Skip to: 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
11:00 AM EDT 31 May 2009: one doctor killed (George Tiller) in shooting attack at Reformation Lutheran Church, Wichita, Kansas.
(The gunman, Scott Roeder, was arrested that day 235 km away in Gardner, Kansas; Roeder, who was previously suspected of vandalizing abortion clinics and had been arrested for possessing bomb-making materials in 1986, targeted Tiller as operator of one of three U.S. clinics performing partial-birth abortions after viability.)
6:12 PM EDT 31 May 2009: STATEMENT FROM THE PRESIDENT ON THE MURDER OF DR. GEORGE TILLER:
I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.
11:15 AM EDT 1 June 2009: one Army private killed (William Long), second injured in shooting attack at Army Navy Career Center, Little Rock, Arkansas.
(The gunman, who had changed his name from Carlos Bledsoe to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, was arrested shortly afterwards 10 km away. Muhammad had been under investigation by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force following an arrest in Yemen where he apparently became involved with Islamic radicals; he stated the act was an act of retaliation against the U.S. military, and the FBI issued a joint alert on 2 June based on Muhammad's internet searches mapping various Jewish, Christian, and U.S. Army sites.)
morning of 3 June 2009: White House statement (note: statement was issued to stations in Arkansas but not posted to the White House web site):
I am deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence against two brave young soldiers who were doing their part to strengthen our armed forces and keep our country safe. I would like to wish Quinton Ezeagwula a speedy recovery, and to offer my condolences and prayers to William Long's family as they mourn the loss of their son.
12:50 PM EDT 10 June 2009: one guard killed (Stephen Johns) in shooting attack at the Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.
(The gunman, James von Brunn, was shot by two other guards and hospitalized; von Brunn espoused white supremacist and other extremist views and had a history of convictions including attempting to enter the Federal Reserve boardroom in 1981 with a shotgun to kidnap board members.)
7:04 PM EDT 10 June 2009: Statement by President Obama on Holocaust Museum Shooting:
I am shocked and saddened by today's shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms. No American institution is more important to this effort than the Holocaust Museum, and no act of violence will diminish our determination to honor those who were lost by building a more peaceful and tolerant world.
Today, we have lost a courageous security guard who stood watch at this place of solemn remembrance. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this painful time.
7:20 AM CDT 11 September 2009: one abortion protestor killed (James Pouillon) in shooting attack outside high school in Ossego, Michigan; one businessman killed (Mike Fuoss) in second shooting attack 11 km away.
(The gunman, Harlan James Drake, was arrested en route to what police believ was a third intended target; Drake reportedly objected to Pouillon's regular protests outside the high school. The shooting of the second victim appears to be non-political.)
morning of 14 September 2009: Statement by President Obama:
The shooting last week in Michigan was deplorable. Whichever side of a public debate you're on, violence is never the right answer.
5 November 2009: thirteen Army servicemen and servicewomen killed (Michael Cahill, Libardo Caraveo, Justin DeCrow, John Gaffaney, Frederick Greene, Jason Hunt, Amy Krueger, Aaron Nemelka, Michael Pearson, Russell Seager, Francheska Velez (pregnant), Juanita Warman, and Kham Xiong) and 43 injured in shooting attack at Soldier Readiness Center, Fort Hood, Texas.
(The gunman, Nidal Malik Hasan, was shot and injured by two police officers; Hasan was an Army psychiatrist and had expressed indications of Islamic radicalization, and had come to the attention of the FBI in early 2009 for email exchanges with terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki; the FBI and DOD had dismissed concerns about the contacts and other indicators. From the time of the attack to the present (2015) the Obama administration has insisted on characterizing this incident as workplace violence rather than a terrorist attack, with the consequence of denying appropriate benefits to surviving victim servicemembers; under pressure from Congress the Army finally awarded Purple Hearts to injured survivors in April 2015, with some benefits possibly to follow.)
5:02 EST 5 November 2009: Comments by President Obama at the Closing of the Tribal Nations Conference:
Now, I have to say, though, that beyond that, I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead for Native Americans, as well as collaboration with our administration, but as some of you might have heard, there has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas. We don't yet know all the details at this moment; we will share them as we get them. What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed, and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence.
My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen, and with those who live and serve at Fort Hood. These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.
I've spoken to Secretary Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and I will continue to receive a constant stream of updates as new information comes in. We are working with the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, all to ensure that Fort Hood is secure, and we will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government.
In the meantime, I would ask all Americans to keep the men and women of Fort Hood in your thoughts and prayers. We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident. And I want all of you to know that as Commander-in-Chief, there's no greater honor but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for and that their safety and security when they are at home is provided for.
So we are going to stay on this. But I hope in the meantime that all of you recognize the scope of this tragedy, and keep everybody in their thoughts and prayers.
Statements and addresses by President Barack H. Obama on the 5 November 2009 Fort Hood attack--link to five additional statements and addresses regarding the Fort Hood attack, delivered 6-14 November 2009.
25 December 2009: Two passengers injured when a terrorist attempted to detonate an improvised explosive on an airliner on approach to Detroit airport; the terrorist was also injured.
(The perpetrator, Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, was subdued by passengers and crew when observed attempting to detonate explosives concealed in his clothing; the explosive burned instead, causing serious injuries to Abdulmutallab. British authorities had identified Abdulmutallab as a security concern earlier in 2009, and on 19 November 2009 Abdulmutallab's father had warned the U.S. embassy in Nigeria that his son was a possible threat.)
11:26 AM 29 December 2009: Statement by the President on Preliminary Information from his Ongoing Consultation about the Detroit Incident:
Good morning. Yesterday I updated the American people on the immediate steps we took--the increased screening and security of air travel--to keep our country safe in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day. And I announced two reviews--a review of our terrorist watch list system and a review of our air travel screening, so we can find out what went wrong, fix it and prevent future attacks.
Those reviews began on Sunday and are now underway. Earlier today I issued the former [sic] guidelines for those reviews and directed that preliminary findings be provided to the White House by this Thursday. It's essential that we diagnose the problems quickly and deal with them immediately.
Now, the more comprehensive, formal reviews and recommendations for improvement will be completed in the coming weeks, and I'm committed to working with Congress and our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities to take all necessary steps to protect the country.
I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. It's been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son's extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect's name on a no-fly list.
There appears to be other deficiencies as well. Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We've achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks. But it's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.
Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.
The professionalism of the men and women in our intelligence, counterterrorism and law enforcement and homeland security communities is extraordinary. They are some of the most hardworking, most dedicated Americans that I've ever met. In pursuit of our security here at home they risk their lives, day in and day out, in this country and around the world.
