|The President and Vice-President leave flowers at a memorial to the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando.|
The President and Vice-President visited Orlando today to meet with survivors and families of the dead. Here is an excerpt from the speech President Obama gave before returning to Washington:
Here in Orlando, we are reminded not only of our obligations as a country to be resolute against terrorists, we are reminded not only of the need for us to implement smarter policies to prevent mass shootings, we're also reminded of what unites us as Americans, and that what unites us is far stronger than the hate and the terror of those who target us.
For so many people here who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, the Pulse Nightclub has always been a safe haven, a place to sing and dance, and most importantly, to be who you truly are -- including for so many people whose families are originally from Puerto Rico. Sunday morning, that sanctuary was violated in the worst way imaginable. So whatever the motivations of the killer, whatever influences led him down the path of violence and terror, whatever propaganda he was consuming from ISIL and al Qaeda, this was an act of terrorism but it was also an act of hate. This was an attack on the LGBT community. Americans were targeted because we’re a country that has learned to welcome everyone, no matter who you are or who you love. And hatred towards people because of sexual orientation, regardless of where it comes from, is a betrayal of what’s best in us.
Joe and I were talking on the way over here -- you can't make up the world into “us” and “them,” and denigrate and express hatred towards groups because of the color of their skin, or their faith, or their sexual orientation, and not feed something very dangerous in this world.
So if there was ever a moment for all of us to reflect and reaffirm our most basic beliefs that everybody counts and everybody has dignity, now is the time. It's a good time for all of us to reflect on how we treat each other, and to insist on respect and equality for every human being.
We have to end discrimination and violence against our brothers and sisters who are in the LGBT community -- here at home and around the world, especially in countries where they are routinely persecuted. We have to challenge the oppression of women, wherever it occurs -- here or overseas. There’s only “us” -- Americans.
Here in Orlando, in the men and women taken from us, those who loved them, we see some of the true character of this country -- the best of humanity coming roaring back; the love and the compassion and the fierce resolve that will carry us through not just through this atrocity, but through whatever difficult times may confront us.
It’s our pluralism and our respect for each other -- including a young man who said to a friend, he was “super proud” to be Latino. It’s our love of country -- the patriotism of an Army reservist who was known as “an amazing officer.” It’s our unity -- the outpouring of love that so many across our country have shown to our fellow Americans who are LGBT, a display of solidarity that might have been unimaginable even a few years ago.
Full text here.