America's mourner in chief

US President Barack Obama speaks during "Healing Our City: An Interfaith Service" dedicated to those who were gravely wounded or killed in the Boston Marathon bombing, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts, 18 April 2013 "Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act," the president told the people of Boston

It is a grim part of the president's job to be mourner-in-chief, comforter-in-chief.

President Barack Obama did so after the shooting of Gabby Giffords and the murder of six others; he did so after the cinema shooting in Aurora, Colorado; and again after the murders of the children in Newtown.

But this was the first time he has had to speak at such a service after an act of terrorism.

As we don't know who carried out this act, or why, it is not surprising that he had few words for the bomber or bombers themselves. He called them "small stunted individuals" and promised that they would face justice.

Start Quote

In describing his US, he is also spelling out what he thinks it should be”

End Quote

Technically, it wasn't one of his most polished speeches. It had the feeling of a first draft, perhaps a little too heavy with imagery of marathon-running and sunshine. But that is hardly important.

His main purpose was to make America feel good about itself, and to make it see itself as the sort of nation that wouldn't lapse into fear in the face of such an attack.

No hint of being at war or under siege or standing firm in dark times. Instead a stress on Boston's spirit, with a few jokes thrown in, and an insistence that America cannot be, will not, be cowed.

As ever, Mr Obama expressed America's essential nature as a country that comes together, a people who help each other, who are there for each other.

"We know that somewhere around the bend, a stranger has a cup of water, around the bend, somebody is there to boost our spirits," he said.

"On that toughest mile, just when we think that we've hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick us up if we fall."

Something like this is his most common refrain, a very familiar message, that America is about community, a country which looks after its own.

In describing his US, he is also spelling out what he thinks it should be.

But he also knows what he does not wish it to become. The president had to come here, had to help Boston heal, but he does not want the country dwelling and brooding on this one terrible attack.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

Has Libya been let down by the West?

The West has failed to support nation-building in Libya, and we are now seeing the consequences, says Mark Mardell.

Read full article

More on This Story

Boston Bombs


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    And what ethnic group are the suspects in the CCTV shots ? Or do we have to be politically correct on the BBC in case they delete.Weak Presd's attract more attacks than stronger ones who invade terror training camps and use Guantanamo for animals who wish nothing more than to destroy our way of life, which they loathe and despise,even tho many of them are US citizenseducated in West at our expense

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    "America's mourner in chief?" Uhm, okay. It's been a long week. Just curious - I wonder if the editor still writes the headlines. Probably not.

    The suspect pics are good. Someone Has to recognize these guys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


    Did Obama leave the US behind in WHO tables, or was that already the case?

    Congress had to pass health care reform, and at least we now have an insurance industry that will have to spend 85% of its premiums on health care-- sad, but an improvement.

    Appeasing Korea? No.

    W. appeased one vested interest after another at the expense of our nation.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Re. #4 &6:

    "...weakest Pres since Carter" ?


    Remember W.?

    How hard is it to give everyone tax cuts, especially the wealthiest?

    Give a new pharma program to seniors (unpaid for) and prevent gov't from seeking competitive bids from suppliers?

    Witness tragedy, then cluelessly lash out in war wrapped in a flag and talk of Jesus and no bid contracts?

    That's appeasement, not strength.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    17. GoodBeads : That's the title of the article!
    How absurd of you to expect that The President Of the Unites $tates would not represent the people at a memorial for those who have died from a violent attack on U$ soil!
    The FBI have posted pictures of the suspects
    We are all hoping that they will be caught & brought to justice

    How do you feel about that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    16.t All for All : Thank you
    You are a thinker, a little challenged when it comes to expressing your thoughts so some of can understand, but I have always found your expressed thinking to be advanced beyond what some expect from a commenter who is "All for All"
    It actually speaks for itself!
    We should all be looking out for all of those less fortunate, not casting them aside to fend for themselves

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    @11 "He is supposed to be the "Mourner in Chief" "

    The POTUS is the "Mourner in Chief" ?

    How absurd!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Looney Limey @13
    "such an optimist!"

    Some might call your vision 'an appeal to popular desires', perhaps to imply 'an appeal to popular prejudices' (rather than rational argument), even to suggest a calculated self-interested 'subversion of democracy', or a final expression of 'democracy as mob-rule'

    Most will respect the cause of the Equal People, no mere optimism or 'demagoguery'

    Common faith

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    10. margaret howard : You seem to be under the vastly incorrect assumption that people only pray when they are in trouble
    We look to our beliefs for support in times of trial
    we also look to our beliefs in times of great abundance & we give thanks, not for ourselves, but for those less fortunate who are no longer suffering & in need of food, healthcare or a roof over their heads


  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Can any of you imagine what your life would be like if we had a Congress who were determined to do what is best for the people
    We would have jobs galore
    Our Infrastructure would be ready for growth
    Our Teachers would be well trained
    No one would die from lack of access to health care
    No one would go bankrupt keeping a sick child alive
    No bomber would walk on US soil!

    OMG - I'm such an optimist!

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The President of the United States of America is the head of our nation.
    He is supposed to be the "Mourner in Chief"
    He is supposed to voice our concerns and reflect the concerns of the nation he represents to all of the world!
    He reflect our concerns to congress, not that they give a ++++
    Congress represent the Interests of Corporations
    so they can get free advertising to be re-elected!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    3 McJakome

    "I am a strong believer in separation of church and state, but under the circumstances your quibble is mean spirited and would not comfort the people that he must serve"

    What I can never understand is why people flock to their god when a disaster has befallen them. It can't be to thank him for allowing it to happen. So is it, deep down: 'Thanks for sparing me'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Mourning & investigating, not "brooding" on randomness of terror, we should give thought to deficiencies of vision, to the general & specific contexts in which others are made 'random' victims of social exclusion at home, violent entanglements abroad, threats to cultural competence

    Some will say "off topic": but donning blinkers (innocently or not) might be the moral heart of 'the problem'

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Because of course N Korea, Iran etc were polite and respectful when the Republicans were in power. Because Osama so feared the’ strong’ GWB that he carried out 9/11.

    And who was the ‘weak’ President who saw off Osama?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Weak means all he tries to do gets not done or watered down; or he doesn't even try in the first place. I mean that he is an appeaser--a man who cancels a long-scheduled missile test just cos NKorea are being stroppy. No--you don't always need to go to war,John, but neither do you always need to use stirring speeches to say " please talk to us Pyongyang" or "tell your Senator about guns".

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Re 4 - You repeatedly tell us Obama is weak. What should he be doing exactly? Invading Iraq and Afghanistan again like the ‘strong’ GWB? Invading N Korea and Iran? Illegally selling weapons to Iran, like the ‘strong’ Ronnie Reagan?


Page 10 of 11



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.