Political beliefs were put on pause Tuesday afternoon as our nation’s most powerful leaders traveled to Texas for the memorial of the five Dallas police officers shot dead last week by a lone gunman.
“Today the nation grieves,” former President George W. Bush told the crowd, “but for those of us who call Dallas home have had five deaths in the family.”
Bush along with President Barack Obama spoke during Tuesday’s memorial. Both agreed that Thursday’s attack was a hate crime and encouraged Americans to join forces with law enforcement rather than work against them.
“At times it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together,” Bush said. “Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates too quickly into dehumanization. Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”
Obama, Bush and local leaders praised the Dallas police officers and law enforcement across the country for risking their lives to protect Americans every day.
“And despite the fact that police conduct was the subject of the protest. Despite the fact that there must have been signs or slogans or chants with which they profoundly disagreed,” Obama said. “These men and this department did their jobs like the professionals that they were.”
The five officers — Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens — were killed on Thursday by a lone sniper during a street protest against police violence. The attack comes in the midst of heavy tensions between African Americans and law enforcement across the country.
“I know Americans are struggling right now with what we have witnessed in the past week,” Obama said. “But Dallas I’m here to say, we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem.”
Obama spent a majority of his time talking about the relationship between law enforcement and African Americans, admitting that racism does exist in our country.
“We know bias remains,” Obama said. “Whether you are black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or of Middle Eastern descent, we have all seen this bigotry in our own lives at some point.”
Obama said in order to stop these attacks from happening again Americans need to start by being honest and working together.
“I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving equal respect, all children of God,” Obama said. “That’s the America I know.”
Also in attendance on Tuesday was Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
Governor Greg Abbott was not able to make the memorial service in Dallas. According to his office, Abbott spent the day at a hospital in San Antonio for treatment of severe burns on his legs.