Few Americans see their work, but all Americans are safer because of their successes. They have targeted and taken out violent extremists, they have disrupted plots and saved countless American lives; they are making real and daily progress in our mission to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and other extremist networks around the world. And for this every American owes them a profound and lasting debt of gratitude.
Moreover, as Secretary Napolitano has said, once the suspect attempted to take down Flight 253--after his attempt it's clear that passengers and crew, our homeland security systems and our aviation security took all appropriate actions. But what's also clear is this: When our government has information on a known extremist and that information is not shared and acted upon as it should have been, so that this extremist boards a plane with dangerous explosives that could cost nearly 300 lives, a systemic failure has occurred. And I consider that totally unacceptable.
The reviews I've ordered will surely tell us more. But what already is apparent is that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security. We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system, because our security is at stake and lives are at stake.
I fully understand that even when every person charged with ensuring our security does what they are trained to do, even when every system works exactly as intended there is still no one hundred percent guarantee of success. Yet, this should only compel us to work even harder, to be even more innovative and relentless in our efforts.
As President I will do everything in my power to support the men and women in intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security to make sure they've got the tools and resources they need to keep America safe. But it's also my job to ensure that our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security systems and the people in them are working effectively and held accountable. I intend to fulfill that responsibility and insist on accountability at every level.
That's the spirit guiding our reviews into the attempted attack on Christmas Day. That's the spirit that will guide all our efforts in the days and years ahead.
Thank you very much.
10:00 AM CST 18 February 2010: One IRS employee killed (Vernon Hunter), thirteen injured by the intentional crash of a small private plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, and subsequent fire.
(The perpetrator, Andrew Joseph Stack III, left a suicide note making statements against the government, corporations, and the Catholic church; he was being audited by the IRS at the time.)
4:44 PM CST 18 February 2010: White House Blog statement On the Plane Crash in Austin:
Shortly after the plane crash in Austin, TX, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism informed President Obama of the incident. The President expressed his concern, commended the courageous actions of the first responders and asked to be kept up to date as the investigation moves forward.
7:02 PM EDT 22 February 2010: White House statement:
To the men and women of the Internal Revenue Service at Austin:
I asked Secretary Geithner to carry this message to you.
It is with great sadness that I write to you on the tragic events of February 18th. You, your families and colleagues are in my thoughts and prayers.
Michelle and I extend our condolences to you on the death of your colleague, Mr. Vernon Hunter. Vernon dedicated his life to service to this great country, serving over 20 years in the military before joining the IRS. We mourn his death.
As we work with law-enforcement agencies to investigate the events leading up to this plane crash, I want the dedicated employees of the IRS to know that I am thankful for your dedication, courage and professionalism as we rebuild in Austin. And as you continue your work, we will do what is needed to ensure your safety.
We are grateful for your service to this country.
May God bless you and the United States of America.
4 March 2010: two guards injured in shooting attack at an entrance gate to the Pentagon, Alexandria, Virginia; the gunman was shot and killed.
(The gunman, John Patrick Bedell, had espoused anti-government and anti-military views and 9/11 conspiracy claims, and had an arrest record for marijuana violations.)
(no White House statement)
10:11 AM MST 8 January 2011: Six killed (U.S. District Judge John Roll, 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, Gabe Zimmerman, Dorthy Murray, Phyllis Schneck, and Dorwan Stoddard), 13 injured in a shooting attack at a political event at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona; U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, hosting the event, was targeted by the gunman and was injured along with at least one member of her staff.
(The gunman, Jared Loughner, was tackled by two bystanders while trying to escape and was arrested; Loughner had recently made anti-government posts on his web site; a few hours before the attack Loughner was stopped by an officer for a traffic violation. Local authorities initially suspected that another male was involved in the attack.)
1:10 PM MST 8 January 2011: Statement by the President:
This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded.3:58 PM MST 8 January 2011: Statement by the President:
We do not yet have all the answers. What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers.
As many of you are aware, earlier today a number of people were shot in Tucson, Arizona, including several who were meeting at a supermarket with their congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. We are still assembling all the facts, but we know that Representative Giffords was one of the victims. She is currently at a hospital in the area, and she is battling for her life.
We also know that at least five people lost their lives in this tragedy. Among them were a federal judge, John Roll, who has served America's legal system for almost 40 years; and a young girl who was barely nine years old.
I've spoken to Arizona governor Jan Brewer and offered the full resources of the federal government. A suspect is currently in custody, but we don't yet know what provoked this unspeakable act. A comprehensive investigation is currently underway, and at my direction, Director Bob Mueller is en route to Arizona to help coordinate these efforts. I've also spoken to the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House.
Gabby Giffords was a friend of mine. She is not only an extraordinary public servant, but she is also somebody who is warm and caring. She is well liked by her colleagues and well liked by her constituents. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is a Navy captain and one of America's valiant astronauts.
It's not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she always does--listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors. That is the essence of what our democracy is all about. That is why this is more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country.
What Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other. So at this time I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers. Those who have been injured, we are rooting for them. And I know Gabby is as tough as they come, and I am hopeful that she's going to pull through.
Obviously our hearts go out to the family members of those who have been slain. We are going to get to the bottom of this, and we're going to get through this. But in the meantime, I think all of us need to make sure that we're offering our thoughts and prayers to those concerned.
10:15 CDT 5 August 2012: Six killed (temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, Paramjit Kaur, Suveg Singh Khattra, Prakash Singh, Ranjit Singh, and Sita Singh), four injured in shooting attack at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, shortly before worship service on Sunday morning. One of those injured was a police office.
(The gunman, Wade Michael Page, fatally shot himself after being shot and injured by police; Page was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1998 for misconduct and subsequently had associations with neo-Nazi groups; he came to the attention of federal authorities for these associations but authorities had insufficient evidence to open an investigation.)
4:04 PM CDT 5 August 2012: Statement by the President:
Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.
5:00 AM CDT 14 August 2012: An off-duty police officer was shot and injured while patrolling an oil refinery parking lot in LaPlace, Louisiana; other officers investigating the shooting engaged the attackers in a mobile home park, and during this shootout two officers were killed (Brandon Nielsen and Jeremy Triche) and another injured.
(Police arrested Brian Lyn Smith, Terry Smith, Derrick Smith, Kyle David Joekel, and Teniecha Bright in connection with both shootings, and arrested Chanel Skains and Britney Keith as accessories; Joekel and Brian Smith were shot and injured; Joekel and several others have ties to the sovereign citizen movement; Joekel was wanted in several states for threats against law enforcement.)
(no White House statement)
10:50 AM EDT 15 August 2012: A gunman entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, DC, and shot a guard who prevented him from reaching offices on upper floors.
