January 12th, 2011
09:35 PM ET
4 years ago

Live blogging President Obama’s memorial address

A memorial service for the victims of the Arizona massacre at the University of Arizona at Tucson.

Read the full remarks here.

5:53 p.m. MT - The arena in Tucson, AZ is filling up. When the doctors arrive, the crowd claps and cheers. People are starting to take the seats behind the stage. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain receive cheers when their pictures flash on the scoreboard.

5:56 p.m. MT - The university has opened up the football stadium for the overflow crowd. People started lining up at about 6:30 a.m. to get into the event. Many people have brought children.

6:01 p.m. MT - President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have arrived at the memorial service at the University of Arizona at Tucson. They receive a standing ovation from the crowd.

6:10 p.m. MT - President Obama is sitting next to intern Daniel Hernandez, who is credited with saving Giffords' life. Rep. Giffords' husband, Mark E. Kelly, is seated next to Michelle Obama.

6:25 p.m. MT – University of Arizona officials say that the 14,000-seat arena is mostly filled and 13,000 people are in an overflow area in the football stadium.

6:25 p.m. MT - People attending the service told CNN earlier why they were there:

“I think it's important because the people in Tucson are close right now. It's a close community because we're all thinking in the same spirit, about these people, But more than that, I think it's going to be a closing for all these people who need some special words from the president. I think it's going to be very soothing for everyone - It's more like a healing for everyone that needs that.”

– Liz Orosco

"I walked into a Walgreens with my 9-year-old daughter and she saw the newspaper there and the shooter's photo was there and she said ‘Mom, that's really scary.’ And I said, ‘It is,’ and she said ‘Can we go to this event? Can we go see the president?’ and I said, ‘You know, I think that that's really something’ so I took all three of my daughters out of school because over the weekend they watched the events unfold and there were a lot of emotions in my house, and I guess realizing I could bring them to this and they could have a positive ending to a very upsetting weekend.”

– Robin Fox

6:28 p.m. MT – University of Arizona President Robert Shelton introduces Daniel Hernandez, who is a UA student. Hernandez receives a long standing ovation before speaking.

Hernandez says of the tragedy to the audience: “We all became Tucsonans; we all became Arizonans, we all became Americans.”

He also says, “I must humbly reject the term hero” and calls out those he considers heroes: Giffords, her aides who were killed or injured and the doctors who worked around the clock to help treat the victims. The audience gives the doctors a standing ovation.

He closes by saying, “I must reject the title ‘hero.’”

6:29 p.m. MT - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer takes the stage. "We will remember how to smile again," Brewer says. "We will go forward together."

6:36 p.m. MT - Secretary of Homeland Security and former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano reads from the book of Isaiah.

6:40 p.m. MT - Attorney General Eric Holder reads from the Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

6:45 p.m. MT – President Obama takes the stage: "I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow."

6:46 p.m. MT - Obama is trying to keep the tone somber and serious against the cheers from the crowd.

6:54 p.m. MT – Obama eulogizes the six victims of Saturday's shootings.

6:55 p.m. MT - President Obama says after he visited Rep. Giffords, she opened her eyes for the first time since arriving in the hospital. A teary-eyed Michelle Obama holds Mark Kelly's hand and then hugs him.

7:00 p.m. MT - President Obama expresses his gratitude for those that saved others- those who tackled the gunman, "wrestled away the killer's ammunition" and "worked wonders to heal those who'd been hurt."

7:05 p.m. MT – President Obama: "Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us 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."

7:11 p.m. MT - President Obama: "If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle."

7:12 p.m. MT - President Obama: "And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that 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."

7:16 p.m. MT - The crowd rises to their feet when President Obama speaks of Christina Taylor Green, one of the victims. "I want us to live up to her expectations. 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," Obama says. She was nine years old, born on September 11, 2001.

7:21 p.m. MT - Those in the memorial service observe a moment of silence followed by a performance of Aaron Copland's "Simple Gifts" performed by The Arizona Choir and the University of Arizona Symphony Orchestra.


Filed under: Arizona • Gabrielle Giffords • President Obama
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Charles

    What some of these pundits on CNN don't seem to understand is that the assassin came to kill the Congresswoman, period. For her life to be spared, it is a cause for celebration . . . jubilation and you saw that in the auditorium. There were somber moments as well, and those too were seen in the auditorium and it was for the celebration of the life of those who were killed. In effect we had a rally and we had a memorial tonight at the auditorium.

    January 12, 2011 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  2. L Gillespie

    Fantastic speech and President!

    January 12, 2011 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  3. Daniel Turner

    While not a somber quiet memorial service, the event touched on needed emotions themes and ideas. From the opening by UA Pres, to the Blessing Way, to remarks by our Governor, the readings from Scripture by Attorney General And Secty Napolitano, to hearing from students involved families, it was all good. And our President was magnificent as hr LED the people and our nation into more fruitful vision of future.

