January 12th, 2011
09:35 PM ET
3 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. me

    Good speech for a terrible reason.

    January 12, 2011 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  2. todd Purnick

    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 said. She was nine years old, born on September 11, 2001.

    January 12, 2011 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  3. Felisicia

    I told my husband as we were watching and listening to President Obama's speech these words: "There isn't one negative thing anyone can say about this speech. It is presidential, but not political, it is full of compassion for the fallen and the survivors and their families. If anyone has anything negative to say, it will be a Republican." I was absolutely correct! George Bush's former speech writer ( I believe he is a columnist for the Washiington Post) said the President was lecturing. He was reaching way out there to find something. I guarantee that ordinary non-biased Americans did not feel that or hear that. When is this country going to recognize that no matter what President Obama does, the Republicans and racist people of this country will complain. This country needs God really bad!

    January 12, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  4. Dave BARRELLE

    As the hearts of all Americans go out to the families of those murdered and those injured and hopefully will
    fully recover, it is disgrace that our politicians have taken this tragic event to use for their own self
    gain. Those of both political parties!
    The worst of these examples is to watch our President take 35 minutes on national TV and use it
    as a political event for his ouw gain. SHAME on him!

    January 12, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  5. T'sah from Virginia

    Wow, Janet's applause was louder than the current governor's!!

    The memorial really put a cap on all of the political controversy and the mention of Christina over and over again showed how innocent she was and how we, as adults, lost it!! Christina was curious about how to help others and President Obama was right, she was innocent to all of the bickering that surrounded that journey!!! We all should be more like Christina!!!

    January 12, 2011 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  6. Marty, FL

    Messages of hope, example, and inspiration for our country in need. God bless all of the speakers, the familes and America.

    January 12, 2011 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  7. Catherine Brooke

    I just watched the Presiden't speech from the Tuscon Memorial and as always was totally captivated and inspired by his words. President Obama is a true visionary. My hope is that for all American's to heal during this time of tragedy and embrace and utilize the magnitude of leadership at your disposal. I can only dream that we in Canada may one day be blessed with such leadership.

    January 12, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  8. Maureen Osborne

    Mr. Gergan, you are wrong. The Presidents' memorial to those fallen Americans did indeed touch the hearts of all Americans.

    January 12, 2011 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  9. Tammy

    I am reminded tonight why I love our President. My heart goes out to all the victims of the shooting.

    January 12, 2011 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  10. Jim

    President Obama delivered a wonderful memorial address. It is unfortunate that David Gergen's comments aired afterwards–and I think this time Mr. Gergen has missed the point. Good job tonight Mr. President. The only experts in America are the citizens of this great country-and you did them proud.

    January 12, 2011 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  11. curtther

    May god bless all the family's hurt by this tragic event.

    January 12, 2011 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  12. Brenda

    Great speech tonight. Very moving...... Thank you President Obama.

    January 12, 2011 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  13. Gary Conkle

    The President did no ask for the cheering and rally type atmosphere at the memorial service. It was audience, American citizens wishing to celebrate the lives of those lost, honor the heroes of the day and wish those wounded a speedy and complete recovery. The President was eloquent in his words and manner. Let those who still think along party lines and criticize his speech to put away their childish antics.

    January 12, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  14. Terry W.

    President Obama really does need a new speech writer. I think he is a very good speaker. However, his speeches continue to fail to connect with people. It really makes me wonder about some of his choices.

    January 12, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  15. Beth Ryan

    The Presidents speech was wonderful. He is a GREAT Man an leader!

    January 12, 2011 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  16. Hilton 4

    What a wonderful and healing message by President Obama. Let us hope we can rise up against all the hatred being spewed lately in this country, we owe this to the victims of this catastrophe. We are better than we have exhibited lately and I believe as a citizen, we are tired of it.

    January 12, 2011 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  17. Tony

    Comments have come close, but I've not heard anyone say more about the setting. If this was a church hall or a hospital lecture room, I could understand the expectation of a more solemn atmosphere. But, keep in mind, this was a college campus arena with many college students present. So, to hear cheering, does not come across to me as something unexpected I feel. I'm glad it touched so many people and provided a moment of joy for time that was filled with sorrow.

    January 12, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  18. Bill Horine

    We found the pep rally atmosphere off-putting, too. But, since the event was held on a college campus and a lot of the attendees would probably have been college students, it's perfectly natural. High emotion among late teens and twenty-somethings has always brought vivid responses. They'll see the incongruity when they see the video in 2030.

    January 12, 2011 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  19. george robinson

    our commentators on cnn need to move from their traditionalism of how a memorial speech should be framed. David Gergen forgot that there where survivors also, Our nation can not be framed as a nation of the past. Its people are of different mind sets as where those of the past. The president's speech had many purposes.

    January 12, 2011 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  20. Jim and Rosemary Tackes

    We've been listening to Anderson Cooper and the group of pundits gathered with him and I and my husband appreciated the speeh that President Obama gave. It was for us very uplifting. Several of the pundits decried the "rally" atmosphere of the memorial. We are up there in years and have lost many of our loved ones. We have come to appreciate memorial services as a "celebration of life" rather than a time of mourning. I think that is what the people in that audience were rallying around. A celebration of life! Celebrating the gifts that those who died gave us during their lives. That is as it should be.

    January 12, 2011 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  21. Shannon

    I don't agree with Gergen and Gerson, times have changed since Oklahoma and the Challenger, It's generational, these people did not want to feel depressed. They wanted to honor and celebrate the lives of the people of Tucson. People willl have to deal with the somber reealities during the funeral services of the fallen and the recovery of the injured. This was a genre to honor Tucson and the victims of the disaster. If they noticed the people that were cheering were the family members and people at the tragic event. The President did not choose the venue or the response from the audience.

    January 12, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  22. rickey

    you guys are divided by politics, THE PRESIDENT INSPIRED US ALL, I'am so glad it was'nt sad but moving and hopful –sorry David, I loved it.

    January 12, 2011 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  23. Kara

    And very well done it was.

    January 12, 2011 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  24. Shirley Thomason

    Our President has just given a most elegant speech to the people of Tucson that surely touched their hearts and souls. It made everyone proud to be an American and it surely was very uplifting to all those who were personally harmed by this horrible incident and all who were there tonight and all who were watching. Our country is blessed to have him for our President.

    January 12, 2011 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  25. Debra Calhoun

    I've been sitting here watching AC 360 and I must say that I am disappointed by the effort of Mr. Cooper and David Gergen to say that the speech given by Mr. President was somehow out of sync for what they think a memorial should be. David, this is 2011 get out of yesterday and please move forward. You act as if the President forced the people to cheer. Were those cheering up lifted and were they not the families and friends of those who lost loved ones? Were they not the citizens of Tucson? What do you people want make up your mind because you are starting to not make sense!!! It is as if you all didn't hear the speech at all. Have you ever lost a loved one and someone made you feel better well if not then this is how you do it. Stop taking every opportunity to criticize the President and David this doesn't even look good on you. What are you trying to prove? You look out of order speaking this way. Anderson help me to understand your questioning of the speech and the response of your analyst tonight!!

    January 12, 2011 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
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