In times of tragedy, all too often fear prevails as hope fades and our hearts drown in sorrow. This is the cyclical trend of hopelessness brought on by our nation's epidemic of senseless gun violence. Each time one life is lost, we as a nation lose a piece of ourselves. That tragic evening a year ago in Charleston at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Church was no different. But instead of sorrow, the community responded to wicked violent murders with “amazing grace” as President Obama said at Rev Clementa Pickney's funeral. Let’s never forget those nine victims who welcomed a stranger into their church with open arms. Let’s never forget their families, resilience, courage, strength, faith, and love – even toward the perpetrator.
Let’s never forget how our American community came together to support our brothers and sisters in Charleston. As a nation, we cried for their suffering, honored their lives, and as President Obama noted, challenged ourselves, even in the midst of our sadness, “To see where we've been blind.” We came together to make clear how the Confederate flag has been a “reminder of systematic oppression and racial subjugation.” We were reminded of how gun violence inflicts a “unique mayhem” on our nation. The tragedy spotlighted how past injustices continue to shape our present actions. And the encouraging call of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to take down the Confederate flag from the state's capitol was part of an incredible moment of national unity.
Now, a year later, the mass shooting in Orlando last Sunday that was also fueled by hate painfully reminds us that our work is far from done.
As the President noted, Reverend Pinckney 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.”
Let's never forget the legacy of those lives lost, those injured, and those affected by this day. Please remember them in our thoughts, our prayers — but also remember them with our actions. We cannot turn away from the fact that the worst mass shooting in our history took place just five days ago or that approximately 30,000 lives each year are cut short by gun violence in this country, and that countless more lives are forever changed through injuries or the loss of a loved one.
The vast majority of Americans and the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. They too feel the fierce urgency of now — understanding that it is not the time to give up the fight to end senseless gun violence.
I still believe that we as a nation can find that amazing grace President Obama spoke about that day to do what we know to be right.