This post presents a video & my transcription of President Barack Obama's comments addressing the "The Dark Knight Rises" movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado during a campaign visit to the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers, Florida. Friday, July 20, 2012.
The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, sociological, and aesthetic reasons.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
My thanks to the President, the audience members, and the video uploader.
My deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those who lost their lives or were injured by this terrible tragedy.
Colorado Theater Shooting President Obama Addresses Nation Full Speech
Published on Jul 21, 2012 by billdeniro888
Information about this tragedy is included in the YouTube video uploader's summary statement.
President Obama "The Dark Knight Rises" Shooting Aurora Colorado (July 20, 2012)
News reporters talk about the upcoming speech.
Thank you Thank you. [President gestures with his right hand for people to be seated]
Well ah, let.. let me first of all say
[some members of crowd still cheering, saying his name]
Le-let me first of all say [holds right hand up chest height while very briefly turning to face the audience in back of him as a means of quieting the audience]
Let me first of all say ah how grateful I am for all of you being here
[someone [a male?] in audience yells "Ohh!"] and for how how much
we appreciate all that you have done. Um I know that there are a lot of people here who have been so engaged in the campaign and ah have sacrificed so much. People who have been involved back since 2007 [a number of people in audience cheer in response] And so I want you to know how appreciative I am. And I know many of you came here today for a campaign event. Uh I was looking forward to havin a fun conversation with yah about uh some really important matters that we face as a country
[some members of the audience respond in confirmation; President Obama stops for a moment and holds up hand for audience silence]
and the differences between myself and my opponent in this election.
But this morning ah we woke up to news of a tragedy [one audience member faintly says “Yeah”] that reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family.
[Some audience respond. President Obama again holds right hand up and briefly looks around before continuing his comments.]
By now many of you know, many of you have heard that a few miles outside of Denver in a town called Aurora at least 12 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater. And dozens more are being treated for injuries at a local hospital. Some of the victims are being treated at a children’s hospital.
[sound of some audience members murmuring something like "Oh!" or "No!"]
Now we’re still gathering all the facts about what happened in Aurora, but what we do know is that the police have one suspect in custody [faint response from audience] and that the federal government stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible for this heinous crime to justice. And
[audience verbal responses, moderately loud clapping, one person male? yells something].
We will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people. We’re gonna stand by our neighbors in Colorado ah during this extraordinarily difficult time [President begins the next sentence hurridly without his characteristic pause] And I had a chance to speak with the mayor of Aurora as well as the governor of Colorado ah to express not just on behalf of Michelle and myself but the entire American family how heartbroken we are.
[faint audience response]
Now even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible ah we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.
[faint audience murmuring]
Ah such violence, such evil ah is senseless. It’s beyond reason. But while we never know fully what causes someone to take the life of another ah we do know what makes life worth living.
[faint audience response]
The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved.
[one faint woman’s voice “Yeah”.]
They were mothers and fathers
[It appears to me to be the same woman faintly says “Yeah”.]
They were husbands and wives
[same woman makes faintly confirmatory murmur]
sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and dreams that were not yet fulfilled. And if there is anything to take away from this tragedy is the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious.
[faint audience confirmatory response “Yes it is”.]
And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things. It’s not the trivial things which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately it’s about how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.[loud audience agreeing response "Yeah!" and loud hand clapping] It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning
[faint audience member “Yeah”]
and to give our lives purpose.
[faint audience member “Yeah”.]
That’s what matters. You know at the end of the day what we’ll remember ah will be those we loved and what we did for others.
[faint audience members responses "Yeah".]
That’s why we’re here.
I’m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news. Ya’know my daughters go to the movies.
[faint audience murmuring]
What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater as so many of our kids do every day. Ah, Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls ah little tighter tonight and ah I’m sure you will do the same with your children
[President begins the next sentence hurridly without his characteristic pause]
But for those parents who may not be so lucky ah we have to embrace them ah and let them know that we will be there for them as a nation. So ah again I’m I’m so grateful that all of you are here.
[faint response yeah]
Ah I’m I’m so moved by your support
[faint response from one audience member which sounded to me like “Only you.”]
But there are going to be other days for politics.
[one audience member says "Yeah".]
This I think is a day for prayer and reflection.
[loud audience response, one man yells something, audience claps, some audience members yell something.]
So what I’d what I’d ask everybody to do ah I’d like ah I’d like us to pause in a moment of silence for the victims of this terrible tragedy for the people who knew them and loved them for those who are still struggling to recover and ah for all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities every single day. So if everybody can just take a moment
[President and audience members shown behind him and presumably the rest of the audience bow their heads, You can hear a baby crying in the background, one woman behinds President makes the sign of the cross which Catholics make after praying, President Obama raises his head and continues his speech.]
Thank you, everybody. Ah I hope all of you will keep the people of Aurora in your hearts and minds today, May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in hard days to come. Ah I’m grateful to all of you and I hope that as a consequence to this day’s events uh uh as you leave here you spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings
[loud male voice yelling something]
that God has given us.
[loud crowd responses including handclapping.]
Thank you very much everybody!
[President waves goodbye, audience loud handclapping]
God bless you. God bless the United State of America.
[audience loud handclapping].
*This transcription doesn't attempt to capture President Obama's intonations and speech pattern, particularly his custom of having spaces within his sentences between words. This transcription also doesn't attempt to capture all of President Obama's body gestures which are important elements of his speech. Also, this transcription doesn't attempt to capture all of the exact words of the audience.
