Obama: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. We are not doing enough and we will have to change.”

Full transcript of President Obama’s remarks at a Dec. 16 prayer vigil for victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.


OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us,

“Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.”

We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.

I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight.

And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone.

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch. They did not hesitate.

Dawn Hocksprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Russeau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy, they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances, with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and kept steady through it all and reassured their students by saying, “Wait for the good guys, they are coming. Show me your smile.”

And we know that good guys came, the first responders who raced to the scene helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and their own trauma, because they had a job to do and others needed them more.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do, one child even trying to encourage a grownup by saying, “I know karate, so it’s OK; I’ll lead the way out.”

As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.

With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice, and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them.

They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.

It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.

And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.

This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?

Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?

Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?

Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.

And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose — much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.

Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?

Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

You know, all the world’s religions, so many of them represented here today, start with a simple question.

Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?

We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.

The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger, we know that’s what matters.

We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

That’s what we can be sure of, and that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison, God has called them all home.

For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort, and may He bless and watch over this community and the United States of America.

65 thoughts on “Obama: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. We are not doing enough and we will have to change.””

  1. If this isn’t our “Black Christmas’ , when was your heart broken more ?

  2. Well I still don’t get it, and don’t think I like it. Not a fan of associating “black” with evil, how did that ever get started in the first place?

  3. Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison.

  4. Craig –
    When Lincoln left DC , black was the theme of the day , …….. no one thought it evil.

  5. Craig –
    Color #101 :
    Black is sadness, not evil.

    Always has been , always will be.

  6. Craig –
    Color #101 :
    Only life, and death have color.

    Love, and evil have no color at all. Love is not red, evil is not black.

  7. Easy, Jack, for starters we restore and strengthen the assault weapons ban that existed from 1994 until its 2004 sunset took effect — and this time make it permanent

    As Bloomberg says, Get the “weapons of war” off the streets

    No civilian legitimately needs to fire five hollow-point bullets per second

  8. it all just seems vaguely racist to me>

    Craig –
    I didn’t invent Western Civilization , or any of it’s symbols .

    Bottom line, ……. evil has no color.

  9. Craig,

    Thanks for posting the text.Read it through misty eyes.

    An answer, no. The beginning of an answer,perhaps.

    This is what presidents, and only presidents can do. None more so than Obama.

    This is the president I voted for on Nov.6

  10. Craig –
    When Custer rode on Black Kettle’s camp , it was wearing blue. Evil has no color.

  11. Come on Craig time to swing for the fences an “assault” weapons ban doesn’t accomplish anything to many weapons out there. In reality the market is saturated or will be as soon as all the crazy uncles start dying off.

    How about we require all semi automatic weapons with detachable clips into the same category as a machine gun. Notice I didn’t use the term assault weapon because I don’t care what they look like just what they do.

    You can own one but you have to have a class three licence. Give the current owners a year to get licensed or sell to a licensed individual. If we wanted to be nice we could offer to buy them back for 50% off.
    If you are timid you lose, you’ve got the hot hand bet it.


  12. This is the president I voted for on Nov.6

    This is the president I voted for in the Texas primary.

  13. btw, you libs need to quit using the term assault weapon. Get down and get detail specific-

  14. well CBob unfortunately I saw both evil horror films called Black Christmas. that’s what immediately came to mind when you brought it up. but that’s what I get for watching too many movies

  15. jack, “semi-automatic firearms” better? — that was the legal term used the last time we banned them (until 2004). And my guess is the political will exists to at least go back to that ban, maybe more.

    Here are the specifics of what that included:

    Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
    Folding or telescoping stock
    Pistol grip
    Bayonet mount
    Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
    Grenade launcher (more precisely, a muzzle device that enables launching or firing rifle grenades, though this applies only to muzzle mounted grenade launchers and not those mounted externally).

    Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
    Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip
    Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor
    Barrel shroud that can be used as a hand-hold
    Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more
    A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm.

    Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following:
    Folding or telescoping stock
    Pistol grip
    Fixed capacity of more than 5 rounds
    Detachable magazine.

