President Obama exhorted Americans to refrain from partisan bickering and urged the country to embrace the idealistic vision of democracy held by 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, the youngest Arizona shooting victim and an aspiring politician who is set to be buried Thursday in the first of half-a-dozen funerals.
Speaking to an arena audience of about 14,000 and even more in a nearby football stadium and at homes across the country, Obama drew on themes of unity, patriotism and heroism as he tried to help the nation make sense of a tragedy that unfolded as citizens were exercising their most basic of rights, meeting with their congresswoman.
Christina and five others were killed and 13 injured Saturday in a shooting rampage as a crowd waited to meet Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and left gravely wounded. Obama revealed during his speech that she had opened her eyes for the first time shortly after he visited her bedside.
Obama focused on memories of the victims and the heroism of those who sprang to their aid after the gunfire. He steered clear of the political tit-for-tat that has consumed much of the dialogue since the massacre while acknowledging the "sharp polarization" that has gripped the country.
He reminded the audience that the third-grader's neighbor had brought Christina, a Little League player and newly elected student council member, to meet Giffords because of her budding interest in democracy.