US President Barack Obama heads to Dallas on Tuesday to offer comfort to relatives of the five police officers slain in a sniper ambush — and to try to unify a nation struggling to process a raw week of deadly violence and racial tensions.
For Obama, his speech at an interfaith memorial service in the sprawling Texas city — with Vice President Joe Biden and former president George W. Bush at his side — will serve as a monumental leadership test as his presidency winds down.
Eight years ago, Obama’s charisma and ability to inspire propelled him to office as America’s first black president, and raised hopes that the country would overcome some of its deeply entrenched societal divides.
Even on Saturday, as the country reeled from the Dallas sniper attack targeting police, Obama — who cut short a trip to Europe so he could head to Texas — sounded a note of optimism.
“I firmly believe that America is not as divided as some have suggested,” he told a news conference at a NATO summit in Warsaw.
“There is sorrow, there is anger, there is confusion… but there is unity.”
Soaring words no longer seem enough.
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America is all too familiar with armed violence, but the country now finds itself on a new precipice.
From Charleston to Orlando to Dallas, the past year has seen a torrent of slaughter motivated by hate.
The massacres have brought a measure of common revulsion, but not a common purpose, as gun control legislation has remained elusive on Capitol Hill.
“The president recognizes that it’s not just people in Dallas who are grieving — it’s people all across the country who are concerned about the violence that so many Americans have witnessed in the last week or so,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday.
“The president is hoping to offer some measure of comfort tomorrow.”