President Obama asked the nation to confront its deep divide on race at amemorial service Tuesday for the five police officers slain in a racially motivated sniper attack.
“I know that because I know America. I know how far we have come against impossible odds,”
Obama said in a speech at a packed Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.
“I know we’ll make it because of what I’ve experienced in my own life,”
Obama added to an audience of mourners that included first ladyMichelle Obama, Vice President Biden, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush.
Obama urged Americans to reject the notion that the violence that swept the country last week shows it is hopelessly divided.
More pointedly, he asked the nation to confront bigotry, which the nation’s first black president said remained pervasive throughout the country.
While race relations “have improved dramatically in my lifetime” and “those who deny it are dishonoring the struggles that helped us achieve that progress,” Obama said “we know that bias remains.”
“None of us is entirely innocent,” he said to an audience filled with uniformed law enforcement officers donned in shawls to memorialize fallen colleagues.
“No institution is entirely immune. Including our police departments.“Even those who dislike the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter,’ surely we should be able to feel the pain of Alton Sterling’s family,” Obama said, referring to the victim of a police-involved shooting in Baton Rouge, La.
“We cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protests as troublemakers,” he said. “We can’t simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism.”
Some of the president’s comments received just a smattering of applause from the crowd at the memorial.
But Obama earned a thunderous ovation when he said, as a country, “We ask the police to do too much, and we ask too little of ourselves.”
He lamented the lack of investment in inner-city schools and an absence of good mentoring at home. All of those problems, Obama said, contribute to the cycle of violence.