In the wake of Friday’s unspeakable tragedy, it is hard to imagine that anyone would be smiling in Newtown, Connecticut.
But when the President visited the small New England town where a crazed gunman took 27 innocent lives, he managed to lift the hearts and spirits of some grieving families, who took brief solace in his mere presence.
In one emotional meeting, a heart-broken President embraced Robbie Parker, father-to-father, over the senseless death of his six-year-old daughter Emilie.
But it was smiles all around when he gathered her younger sisters and some other children around to chat with them and pose for a photo – a brief moment of joy among the sadness.
He took the time to reach out to another grieving family as he held the granddaughter of school principal Dawn Hochsprung tightly in his arms, as he marveled over the brave actions of the woman who lost her life trying to prevent the gunman from entering the building.
Her daughter Cristina Hassinger tweeted a picture with the poignant caption: ‘My mom would be SO proud to see President Obama holding her granddaughter. But not as proud as I am of her’.
The personal approach to the evening continued when Mr Obama used scripture in an effort to comfort the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
‘You are not alone in your grief,’ President Obama said. ‘All across this land our world too has been torn apart. All across this land we wept with you and pulled our children tight. Newtown, you are not alone.’
In one of the most religious speeches of his presidency, Mr Obama talked about how the ultimate goal for a society is to protect their children.
‘If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. By that measure, can we truly say as a nation that we are doing our obligations?’ he said.
‘We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could have been any town in America.
‘All across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight, and you must know whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide it.’
As expected, he made several references to the prospective- and likely- legal battles that will come as politicians fight for tougher restrictions on guns in the wake of the shooting. That said, he was clear to avoid specific plans, but took aim at the arguments made by activists who point to the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms as a reason to keep guns accessible.
‘Are we prepared to say that such violence visited upon our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?’ he said.
A particularly poignant moment came in the speech when Mr Obama read the first names of all 20 children who died in the shooting.
‘We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage?’ he said, referring to the four other mass shootings that have taken place since Mr Obama was elected.
In his introduction, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy said that Mr Obama told him privately that Friday was the most difficult day of his term in office.
Deep sobs and sniffles filled the room throughout the service – but tears did not truly begin until Jason Graves took the podium to offer a Muslim prayer on behalf of the Al Hedeya Islamic Center of Newtown.
Mr Graves’ voice choked and crackled as he assured the mourners that God’s love was there for anyone asked for it.
Adults and children sitting in the audience, who initially turned their faces away as a prayer was recited in Arabic, were reduced to deep sorrowful cries.
The service started nearly an hour late because the President was delayed by spending more time than expected meeting with the families of the victims from Friday’s shooting.