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“We Have An Obligation To Try.” President Obama

Posted by Peter Post  December 18, 2012 07:00 AM

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"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." Fred Rogers.

When Fred Rogers spoke of helpers, he was speaking of all of us. Being that helper today, now, in this time of tragedy, is one way we can all comfort the people of Newtown, Connecticut and the families that have suffered so much. Many of us aren’t in a position to help directly, but as a society, refocusing on helping each other in any way we can matters.

During his speech on Sunday in Newtown, President Obama addressed the issue of how we can all be helpers. We can help comfort the people of Newtown by the prayers and shared sense of grief that people across the nation and the world feel. “And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown — you are not alone.

While being the helper Mr. Rogers and President Obama spoke of is one step we all can take, what of the longer-term future?

President Obama addressed that as well, saying we as a nation are challenged to try to take steps to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future: “If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.

That challenge is to engage in conversation about what have been difficult issues for us to address in the past, to be willing to listen to all points of view and to find common ground that will help reduce the risk of future Newtowns. That conversation cannot be productive if it is grounded in anger. It can only be productive if it is grounded in the principles that also underlie etiquette–being considerate, respectful, and honest. As President Obama said, surely we have an obligation to try.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."

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