Video | President Obama Speaks At Newtown High School Interfaith Vigil


Transcript of President Obama’s speech at the interfaith vigil in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 16 in honor of the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hill Elementary. Source: White House

Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests — Scripture tells us: “…do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away…inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

We gather here in memory of twenty beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school; in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled our children tight. And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown — you are not alone.

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch, they did not hesitate. Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy — they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances — with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms, and kept steady through it all, and reassured their students by saying “wait for the good guys, they’re coming”; “show me your smile.”

And we know that good guys came. The first responders who raced to the scene, helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety, and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and trauma because they had a job to do, and others needed them more.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren, helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do; one child even trying to encourage a grown-up by saying, “I know karate. So it’s okay. I’ll lead the way out.” (Laughter.)

As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other, and you’ve cared for one another, and you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered. And with time, and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

But we, as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves — our child — is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them. They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments. And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear.

And we know we can’t do this by ourselves. It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself. That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation. And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we’re all parents; that they’re all our children.

This is our first task — caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.

Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting. The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors. The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America — victims whose — much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

All the world’s religions — so many of them represented here today — start with a simple question: Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose? We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will
each have our share of pleasure and pain; that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame, or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will all stumble sometimes, in some way. We will make mistakes, we will experience hardships. And even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have — for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace — that is true. The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger — we know that’s what matters. We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that.

That’s what we can be sure of. And that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us. That’s how you’ve inspired us. You remind us what matters. And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them — for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Charlotte. Daniel. Olivia. Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie. Jack. Noah. Caroline. Jessica. Benjamin. Avielle. Allison.

God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place. May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort. And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America. (Applause.)

This entry was posted in Barack Obama, Current Events, Inspiration, Love, Media, President Obama, Spirituality, Tribute and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Video | President Obama Speaks At Newtown High School Interfaith Vigil

  1. President Barack Obama attends the Sandy Hook interfaith vigil at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Barack Obama attends the Sandy Hook interfaith vigil at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  2. Obama Leaves Note For Newtown Teachers

    Two staff members at Newtown High School in Connecticut were surprised to find a message left for them on a whiteboard on Sunday by President Barack Obama.

    Newtown football coach Steve George and teacher Bob Pattison had left a note to Obama in a classroom that the president was using as a staging area before his speech at a memorial service for the 26 people — 20 of them children — slain during a mass shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. It read:

    Dear President Obama,
    The Newtown community is so thankful that you are coming to help us heal. In times of adversity it is reassuring to know that we have a strong leader to help us recover.

    -Steve George, teacher/football coach
    -Bobby Pattison, teacher

    President Obama's note

    “You’re in our thoughts and prayers,” the note read above Obama’s signature.

  3. Vettte says:

    It looks like the country FINALLY may be poised to act on gun laws and mental health counseling as a result of the 20 babies in CT being murdered by this deranged killer. I hope the POTUS/Congress will act soon. It is my sincere hope that mental health services also be afforded to young AA boys with “guns and issues” and well and that they are not continually demonized, criminalized and sent to jail. The issues surrounding the cycle of poverty cause severe mental problems that should be recognized. Also. will guns truly be retrieved. There are sooo many guns in the hands of crazed people. OR will new laws only apply to young black boys and all others get to keep theirs? I’m just asking!

  4. Obama grieves, promises to use power to help

    NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — He spoke for a nation in sorrow, but the slaughter of all those little boys and girls turned the commander in chief into another parent in grief, searching for answers. Alone on a spare stage after the worst day of his tenure, President Barack Obama declared Sunday he will use “whatever power” he has to prevent shootings like the Connecticut school massacre.

    “What choice do we have?” Obama said at an evening vigil in the shattered community of Newtown, Conn. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

    For Obama, that was an unmistakable sign that he would at least attempt to take on the explosive issue of gun control. He made clear that the deaths compelled the nation to act, and that he was the leader of a nation that was failing to keep its children safe. He spoke of a broader effort, never outlining exactly what he would push for, but outraged by another shooting rampage.

    “Surely we can do better than this,” he said. “We have an obligation to try.”

    The massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday elicited horror around the world, soul-searching in the United States, fresh political debate and questions about the incomprehensible — what drove the 20-year-old suspect to kill his mother and then unleash gunfire on children.

    A total of 6 adults and 20 boys and girls ages 6 and 7 were slaughtered.

    Obama read the names of the adults near the top his remarks. He finished by reading the first names of the kids, slowly, in the most wrenching moment of the night.

    Cries and sobs filled the room.

    “That’s when it really hit home,” said Jose Sabillon, who attended the interfaith memorial with his son, Nick, a fourth-grader who survived the shooting unharmed.