  16. Thanks for the key word, Whskyjack: We.
    Those twenty names the President mentioned represent twenty little lives lost. They were part of We.
    We have to take the lead on this argument away from the Gun Lobbies. We have to show unwavering support for all public officials who work to enact meaningful reform, and who put the rights of people to live safely ahead of the checkbooks of the Gun Lobbyists.
    We don’t buy guns. Seriously, the only people who should have guns are the military and police officers. If you keep one at home for protection, remember most break-ins occur when you’re not home. If your gun is stolen, thanks, you’ve just put another gun on the street.
    We call out the bullshit from the talking heads. Defending their liberty to kill interferes with our right to live a full, safe life. Unfortunately, there’s little $ to be made with that argument.
    We avoid shopping in stores that sell guns and ammunition. The high road might not get to them, but the bottom line will.
    We make gun ownership socially unacceptable. NIMBY is an effective annoyance that has saved many a community from nuclear waste and other toxic waste dumps through the years. Shun A Gun.
    We are a naturally Progressive people. If we let this tragedy pass without making a positive change for this country, shame on us. We will have earned the scorn of our descendants. We are lucky. We have this chance to make good. Luckier than twenty little citizens who will never have that chance.

  17. “They were part of We.”


    More to the point, they were part of,” we the people, in order to form a more perfect union”

  18. btw, you libs need to quit using the term assault weapon. Get down and get detail specific-

    Because “Gun Porn” demands you know every position.

  19. and yes Jack you are correct that doubtful anything will be done about guns purchased while they were legal. just gonna have to live (or die) with that I reckon

    ok I’ve had enough gun talk for tonight. gonna get to sleep and probably have nightmares

  20. Jace,
    I wish they were alive. We all do. Let’s work together to make sense out of this tragedy. Guns have no place in an enlightened society. If we eff this up, what a sorry lot We are. Now is the time. Agitate, Agitate, Agitate.

  21. Bob

    looks like I called it a couple of years ago, 1950’s style drought.
    First part of last century the teens the thirties and the fifties then for some reason it quit. now 60 years later it’s back. Nobody knows why it left and now nobody knows why it came back. Ya know these great plains drought have been known to last twenty years, It is how the plains got their name as the great American desert.


  22. Because “Gun Porn” demands you know every position.

    On which one of you girls can I use my assault weapon. Get down and get detail specific- ?
    Jack is a deep thinker, but ……
    Jack may have too much tea for breakfast.

  23. Jack –
    After the death of 20 six year olds , and their teachers, you don’t dictate the terms of the debate anymore.

  24. Make it simply semi-automatic long guns or handguns that can accept a detachable magazine. Period.
    Forget about flash suppressors, bayonet mounts, and all the other fripperies. They are distractions from the real work, which is to make it way more difficult toslaughter people wholesale.

  25. craig one last thought

    If you ask for socks and underwear for Christmas you will get socks and under wear. But if you ask for the pony who knows what you will get but I’ll bet it is better than socks and underwear.

    What do we want? A pony!
    When o we want it? Now!!!!!


  26. Bob how many old timers down there remember the drought

    It stopped raining here over 2 years ago, nobody old has to mark it. We all know it.

  27. Jack –
    My gas bill, barely moved because it has been warm, and dry. Everyday , 10 to 15F degrees above average. Tomorrow , we go for near 68F . Week after week , month after month.

  28. Another solution would be to assign all these auto and semi-auto weapons to state organized militias. The Feds would then require the states to keep the weapons in secure armories. The owners would still own the weapons, and still be able to buy and sell them. However, they would all have to be kept under guard in the local armories.
    Each owner would be required to join the militia and report periodically for training (sometimes with their weapons) and manuevers, and perhap [grin], forced marches.

    This is what we once did with state militias before they all became the NGs and were later nationalized by the Big Guv guy, ronald reagan and made a junior part of the regular services.

  29. Oh yes, and the states could defray the cost of storing the millions of weapons buy charging and annual fee per unit.

    Also the need to build secure armories would stimulate the economy. Win Win Win

  30. What is, 2 years down and 5 to go before you equal the 1950 drought?

    Of course the 1850’s drought that gav e the great pkains the name the Great American desert lasted 15 years iirc.

    the great plains have been known to have some real brutal droughts.


