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December 17, 2012

Obama offers ‘love, prayers of nation’

NORMAN — President speaks at memorial service

NEWTOWN, Conn. — He spoke for a nation in sorrow, but the slaughter of all those little boys and girls left President Barack Obama, like so many others, reaching for words. Alone on a spare stage after the worst single day of his presidency, the commander in chief was a parent in grief.

“I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depth of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts,” Obama said at an evening vigil in the grieving community of Newtown, Conn. “I can only hope that it helps for you to know that you are not alone in your grief.”

The massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday elicited horror around the world, soul-searching in the United States, fresh political debate about gun control and questions about the incomprehensible — what drove the suspect to act.

It also left a newly re-elected president openly grappling for bigger answers. Obama said that in the coming weeks, he would use “whatever power this office holds” to engage with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like Newtown.

“Can say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days,” Obama said, somber and steady as some in the audience wept.

“If we’re honest without ourselves, the answer is no. And we will have to change.”

He promised to lead a national effort, but left unclear was what it would be, and how much it would address the explosive issue of gun control.

“What choice do we have?” Obama said. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”

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