I have placed my description of President Obama's gestures as well as my descriptions of some of those gestures and/or some of his speech patterns in brackets after those gestures or speech patterns occurred during this speech. I have also included in brackets my descriptions of audience responses or reactions to the President's remarks, categorizing some of them as "faint" or "loud" responses or murmurings. In some cases have given what I think are those responses or murmurings.
Corrections and additions to this transcription are welcome.
MY COMMENTS ABOUT THIS SPEECH
The conversational nature of the speech
This speech by President Obama seemed to me to be much more like part of a conversation between people who know each other, or at least between people who have a lot in common even if they are strangers, than a speech by a United States' President. I think this in part was because the President used colloquial speech patterns such as starting sentences with "And", and including vernacular words and speech elements such as "gonna" and "uh". In addition to speaking "like a regular person", President Obama brought the topic of the conversation down home to convey how he feels about what happened not only as the President, but as an American among other Americans, and as a father. This is not to say that the speech was random in any way. On the contrary, it was masterful in conveying its unity and Americans are a family themes from beginning to end.
Themes of unity and family
Much of this speech had a themes of "unity" and "family". President Obama mentioned that "we are united as one American family." The President indicated that "We will take every step possible to ensure the safety of all of our people. We’re gonna stand by our neighbors". President Obama spoke of those in Aurora, Colorado who lost husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, and friends and neighbors". And although the focus was on the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, President Obama also referred to the need to embrace the families and friends of victims of less publicized tragedies. President Obama also spoke of his two daughters by name and shared that he and [First Lady] Michelle would hug their daughters tighter that night. In this way and others, the President bridged any gap that - given his position as one of the most powerful man in the world - could have been between him and his audience.
The President's speech as sermon - call & response
At the same time that President Obama's speech seemed to me like a conversation, it also reminded me of a sermon that could have been given by a Black minister. In large part that was due to the responses that the audience members made to portions of that speech.
Although the camera didn't show who spoke those words, because this is an enduring and widespread tradition among African Americans, I attribute most if not all of the spoken responses to the President during this speech to be from African Americans in the audience. It should be noted that the video camera only showed those audience members seated in back of President Obama and that audience appeared to be made up of more White (and perhaps also Latino/a) people than Black people. Those audience members shown didn't initiate the spoken responses to the President's words [which I categorize as the "call" in the call & response pattern.] That said, those audience members shown in the video did participate in some of the handclapping, which I also consider to be a part of the response part of this call & response pattern. Although I could not see her, because of my church experience, I pictured the woman who appeared to make repeated responses to some of President Obama's remarks, as an older, avid church going Black sister, one who need not be Baptist but might be COGIC (Church of God In Christ) or Methodist, or non-denominational. At least that woman, and some other [I believe] Black audience members were comfortable with President Obama enough to respond in traditional Black ways to his words - and that doesn't always happen in integrated audiences. Instead, often Black people aren't sure that we should do what we usually do and respond (by clapping or exclamations or othewise) during a speech or performance and not just at the end as is done in the mainstream White tradition. And I find that quite remarkable and a tribute to President Obama's manner of presentation more than his natural charisma.
Furthermore, it wasn't just how President Obama said what he said, it was what he said, that resulted in the audience responses. The content of most of President Obama's speech evoke traditional "Black church" responses because most of that speech could have been one given by a minister, Black or othewise. In addition to the direct references to prayer, "the Lord", and "God", I'm referring to comments such as these:
And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things. It’s not the trivial things which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately it’s about how we choose to treat one another and how wee love one another. It’s what we do on a daily basis to give our lives meaning and to give our lives purpose. That’s what matters. You know at the end of the day what we’ll remember ah will be those we loved and what we did for others. That’s why we’re here.
Other speech patterns, body gestures, and more
Unlike Black ministers, President Obama didn't ask for any audience response - in a "Can I get a witness?" or "Can I get ah Amen?" (to what I said) Black minister kind of way. But I believe that the measured way Pres Obama speaks allows space for audience responses. By "measured way of speaking" I'm referring to the way that President Obama has of pausing between words or phrases within a sentence. This doesn't appear staged to me, but seems like President Obama's natural way of speaking (although it may not be).
And when audience responses occurred during that speech, President Obama didn't speak over those responses. He showed his audience respect by pausing his remarks, and thus recognizing those responses, although he didn't directly refer to them. In addition, President showed his audience that he cared about them by including an "audience participation" time in his speech. That "audience participation" time was when he asked the audience to join him in a moment of silence for the victims of that "Dark Night Rising" tragedy.
As a public speaker, I also liked the way that President Obama remained in control of his audience. And I liked how he regained that control after audience response incidences by holding up his right hand just so, sometimes while briefly turning to his body to look directly towards some audience members.
While I would so much prefer that there not have been a reason for that speech. But regardless of whether President Obama wrote all of that speech, some of it, or none of it, it was he who gave that speech in the way that he did. And I for one very much appreciate his words and how he said them.
This is a link to a blog posting written by 24 year old Jessica Ghawi. Jessica was one of the twelve persons who lost their lives in the Aurora, Colorado massacre. A mohth before this Jessica Ghawi was nearly involved in a tragic shooting in Toronto. What she writes about that experience is very eloquent and inspirational.
Her brother's blog http://www.jordanghawi.com/denver-theatre-shooting-jessica-ghawi/ also includes this link to a YouTube video of Jessica to "to show what type of person she was" http://youtu.be/SY8l1gZTPoA.
Thank you Jessica. The light of your life still shines brightly and inspires us all.
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