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We live in a country that has seen its share of tragedies. Whether it is a natural disaster, terrorist attack or failing economy, our country is used to pulling itself up by its bootstraps. We are rugged individuals and continue on with life through both good times and bad.

The most recent calamity occurred in Tucson on Jan. 8, when alleged assassin Jared Lee Loughner showered Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event with bullets.

This most recent tragedy claimed the lives of six people, including a 9-year-old girl. Not only did the families and friends of those who passed need someone to lean on, the country did as well.

President Obama served this role when he spoke at the memorial service on Jan. 12. He remembered those who had lost their lives and called on the country to unite instead of using this “as one more occasion to turn on each other.”

As the president took the stage, the audience erupted with excitement to see Obama, and there has been criticism that the memorial service resembled a pep rally, but the president dispelled this theory when he brought the emotional crowd to silence by remembering each of the deceased in his opening remarks.

The president didn’t lose focus on the task at hand, which was to commemorate the lives of those that Loughner took in the shooting. He spoke individually about each of the six people that were killed as if he knew them personally. Not only did he describe what they had done in life, but he also described what legacies they left behind.

Obama made the point to use this tragic event as a way to unite the country. He compared the United States to a family and challenged us to see the fallen victims as members of this great family.

Each and every one of them played a role, as do each and every one of us in society and in making this country better. The president said we “are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame — but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.”

Obama seemed most saddened when he spoke of Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl who had gone to see her representative because of her newfound interest in her school’s student government.

Her unfortunate death at such a young age symbolized the potential of a country that is constantly learning and growing, but that is hindered by those who turn away from their neighbor because they are different.

President Obama did everything right in this speech. He remembered those who were so tragically killed and used this heartbreaking event as a way to unite an otherwise divided country.

Obama also spoke of the hope the nation has for those who survived the massacre. Perhaps the most powerful moment during the speech was when the president said, “Gabby opened her eyes for the first time.”

This great symbol of hope for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ life can and should be used to show how much potential our nation has. If we all open our eyes like Gabby, we could see the future that Christina believed in.

Kailin can be reached at

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