
The Dallas police chief recited lyrics from Stevie Wonder’s song “As” to the families of the five officers who were fatally shot last week.
Chief David Brown said that he often would find himself at a loss for words as a young man trying to get dates, and would use lyrics to express himself.
That’s what he did at the service for the families of those who died.
Brown said, among other lyrics, “I’ll be loving you until the rainbow burns the stars out of the sky, until the ocean covers every mountain high.”
Brown received a long, loud standing ovation from those in attendance.
Former President George W. Bush said that Americans should “remember their shared commitments for common ideals” as a means of bridging divisions.
Bush also said that Americans know we have one country and don’t want the unity of grief and fear, but hope.
He said of the five officers: “With their deaths, we have lost so much.”
Bush added, “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”
The service for five officers shot and killed in Dallas last week is currently underway.
President Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Jill Biden and several members of Congress, including Texas Republican Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, flew to Dallas today. The Obamas, Bidens and former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, are seated on stage.
Obama, Cornyn, and Bush are all slated to speak at the service, where five seats have been kept empty to honor the five who died during a protest against the police killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings spoke at the service, saying the dignitaries are there because we have a “common disease,” which is violence on the streets.
Rawlings said that the service should be about unity.