The president asked whether holistically, the country could ask itself whether it was doing everything it could to meet its obligations in protecting all children.
"I've been reflecting on this the last few days and if we're honest with ourselves the answer is no," he answered. "We've not been doing enough. And we will have to change."
Assuming a consoling role has become all too familiar for this presidency, which has born witness to five mass killings since assuming office in 2009. It was a trend Obama acknowledged in his remarks, hinting as he has done recently that his administration may pursue strengthening gun control laws as a response.
"Are we really prepared to say that such violence brought on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?" he asked.
The president's grim, direct tone came in the latter half of his appearance in the filled auditorium, after taking the first minutes to recite scripture and remember those lost when Adam Lanza broke into the elementary school with a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns, opening fire before committing suicide.
"Scripture tells us, do not lose heart," he said. "Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us eternal glory that far outweigh them all."
Faculty, staff, and some students of Newtown wore ribbons of green and white, the town and school colors, emblazoned with a small angel in the middle, in remembrance of the victims. Several first responders were also seen sporting the symbol.
"I am very mindful that mere words cannot reach the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you are not alone in your grief," he continued. "That our world too has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours we have wept with you, we've pulled our children tight."
Audible weeping broke out from child and adult alike as the president cited the names of faculty members who died in the attack, some protecting the children in their custody.
"They responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances: with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care," he said.
The president ended his remarks in prayer.
"We pray, Lord, for all of those so torn by grief. In this moment, we are all your children. A family related by your love. Help us care for the families in sorrow. May they feel embraced by the neighborhood, town, state, nation, world," he said. "Help us to forever remember we embrace the grieving as our own."
A large number of elementary school students were in attendance at the interfaith service, many clutching stuffed animals and toys, including a puppy doll given out by the Red Cross.