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First Lady Michelle Obama Writes Open Letter About Tolerance to Parents

January 14, 2011

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the memorial event Together We Thrive: … First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday urged parents to teach their children tolerance in response to the deadly Tucson shooting spree that touched off debate about political rhetoric.

Mrs. Obama, who joined her husband at a memorial service for the victims Wednesday, issued an open letter to parents. Children are struggling, she said, to make sense of Saturday's shooting that killed six and left 14 injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

"We can teach them the value of tolerance -- the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us," she wrote. "We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree."

At the memorial service, President Barack Obama called for national unity.

"It's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds," the president told the audience at the University of Arizona convention hall.

The first lady said that message can be passed along to American children.

"We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it," she wrote.

Some liberals have claimed that the tragedy is linked to a climate of hate whipped up by conservative political figures like Sarah Palin. The former Republican vice presidential candidate rejected any responsibility, saying "acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own."

The 22-year-old alleged gunman, Jared Loughner, faces the death penalty because a federal judge was among the victims.

Michelle Obama said American children probably are asking the same questions that her two daughters have asked.

"We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis," she wrote. "And we can help them do that in their own small way -- whether it's by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts."

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