Sunday, April 25, 2010

Obama at Upper Big Branch memorial service

On Sunday, President Barak Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attended the memorial service for the 29 victims of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster earlier this month. Here's an excerpt from his eulogy, as printed in the New York Times.
How can we fail them? How can a nation that relies on its miners not do everything in its power to protect them? How can we let anyone in this country put their lives at risk by simply showing up to work? By simply pursuing the American dream?

We cannot bring back the 29 men we lost. They are with the Lord now. Our task, here on Earth, is to save lives from being lost in another such tragedy. To do what we must do, individually and collectively, to assure safe conditions underground. To treat our miners like they treat each other — like a family. Because we are all family and we are all Americans and we have to lean on one another.

Elsewhere in his story, journalist Peter Baker noted Obama's uneasy relationship with West Virginians, where he lost in both the Democratic primary and in the general election in 2008.

It is a place that views his environmental agenda with suspicion for the damage it fears could be done to industry and livelihoods.

But for this day, at least, he was their president and their chief comforter, and they greeted him with loud applause and cheers. He met first behind closed doors with the families of the 29 fallen miners before the service started, making his way from one folding table to another across a low-ceilinged room amid a cacophony of wrenching sobbing by the relatives. “It was like 29 funerals in one small church basement,” Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, said afterward.

Obama is often touted as a metrocentric and particularly cosmopolitan president, which makes me especially glad that he appeared at this event and evinced a common touch.

Baker's report is also worth a read for its several rich descriptions of rural community.

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