(The gunman, Floyd Lee Corkins II, was tackled by the guard with help from bystanders and arrested; Corkins was a volunteer with the DC Center for the LGBT Community and made reference to the Family Research Council's policy stance on marriage before shooting the guard; Corkins had selected several organizations as targets based on the Southern Poverty Law Center web site.)
afternoon of 15 August 2012: White House statement (note: statement was made by the White House press secretary to reporters on the campaign trail but not posted to the White House web site):
The president expressed his concern for the individual injured in the shooting and his strong belief that this type of violence has no place in our society.
2:50 PM EDT 15 April 2013: Two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, seconds apart; 3 people were killed (Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, and 8-year-old Martin Richard) and 264 injured.
(The two terrorists, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were from Dagestan and Kyrgyzstan and had grown up in the Boston area; Tamerlan espoused radical Muslim beliefs, was convicted of domestic violence in 2009 but was still a legal resident in 2013; in 2011 Russia reported that Tamerlan was a radical Islamist and a possible threat after which the FBI interviewed him and put the matter "to bed"; Dzhokhar gained U.S. citizenship in 2012; Tamerlan was killed and Dzhokhar arrested after the 18-19 incident (see below).)
6:16 PM EDT 15 April 2013: Statement by President Obama:
Good afternoon, everybody. Earlier today, I was briefed by my homeland security team on the events in Boston. We're continuing to monitor and respond to the situation as it unfolds. And I've directed the full resources of the federal government to help state and local authorities protect our people, increase security around the United States as necessary, and investigate what happened.
The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight. And Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss.
We don't yet have all the answers. But we do know that multiple people have been wounded, some gravely, in explosions at the Boston Marathon.
I've spoken to FBI Director Mueller and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano, and they're mobilizing the appropriate resources to investigate and to respond.
I've updated leaders of Congress in both parties, and we reaffirmed that on days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats--we are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens.
I've also spoken with Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino, and made it clear that they have every single federal resource necessary to care for the victims and counsel the families. And above all, I made clear to them that all Americans stand with the people of Boston.
Boston police, firefighters, and first responders as well as the National Guard responded heroically, and continue to do so as we speak. It's a reminder that so many Americans serve and sacrifice on our behalf every single day, without regard to their own safety, in dangerous and difficult circumstances. And we salute all those who assisted in responding so quickly and professionally to this tragedy.
We still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn't jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake--we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this; we'll find out why they did this. Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.
Today is a holiday in Massachusetts--Patriots' Day. It's a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation. And it's a day that draws the world to Boston's streets in a spirit of friendly competition. Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people. I'm supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city. And as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.
You should anticipate that as we get more information, our teams will provide you briefings. We're still in the investigation stage at this point. But I just want to reiterate we will find out who did this and we will hold them accountable.
Thank you very much.
12:35 PM EDT 18 April 2013: Remarks by President Obama to First Responders and Volunteers in Boston, MA, following memorial service:
Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Well, listen, we just had a wonderful interfaith service, and I want to thank Governor Patrick for helping to organize that. I want to thank both the Governor and your extraordinary Mayor, Tom Menino for the incredible leadership and cool under pressure, the organization, the mobilization and the courage that they have shown reflective of this great city and reflective of this great Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Now, I'm not going to speak long. I'm just--he started calling me Reverend Obama, so I know--I know I was--I don't want to go on any longer than I need to. The main message, in addition to just giving--having a chance to shake some hands and give some hugs, is just to say how proud the whole country is of you how grateful we are--how grateful we are that in the face of chaos and tragedy, all of you displayed the very best of the American spirit.
You displayed grit. You displayed compassion. You displayed civic duty. You displayed courage. And when we see that kind of spirit, there's something about that that's infectious. It makes us all want to be better people. You've inspired the entire country. You've inspired the world. And for that, you should be profoundly proud.
But as Deval and I were talking as we were driving in from the airport, the key is that we hang on to a little bit of that, because it's right there under the surface every day. And it expresses itself, obviously, in the Marathon. It expresses itself in Patriot's Day. It expresses itself in all the small interactions, the gestures of kindness and generosity and tolerance and compassion that make up the fabric of our lives. And we don't always pay attention to it, and we don't always celebrate, and it's certainly not usually on a television screen, it's not always reported on. But that's who we are.
And if there's anything that was a theme in that interfaith service it's that out of these ashes, out of the blood that's spilled and the injuries borne, out of that, we get a chance to see and highlight and appreciate that spirit. And we've got to sustain it, because in all of our lives at some point there are going to be some troubles, and there's evil in the world, and there's hardship. But if that spirit is evident and manifest, and that's what we're teaching our kids and that's what we're embodying in our own lives, then who can stop us? Who can touch us?
So thank you, everybody. I'm proud of you. I'm proud of Boston. And as I just said, I'm looking forward to the 118th Boston Marathon. God bless you.
(see 19-20 April events below for additional White House statements)
18-19 April 2013: Over a 24 hour period, one police officer (Sean Collier) is killed and one injured by the Boston Marathon bombers; of the two terrorists, one is killed and one injured and eventually captured.
(Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (see 15 April attack above for background) were confronted at a police roadblock; Tamerlan was killed, Dzhokhar was injured but evaded capture for several more hours, prompting a day-long shutdown of Boston and several suburbs before his arrest.)
10:05 PM EDT 19 April 2013: Statement by President Obama:
Good evening. Tonight our nation is in debt to the people of Boston and the people of Massachusetts. After a vicious attack on their city, Bostonians responded with resolve and determination. They did their part as citizens and partners in this investigation.
Boston police and state police and local police across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts responded with professionalism and bravery over five long days. And tonight, because of their determined efforts, we've closed an important chapter in this tragedy.
I've been briefed earlier this evening by FBI Director Mueller. After the attacks on Monday, I directed the full resources of the federal government to be made available to help state and local authorities in the investigation and to increase security as needed. Over the past week, close coordination among federal, state, and local officials--sharing information, moving swiftly to track down leads--has been critical to this effort.
They all worked as they should, as a team. And we are extremely grateful for that. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all our outstanding law enforcement professionals. These men and women get up every day, they put on that uniform; they risk their lives to keep us safe--and as this week showed, they don't always know what to expect. So our thoughts are with those who were wounded in pursuit of the suspects and we pray for their full recovery.
We also send our prayers to the Collier family who grieve the loss of their son and brother, Sean. "He was born to be a police officer," said his chief at MIT. He was just 26 years old. And as his family has said, he died bravely in the line of duty, doing what he committed his life to doing--serving and protecting others. So we're grateful to him.
Obviously, tonight there are still many unanswered questions. Among them, why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence? How did they plan and carry out these attacks, and did they receive any help? The families of those killed so senselessly deserve answers. The wounded, some of whom now have to learn how to stand and walk and live again, deserve answers.
