CNN's Don Lemon asks viewers to take Obama memorial speech 'to heart'

President Obama's speech to a Dallas memorial service for five slain police officers Tuesday clearly clearly moved at least one member of elite media: CNN host Don Lemon.

After the address, Lemon pulled double duty as observer and then show host. First, he reflected upon the address as Wolf Blitzer moderated the post-service reaction, then emoted rather vividly when he took over for Blitzer.

Initially asked by Blitzer for his response, Lemon said that the media itself was partly to blame for the state of national discussion on issues like violence and race by "inhibiting conversation" as it relies on ideologically based rhetorical fencing.

"Every time we retreat to talking points, left and right, that inhibits conversation," he said with an arguable irony since so much of the very structure of cable news discussion is based on that very premeditated Left vs. Right tension.

Lemon said that individuals like himself and Blitzer (he included others, even MSNBC's Rachel Maddow) are "gatekeepers" who should hold those who "have the privilege of coming on national television…to task" and not "structure conversations" to allow them to fall back on ideologically based "talking points."

"This is a crucial moment in time," he said. "We can't go back...This should be a moment when we make things better, make things different."

It was only a few minutes later that Lemon supplanted Blitzer in the anchor chair after a Blitzer-led discussion that included presidential historian Doug Brinkley, who found the Obama speech to be memorable.

Lemon concluded his short stint before handing over the reins to Jake Tapper by turning to the camera and declaring to viewers, "I hope you took his speech to heart, and I hope that everyone is asking for a new heart and we try to do things differently, in a better way."

After all, he said, whatever our backgrounds, race or religion, "We're all Americans."

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.

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