Sunday evening, President Obama delivered an emotional speech at an interfaith vigil in Newtown, Connecticut for the 27 victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. The speech paid tribute to the victims, their families and the first responders, and addressed the need for change, although Obama stopped short of mentioning actual policy. He ended the speech by reciting the names of the young victims, at which point there were audible sobs from the audience.
He began by praising the town of Newtown, applauding their courage. "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 loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered. And with time, that love will see you through."
And he mentioned the heroic teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary:
"We know that when danger arrived in the halls, the school staff did not flinch, they did not hesitate. They responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstanes: with courage, and with love, giving their lives to protect the students they loved."
He also spoke of a shared responsibility. "We're all parents. They're 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. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. Can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we are doing enough to keep our children - all of them - safe from harm?"
"If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is no," he said. "We are not doing enough, and we will have to change. We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change."
At the end of the speech, he read the names of the children killed in the attack. "Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dillon, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison."
"God has called them all home," the president said. "For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on."
Before the speech, Obama met privately at a nearby high school with the victim's families and first responders. Here are a few pictures from the meetings. The first is with the family of six-year-old Emilie Parker, whose father gave an emotional speech of his own last night.
No White House photos from family meetings. But the family of Emilie Parker, who was 6, released this on their own: twitter.com/WestWingReport…
— West Wing Reports (@WestWingReport) December 17, 2012
The second photo was taken with Sandy Hook Elementary's principal Dawn Hochsprung's granddaughter. Hochsprung died attempting to overpower the gunman.
My mom would be SO proud to see President Obama holding her granddaughter. But not as proud as I am of her. twitter.com/Chass63/status…
— Cristina Hassinger (@Chass63) December 17, 2012