John's Notebook: The Chorus that Stepped Up

Notebook: Speaking up

In the modern presidency, the Chief Executive is expected to respond to anxious national moments with words that stabilize the country. President Trump chose a different route. He did not give a stirring speech of unity or create a national gathering point around common ideals. He spent his passion on other things.

This created an opportunity for others:

For clarity about hate, there was a stampede. Four previous presidents spoke out against bigotry and racism. Five of the seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was succinct: "good people", he said, don't march with neo-Nazis.

There was also grace. From Mark Heyer, the father of victim Heather Heyer:

"People need to stop hating, and they need to forgive each other, you know," Mark Heyer, the father of victim Heather Heyer, said. "And I include myself in that -- in forgiving the guy that did this, okay?  He don't know no better."

Followed by Susan Bro, Heather Heyer's mother, who, without speechwriters or experience, found the words to testify to the meaning of her daughter's life and build a monument to it.

"And I want you to pay attention, find what's wrong, don't ignore it, don't look the other way,you make a point to look at it, and say to yourself, what can I do to make a difference?  And that's how you're going to make my child's death worthwhile," said Bro. 

Social media, which can feel poisonous, lit up with clips of that speech and then later images of the candlelight vigil held at the University of Virginia.

It was a collective groundswell from the public to put itself back in touch with the national values of equality and humanity. In the absence of one voice, there was a chorus.

Back in a moment.