And so I've instructed the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and our intelligence community to continue to deploy all the necessary resources to support the investigation, to collect intelligence, and to protect our citizens. We will determine what happened. We will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had. And we'll continue to do whatever we have to do to keep our people safe.
One thing we do know is that whatever hateful agenda drove these men to such heinous acts will not--cannot--prevail. Whatever they thought they could ultimately achieve, they've already failed. They failed because the people of Boston refused to be intimidated. They failed because, as Americans, we refused to be terrorized. They failed because we will not waver from the character and the compassion and the values that define us as a country. Nor will we break the bonds that hold us together as Americans.
That American spirit includes staying true to the unity and diversity that makes us strong--like no other nation in the world. In this age of instant reporting and tweets and blogs, there's a temptation to latch on to any bit of information, sometimes to jump to conclusions. But when a tragedy like this happens, with public safety at risk and the stakes so high, it's important that we do this right. That's why we have investigations. That's why we relentlessly gather the facts. That's why we have courts. And that's why we take care not to rush to judgment--not about the motivations of these individuals; certainly not about entire groups of people.
After all, one of the things that makes America the greatest nation on Earth, but also, one of the things that makes Boston such a great city, is that we welcome people from all around the world--people of every faith, every ethnicity, from every corner of the globe. So as we continue to learn more about why and how this tragedy happened, let's make sure that we sustain that spirit.
Tonight we think of all the wounded, still struggling to recover. Certainly we think of Krystle Campbell. We think of Lingzi Lu. And we think of little Martin Richard. Their lives reflected all the diversity and beauty of our country, and they were sharing the great American experience together.
Finally, let me say that even as so much attention has been focused on the tragic events in Boston, understandably, we've also seen a tight-knit community in Texas devastated by a terrible explosion. And I want them to know that they are not forgotten. Our thoughts, our prayers are with the people of West, Texas, where so many good people lost their lives; some lost their homes; many are injured; many are still missing.
I've talked to Governor Perry and Mayor Muska and I've pledged that the people of West will have the resources that they need to recover and rebuild. And I want everybody in Texas to know that we will follow through with those commitments.
All in all, this has been a tough week. But we've seen the character of our country once more. And as President, I'm confident that we have the courage and the resilience and the spirit to overcome these challenges--and to go forward, as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you very much, everybody.
6:00 AM EDT 20 April 2013: Weekly Address by President Obama:
On Monday, an act of terror wounded dozens and killed three innocent people at the Boston Marathon.
But in the days since, the world has witnessed one sure and steadfast truth: Americans refuse to be terrorized.
Ultimately, that's what we'll remember from this week. That's what will remain. Stories of heroism and kindness; resolve and resilience; generosity and love.
The brave first responders--police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and National Guard--who ran toward danger to help their fellow citizens.
The race volunteers, spectators, and exhausted runners who rushed to help, including troops and veterans who never expected to see such scenes on the streets of America.
The determined doctors and nurses at some of the world's best hospitals, who have toiled day and night to save so many lives.
The big-hearted people of Boston--residents, priests, shopkeepers--who carried victims in their arms; delivered water and blankets; lined up to give blood; opened their homes to total strangers.
And the heroic federal agents and police officers who worked together throughout the week, often at great risk to themselves, to keep our communities safe. As a country, we are eternally grateful for the profound sacrifices they make in the line of duty--sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice to defend the people they've sworn to protect.
If anyone wants to know who we are; what America is; how we respond to evil and terror--that's it. Selflessly. Compassionately. And unafraid.
Through days that would test even the sturdiest of souls, Boston's spirit remains undaunted. America's spirit remains undimmed. Our faith in each other, our love for this country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences we may have--that's what makes us strong. That's why we endure.
In the days to come, we will remain vigilant as a nation. And I have no doubt the city of Boston and its surrounding communities will continue to respond in the same proud and heroic way that they have thus far--and their fellow Americans will be right there with them every step of the way. May God bless the people of Boston and the United States of America.
9:20 AM PST 1 November 2013: One TSA officer killed, 2 TSA officers and 4 civilians injured in a shooting attack at Los Angeles International Airport. The attacker fatally shot a TSA officer (Gerardo Hernandez) at an airport security checkpoint then proceeded into the secure area attacking additional TSA officers; he was eventually shot and arrested by TSA officers.
(The gunman, Paul Anthony Ciancia, was shot and arrested by responding TSA officers, ending the attack; he had singled out TSA officers during his attack and was eventually charged by federal authorities with seeking to incite "fear" in TSA officers.)
4:03 PM EST 1 November 2013: Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq after Bilateral Meeting:
(In response to question from reporter for thoughts on the shooting) Obviously, we've been monitoring, and we're concerned about it. But I'll let the law enforcement folks talk about it directly.
1:01 PM EST 5 November 2013: Press briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney:
(In response to question from reporter regarding the shooting) I haven't had a discussion with him about this related to the broader need for common-sense measures that reduce gun violence, which remains an objective of his. When it comes to how the TSA operates, certainly my understanding is that TSA is there working every day to ensure that passengers are safe on their flights and that airports have security provided by local law enforcement.
But I haven't been part of discussions; maybe DHS or TSA can fill you in on their views in the wake of that. What I know the President believes is that the TSA employee who was killed was serving his country and making Americans safer, and those who fly in and out of American airports safer. And he deserves--his family deserves our prayers because of his sacrifice.
1:00 PM 13 April 2014: Two people killed, a teenager and his grandfather (Reat Underwood and William Corporon), in a shooting attack at a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kansas; a short time later, one person was shot and killed (Terri LaManno) outside a Jewish retirement home 2 km away.
(The gunman, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. (aka Cross), was arrested at 1:28 PM; Miller was a founder or leader of more than one white supremacist group and has a reputation for anti-Semitic views, although all three of his victims were Christians.)
13 April 2014: Statement by President Obama on today's shooting in Kansas:
This afternoon we heard reports of a horrific shooting in Overland Park, Kansas. Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy. I have asked my team to stay in close touch with our federal, state and local partners and provide the necessary resources to support the ongoing investigation. While we do not know all of the details surrounding today's shooting, the initial reports are heartbreaking. I want to offer my condolences to all the families trying to make sense of this difficult situation and pledge the full support from the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time.9:27 EDT 14 April 2014: Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast:
Good morning, everybody. Thank you, thank you, thank you very much. Please, please have a seat. Thank you so much. Well, good morning, everybody.
