President Barack Obama: "Gabby Opened Her Eyes for the First Time"

At a memorial service held for those killed and wounded in Saturday's shooting rampage in Tucson, President Barack Obama offered the most encouraging update yet about the condition of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords since she survived being senselessly shot in the head four days ago.

"I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here -- where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. And I wanna tell ya...Gabby opened her eyes for the first time. Gabby opened her eyes for the first time," the president told a crowd of more than 14,000 gathered inside the University of Arizona's McKale Memorial Center.

Obama was amongst several representatives of the federal government in Arizona today to honor those killed and injured in the massacre.

The president arrived in Tucson aboard Air Force One with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, and several members of Arizona's Congressional delegation, about 3:30 p.m.

The president's first stop was at University Medical Center, where Giffords is recovering from injuries she sustained when suspect Jared Loughner allegedly opened fire on a crowd of innocent people gathered at a grocery store to meet the congresswoman.

The next stop for the president was the memorial service, where he, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Napolitano, Holder, and others spoke.

"I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today," the president told the crowd, "and [I] will stand by you tomorrow."

The president offered his condolences to those killed in the tragedy, including 9-year-old Christina Green and Federal Judge John Roll.

"There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts, but know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight," the president says.

Obama describes Giffords' "Congress on the Corner" event as "just an updated version of a government of, and by, and for the people."

The president echoed some of the controversial things Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has been saying about the discourse of the dialogue occurring in the American political conversation. However, unlike Dupnik, Obama didn't attribute that dialogue to fueling the cause (Loughner) of the senseless tragedy.

"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it's important for us to pause for a moment to make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds," Obama says.

As for Jared Lee Loughner, the president says, "we may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that's entirely up to us. And I believe that for all our imperfections we are full of decency and goodness and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."

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James King
Contact: James King

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