When I saw the headline, “President Obama cried in public today. That’s a good thing,” in “The Washington Post” last week, I was instantly intrigued by the President’s unexpected outburst of emotion. I immediately looked up the video on my phone and watched the President, overcome with grief, utter, “These were first graders,” in regard to the lost lives at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. I had never felt a strong connection to events relating to gun violence, but somehow, as I saw tears well up in his eyes, my eyes began to water as well. I found myself thinking about my beloved brother Ryan, who is the same age as the victims were at the time. My heart filled with emotion, and I developed a passion to stop such mass shootings.
Last week, Jack Twomey ’17 argued that the media’s decision to publicize Obama’s tears detracted from his speech against gun violence. Insisting that it removed urgency and diminished a major political moment, Twomey urged the media to stop sensationalizing and depicting the tears of public figures as signs of weakness. The President’s teary speech, however, made me far more passionate about the issue of mass shootings and lenient gun violence restrictions.
In fact, the President crying allowed my friends and me to connect to the critical and ongoing issue of gun violence. During meals, my classmates and I reflected on President Obama’s speech and the frequent shootings that have plagued the country for years. There was a general consensus that, before this January, we felt almost powerless when it came to fighting for stricter gun regulation. It felt as if there was nothing we, as students, could do about it. The way these news articles were written made this major issue seem almost dead.
One of my classmates, however, said watching the President cry awakened him from the dull and distant perspective he had taken on this issue. He stated that he had almost become bored of documentary-like news articles. He was tired of reading about casualties and impending laws for stricter gun regulations. But now, everything seemed so much closer to him.
Suddenly, waiting for gun law reform no longer felt acceptable. And for the first time, we were spurred to action. We knew most students were aware of the mass shootings that have been taking place throughout the country, so rather than spread awareness, we wanted to spread the emotion and general urgency we felt about this issue.
We focused on finding the stories of victims of recent shootings. They weren’t mere casualties and numbers but real people whom we could relate to and ultimately support. Reading about families, lovers, teachers and children, whose lives were taken away, deeply moved us. We discussed gun control after reading these stories. I tried not to hold back my emotions and finally shared about how I worry for my family and friends. I admitted that the world felt dangerous and that we had to act. I finally meant what I said when I called for a response against these shootings.
I learned something from my discussions with my peers. I discovered that in order to truly deliver a call for help, it was necessary to relate to and impassion the audience. I desire sometime in the future to make a public speech in front of the school. I want to fully express myself on stage without being shy or embarrassed, just as President Obama did in front of the entire nation that day.
Crying is neither a digression nor a sign of weakness but a long-needed call-to-action directed at the public. The sensationalism of Obama crying could actually help promote the President’s main message – to place a greater focus on the impending issue and danger of gun violence.