As President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush united to pay tribute to the five police officers slain in Dallas last week, the POTUS encouraged Americans to rise above, reject despair and find common ground.
"We turn on the TV or surf the Internet and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn and people retreat to their respective corners," Obama said at the Morton Meyerson Symphony Center Tuesday, according to ABC News. "Politicians calculate how to grab attention or avoid the fallout. We see all this, and it's hard not to think sometimes that the center won't hold. And that things might get worse. I understand. I understand how Americans are feeling. 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," he continued. "And I know that because I know America. I know how far we've come against impossible odds. I know we'll make it because of what I've experienced in my own life. What I've seen of this country and its people, their goodness and decency, as president of the United States."
The officers were killed during a peaceful protest against police brutality in Dallas Thursday night, following the fatal shootings of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana by police. The police killings marked the single deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since September 11, 2001.
"When all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act? We cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protests as troublemakers or paranoid," Obama continued. "You can't simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism. To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority, dismissed perhaps even by your white friends and co-workers and fellow church members, again and again and again? It hurts. Surely, we can see that. All of us."
Bush also addressed the crowd, saying, "These slain officers were the best among us. Most of us imagine that if the moment called for it, we would risk our lives to protect a spouse or a child. Those wearing the uniform assume that risk for the safety of strangers." He continued, adding, "We judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions, and also addressed the need for unity.