After two weeks that saw America's racial tensions reach a tipping point with the deadly targeted shooting of Dallas police officers, President Obama remained adamant that the country was still unified despite the violence.
"I know that for many, it can feel like the deepest fault lines of our democracy have suddenly been exposed, and even widened," the president said in a video released Saturday. "But the America I know - the America I saw this week - is just not as divided as some folks try to insist."
The president -- who visited Dallas earlier this week for a police memorial service before convening a conference in Washington, D.C., on racial disparities in the criminal justice system -- pointed to discussions about race in those settings as proof, praising them for their honesty and productivity.
"These conversations were candid, challenging, even uncomfortable at times," Mr. Obama said. "But that's the point."
"We have to be able to talk about these things, honestly and openly, not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with folks who look differently and think differently than we do," he continued. "Otherwise, we'll never break this dangerous cycle."
The president acknowledged that improvements in policing and race relations would not happen "overnight," but urged Americans to nevertheless strive for unity and try to "do right, as equal parts of one American family."
"That's what America's all about -- not just finding policies that work, but forging consensus, fighting cynicism, and finding the political will to keep changing this country for the better," he said.
In their own video, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives touted their policy agenda for the next year, just as Congress leaves for its seven-week recess.
"Last fall, we came together and made the decision that it was time to go from being an opposition party to being a proposition party," House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said in the video released Saturday.
"We take our timeless principles, we apply them to the problems of the day, and we offer people solutions that help improve their lives," Ryan continued, prioritizing national security and military interests. "Our job in these jobs is to look at the problems facing this country and offer solutions. That's what we are doing."