Ladies and gentlemen, members of the press, I thank you for your time. I have called this conference in the shadows of what all Americans must realise is a tragic moment in our nation’s history. Yet, regrettably, it is not rare. Too often has violence touched the lives of the citizens of this great country, and, once more, we are left dealing with the emotional and physical toll of a national tragedy.
Before I move any further through this, I would like to send out my most sincere condolences and support to those families so grievously affected by the events in Tuscon, Arizona. The prayers, support, and thoughts not just of me and my family, but of all Americans who value everything this country stands for, are directed to you all. You do not suffer in this tragedy alone and all of those around you, from both sides of politics, from all walks of life, and from all parts of this country are ready to help you in any way that you can.
I offer my own initial support and help to you by ways of an apology. For too long now has the political climate and the media’s rhetoric been at such a vitriolic state that the tenants which we Americans know our country to be founded on have been corroded away. A state exists now where only the most ugly, violent, and vehement of voices ring out the loudest. For my part in this, for my part in contributing to this overwhelming voice of hatred and disgust and attack, I have but three humble words:
I am sorry.
I am sorry that I have contributed to a society that fosters hatred between us fellow citizens. I am sorry that I have contributed to a community that feels it proper to take violent action against those that serve us. I am sorry that I have contributed to a message that has continued to slander those that disagree with me and aggrandised those that do agree with me. I apologise to those in my party and I apologise to those of the opposite side of the political spectrum. But most of all, I apologise to you, the American people, for failing in my duty to help make the United States of America everything that we all hope it to be.
My apologies here are not said for political gain. Nor are they said to draw attention away from the issue at hand. I offer them without reservation or condition to those that will accept them. The families affected by this tragedy, the citizens who now question what has happened to this great country, and the politicians who contemplate a new direction for Washington – you are the people this apology is meant for.
I understand that politicians often offer words without solutions. I promise you all that this is not one of those times. We must learn from this tragedy in a way that we have not learned from the horrific events that have come before it. It is an indictment on us all that from the first assassination of a United States politician, to the international terrorist attacks, to the most recent of domestic attacks, we have continued to accept a culture of violence to pervade this country.
We must learn that politics is not just about messages – that there are intended and unintended consequences to what we say. We have to accept that we, as public figures, play even a small part in every death in this country. Whether it be the message we send abroad or the message we send to Tuscon, we must be mindful of what we say. Did a single image with crosshairs cause this whole event? Of course not. But did it have even a passive role in fostering a culture of violence in our society? Yes, it did. Did an advertisement of a senatorial candidate shooting a congressional bill cause this event? No. But, likewise, did it have a role in fostering this culture of violence? Yes. Neither side – Democrat or Republican – is without blame.
We must learn that this country needs to reflect on itself. While we live to stay true to the fundamental tenants that make this country great – liberty, prosperity, and justice for all – we should not be above looking at new ways to further improve the lives of each and every American citizen. And with this may come some unfortunate truths. Yes, we have the right to freedom of speech. But what are our responsibilities in having this right? Yes, we have the right to bear arms. But has the accessibility of guns gone too far? Some of these messages will not sit well with pockets of America, but in the coming days I would implore you to sit and reflect on how this country might continue to be improved.
Because we do not live in a perfect country. To evoke our forefathers, as well as the sitting president, we are always striving to “form a more perfect union” as that great document so nobly and modestly states. Neither those that came before or, nor those that will come after us, will form the perfect union. But we can all continue to work and toil and persevere to “form a more perfect union” with our fellow citizens no matter what their political affiliation.
The final thing we must learn is that the course we are on cannot sustain us. The culture of violence in this country has been unchecked for too long and has entered into all our lives. There is something wrong when a person with a political grievance believes that taking a gun to their local congresswoman and the surrounding supporters is a justifiable course of action. It may turn out that this man is mentally unbalanced and deranged. But are we prepared to wait until the messages and the ideas and the culture brings a person who is not unbalanced and is not deranged to perform the same act before we take action ourselves?
A day ago, a 14-year-old boy was shot dead in New York. Ten minutes prior, a man in his 20’s was shot in the head and killed. Roughly three hours before that, a 25-year-old man was shot dead. Within four hours, three men with their lives ahead of them were shot and killed within an area the same size a Tuscon. This was missing from the news, along with the hundreds of other shooting death that will occur this week. This is the culture of violence that we – politicians, the media, and wider American culture – has allowed to fester without check. This cannot sustain us.
When will we move to take action? When the tragedy touches us directly? When we are the ones laying flowers? When we speak from the pews? When we have the same loss and suffering in our heart that those poor families in Tuscon have right now? We must learn that something needs to change in this country. And we must ask ourselves how we can enact that change.
Over the coming weeks, I will be actively working with my colleagues in the state and the country over to assess what we can do to help America at this time of need. We will look at the help we can provide the families who have been affected by these events, the support we can provide Tuscon and Arizona, and the legislation we can build to benefit all Americans.
I, along with my colleagues, will return to our jobs, return to our districts, and return to our public lives to show you that we must not give in to the fear and the terror that accompanies events like this. For if we do, then they have succeeded in doing more harm to this country than we should allow. I will return to my offices tomorrow. I will return to my state in the coming days. And I will return to serving the good people who I represent in the best possible way I can.
You will notice a change in my rhetoric from here on. I implore my colleagues, the commentators on the side, and the pundits on the airwaves to do the same. They must first realise that without a change at the start of the line, we cannot possibly hope to effect change down the line. Throwing hateful and caustic rhetoric over the wounds that this event has opened on this country is a far cry from the healing that we need to go through. To politicise this event would be as disgusting as the event itself. A national silence needs to come down on the vitriol and the violence that accompanies news reports and punditry. Only then can we assess the way to move forward.
As I said, we – the politicians – and you – the media – must be the first to act.
To finish up, I would like to promise the citizens of this country that an event like this will never happen again, but I cannot. This country is not yet at a place where unnecessary and brutal violence is disappeared.
But the American resolve that has taken us through wars, through acts of terrorism, and the hardest of times is stronger now than ever before. The resolve to learn from this tragic event should fill every American’s mind. The resolve to form a more perfect union should inspire every American to good and true and proper action. And the resolve to treat your fellow citizen with the respect and love and kindness that you yourself deserve – no matter what their race, their age, their religion, their political beliefs – should fill each and every American’s heart. Because that’s the way forward for us all.
The way towards progress.
The way towards a more perfect union.
And the way towards the America we all dream about.
I would once again like to reiterate my condolences for those affected by this tragedy. I pay my respects to those victims and wish a healthy and speedy recovery for those that have survived.
– Delivered by: Any United States politician