"If there's anything to take away from this tragedy, it's the reminder that life is very fragile here, time here is limited and it is precious," the president said. "What matters at the end of the day is not the small things; it is not the trivial things ... Ultimately it is how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another."
He then turned to the subject of his children. "My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been in the theater as so many of our kids do every day?" He said he would hug his daughters "a little tighter" tonight.
"There are going to be other days for politics; this is a day for prayer and reflection," he said and then led a moment of silence.
Both the Obama and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns moved to halt their negative TV advertising following the tragedy. Obama will return to Washington on Friday, canceling further campaign events. Romney will address the shootings later in Bow, N.H.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden canceled their events on Friday in the wake of the tragedy.