.
.
.
.

Obama tells Dallas memorial US ‘not as divided as we seem’

Obama made a poignant appeal for fellow Americans to rise to the occasion and transform shock and grief into a determination to act

Published: Updated:

United States President Barack Obama insisted on Tuesday that America is not as divided as it seems by race and politics as he eulogized five Dallas police officers slain in an ambush.

“I know that Americans are struggling right now with what we witnessed in the past week,” Obama told a memorial service in the Texas city.

“I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem.”

Obama travelled to Dallas with what has become a depressingly familiar task - consoling a country stunned by gun violence, following Thursday’s sniper-style shooting by a black gunman intent on killing whites.

Obama has insisted since the Dallas carnage - which came during a protest over police brutality towards African Americans, one of many in cities across the nation - that the country is not headed back to the civil strife of the 1960s.

“Today in this audience, I see people who have protested on behalf of criminal justice reform grieving alongside police officers,” Obama said.

“I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family -- all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving of equal respect.”

“Can we do this?” Obama asked. “Can we find the character as Americans to open our hearts to each other?”

Tuesday’s memorial paid a poignant tribute to the fallen officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Smith.

Each one was represented by an empty chair in the auditorium, each adorned with a folded US flag and officer’s cap.

Obama made a poignant appeal for fellow Americans to rise to the occasion and transform shock and grief into a determination to act -- to recognize the dangers inherent to police work on the one hand, and the reality of racial bias on the other.

“I’m not naive,” the president said. “I’ve seen how a spirit of unity born of tragedy can gradually dissipate.”

“If we cannot talk honestly and openly... with those who look different than us, or bring a different perspective, then we will never break this dangerous cycle.”