    January 12, 2011 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  4. Marian Gall

    I live in Arizona about 40 miles from Tucson. You must remember that Arizona has been much criticized and put down lately. No one liked us. We were lower than the low. Nothing we did was right. We were scum. Then this comes along. Pres Obama at least made us feel that we weren't quite so bad. Yes they did cheer in the McKale center but it was sure nice to hear that maybe, just maybe we would be welcomed back into the Union. I am so sorry about Congresswoman Giffords but maybe some good will come out of this tragedy.

    January 12, 2011 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  5. Name

    what a wonderful memorial. President Obama at his best...

    January 12, 2011 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  6. happyfeetlovespolitics

    After listening to everyone talk about Gabby opening her eyes and the excitement that was in the room at the time that it all happened, that it would seem appropriate that the tone coming from our president would be inspiring and uplifting instead of mournful. I am sure that he could have delivered that speech in a different tone with many of the same words, but to be honest President Obama speaks to a new generation. Is not it possible that the people that are commenting on his speech are out of touch. His tone was appropriate. He does not have to speak like Clinton or former presidents to be effective. He just needs to remain genuinely. That is what shines through and inspires us.

    January 12, 2011 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  7. Barney Rubble

    If ever there was an event to change things in this country, its NOW. The US Constitution should be "changed" somehow to put this MF to death NOW. No trial, No appeals, No attorneys,No tax payer money etc.... Any questions?? This deranged killer deserves NOTHING except DEATH. Lets wake up US, especially California which has the most ridiculous penal system in the country!!!.

    January 12, 2011 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  8. peggy

    My mother always says that out of evil cometh good. President Obama's speech set the tone for the good to come. I consider myself pretty respectful of others, especially those with less but I need to do better. I will try to use my life to reach out to more people on a daily basis. I will do what the President suggested tonight.

    January 12, 2011 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  9. conoclast

    I came hoping for hope - to have my once-audacious hope-of-2008 reinspired; Obama did not dissappoint! He hit it out of the park!

    January 12, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  10. Desmond Sequeira

    A view from Canada: Once more, today, Barack Obama showed why he considered so truly great by the world. The divisive elements in the USA would do well to join him in building your country on the foundations of justice and compassion.

    January 13, 2011 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  11. Judy Trombetta

    Why don't they get it? After a tradgedy such as this the people of Tucson are in shock. I'm from Calif and I'm in shock. President Obama gave them just what they needed, comfort, support, spirit, compasion, etc. I did not get a campaign speech out of his delivery at all.

    Message was just what we needed. We are survivors and we all hurt, are hurting and we should be joined at the hip instead of the regular tug and war bs that politics and the media has built into it.

    They are complaining about the applause? When you get shot at, killed, lost love ones you have the right to appreciate your President and what he has to say to give you a boost, give you hope that all is not lost...............

    January 13, 2011 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  12. Gloria Leach

    I believe President Obama's address at the memorial service in Tuscon tonight was very uplifting and sincere. When he spoke of the youngest victim Christine you could sense the emotion in his voice when he spoke. I hope this service will help the country move forward following this tragedy in Tuscon. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims families and to Congresswoman Giffords in her recovery.

    January 13, 2011 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  13. Solejo

    I was so proud of my President this evening!

    January 13, 2011 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  14. Clayton Elliott

    I was fortunate enough to watch the speech in its entirety before leaving for work.....I would be remiss if i didn't say that everyone in that Auditorium even they mourn the loss of everyone who lost their lives,it was especially more touching deep down into your soul when you think of how little Christine lost her life doing something she love.....if there was ever a time more fitting for that Michael Jackson song "gone too soon"....now would be perfect....may god rest her soul and all the others that had to pay the ultimate sacrifice.....get well soon Gabe....

    January 13, 2011 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
  15. John Ryan

    I just drove back to Phoenix from Tucson. I listened to the speech in the football stadium while watching on the big screen. This speech was definitely the best speech Barack Obama has given since assuming the office of president. Obama rose above the fray, asking us to make our country one that little Christina Green would be proud of. The president also informed us that Congresswoman Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time since the shooting. It was an extremely emotional speech that touched the heart and the mind. It meant a lot to us here in Arizona. It will be remembered for a long time.

    January 13, 2011 03:11 am at 3:11 am |
  16. The Press 2011

    l think President Obama and lst lady appearance in Arizona,gave that city hope and faith to move forard
    and also his performance in public speaking engaging were awesome, his outward aspect of the tradegy that occur
    were created , l tell you, l were very impress,the moods turn from daunting and disheartening ,discouraging ,intimidating and most of all frightening.President Obama and his colleague tone down that rhetoric.,and tranquilty and peace. were exstablish..
    God Bless ,let's keep it's going and the Nation and World will be a better place..

    January 13, 2011 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  17. Urs Kressibucher

    In a smaller yet just as significant way, the President's memorial speech last night was his Gettysberg Address. He came to consecrate an event which had already been consecrated by the fallen. Much like Lincoln, he spoke to a nation to heal open wounds and draw opposing sides together. Like Lincolns address, its significance was not realized until much later.

    A viewer in Canada.

    January 13, 2011 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
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