  31. The armories could release the weapons without the magazines for limited periods for hunting, or with the magazines in the event that a dictator, or in case the russians invaded Kansas.

  32. I bring up the topic of state militias because 1. they fit the language of the Constitution, and 2. they can be used to recognize and assure ownership rights, thus improving the odds that the gun owners will comply with the law. Non-compliance is potentially a big problem for any gun control scheme,as in ‘cold dead hand’. See also the War On Drugs and the Volstead Act failures.

    For personal protection ordinary six shooters and long guns would not be ‘drafted’ into the armories.

  33. Jack, 12/17/2012 at 12:49 AM

    Mate, I was in the Alice sharing a beer with a jackaroo from Yuendumu in the middle of the Tanami, just a bit drier and hotter than what you are experiencing at the moment. He hadn’t seen rain for over 20 years so when it began falling from the skies, the fellow fainted. We revived him with a good bucket of dust. 😉

  34. Obama’s speech – lofty on sentiment but we’ll see in the next couple weeks if that is all he can do. I have heard this speech before by a few other presidents, just the names have changed. I am too cynical to expect any more but I await to be pleasantly surprised.

  35. I disagree Bill. This was no routine “Empathizer-in-Chief” speech, and I’ve heard many. For a vigil address there was surprising hardware in the words, a call to action like none I’ve heard before in these circumstances. Like you say, tho, proof will be in the action that follows. For starters I expect imminent WH endorsement for renewing the assault weapons ban. That’ll be the first test.

  36. I was a bit surprised that the Newtown Presidential prayer vigil was not televised by as many stations as the 121212 MSG-NYC concert was on Wednesday, but I found it on msnbc and watched it there.

  37. Dexter, in my market it aired live on the major broadcast networks (ABC-CBS-NBC) and the cable news channels, even preempting football. I counted 8 channels carrying it on my DirecTV and probably missed a few.

  38. Concerning recent events, and conceding that there is a lot I could say, but not a lot that I could say that matters, I would venture that some issues that are missing from the current general discourse are selfishness (or, more appropriately, selflessness), respect, and personal responsibility. Yes, easy access to lethal weaponry exacerbates the consequences of the breaking of a fragile, over-stimulated mind, and addressing such is an easy priority for a solution-driven culture, but a society that regards all of its population as children and potential criminals can hardly be regarded as utopian.

    I would be interested to know if a correlation exists between the proliferation of social networking and the frequency and magnitude of such tragedies, as I hypothesize there might be. The ease of comparison that such tools allow compounds the ramifications of personality dysfunction, and enable delusional dispositions to entertain themselves with those of similar sort, it seems to me.

    It’s all very sad, of course, and I have trepidation about attempting to intellectualize such unspeakable tragedy, and quite frankly, am slightly insulted by the efforts of some to capitalize on it as an opportunity to reform our society, as if that is a noble pursuit, considering the implied concessions such an argument makes about the true nature of humankind, but I will be the first to admit to the triviality of my own personal sensibilities.

    Despite all of that, Happy Holidays.

  39. “Assault weapon” is rather redundant terminology, eh? I understand its use as a definition for legal purposes, but will speak (from having some exposure to gun-owners in the ’90s), that such definitions are easily subverted. Private firearm ownership is either banned completely or it isn’t. Considering there are more guns than people in the U.S. (by a factor of 3, I think), I would surmise the practical execution of such a revocation would be unrealistic and rather messy, albeit possible.

    Additionally, I have a hard time understanding the perspective of some who trust an armed government but not and armed populace, as if the same type of people didn’t fill such positions of power.

  40. what’s insulting about “reforming society”

    Respectfully, and in an effort to avoid repeating myself, I think I already addressed that in my original post.

  41. I promise I’m not trying to be self-righteous when I assert that the “how”, as in “hollow-point this and that”, is not as relevant as the “why”, as in “why would anyone want to fire five rounds a second at somebody, unprovoked”.

    I really should be sleeping now. This is why I try not to check in too much, because then I get blabbing. Have a good morning.

  42. so are you saying we do nothing?

    I said what I said: take from it what you will, or don’t. I don’t know what else to tell you. If you want to ascribe positions to me, rightly or not, that’s your prerogative.

