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Obama's Tucson speech: Inspirational, but tone surprised some

By Kristi Keck, CNN
President Obama pays tribute to the shooting victims at a memorial service Wednesday.
President Obama pays tribute to the shooting victims at a memorial service Wednesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama addressed thousands at a memorial service for victims of Arizona shooting
  • CNN readers surprised by "pep rally" atmosphere but moved by speech
  • SDCAgirl attributes cheering to "14,000 college students who didn't know better"
  • Commenter says it is shortsighted to judge how others express emotions.

(CNN) -- President Obama's speech at the memorial service for the victims of the weekend shooting in Arizona was positively received by many CNN commenters, although there was a strong debate over whether the atmosphere was appropriate.

In an address lasting more than 30 minutes, Obama paid tribute to those who lost their lives and encouraged Americans "to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together."

The president spoke Wednesday night at the University of Arizona's McKale Memorial Center, which the school said held just under 14,000 people, with an overflow crowd of 13,000 in the school's football stadium.

The crowded erupted into applause and rose to its feet during the service.

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"I'm no fan of President Obama but loved his speech. In fact, it's the first one I've ever liked. Like others, I was a bit taken aback at the cheering," commenter Dexterdoggy said.

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Seansteezy2, who attended the event, said Obama's speech was exactly what the city of Tucson needed.

"We needed hope, we needed to be told that there is hope for bipartisanship, for people to talk with a way that 'heals, not wounds,' " the commenter said, quoting Obama.

Obama in Tucson: Unity over angry rhetoric

PanteraX9 agreed, calling it "nothing short of amazing."

"President Obama's tone was perfect: somber, yet inspirational and motivating. In my opinion, it was very clever of him to fuel the memorial service with a mild energy for those hoping for brighter days in the future. ... Whatever tragedies may befall us as a nation, we can get right back up and power through to the future."

SDCAgirl said she found the "pep rally cheering" out of place but "chalked it up to 14,000 college students who didn't know better."

A commenter identified as guest said the atmosphere was "entirely inappropriate," but Hockeyike27 responded, "When I die I would hope all the people that come to my memorial service would cheer and celebrate my life."

Obama's remarks came four days after a gunman opened fire at a political event outside a supermarket in Tucson. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition after being shot in the head. The shooting left six dead, including a federal judge and 9-year-old Christina Green.

Memorial to honor youngest victim of Arizona mass shootings

Commenter Dredd57 accused the president of being there only for political reasons.

"He did not 'know' any of these people, with the exception of maybe Giffords. To get up there and speak as if they were your closest friends, well thats just sickening," the reader said.

Glenn126 also thought the president "had no connection to the people he was talking about."

"The president said the right words, but I thought he was stiff and sterile for the most part," the reader said.

Scarletta22 appreciated that the president was able to speak about the victims on a personal level:

"Call it what you like ... Pep Rally works for me with President Obama making me cry, smile and get to know who the victims were. He paid respect to the families & heroes and asked for future unity."

Following Obama's speech, Democratic strategist Paul Begala noted how long he talked.

"It was an extraordinarily long speech for these sorts of situations. Ronald Reagan's Challenger speech was four and a half minutes. Bill Clinton's speech in Oklahoma was nine minutes. This was over 30," he said.

Gergen: Did Obama rise to the moment?

Reader Chimchimchim commented that the speech was too long to watch all of it:

"It felt too scripted and wooden. The feelings were in there but one had to wade through too much oratorical posturing. What Obama had to say shouldn't have been double the combined Reagan & Clinton speeches at other memorials. Obama still has a lot to learn when it comes to humility and ego."

But Classyferret said Obama's speech "will go down as one of the best in history."

UrthraFrnkln pointed out that people grieve, mourn and celebrate in different ways and said it's shortsighted to judge how others express emotions.

"I think it's clear that, in the interest of self-preservation and internal harmony, people will see what they want to see. Obama haters see political opportunism, and Obama lovers see a savior coming to rescue his people. Chances are reality falls somewhere in the middle."

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