Washington, DC - In this week's address, President Obama acknowledged that the aftermath of tragedies like we've seen in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Minnesota, can leave us struggling to make sense of these events. However, the President reiterated that the country is not as divided as it may seem.
He said he saw it this week when he met with law enforcement on the challenges they face; when he traveled to Dallas for the memorial service of the five brave police officers who died while protecting protesters with whom they may have disagreed; when he convened a more than four-hour long meeting with police chiefs, Black Lives Matter activists, and state and local leaders; and when he participated in a town hall where he said there is no contradiction between honoring police and recognizing racial disparities exist within the criminal justice system. The President said that although these conversations can be challenging, we have to be able to talk about our differences. We have to be open and honest – not just within our own circles, but also with those who offer different perspectives. Because that's what America is about – finding solutions not only through policy, but also by forging consensus and finding the political will to make change.
Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
July 16, 2016
Hi, everybody. It’s been a challenging couple weeks. The shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge; the protests; the targeting and murder of police officers in Dallas – it’s left all of us struggling to make sense of things at times. Now, I know that for many, it can feel like the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, and even widened.
But the America I know – the America I saw this week – is just not as divided as some folks try to insist. I saw it on Monday, when I met with law enforcement to talk about the challenges they face, and how too often, we ask our police to do too much – to be social workers, and teachers, guardians, and drug counselors as well.
I saw it on Tuesday, when I traveled to Dallas for the memorial service for the five courageous officers who died in the line of duty – even as they were protecting protesters with whom they may have disagreed.
I saw it on Wednesday, when I hosted police chiefs, Black Lives Matter activists, state and local leaders, and others for a discussion that lasted more than four hours – a discussion on more steps we can take to continue supporting the police who keep our streets safe, and instill confidence that the law applies to everyone equally.
And I saw it on Thursday, at a town hall in D.C., where we talked about how there is no contradiction between honoring police and recognizing the racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system, and trying to fix these discrepancies.
These conversations were candid, challenging, even uncomfortable at times. But that’s the point. We have to be able to talk about these things, honestly and openly, not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with folks who look differently and think differently than we do. Otherwise, we’ll never break this dangerous cycle. And that’s what America’s all about. Not just finding policies that work – but forging consensus, fighting cynicism, and finding the political will to keep changing this country for the better.
That’s what America gives us – all of us – the capacity to change.
It won’t happen overnight. The issues we’re grappling with go back decades, even centuries. But if we can open our hearts to try and see ourselves in one another; if we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right, as equal parts of one American family – then I’m confident that together, we will lead our country to a better day.
Thanks everybody. Have a great weekend.