  43. Ok, Champ, but the ephemeral “why” chatter to my mind is just the usual diversion from doing what we can tangibly do to prevent the “how” no matter its imperfections.

    Agreed, time for sleep, if I can. Hasn’t been easy tho, since this thing happened

  44. Well, if you want immediate action, put armed guards at the entrance to every school. Costly (in terms of labor expenditure) but very viable. Immediate action.


  45. The facts are still sketchy but I guess we know this much: A parent legally bought semi-automatic weapons that her son used to kill her, 6 other adults, 20 children and himself. Had our laws prevented her ownership of these weapons would the death toll be lower? I think so. It’s worth a try.

  46. So, here:

    There are about 100,000 public schools in the U.S., and suppose two cops are each paid $200 per day to guard the entrance of each one, the math works out to about $14.6 billion per year in labor expenditure. Do we have $14.6 billion a year to spare? You tell me, I don’t know.

    Now I must bid you all a Happy New Year, as well, as I think I’ve just made enough posts to cover me until then.

  47. Ignoble exChamp 12/17/2012 at 2:58 AM

    I would be interested to know if a correlation exists between the proliferation of social networking and the frequency and magnitude of such tragedies, as I hypothesize there might be.

    There is no co-relation. Never was, never will be. All the screaming nannies have been making this case for the last thousand years. First it was reading – teach people to read and they will be alienated. They were – from twaddle and tyranny. Bicycles was a good one too – they should be banned because they promoted promiscuity through mobility. No doubt about it, they did. But the society didn’t collapse. Banning the phonograph because it alienated the youth. Newspapers were a target. When the US was still a series of British colonies, to dampen discontent spread through newspapers, they were taxed so the poor couldn’t read them. Brought about a Declaration of Independence and a bristling Ben Franklin so HM’s Government did have a point there.

    Reality is that every generation had its few misfits and socially isolated psychopaths. Just some generations were able to hide them because of a general war, such as the Great War and WW2 where mass murderers were lionised. We gave them medals instead of a needle on a gurney. The reason why we are now discovering them is because essentially the world is a much more peaceful place than this time last century. Hence there are a lot less opportunities for psychopaths to blend in and become the military version of Dexter, the lovable serial killer. So instead of killing our nations’ enemies, their killing fields are now relocated to a home audience.

    Getting onto the perplexed issue of gun control, it is difficult to know the effective balance. Britain has similar tight gun control laws as in Australia but this did not prevent the Dunblane school massacre on on 13 March 1996. In Australia it didn’t prevent Milpera, Stratfield or Port Arthur to name a few.

    There is no perfect answer.

    But one thing I do know is that blaming twitter, facebook and all the other social media is the path of fools. It leads no where except to sanctimonious bigotry. Social media is now so powerful that governments quake at the notion of immediate accountability for their behaviour. That is why it is so dangerous.

    Perhaps the US could lead the world on amending the second amendment to strike out the word “arms” and insert “social media”. That is a far greater defence against tyranny than guns.

  48. Black & white are the absence and entirety of color- polar opposites- obviously useful for metaphors. Mourning clothes were black and used to show respect the for the dead- not negative (except that someone died) Black jet was used as mourning jewelry for centuries, it also has powerful metaphysical properties-aiding grief and absorbing negative energy and protection. There is nothing pejorative about the color black in the magical world. I have often thought that the the problem Craig that is tweaking your conscience is that people of African heritage should never have been called “black” to begin with and yet it persists and is acceptable. I don’t know the answer- brown, people of color? But then that is so close to the ignorant term “colored” And there are so many different shades- brown doesn’t begin cover it. Many of my neighbors are of mixed race and in the summer have the most beautiful golden glow. And then there are people from someplace in Africa that have such a striking dark color-nearly eggplant. People of African descent is objectionable to some and also a bit heavy in daily language. Anyways, black & white is what it is and not the problem.

  49. I am mildly surprised that the Christian wrongwingers aren’t attacking the Prez for his Libbrull theology. After all, unbaptised kids can’t go to heaven.

    My guess is that the pat robertsons, hucksterbees, and billy grahams finally understand how pissed off Americans are.

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