Welcome to the White House and welcome to our annual Easter prayer breakfast. As always, we are blessed to be joined by so many good friends from around the country. We've got distinguished guests. We've got faith leaders, members of my administration who are here. And I will once again resist the temptation to preach to preachers. It never works out well. I am reminded of the admonition from the Book of Romans--"Do not claim to be wiser than you are." So this morning, I want to offer some very brief reflections as we start this Easter season.
But as I was preparing my remarks, something intervened yesterday. And so I want to just devote a few words about yesterday's tragedy in Kansas. This morning our prayers are with the people of Overland Park. And we're still learning the details, but this much we know. A gunman opened fire at two Jewish facilities--a community center and a retirement home. Innocent people were killed. Their families were devastated. And this violence has struck the heart of the Jewish community in Kansas City.
Two of the victims--a grandfather and his teenage son--attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which is led by our friend Reverend Adam Hamilton. Some of you may know that during my inauguration, Reverend Hamilton delivered the sermon at the prayer service at the National Cathedral. And I was grateful for his presence and his words. He joined us at our breakfast last year. And at the Easter service for Palm Sunday last night, he had to break this terrible news to his congregation.
That this occurred now--as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday--makes this tragedy all the more painful. And today, as Passover begins, we're seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions. Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers. No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.
And as a government, we're going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation. As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we've got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society. And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we're all children of God. We're all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity. And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head. It's got no place in our society.
So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there's a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we're also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God. We're reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him. And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us--the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection--all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.
11:45 PM 27 April 2014: one men (Leroy Henderson) fatally shot in Skyway, Washington. (The attacker, Ali Muhammad Brown, was arrested 18 July 2014 after he committed a robbery in New Jersey; he claimed that the murder, along with three others, were "just kill[s]" in a "mission" of "vengeance" in accord with his Muslim beliefs. Brown was previously released from prison after serving time for bank fraud committed in 2002-2004 where funds were used to support terrorism in Somalia. This attack was not identifiable as terrorism until after Brown's arrest.)
(no White House statement)
1 June 2014: two men (Dwone Anderson-Young and Ahmed Said) fatally shot while walking from a night club in Seattle, Washington. (The attacker, Ali Muhammad Brown, was arrested 18 July 2014 after he committed a robbery in New Jersey; he claimed that the murders, along with two others, were "just kill[s]" in a "mission" of "vengeance" in accord with his Muslim beliefs and justified as "tak[ing] action against... evil". Brown was previously released from prison after serving time for bank fraud committed in 2002-2004 where funds were used to support terrorism in Somalia. This attack was not identifiable as terrorism until after Brown's arrest.)
(no White House statement)
11:30 AM 8 June 2014: two police officers (Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo) fatally shot in a restaurant in Las Vegas, after which the two shooters took the officers' weapons, killed a civilian (Joseph Wilcox) at a nearby store, then killed themselves. (The attackers, Amanda Miller and Jerad Miller, were know for espousing anti-government views; at the scene of the first shooting scene they left a Gadsden flag and a note stating "this is the beginning of the revolution".)
(no White House statement)
25 June 2014: one teenager (Brendan Tevlin) fatally shot while driving in East Orange, New Jersey, after which the shooter drove the victim's car to East Orange. (The attacker, Ali Muhammad Brown, was arrested 18 July 2014 after he committed a robbery in New Jersey; he claimed that the murder, along with three previous ones in Washington state, were "just kill[s]" in a "mission" of "vengeance" in accord with his Muslim beliefs. Brown was previously released from prison after serving time for bank fraud committed in 2002-2004 where funds were used to support terrorism in Somalia.)
(no White House statement)
12 September 2014: one police officer (Bryon Dickson) killed, another injured in shooting attack at police barracks in Blooming Grove, Pennsylvania. (The attacker, Eric Frein, evaded capture in nearby woods despite a massive manhunt until 30 October when he was captured in the Pocono Mountains. A letter in his possession stated his desire to start "another revolution" to "get us back the liberties we once had," prompting additional charges of terrorism.)
(no White House statement)
25 September 2014: one woman (Colleen Hufford) killed, another injured in knife attack at a food processing plant, attacker was stopped when he was shot and injured by the company owner. (The attacker, Alton Nolen, had just been fired; workers reported he had recently converted to Islam and tried to convert others--threating to kill some women if they didn't convert--Nolen's Facebook page includes anti-American statements, and the method of killing appears inspired by recent Islamic State killings. The FBI has so far characterized the attack as "workplace violence".)
(no White House statement)
23 October 2014: two police officers injured, one severly, in an axe attack on a street, shots fired by police killed the attacker and injured one bystander. (The attacker, Zale Thompson, was a recent convert to Islam, had social media postings described by police as "anti-Western, anti-government and in some cases anti-white" as well as internet searches suggesting planning for ISIS-style attacks.)
(no White House statement)
24 October 2014: Excerpt from White House Press Briefing:
Reporter: My second question is, was the President briefed on the attack in New York against the police officers yesterday?
Mr. Earnest: The President was informed of the situation by Lisa Monaco last night.
Reporter: And what's the White House reaction?
Mr. Earnest: This is a situation that is under investigation by the New York Police Department, local law enforcement authorities. Officials here at the White House and other federal law enforcement officials have been in touch with local law enforcement on this matter, but it's still under investigation so I don't have too much to say about it at this point.
3:00 PM EST 21 December 2014: two police officers (Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos) shot and killed; the gunman shot and killed himself while police were closing in on him. (The attacker, Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, had recently posted in electronic media his intent to kill police officers in retaliation for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, both cases in which the deaths occurred during attempted arrests and where police officers involved were acquitted of criminal charges.)
late 21 December 2014: Statement by President Obama (not posted to White House web site)
I unconditionally condemn today's murder of two police officers in New York City. Two brave men won't be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification. The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day--and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day. Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal--prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.
7:00 PM CDT 3 May 2015: at an event hosting a contest for cartoons critical of Islam, two attackers attempting to enter the facility were stopped by guards; one guard was shot and injured by the attackers, the attackers were both shot and killed by another guard (an off-duty police officer). (The two attackers, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, were roommates from Phoenix, Arizona; Simpson had been charged by the FBI in 2009 with attempting to travel to Somalia to engage in "violent jihad", was convicted for lying to federal agents but the terrorism-related charge was thrown out by the judge, with Simpson sentenced to 3 years' probation; Simpson posted in social media just prior to the attack the message "May Allah accept us as mujahideen, #texasattack"; Soofi had a recent conviction for marijuana possession and attended the same Phoenix mosque as Simpson.)
