MSN News: Obama lauds Dallas police, city at memorial service
DALLAS — President Obama hailed as heroes Tuesday the Dallas Police Department and the five officers slain last week in a gunman's rampage that rocked this city and the nation.
"When bullets started to fly, they did not flinch," Obama said at an emotional interfaith memorial service honoring the officers killed Thursday during a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration. "In some cases, helped by protesters, they ... saved more lives than we will ever know."
Obama said the city has "shown us the meaning of perseverance." He thanked Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas Police Chief David Brown for their work and noted that Rawlings is white, Brown is black.
"These men, this (police) department, this is the America I know," Obama said. "In this audience I see what is possible when we recognize we are one American family."
The police-involved shooting deaths of African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota last week prompted a series of demonstrations across the nation. During a standoff with police, the Dallas gunman told negotiators he was upset over the recent killings and wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers.
But Obama said the nation's racial divide is not as wide at it may seem. He said the vast majority of police are "deserving of our respect and not our scorn." "We know there's evil in this world," he said. "That's why we need police departments."
He said policing is made harder because the nation fails to fund mental health and drug abuse efforts. He said guns are easier for youths to obtain than computers.
"If we cannot talk honestly and openly ... then we will never break this dangerous cycle," he said.
Texan and former President George W. Bush also spoke, stressing the need for national unity.
"Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions," Bush said. "This has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose ... We want the unity of hope, affection and higher purpose."
Five seats at the front at the packed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center held only folded flags in honor of the victims — Michael Smith, 55, Patrick Zamarripa, 32, Lorne Ahrens, 48, Michael Krol, 40, and Brent Thompson, 43.
Amazing Grace and The Star Spangled Banner kicked off the service, followed by a brief statement from Rawlings, who welcomed the nation to Dallas, saying all citizens shared the grief enveloping the city.
"Dallas' pain is a national pain," Rawlings said. "The past few days have been some of the darkest in our city's history."
But Rawlings added he was "in awe" of the Dallas Police Department, saying it set a standard for strong, smart policing.
"This is our chance to lead, to build a new model for a community, for a city, for our country," Rawlings said before Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders spoke of the importance of love and unity.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, lauded the fallen officers for putting the people of Dallas above their own safety. "They overcame evil by sacrificing their own lives so that others might live," he said.
Obama, in a show of unity, brought outspoken critic Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, with him to Dallas on Air Force One.
On Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to meet with civil rights leaders and law enforcement officials on the broader issues regarding race and law enforcement that have sparked demonstrations nationwide.
Obama met Monday at the White House with representatives of police organizations. Obama has labeled the Dallas attack a hate crime. Dallas police killed the shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, with a bomb delivered by a robot. Johnson, 25, was an Army Reserve veteran who served in Afghanistan.
Last week’s melee in Dallas followed the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling by police in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in a suburb of Minneapolis. The White House said Obama called the families of both men Tuesday to express condolences on behalf of his family and the nation.
Obama’s speeches and meetings with grieving relatives following mass shootings have become nearly routine. Last month, he went to Orlando to speak with the loved ones of 49 people shot to death at a nightclub.
“Today, once again, as has been true too many times before, I held and hugged grieving family members and parents, and they asked, why does this keep happening?” Obama said.