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President Barack Obama and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) departed from the partisan messages usually delivered in weekly radio addresses, focusing instead on calls for unity and the healing process underway following the shooting tragedy in Tucson, Ariz., one week ago.
"We properly spent much of the week mourning the victims and remembering their lives," Obama said in opening his remarks on Saturday. "We also discovered stories that serve to lift us up – stories of heroism and bravery, of courage and community – stories that remind us that we are one American family, 300 million strong."
Obama noted the tributes to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on the House floor Wednesday came from Members from all parts of the country and from both sides of the political divide. Giffords, the intended target of an alleged assassin, remains hospitalized after being shot in the head.
"As shrill and discordant as our politics can be at times, it was a moment that reminded us of who we really are – and how much we depend on one another," he said.
Flake, delivering the weekly GOP response, focused almost entirely on the incident and remembering the victims and heros involved. He did not mention partisanship or politics but said that Members will not be deterred from doing their job.
"While we may not agree on everything, members of Congress are bound together by a sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution. As Speaker [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] has said, an attack on one of us is an attack on all who serve — an attack on representative democracy itself," Flake said. "And so it is our duty to uphold our oath, to listen and to represent. We will not let this inhumane act cow us into doing otherwise."
Obama also used his address to begin to turn the conversation to contentious issues that lie ahead for Congress. Specifically, he mentioned jobs and the economy, the budget and bringing down deficits. The House is expected to return to legislative business next week and vote on a measure to repeal the health care bill that is Obama's signature legislative accomplishment.
"So as business resumes, I look forward to working together in that same spirit of common cause with members of Congress from both parties — because before we are Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans," he said.