- Purchase/rental options available:
During his first term as president, Barack Obama delivered four national eulogies at the sites of gun violence tragedies, two of which garnered considerable national attention: one delivered in Tucson, Arizona on January 12, 2011 (following the attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and an assembled crowd), and another in Newtown, Connecticut on December 16, 2012 (following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School). The deaths of innocents, the result of a host of causes, required the president to face the issue of gun violence, help the nation work through the trauma, and create the conditions of civility necessary for policy action. At Tucson, Obama drew from the book of Job to explain that the evil in Tucson happened “for reasons that defy human understanding.” In his Newtown address, Obama replaced the more fatalistic theology of his Tucson memorial with a spirit of perseverance and renewal rooted in 2 Corinthians. In this essay, I suggest that Obama’s eulogy at Newtown serves as a counterpart to the call Obama advanced in the Tucson address. I argue that, though the messages embedded in the Tucson speech serve as a legitimate theological and epistemological check on the presumptions of reason, the Newtown address better met the aspirations of civility because it led to a consideration of policies designed to reduce gun violence.