11:36 AM EDT 4 May 2015: Statements to reporters by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
(In response to questions from reporter regarding the shooting) Let me start by saying that the President was informed last night of the violence outside Dallas. There is an ongoing local investigation, so I won't have a whole lot to say about the specific incident. I will repeat a principle that you've heard from me before, which is specifically that there's no act of expression, even if it's offensive, that justifies an act of violence. And, again, there have been--we have seen extremists try to use expressions that they consider to be offensive as a way to justify violence, not just in this country but around the world. And in the mind of the President, there's no form of expression that would justify an act of violence.
Let me also say that based on the initial reports about what happened in Texas last night, we saw a pretty important and notable display of bravery on the part of first responders who responded promptly to the situation. And because of their courage, the only person that was injured by the two gunmen was a security officer who sustained what I understand to be a relatively minor gunshot wound. And so I think for that, our gratitude goes out to those first responders who acted so bravely and courageously to prevent further bloodshed...
Well, again, there's no act of expression, even if some people might find it offensive, that could justify an act of violence...
Well, I haven't spoken to the President about it. I'll tell you that I was unaware of the event prior to some of the news breaking about the violence that occurred there last night.
9:05 PM EDT 17 June 2015: nine adults were killed (Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson) and one injured in a shooting at a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; Pinckney was the church's pastor and was also a state senator.
(The attacker, Dylann Roof, was captured 13 hours later by police in Shelby, North Carolina, 400 km away, based on tips from a friend of Roof and a motorist. Roof told a survivor of the attack that his intent was to start a race war; he also had a website with racist content.)
12:20 PM EDT 18 June 2015: Statement by the President on the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina:
Good afternoon, everybody. This morning, I spoke with, and Vice President Biden spoke with, Mayor Joe Riley and other leaders of Charleston to express our deep sorrow over the senseless murders that took place last night.
Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church. We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night. And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn't say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.
Any death of this sort is a tragedy. Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy. There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.
Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty. This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery. When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret. When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church's steps. This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.
The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau's best are on the way to join them. The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation. We understand that the suspect is in custody. And I'll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.
Until the investigation is complete, I'm necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case. But I don't need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise. I've had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don't have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun. Now is the time for mourning and for healing.
But let's be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it's going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.
The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.
The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome. That, certainly, was Dr. King's hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.
He said they lived meaningful lives, and they died nobly. "They say to each of us," Dr. King said, "black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.
"And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace."
Reverend Pinckney and his congregation understood that spirit. Their Christian faith compelled them to reach out not just to members of their congregation, or to members of their own communities, but to all in need. They opened their doors to strangers who might enter a church in search of healing or redemption.
Mother Emanuel church and its congregation have risen before –- from flames, from an earthquake, from other dark times -– to give hope to generations of Charlestonians. And with our prayers and our love, and the buoyancy of hope, it will rise again now as a place of peace.
5:30 PM PDT 18 June 2015: Remarks by the President at Democratic National Commitee fundraiser, Santa Monica, California
...Obviously, this is a challenging day for the country and for me and for the people of Charleston. I spoke earlier today and don't want to repeat myself, but the folks in that historic church were people I know. And Tyler talked about how he grew up in an AME church so he knows what Wednesday Bible study is all about. He's been one of those nine or 10 or 15 people studying Scripture and having fellowship, and welcoming people and inviting them in to spread the Good News.
And to see such a horrific event unfold like that is particularly shocking. And it's a reminder that we've got a lot of work to do.
19 June 2015: Statement by the President on the observance of Juneteenth
...Yet this year, our celebrations are tinged with sorrow. Our prayers are with the nine members of the Mother Emanuel community--nine members of our American family--whose God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were so cruelly snatched away. Our hearts go out to their families, their friends, and the entire city of Charleston.2:30 PM PDT 19 June 2015: Remarks by the President to U.S. Conference of Mayors, San Francisco, California
Obviously, the entire country has been shocked and heartbroken by what happened in Charleston. The nature of this attack--in a place of worship, where congregants invite in a stranger to worship with them, only to be gunned down--adds to the pain. The apparent motivations of the shooter remind us that racism remains a blight that we have to combat together. We have made great progress, but we have to be vigilant because it still lingers. And when it's poisoning the minds of young people, it betrays our ideals and tears our democracy apart.
But as much as we grieve this particular tragedy, I think it's important, as I mentioned at the White House, to step back and recognize these tragedies have become far too commonplace.
Few people understand the terrible toll of gun violence like mayors do. Whether it's a mass shooting like the one in Charleston, or individual attacks of violence that add up over time, it tears at the fabric of a community. It costs you money and it costs resources. It costs this country dearly.
More than 11,000 Americans were killed by gun violence in 2013 alone--11,000. If Congress had passed some common-sense gun safety reforms after Newtown, after a group of children had been gunned down in their own classroom--reforms that 90 percent of the American people supported--we wouldn't have prevented every act of violence, or even most. We don't know if it would have prevented what happened in Charleston. No reform can guarantee the elimination of violence. But we might still have some more Americans with us. (Applause.) We might have stopped one shooter. Some families might still be whole. You all might have to attend fewer funerals.
5:40 PM PDT 19 June 2015: Remarks by the President at DCCC fundraiser, San Francisco, California
So in addition to basketball, I've been thinking about a few other things. Obviously, over the last couple of days, the thing I've been thinking about most is what happened in Charleston. I won't repeat the comments that I've been making about this issue because I suspect I'm preaching to the choir here, but in addition to heartbreak and wanting to extend love and prayer and support to the families who have been affected; in addition to marveling at the statements that those family members of those victims made today to this suspect; and for them to find the strength to be able to say, we forgive you--an expression of faith that is unimaginable but that reflects the goodness of the American people; in addition to all those things, I think it's important for us to acknowledge that this stuff happens way too often.
These mass shootings like this do not happen in other advanced countries around the world. They are unique in their frequency to America. And it's not because there aren't violent people or racist people or crazy people in other countries; it's that a 21-year-old kid can't just walk in and buy a firearm and, oftentimes, through gun shows, avoid background checks, and then act on this hatred. And we've got to change that, and it's not enough for us to express sympathy--we have to take action. And it is not going to happen in this Congress, but we have to stay on it so that it does.
2:49 PM EDT 26 June 2015: Remarks by the President in eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney
Giving all praise and honor to God.
The Bible calls us to hope. To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.
"They were still living by faith when they died," Scripture tells us. "They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth."
We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith. A man who believed in things not seen. A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance. A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.
To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.
I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well. But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger. Back when I didn't have visible grey hair. The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor--all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.
Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special. Anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful--a family of preachers who spread God's word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South. Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.
He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth's insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.
As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem.
His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely. But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the capitol, he'd climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.
Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else's shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as "the most gentle of the 46 of us--the best of the 46 of us."
Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn't know the history of the AME church. As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don't make those distinctions. "Our calling," Clem once said, "is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides."