    • vigil2

      A woman covers her face as US President Barack Obama reads out the names of children killed during Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting at a interfaith memorial for victims and relatives at the Newtown High School on December 16, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six people were killed when a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary and began a shooting spree. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGANMANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images Photo: Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images / SF

  5. rikyrah says:

    why nothing from the right-wing on tv since Sandy Hook?

    A comment from TOD:

    149 Bobfr (@Our4thEstate)
    December 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm
    20 white children, in an affluent community, slaughtered by a body armor-wearing white boy using massive tactical weapon fire power, who came from a privileged family and who first killed his gun loving mother with her 10 mm semi-automatic tactical weapon is a big dose of reality even for those grossly deficient, avaricious, narcissistic nuts

  6. Ametia says:

    This is the one issue I’m most passionate about, and my President is HANDLING HIS BUSINESS!

    Thank you, PBO.

  7. President Obama Speaks Interfaith Vigil for Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting Victims Newtown Connecticut

  8. Ametia says:

    How the Right Has Twisted the 2nd Amendment

    The 2nd Amendment was written to ensure security, but isn’t making us any safer.

    December 15, 2012 |

    bear arms.” But, surely, James Madison and the others weren’t envisioning people with modern weapons mowing down children in a movie theater or a shopping mall or now a kindergarten.

    Indeed, when the Second Amendment was passed in the First Congress as part of the Bill of Rights, firearms were single-shot mechanisms that took time to load and reload. It was also clear that Madison and the others viewed the “right to bear arms” in the context of “a well-regulated militia” to defend communities from massacres, not as a means to enable such massacres.

    The Second Amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Thus, the point of the Second Amendment is to ensure “security,” not undermine it.

    The massacre of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, which followed other gun massacres in towns and cities across the country, represents the opposite of “security.” And it is time that Americans of all political persuasions recognize that protecting this kind of mass killing was not what the Founders had in mind.

    The American Right is fond of putting itself inside the minds of America’s Founders and intuiting what was their “original intent” in writing the U.S. Constitution and its early additions, like the Second Amendment’s “right to


  10. Ametia says:

    President Obama: “I’ll use whatever power I have to prevent the type of tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Conn. ”

    Now it’s up to congress to bring forth the legislation for him to inact.

  11. Ametia says:



    Ya’ll know wht to do.

  12. Ametia says:

    Let us use the love of the many that we carry to overcome the fear of the few.

  13. Ametia says:

    President Obama threw down the GAUNTLET. WE must change for our CHILDREN & OURSELVES.

  14. Ametia says:

    Here’s the money quote, for me.


  15. Ametia says:


    “The nation isn’t doing enough to protect children and that “we will have to change.”

  16. It’s hard to keep myself from wailing.

    President Barack Obama: “God has called them all home…make our country worthy of their memory.”

  17. OMG! **tears**

    He called out their sweet names. Little precious babies.

    • Ametia says:


  18. Ametia says:

    3 Chics weeps with you families of the deceased.

  19. President Obama: “We can’t tolerate this any more.”

  20. Ametia says:

    Break it down, Mr. President. No more EXCUSES… Talk is cheap and lies continue killing. here comes. THROW DOWN THE GAUNTLET. We have to change the gun culture. We are not POWERLESS in the face of such carnage. HELL NAW! Contact your local reps and demand they support gun control NOW!

  21. President Obama:These tragedies must end”


    Speak Potus! This stops now!

    • Ametia says:

      He knows who the CULPRITS are; and where the bodies are LITERALLY burried.


  22. President Obama: “Keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together.”

  23. Ametia says:


  24. The Associated Press‏@AP

    BREAKING: Obama offers ‘love and prayers of a nation’ to families of school shooting victims -RJJ

  25. Ametia says:

    the interfaith ceremonies was so very special. We will NOT, must NOT let the GUN CULTURE contine killing and dividing us.

  26. There is audible crying in the auditorium. So sad.

  27. Ametia says:

    One kid said he knew karate, and would help the other kids get out.

  28. Help us Lord…

  29. President Obama: “We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children, and six remarkable adults”

  30. “We will go on. We will find strength.” – Gov Dannel P. Malloy on Connecticut.

  31. Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung's daughter shares a photo of Obama holding Hochsprung's granddaughter

    Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung’s daughter shares a photo of Obama holding Hochsprung’s granddaughter

  32. Ametia says:

    Beautiful, Rabi Shaul chanting was sweet.

  33. Rabbi Shaul is touching my heart.

  34. West Wing Reports‏@WestWingReport

    White House official says President has spent most of his time at Newtown HS privately meeting families of the victims & first responders.

Leave a Reply