President Obama told us last night that Congresswoman Gabby Giffords had, just a short time before, opened her eyes.

And then he asked Tucson, Arizona and all Americans if we will open ours.

Open our eyes to the future, open our eyes to see the world as we hope our children will see it.

Open our eyes to ourselves, and to each other.

This is the challenge he put to us. And we must be up to the task.

"Right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room, . . . Gabby opened her eyes for the first time," Obama said. "Gabby opened her eyes. She knows we are here. She knows we love her, and she knows we are rooting for her during what will undoubtedly be a difficult time. We are there for her.

"Our hearts are full of thanks for that good news, and our hearts are full of gratitude," he said.

The crowd at McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus rejoiced. Cheers of gladness lifted to the rafters.

This was good news. Finally, some good news. We cling to every bit of hope in the wake of what still is beyond fathoming - that a man went to a supermarket and murdered six people and severely wounded 13 more.

Maybe it was the time and the tears and the sorrow that have engulfed Tucson for what seems like so long.

Maybe we just needed a release, a reason to shout. A reason to cheer.

A reason to believe. To believe that we can rise up together.

And that is what President Obama challenged each person to do in his speech on Wednesday night:

"I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here - they help me believe.

"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."

Looking and listening to the more than 13,000 people who had waited all day for a seat in McKale Center, this memorial service was more than a time to come together in grief.

It was a catharsis. A reckoning with the reality that yes, Tucson has been robbed of some dear, dear people. People who had given much to their families, their friends - to our community.

We lost people who had so much yet to give.

Obama spoke about going forward in ways worthy of those we have lost.

So we think of Gabby in her hospital bed, opening her eyes.

We think of the people wounded in the attack, who will face challenges ahead. We think of our community coming together, opening our eyes to a changed future.

We should honor the civility of an elected official and citizens who were meeting on a Saturday morning to exchange ideas and listen to each other.

"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized - at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do - 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," Obama said.

"But what we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility," Obama said.

"Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."

Let us open our eyes together.

Arizona Daily Star