We All Have a Role to Play

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush bow their heads during a prayer at the Interfaith Memorial Service for five fallen police officers in Dallas, Texas, July 12, 2016. Dallas Police Chief David Brown is at right. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush bow their heads during a prayer at the Interfaith Memorial Service for five fallen police officers in Dallas, Texas, July 12, 2016. Dallas Police Chief David Brown is at right.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“Scripture tells us that in our sufferings there is glory, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

President Obama, July 12, 2016

I have hope, because in recent days, we have been flooded by requests from Americans asking how they can help and be part of the solution. People want to know what we all can do in our day-to-day lives to take on our challenges and maintain the unity brought by grief. Is there anything more American than that – ordinary citizens from every corner of the country asking what they can do in their community? As the President said yesterday, that’s the America I know – an America that’s never seen a problem it can’t solve. We’re excited to respond, and offer a few ways that we all can get to work building bridges and solving problems.

Earlier today, the President brought together law enforcement officials, civil rights leaders, activists, faith leaders, academics, and state and local elected officials to discuss these challenges and how we can all take steps together to build trust and ensure justice for all Americans.

And on Thursday night, we’ll keep the conversation going about the challenges we face – from racial inequality to how we build trust in our communities. President Obama will host a town hall that will air on ABC, ESPN, and Freeform, and where he’ll hear from officers, parents, students, and families affected by the violence of recent weeks. Participants will raise important questions, search for answers together, and most critically, seek to understand the different realities each of us face. We will all be able to learn a lot from their example.

The conversation and work must continue after the town hall – and there are a number of things that YOU can do to answer the question we’ve heard so often: “How can I help?”  

First, take back to your community a set of common-sense and straightforward steps that you can take, right now, to make a difference. There are some solutions outlined by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. These are central to rebuilding trust in communities and are steps that anyone can take. Discuss them with your family, your community, your police department, and local officials. We can honor the courage of our police officers and see the truth of our criminal justice system’s racial inequities – and these solutions are a critical part of that work. 

Second, become a mentor. Talent is ubiquitous, but opportunity is not. A huge part of our shared work is ensuring that every young person in America knows that as a country, we believe in them. They’re our kids – and their futures are our future. Mentoring can be a life-changing experience – for everyone involved – and we hope you’ll take a look. 

Third, keep the town hall’s conversation going in your community to build bonds with new people, seek out new viewpoints, and share your stories and examples. Get out of your own comfort zone, seek new viewpoints, and as the President has said, “Listen. Engage. If the other side has a point, learn from them.” It’s too easy to be drawn back into our own corners, far away from the challenge of someone else’s reality.

But as the President also said yesterday in Dallas, the work of healing these divisions requires that we open our hearts to each other, and “see in each other a common humanity, a shared dignity, and recognize how our different experiences have shaped us.”

We hope you’ll tune in Thursday evening with an open mind, and bring back ideas to your community. This is going to take all of us.