Obama to Be Consoler-in-Chief at Tucson Memorial

Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2011, 5:43 am  – By: Ben Feller,  AP White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Searching for unity out of tragedy, President Barack Obama will honor the victims of the Arizona mass shooting in personal terms and remind those in grief that an entire nation is with them. The president is again stepping into his role as national consoler, a test of leadership that comes with the job.

His mission at Wednesday’s memorial is to uplift and rally, not to examine political incivility.

Set to speak during an evening gathering in Tucson, Ariz., Obama will remember the six people killed in a point-blank assassination attempt against a congresswoman who had been meeting with constituents outside a grocery store. Remarkably, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is showing greater signs of recovery — including breathing on her own — just three days after a bullet shot through her brain.

The shootings have consumed national attention since the weekend. In total, 14 people were wounded.

Obama was crafting his speech Tuesday, and his aides were reluctant to discuss it even broadly in its unfinished form, other than to say it would emphasize the memories of those lost. Still, Obama’s comments since the shooting Saturday and his experience dealing with other tragedies offer guidance.

His main mission will be to honor those who were killed by describing them in personal terms, so the country remembers how they lived, not how they died.

He will seek to assure families in grief that the whole country is behind them.

And to those grasping for answers, Obama will probably explore how “we can come together as a stronger nation” in the aftermath of the tragedy, as he put it earlier this week.

What the speech is not likely to be: an examination of divisive partisan rhetoric or whether it is connected in any way to the rampage. Those matters have soared to the forefront of media debate. But while addressing a grieving community, Obama is expected to focus on a memorial, not a commentary on politics.