In an event titled "Together we thrive - Tucson and America", the University of Arizona brought together 26,000 students and people of Tucson to celebrate the lives and memories of the fallen, the injured, the heroes and the hopes for a better world.
America was long overdue in learning the true story of the people of Arizona and while this event shined a little light on the rich cultural history and diversity of the state, we have a long ways to go to understand fully the riches we have gained from the cultural diversity and ancient history of this sacred state.
Over 14,000 people jammed into the University of Arizona basketball stadium and another 12,000 were out in the cold in the football stadium to help the people of Tucson overcome this tragedy. The program prepared by the University and students showed a side of America not often seen in the national news.
From the opening Blessing Way ceremony by a Yaqui Indian, a person half Mexican and half Indian who attended the University and now teaches at the University, we were exposed to the mystery, magic and mysticism of the ancient ways.
Those who understand the Native American culture could appreciate what was said and done. From calling on the Creator, God, to Mother Earth, the Holy Mother Mary, the parallels between the ancient Indian cultures to Christianity should have been obvious. Unfortunately, too many Americans still believe the old stereotype that Indians were pagans when the truth is far different.
But the students of the University know different. When I attended that University I had classmates, fraternity brothers and best friends who were Native Americans and Hispanic, long before the days of racial tolerance and cultural diversity.
My Navajo brothers took me to the high desert of Northern Arizona to introduce me to the most mysterious and sacred Indian nation on Earth, the Hopi nation, where the People of Peace and Children of God have spent thousands of years seeking to live in harmony with all peoples. Critics who question whether it was appropriate for a Native American to perform the Blessing Way ceremony should try to understand the incredible message in such ceremonies rather than question the appropriateness of the message.
As for the ceremony itself, Native Americans have long celebrated the life of those lost rather than the death of those lost and it is this belief that was represented by the pep rally type atmosphere that was most apparent in Tucson. In truth, our Native Americans seem to better understand the world of God, the soul and the spirits of Heaven than the Christians who condemned them as pagans over the centuries.
It was unnerving to many eastern commentators to hear the cheers and joy expressed by the crowd at the mention of the victims and families but these victims killed and wounded were their classmates, former students at the University, and friends and family of students. There were 26,000 people sharing the grief and lifting the hopes of those victims of this terrible tragedy.
President Obama grew up last night when he stepped to the podium. At first taken aback by this unusual memorial reaction by the crowd, his message was what needed to be heard and was cheered by the crowd. As he warmed to the audience, they warmed to him and he became the spiritual leader of the people not the partisan politician of the past two years.
No longer the pit bull of the Democratic party, he was the healer of a nation joining the students in one of the most emotionally uplifting moments in modern times. His reception was not an endorsement of his too liberal platform, but a demonstration that there are times and places for politics, and this was not one of them. That is the mark of a leader.
When Obama talked about the hopes and dreams of Christina Taylor Greene for the first time he addressed the nation as a father and parent, not a politician. It demonstrated a humility not often seen in our political president.
"The hopes of the nation are here tonight," Obama said to a tearful Tucson crowd, and "we join you in your grief." Who could fail to be moved when he called on us to live up to the expectations of Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and died Saturday in Tucson?
Obama gave the perfect address to a nation whose grief needed to transcend to a celebration of the lives of the fallen and the University of Arizona gave him the opportunity to help with the transition. I was proud of my University, the students, and the people of Tucson for showing us that grief in and of itself may help the living but by celebrating their lives truly honors the victims.
Let us hope we all take note of the long needed change. I have included a video thanks to C-Span of the entire ceremony so those of you who missed it can see for yourself how grief needs to be handled to bring resolution. C-Span does not interrupt the ceremony for senseless cable news commentary. Please double click on the video for full size. It is well worth taking time to watch.
May God Bless Tucson and God Bless America for helping us through this difficult time.