President Barack Obama delivers remarks during an interfaith memorial service honoring five slain police officers at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas on July 12, 2016. A sniper opened fire following a Black Lives Matter march in Dallas, killing five police officers and injuring several others.
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Speaking at a memorial for five police officers killed in the Dallas shooting, President Barack Obama called upon the nation to "reject [the] despair" that may be felt as a result of the recent bouts of violence seen across the country, and carve a way forward.

"All of it left us wounded and angry. And hurt. The deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, perhaps even widened," Obama said at the service.


"It's hard not to think sometimes that the center won't hold and things might get worse," he acknowledged. "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. I know that because I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds."

Obama denounced the Dallas attack as "an act not just of demented violence but of racial hatred."


"Faced with this violence, we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be breached. We wonder if an African-American community that feels unfairly targeted by police, and police departments that feel unfairly maligned for doing their jobs, can ever understand each other's experience," he continued.

However, Obama used the same tragedy to underline the unity of the nation.

"Everyone was helping each other," he said. "It wasn't about black or white; everyone was picking each other up and moving them away. That's the America I know.


"Now, I'm not naive. I have spoken at too many memorials during the course of this presidency. I have hugged too many families who have lost a loved one to senseless violence. And I have seen how a spirit of unity from a tragedy can dissipate," the president continued. "Overtaken by the return of business as usual, by inertia, old habits and expediency. I see how easily we slip back into our old notions because they are comfortable, we are used to them. I have seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change. I have seen how inadequate my own words have been."

The president urged the nation to act on "the truth that we know," despite the discomfort such conversation may cause.


"We know the overwhelming majority of police officers do an incredibly hard and dangerous job fairly and professionally. They are deserving of our respect and not our scorn. And when anyone, no matter how good their intentions may be, paints all police as biased or bigots, we undermine those officers we depend on for our safety," the president said. "And as for those who use rhetoric suggesting harm to police, even if they don't act on it themselves, well, they not only make the jobs of police officers even more dangerous, they do a disservice to the very cause of justice that they claim to promote."

Speaking out on behalf of activists, the president also spoke out against those who may brush off the racial disparities many face in this country, underlining the fact that racial issues did not disappear when civil rights laws were put in place.


"If we're honest, perhaps we've heard prejudice in our own heads and felt it in our own hearts. We know that. … Although most of us do our best to guard against it and teach our children better, none of us is entirely innocent, no institution is entirely immune, and that includes our police departments," he said. "So when African Americans from all walks of life from different communities across the country voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment, when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal-justice system differently … we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid.

"We 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, fellow church members, again and again and again, it hurts," Obama added.


Following his remarks, Obama was expected to meet with the families of the officers who were killed and those who were injured in the attack.

While en route to Dallas aboard Air Force One, Obama called the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile to extend his condolences on behalf of himself and the first lady.

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