He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the "sweet hour of prayer" actually lasts the whole week long--that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it's about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.
What a good man. Sometimes I think that's the best thing to hope for when you're eulogized--after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.
You don't have to be of high station to be a good man. Preacher by 13. Pastor by 18. Public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith. And then to lose him at 41--slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.
Cynthia Hurd. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. Tywanza Sanders. Daniel L. Simmons. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Myra Thompson. Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people. People so full of life and so full of kindness. People who ran the race, who persevered. People of great faith.
To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church. The church is and always has been the center of African-American life--a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.
Over the course of centuries, black churches served as "hush harbors" where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah--rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm's way, and told that they are beautiful and smart--and taught that they matter. That's what happens in church.
That's what the black church means. Our beating heart. The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate. When there's no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel--a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes.
When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps. A sacred place, this church. Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion--of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all. That's what the church meant.
We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation's original sin.
Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. God has different ideas.
He didn't know he was being used by God. Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group--the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle. The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court--in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn't imagine that.
The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley--how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond--not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.
Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood--the power of God's grace.
This whole week, I've been reflecting on this idea of grace. The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons. The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals--the one we all know: Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind but now I see.
According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It's not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God--as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.
As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we've been blind. He has given us the chance, where we've been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other--but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He's once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.
For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It's true, a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge--including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise--as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.
Removing the flag from this state's capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought--the cause of slavery--was wrong--the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. It would be one step in an honest accounting of America's history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union. By taking down that flag, we express God's grace.
But I don't think God wants us to stop there. For too long, we've been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present. Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.
Perhaps it causes us to examine what we're doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system--and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.
Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don't realize it, so that we're guarding against not just racial slurs, but we're also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal. So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote. By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what's necessary to make opportunity real for every American--by doing that, we express God's grace.
For too long--For too long, we've been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed--the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife's warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.
The vast majority of Americans--the majority of gun owners--want to do something about this. We see that now. And I'm convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country--by making the moral choice to change, we express God's grace.
We don't earn grace. We're all sinners. We don't deserve it. But God gives it to us anyway. And we choose how to receive it. It's our decision how to honor it.
None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There's no shortcut. And we don't need more talk. None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy. It will not. People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires--this is a big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates. Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.
But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again. Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual--that's what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society. To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change--that's how we lose our way again.
It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.
Reverend Pinckney once said, "Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history--we haven't always had a deep appreciation of each other's history." What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can't be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past--how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind--but, more importantly, an open heart.
That's what I've felt this week--an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what's called upon right now, I think--what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls "that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things."
That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.
Amazing grace. Amazing grace. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind but now I see.
Clementa Pinckney found that grace. Cynthia Hurd found that grace. Susie Jackson found that grace. Ethel Lance found that grace. DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace. Tywanza Sanders found that grace. Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace. Myra Thompson found that grace.
Through the example of their lives, they've now passed it on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.
10:30 PM CST 16 July 2015: A gunman fires into an armed forces recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, injuring one service member, then drove 11 km to a naval reserve center where he shot and killed four Marines (Carson Homquist, Thomas Sullivan, Squire Wells, and David Wyatt), injured a Navy sailor who died two days later (Randall Smith), and injured a police officer during the exchange when police fatally shot the gunman. (The attacker, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was born in Kuwait but had attained U.S. citizenship; Jordanian authorities have indicated he was Palestinian; Abdulazeez had visited Jordan in 2014 and upon return reportedly exhibited changed behavior with friends. Abdulazeez worked at Perry Nuclear Power Plant for 10 days in 2013 until he was fired; at the time of the shooting he was pending a court appearance for a DUI arrest.)
5:20 PM EDT 16 July 2015: Statement by President Obama on the shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee
I just received a briefing from FBI Director Comey, as well as my White House team, about the tragic shooting that took place in Chattanooga today. We don't know yet all the details. We know that what appears to be a lone gunman carried out these attacks. We've identified a name. And at this point, a full investigation is taking place. The FBI will be in the lead, working closely with local law enforcement.
We've also been in contact with the Department of Defense to make sure that all our Defense facilities are properly attentive and vigilant as we sort through exactly what happened. And as details of the investigation proceed, we'll make sure that the FBI, as well as local law enforcement are providing the public with all the information that's involved.
My main message right now is, obviously, the deepest sympathies of the American people to the four Marines that have been killed. It is a heartbreaking circumstance for these individuals who have served our country with great valor to be killed in this fashion.
And although the families are still in the process of being contacted, I want them to know that I speak for the American people in expressing our deepest condolences, and knowing that they have our full support as they try to overcome the grief that's involved here.
I also want to say that there are reports of injuries to Chattanooga local law enforcement officials. Thankfully, as far as we know at this point, they have survived the assault. And we want to make sure that they know that we're thinking of them. They're in our thoughts and prayers.
We take all shootings very seriously. Obviously, when you have an attack on a U.S. military facility, then we have to make sure that we have all the information necessary to make an assessment in terms of how this attack took place, and what further precautions we can take in the future. And as we have more information, we'll let the public know.
But in the meantime, I'd ask all Americans to pray for the families who are grief-stricken at this point. And I want everybody to understand that we will be thorough and prompt in figuring out exactly what happened.
8:00 AM PDT 4 November 2015: A student stabbed two students, a staff member, and a construction worker at the University of California in Merced; the attacker was shot and killed by campus police. (The attacker, Faisal Mohammad, was carrying a printed ISIS flag and a handwritten manifesto with statements about beheading victims, statements to "praise Allah", and statements about revenge for being rejected from a study group.)
(No White House statement)
PST 27 November 2015: A gunman shot several individuals outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but was unable to gain entry to the clinic; a standoff of several hours ensued during which several police officers were shot before the attacker surrended. Those killed included two civilians (Jennifer Markovsky and Ke'Arre Stewart) and one police officer (Garrett Swasey); 4 other civilians and 5 other police officers were injured. (The attacker, Robert Lewis Dear, was mentally unstable; he had a police record for attacking his then-wife and for animal cruelty; his ex-wife reported that he had put glue in the locks of abortion clinics in the past.)
28 November 2015: Statement by the President
The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence--people who woke up in the morning and bid their loved ones goodbye with no idea it would be for the last time.
And yet, two days after Thanksgiving, that's what we are forced to do again.
We don't yet know what this particular gunman's so-called motive was for shooting twelve people, or for terrorizing an entire community, when he opened fire with an assault weapon and took hostages at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado. What we do know is that he killed a cop in the line of duty, along with two of the citizens that police officer was trying to protect. We know that law enforcement saved lives, as so many of them do every day, all across America. And we know that more Americans and their families had fear forced upon them.
