The New York Times full text
It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time
this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is
different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe
in the 2nd Amendment – have come together around commonsense reform –
like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get
their hands on a gun. Senators of both parties are working together on
tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to
criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and
massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of
Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote
no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in
the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays,
graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a
bullet from a gun.
One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15
years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette.
She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best
friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her
classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week
later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a
mile away from my house.
Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with
more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun
violence. They deserve a vote.
Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.
The families of Newtown deserve a vote.
The families of Aurora deserve a vote.
The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless
other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple
Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this
country. Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will
perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were
never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference
we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, and uphold our
ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary
work of self-government.
We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they
look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare,
all across this country. We should follow their example.
We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu
Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, her
thoughts were not with how her own home was faring – they were with the
twenty precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised
that kept them all safe.
We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline
Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to
vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with
her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to
have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in
support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in
cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”
We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy.
When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and Brian was
the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back
until help arrived, and ordered his fellow officers to protect the
safety of the Americans worshiping inside – even as he lay bleeding from
twelve bullet wounds.
When asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.”
That’s just the way we’re made.
We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold
different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all
share the same proud title:
We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality
or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we
believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when
we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations;
that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well
into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as
citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great
chapter in our American story.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.