This is not normal. We can't let it become normal. If we truly care about this--if we're going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience--then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough.
May God bless Officer Garrett Swasey and the Americans he tried to save--and may He grant the rest of us the courage to do the same thing.
11:00 AM PST 2 December 2015: Two attackers in tactical gear entered a meeting and Christmas party of county employees at a social services center in San Bernardino, California, and opened fire. Fourteen people were killed (Robert Adams, Isaac Amanios, Bennetta Bet-Badal, Harry Bowman, Sierra Clayborn, Juan Espinoza, Aurora Godoy, Shannon Johnson, Larry Kaufman, Damian Meins, Yin Nguyen, Nicholas Thalasinos, Yvette Velasco, and Michael Wetzel) and 21 injured. Police engaged the attackers in their vehicle 4-1/2 hours later, shooting and killing both attackers; 2 police officers were injured. (The attackers, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were husband and wife; Farook was a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, Malik was from Pakistan; large amounts of ammunition and homemade bombs of various types were found in their vehicle and home; Farook was a devout Muslim whose practices had changed in recent months, had previously had "heated discussions" about Islam with one of victims, a Messianic Jew, and had traveled to Saudi Arabia in spring 2015; he was at the meeting/party a short time prior to the shooting and left after an argument; Malik returned with Farook from his trip to Saudi Arabia on a fiance visa, having passed State Department background checks; Farook had intermittent contact over the last several months with individuals on federal watch lists.)
1:55 PM PST 2 December 2015: Comments to CBS News
It's still an active situation. FBI is on the ground offering assistance to local officials as they need it. It does appear that there are going to be some casualties. And, obviously our hearts go out to the victims and the families. The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world. And there are some steps we could take not to eliminate every one of these mass shootings, but to improve the odds that they don't happen as frequently: common-sense gun safety laws, stronger background checks.
And for those who are concerned about terrorism, some may be aware of the fact that we have a no-fly list where people can't get on planes, but those same people who we don't allow to fly could go into a store right now in the United States and buy a firearm and there's nothing that we can do to stop them. That's a law that needs to be changed.
And so my hope is that we're able to contain this particular shooting, and we don't yet know what the motives of the shooters are, but what we do know is that there are steps we can take to make Americans safer, and that we should come together in a bipartisan basis at every level of government to make these rare as opposed to normal. We should never think that this is something that just happens in the ordinary course of events, because it doesn't happen with the same frequency in other countries.
10:58 AM EST 3 December 2015: Statement by the President on the Shooting in San Bernardino, California
Yesterday, a tragedy occurred in San Bernardino, and as I said in the immediate aftermath, our first order of business is to send our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who have been killed and to pray for a speedy recovery for those who were injured during this terrible attack.
I had a chance to speak with Mayor Davis of San Bernardino and I thanked law enforcement in that city for their timely and professional response. I indicated to Mayor Davis that the entire country is thinking about that community, and thanked him and his office for the way that they've been able to manage an extraordinarily difficult situation with calm and clarity, and very much appreciated the coordination that's been taking place between local law enforcement and the FBI investigators.
At this stage, we do not yet know why this terrible event occurred. We do know that the two individuals who were killed were equipped with weapons and appeared to have access to additional weaponry at their homes. But we don't know why they did it. We don't know at this point the extent of their plans. We do not know their motivations.
And I just received a briefing from FBI Director Comey, as well as Attorney General Lynch, indicating the course of their investigation. At this point, this is now a FBI investigation. That's been done in cooperation and consultation with local law enforcement. It is possible that this was terrorist-related, but we don't know. It's also possible that this was workplace-related. And until the FBI has been able to conduct what are going to be a large number of interviews, until we understand the nature of the workplace relationship between the individual and his superiors--because he worked with the organization where this terrible shooting took place--until all the social media and electronic information has been exploited, we're just not going to be able to answer those questions.
But what I can assure the American people is we're going to get to the bottom of this and that we are going to be vigilant, as we always are, in getting the facts before we issue any decisive judgments in terms of how this occurred.
More broadly, as I said yesterday, we see the prevalence of these kinds of mass shootings in this country and I think so many Americans sometimes feel as if there's nothing we can do about it. We are fortunate to have an extraordinary combination of law enforcement and intelligence and military that work every single day to keep us safe. But we can't just leave it to our professionals to deal with the problem of these kinds of horrible killings. We all have a part to play.
And I do think that, as the investigation moves forward, it's going to be important for all of us--including our legislatures--to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we're making it a little harder for them to do it. Because right now it's just too easy. And we're going to have to, I think, search ourselves as a society to make sure that we can take basic steps that would make it harder--not impossible, but harder--for individuals to get access to weapons.
So there will be, I think, a press conference later today led by the Attorney General. Director Comey will continue to brief not only the press but also members of Congress about the course of the investigation. Our expectation is, is that this may take some time before we're able to sort it all through. There may be mixed motives involved in this, which makes the investigation more complicated. But rest assured that we will get to the bottom of this.
And in the meantime, once again, I want to offer our deepest condolences to those who've been affected by this terrible tragedy. And for those who've been injured, we hope that they get well quickly and that they're able to be back together with their families.
Thank you very much, everybody.
11:40 PM EST 7 January 2016: In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a gunman walked up to a police officer in his patrol car on the street and fired at him; the officer was injured but fired back, injuring the attacker who was caught a short time later. (The attacker, Edward Archer, told police his actions were "in the name of Islam", that police enforce laws counter to the Koran, and stated that his allegiance was to the Islamic State.)
(No White House statement)
6:30 PM CST 11 February 2016: A man having 30 minutes earlier asked about the nationality of the Israeli owner of a restaurant, returned and attacked patrons and staff in the restaurant with a machete, injuring four; victims fought off the attacker who fled in his car and was chased by police 8 km before attacking police; police shot and killed the attacker. (The attacker, Mohammad Barry, was from Guinea and in the U.S. on a green card; he had made extremist statements four years ago that brought him to FBI attention; he was currently on a terrorist watch list.)
(No White House statement)
11:06 AM PST 12 February 2016: Excerpt from White House press gaggle:
Reporter: Do you know if the President was briefed or updated on--there was a shooting at a Phoenix-area school, where two 15-year-old girls were killed? And there was also another shooting in Ohio, at a restaurant, overnight.
Reporter: I think it was a machete attack. Columbus?
Reporter: Machete attack, right.
Mr. Schultz: I don't know if the President has been briefed on those. I do know that the President is regularly updated as warranted. Obviously, both of those situations are tragic, and we send our condolences to the families of the victims.
© 2009-2015, 2016 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 16 February 2016.
Return to Home. Return to Terrorism, Counterterrorism, and Unconventional Warfare.